Media Centre

Women Bishops Draft Legislation

The House of Bishops has today by an overwhelming majority settled the text of the legislation to enable women to become bishops in the Church of England.

The House of Bishops made clear its desire for the draft legislation to be passed into law when it goes forward for final approval to the Church of England's General Synod in November.

Speaking on behalf of the House at the conclusion of their meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams said:

"Before turning to the matters we have been discussing, I want to say, on behalf of the Bishops, that our thoughts and prayers are very much with the people of Liverpool and all affected by the Hillsborough tragedy on this day when the report is released. The Bishop of Liverpool has done a great service in steering this work to a conclusion and helping us as a nation to confront this deeply traumatic memory."

Dr. Williams continued:

"Since women were first made priests in the Church of England in 1994, their ministry has hugely enriched both church and society. It has become increasingly clear to most of us that barring women from becoming bishops is an anomaly that should be removed, for the good of the Church's mission and service.

"In July this year, the General Synod asked the House of Bishops to reconsider an alteration it had made to the proposed legislation on this subject. The Bishops have taken very seriously the anxieties expressed about the possible implications of their amendment and there has been widespread consultation since then. We are very grateful for all the points and suggestions offered by synod members and others.

"In light of this consultation, the Bishops have discussed the measure again and are now bringing forward a new text that expresses both our conviction of the need to see this legislation passed and our desire to honour the conscience and contribution of those in the Church of England whose reservations remain.

"It is particularly significant and welcome that the new text emerged not from the House of Bishops itself but rather from a serving woman priest.

"I hope all members of Synod will now reflect carefully on what the Bishops have decided and will continue to give thought and prayer to how they will vote in November."

"I am convinced that the time has come for the Church of England to be blessed by the ministry of women as bishops and it is my deep hope that the legislation will pass in November."

At its meeting in July the General Synod asked the House of Bishops to reconsider a provision in the legislation - Clause 5(1)(c) of the draft measure.

The new amendment submitted by the Rev. Janet Appleby during the consultation process received overwhelming support from the House of Bishops in both their discussions and in the final vote.

In discussion the Bishops welcomed the simplicity of the new text, its emphasis on respect and the process of dialogue with parishes that it will promote.

The final text proposed by the House of Bishops is:

Substitute for the words in clause 5(1)(c):" the selection of male bishops and male priests in a manner which respects the grounds on which parochial church councils issue Letters of Request under section 3"

The House also agreed to establish a group to develop the illustrative draft Code of Practice published in January to give effect to the new provision.

ENDS

Notes for editors -

The full vote on the legislation takes place at the meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England which meets in London from 19 - 21 November. For the legislation to pass it will require a two thirds majority in each of the Houses of Bishops, Clergy and Laity.

A podcast from the Archbishop of Canterbury on this issue will be available from www.archbishopofcanterbury.org

For further information

Arun Arora 020 7898 1326 / 07774 800212