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General Synod begins Final Approval debate on draft legislation on women bishops

The General Synod celebrated Holy Communion in the assembly chamber, after which, Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, took the chair for the debates on legislation that would enable women to become bishops in the Church of England.

The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, opened the debate saying: "I do hope that today's debate will do what debates at the final approval stage should do, namely to look at the legislation in its entirety with a view to answering one key question: "will God's mission and ministry entrusted to the Church of England be advanced better if this legislation is approved or if it is rejected?"

Bishop Nigel then looked back on what had happened since the debate was adjourned in July. The House of Bishops, he explained, "has retained on the face of the Measure an explicit acknowledgement that the selection of male bishops and priests is something on which guidance will have to be given in the Code of Practice. In addition, as the legal advice to the House makes clear, the guidance will have to be directed to a particular end, namely that the selection is in a manner which respects the grounds on which the Letter of Request was issued."

Speaking against the Measure, Canon Simon Killwick (Manchester Diocese) said: "Our main function as a Synod is to be a legislative body;  this debate is a legislative debate;  our job is to scrutinise the draft legislation before us, and to decide whether or not it is fit for its purpose.  This is not a debate about whether we are in favour of women bishops in principle; it is about whether this is the right legislation for introducing women bishops.  It would be perfectly possible to be in favour of women bishops in principle, but to believe that this was the wrong legislation for introducing women bishops.

"I do not believe that this draft legislation will be good for the Church of England… Attempts by the House of Bishops to improve the provision for traditionalists in the Code of Practice will meet with resistance:  the furore over the Bishops' original and modest clause 5(1)C in the summer gives a clear idea of what we could face.  Once established, the Code would be open to change, so there could be an ongoing political struggle over the contents of the Code for years to come.  This legislation would not bring closure because it does not provide a clear and lasting way forward."

The debate continued with speakers alternately supporting and opposing the legislation. A vote is expected later this afternoon, after which, if the legislation is approved, a second vote will be required on Draft Amending Canon No 30 to bring the change into Canon Law, which would be required before a woman could be consecrated as a bishop.

 

Note to editors

The debate can be listened to live .