Women in the Episcopate draft Measure published
The General Synod will have its first opportunity to consider draft legislation enabling women to become bishops in the Church of England in February, having given in principle agreement to the shape of the legislative package in July. The Legislative Drafting Group on Women in the Episcopate, chaired by the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester, has today published its further report and drafts of a Measure and associated Amending Canon, together with an illustrative draft Code of Practice and an Explanatory Memorandum.
"We have published our further report at the earliest opportunity to give everyone the chance to study it before debate. We finished our discussions only just before Christmas," said the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester.
"The General Synod mandated us to draft a Measure including special arrangements, within existing structures, for those unable to receive the ministry of women bishops and to do that in a national code of practice. We believe we have achieved that by providing for male complementary bishops, as we suggested in our earlier report, and now hand our work to the Synod to discuss the drafts in detail."
In its further report, the Drafting Group notes that lifting the legal obstacles to the consecration of women bishops would be achieved by clause 1 of the draft Measure. The remainder of the draft Measure sets out legislation drafted to accord with the mandate given by the General Synod last July that "special arrangements be available within the existing structures of the Church of England for those who as a matter of theological conviction will not be able to receive the ministry of women as bishops or priests" and that those arrangements "should be contained in a statutory national code of practice to which all concerned would be required to have regard". The draft Measure provides for such arrangements, which include - as foreshadowed in the illustrative draft Measure circulated in July - provision for male 'complementary bishops' to whom authority to provide episcopal ministry would be delegated by diocesan bishops.
The accompanying Summary of Decisions of the most recent meeting of the House of Bishops [HB(08)M4] acknowledges that the House would continue to have a special responsibility for seeking to help the Church of England, through the legislative process, come to a conclusion that built trust and that enabled as many people as possible, as loyal Anglicans, to remain members of the Church of England, notwithstanding their differing theological convictions on this issue. Individual bishops would be able to lend their support to attempts to amend the draft legislation during the revision process.
The further report and drafts of a Measure and associated Amending Canon, together with an illustrative draft Code of Practice and an Explanatory Memorandum, can be read on the web at: www.cofe.anglican.org/info/papers/womenbishopsdebate/furtherreport.
The draft Measure and draft Amending Canon will receive 'First Consideration' by the General Synod at its February Group of Sessions, on motions that they "be considered for revision in Committee". No amendments can be moved at that point. If the motions are passed, the draft legislation will move on to a Revision Committee, which will include members representing a wide range of views in the Church. That committee will scrutinise the draft legislation in detail, considering any proposals for amendments submitted to it (including matters which may have been the subject of unsuccessful amendments at an earlier stage in the process), with a view to returning the legislation for Synod to start the Revision Stage in February 2010.
Illustrative draft Code of Practice
As requested in the July 2008 Synod resolution, the documents produced for the Synod include an illustrative draft Code of Practice. While the Revision Committee will consider the illustrative draft, it will not be subject to any formal Synodical consideration at this point because the Code itself cannot be made unless and until the Measure has gained Final Approval from the Synod and received the Royal Assent. Only at that point would the House of Bishops be able to make the Code of Practice and formally introduce it to the Synod for approval (and possible amendment).
The motion carried by the General Synod in July 2008.
'That this Synod:
(a) affirm that the wish of its majority is for women to be admitted to the episcopate;
(b) affirm its view that special arrangements be available, within the existing structures of the Church of England, for those who as a matter of theological conviction will not be able to receive the ministry of women as bishops or priests;
(c) affirm that these should be contained in a statutory national code of practice to which all concerned would be required to have regard; and
(d) instruct the legislative drafting group, in consultation with the House of Bishops, to complete its work accordingly, including preparing the first draft of a code of practice, so that the Business Committee can include first consideration of the draft legislation in the agenda for the February 2009 group of sessions.'