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Women could be bishops by November 2015


women bishops, synod discussion, YorkThe Church of England synod votes to move ahead with draft law.

Reactions were largely negative when the motion that would have made it lawful for women to be consecrated to the office of bishop in the Church of England was defeated in November 2012.

The Right Reverend Justin Welby, the then Bishop of Durham and soon-to-be Archbishop of Canterbury, called it a ‘very grim day’.

he wasn’t the only one.

With the majority of voting members of the Church’s synod supporting the bill, the result left many members devastated.

Writing for WVoN, Reverend Biddi Kings said that ‘As an ordained woman priest I share the distress, dismay and disappointment of the overwhelming majority who feel this legislation is long overdue in a society and an organisation where supposedly we espouse equality of opportunity for all people.’

In the November 2012 vote, the House of Bishops voted 44 for and three against with two abstentions, while the House of Clergy voted 148 for and 45 against.

The House of Laity is where the motion was defeated, with the vote failing to reach the necessary two-thirds majority; 132 voted for and 74 against.

In recognition of the deep divisions the vote exposed, the House of Bishops held an emergency meeting in December 2012.

A working group composed of members of all three houses was formed and tasked with producing new draft legislation for consideration at the July 2013 General Synod meeting.

Church of England rules state that any measures for additional consideration must be different than previous versions.

Much of the controversy in previous debates had revolved around how best to placate opponents of women becoming bishops, and various methods included in the draft legislation were considered.

In May 2013, the House of Bishops recommended the simplest version of the motion to allow women to become bishops.

The simplified draft removed ‘arrangements for those who, as a matter of theological conviction, are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests’ and agreed to address those points in separate documents or meetings.

As part of its five-day General Synod meeting, held in York from 5 to 9 July 2013, members participated in a full-day private consultation session dedicated to working through issues surrounding the disagreements over women bishops.

The consultation was followed by a debate, after which members voted. The result was a ‘yes’ to reintroducing draft legislation at the next General Synod, which will be held in November this year.

The November meeting will be the last meeting for this Synod; elections begin early in 2014 for new members to the group.

Campaigning is likely to be fierce as the timetable in the recently approved draft legislation states July or November 2015 as the recommended deadline for Final Approval.

As part of its ‘commitment to admitting women to the episcopate as a matter of urgency’, the House of Bishops has already begun allowing women priests to attend and speak at its meetings.

At least forty-seven years after the debate began over the role of women’s leadership in the Church, women now make up approximately one third of the Church of England’s priests.

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