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Church in Wales outlines role of women bishops


Church in Wales, wmen bishops, code of practiseThe hope is that the carefully-worded code will ensure unity in the Church in Wales.

One year after it was agreed that women could be ordained as bishops, the Church in Wales has published guidelines detailing their role.

The historic legislation to include allow female bishops passed last year but had been put on hold until a code of practice could be agreed upon.

This code, which aims to incorporate women bishops without alienating those who object to the concept, was outlined by the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, at a meeting in Trinity St David in Lampeter recently.

Significantly, the code states that any woman bishop should operate in her Diocese on the same terms and with the same jurisdiction as her male counterparts.

And in addition, the bishops rejected the calls for any discussions on the issue to always include a man who opposes female bishops.

However, the code also has a caveat: ‘there should be a means to request and receive alternative sacramental provision’ should a member of the Church refuse ‘in conscience’ to accept the ministry of a woman bishop.

The code also says that ‘[t]hose who in conscience cannot receive the sacramental ministry of women should not be excluded from being considered for ordination.’

These clauses act as olive branches to those who object to the Church’s decision to allow female bishops, in accordance with a broader aim towards ‘inclusiveness’.

“The Code of Practice we have produced has not been produced for the benefit of one side or the other in the debate but for the whole church,” Dr Morgan explained.

The Code, he said, should be drawn up in such a way that every member of the Church in Wales might feel secure.

“In other words, this code is not just for those who in conscience dissent but is a code for every member of the Church in Wales.”

He stressed that the code includes nods to both sides of the debate: “Bishops have a particular responsibility for matters of faith and order and we want to be as inclusive as possible which is why we are able to affirm wholeheartedly the ordination of women to the episcopate and can also accept that provision should be made for those who cannot accept their sacramental ministry.”

“By making such a provision, our hope is that no-one will feel the need to leave the Church in Wales.”

He also said that not everyone would agree with the code of practice, but he asked that the Church “unite in the greater task of proclaiming the Gospel”.

The Archdeacon of Llandaff, the Ven Peggy Jackson said: “The bishops did what we asked them to do: they fulfilled the trust we placed in them to come up with a code that will make it possible for everyone to be and feel that they are wanted and included and valued.”

And she said she hoped the carefully-worded code would ensure unity in the Church in Wales.

But while the language of inclusiveness is to be admired – Dr Morgan spoke of seeing ‘Christ at work’ in all Church members, married or single, gay or straight, female or male – it could be argued that such inclusiveness has merely left the Church sitting firmly on the fence, rather than leading the fight for religious gender equality.

It’s next step is to consult its dioceses on whether it should solemnise same-sex marriages. A 12-month consultation was announced by the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, at the church’s Governing Body meeting in Lampeter last week.

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