Synod started yesterday. We had a moving debate yesterday about Gender Based Violence, and committed ourselves to work in every way possible against it, and a presentation about Ethical Investment. We have lots of investments, and lead the way in ensuring these are used ethically – it’s a fast changing world, and the presentation was an inspiring mix of finance and theology.
Questions included lots about where the Bishop of Bath and Wells will live. Normally it’s good for the church to divest itself of grand palaces, but the Church Commissioners’ decision to move the Bishop’s accommadation elsewhere has been very controversial. Sometimes inhabiting a prominent and grand place can be an act of mission.
Anyway, we’re now spending a day on the legislation to enable women to be bishops. It’s really complicated, and probably not very interesting…but there is the odd banana skin, and we’ll need to be careful. Here we go.
We’re debating the Declaration from the House of Bishops – how the provision for those for and against Women Bishops will work in practice. So far even those who can’t recognise a woman as a bishop are saying that this package can work.
Conservative Evangelicals have problems with women in authority, and the Bishops wrote a paragraph separating legal and sacramental authority – but didn’t include it in the Declaration. One or two speeches have asked for it to be included – or at least made available.
Otherwise no banana skins.
We’re about to vote on the Declaration, and have approved it overwhelmingly.
That was the ‘code of practice’ if you like. Now we do the legislation, clause by clause. We are revising it rather than finally approving…so it’s detail.
First clause enables women to be bishops. Lindsey Newcombe, lay chair of Forward in Faith, speaks movingly to affirm the process and to commit herself to the future of the church – and to say that, of course, she has to vote against this clause. Not to derail anything, but in all conscience.
We approve it overwhelmingly.
Now to Clause 2 – which removes the office of bishop from the Equalities Act. Simon Taylor was going to ask to amend this ‘blunt instrument’ and sharpen it, but being advised it would delay things he has withdrawn it.
We approve Clause 2 overwhelmingly.
And we’ve approved all the others, after a quick further skirmish about the Equalities Act.
Now we are looking at the Amending Canon, which makes the required changes to our Canons. We’ve also approved them overwhelmingly.
For 304, against 33, abstained 45.
Now we debate rescinding the Act of Synod (which provided the legal framework for provision for the opponents of women priests). Our new package should make it redundant.
We are reminded that the Act of Synod sounds like the law, but isn’t! Rescinding it will not make the Bishoprics of Beverley, Ebbsfleet and Richborough redundant – though it does remove the office of Provincial Episcopal Visitor.
Interestingly we have to pass an Act of Synod in order to rescind ‘The’ Act of Synod.
This is an important moment – some would say The Act of Synod kept people in the C of E. Others found it discriminatory and hurtful. Most seem to feel that the new arrangements do it better.
We have approved to rescind it…and it will be referred to the Dioceses.