Women Bishops – Where now?

July 14, 2010 § 4 Comments

The simple answer is ‘to the dioceses’. The formal process now requires each diocese to discuss the Measure as agreed by General Synod. When it comes back from the dioceses it is debated again, in each separate house (ie laity, clergy, bishops), and then by the full Synod. The Measure will then have to gain a two-thirds majority in each house before it is sent to Parliament, which will have to approve it all before it becomes law.

So, there is a long way to go.

First reflection: Saturday afternoon’s vote against the Archbishops was not the cataclysmic, church splitting moment it was painted as. Though the pressure was piled on, and however much opponents of Women Bishops tried to make it a vote of confidence in their being accepted in the Church of England, it was no such defining issue. I voted against a formal legal solution and for a solution based on trust and negotiation. When a woman is made a diocesan bishop there will, without a doubt, be a system in place which preserves those who cannot accept it from receiving her ministry. And she should be just as much a diocesan bishop has her male counterparts in the House. Do not believe those reports which said that the vote was against any kind of provision. There will be loads of it, but I hope it will be in such a way as allows a woman to be completely a diocesan as well as preserving the conscience of those who cannot accept her.

Second reflection: the process in the dioceses will be interesting. The noteworthy thing about our two days of debate was that there was a good level of courtesy, the absence of overt bigotry and misogyny, and a reasonable level of debate. There was a bit of theology, though given that we are working 35 years after the debate which said that there is no theological objection to a woman as a bishop, there didn’t need to be that much. There was quite a specialised debate about jurisdiction, office and ordination, and that wasn’t too shabby either. We talked a bit about Church and State as well. And we were reminded that our purpose is mission and the Gospel. Simon Killwick, speaking on behalf of the Catholic Group, was a model of politeness and dignity. He deserves to be congratulated by all sides.

But the level of debate in the Diocesan Synods I have been to is not as good. It would be nice to think that dioceses will be offered a superb briefing which will enable them to set up the debate carefully. But there remains the capacity of a diocesan synod to make a complete horlicks of things.

Third reflection. Everyone standing for Synod in the forthcoming elections will, presumably, have to state where they are on this. And it won’t be enough to say generally that you want women bishops and for those who don’t to have an ‘honoured place’. You will have to define the extent of that honoured place, and whether a woman diocesan should be able to offer that place in her own right or by recourse to a legal procedure.

Fourth reflection. A lot now rides on the Code of Practice which the Bishops are to draw up. Again, I can’t see it providing anything less than opponents of women as bishops will want: the ‘nominated’ Bishops will have to be acceptable, because it is in no one’s interests that they be otherwise. The issue will be the strength of the operation of the Code. The Measure requires each diocese to draw up a scheme: surely this can be made so clear that those who currently feel that their safeguards have been taken away can be made to feel that they can safely remain stay. Though it felt catastrophic to many that Saturday’s vote was lost, there is a long way to go before it can be shown that there is no hope for them. It is not the time to leave.

Fifth reflection. The tone of Monday’s debate was very different to Saturday’s. Lots of people were able to say good things about the ministry of ordained women, and some generosity was shown to opponents. But at two points we went back to Saturday, and the pain expressed by David Houlding and the Bishop of Beverley reminded us that, however generous the ‘winners’ are, the ‘losers’ still feel like ‘losers’. +Beverley loaded a lot onto the statutory provision of financial compensation for those who leave and face hardship, and he got a conclusive answer: not by law. He should not see this as a kick while he is down though: Synod now distrusts a ‘one size fits all’ solution to such things, and prefers such cases to be dealt with at grass roots. Again, just because there is no legal provision does not mean that there will be no provision at all.

Last reflection. I need to talk to a lot of people who feel deeply hurt by the events of the weekend. We need to talk together about mission and ecclesiology and law and grace. If I am to stand for Synod again I need to be able to understand what they are saying. And we have to live in the same diocese too. Though last Saturday was not a cataclysm, the next two years could be a slowly unfolding one. We owe it to each other and the communities we serve not to make it so.

Synod Live on Monday

July 12, 2010 § 3 Comments

Good morning all. Will blog through the day when there’s stuff to say.

In Morning Worship I am moved, as ever, by watching my friend Jo offer praise through sign language as of the interpreters for Deaf Anglicans Together. Why this always makes me cry I don’t know. Perhaps I’m gearing up for an emotional day.

9.45. ++Rowan giving some Presidential Remarks.
Let’s complete the business.
House of Bishops will get to work on the Code of Practice, to be ready for the return to Synod of the legislation in 18 months time.
Don’t see Saturday’s vote be seen as the end. We need to serve one another, especially those with whom we disagree.
We are committed by a majority to women bishops, and by a majority to maximum generosity. Holding the goals together is difficult, but we have to do it in love.

Very warm applause.

9.50. +Manchester explaining the Steering Committee’s approach. They will resist amendments, and want us to resist any ‘wrecking motions’.

10.00. We are into some complex stuff on the legislation. Robert Cotton wants to take out the elements of the Measure which will provide formal safeguards for opponents. It sounds like a way of testing the best way to be generous, (in that debating them will make us value the proposed compromise before us all the more if we vote for it) but could also be used by others to say very tough things to each other.

The argument is that the provision of safeguards is too much for some – even as they are they can be seen to discriminate against women, and it is women who are offering generosity and sacrifice by keeping the safeguards in place.

This then feels very different to Saturday, where the safeguards were portrayed by not going far enough.

Those in favour of the legislation are being portrayed as not being generous. Debbie Flack from Europe says it’s the opposite. But be gracious and vote for it anyway. Huge applause.

10.25. Tom Wright tells a story about a taxi driver engaging him in conversation about women bishops. “What I always say is this,” says the driver. “If God raised Christ from the dead, then everything else is rock and roll, innit?”

Importance of being ‘adiaphrous’ – bearing with one another. He also takes on the Second Church Estates Commissioner – we must not be swayed by political considerations alone. We will cease to be the church if we do.

10.36 Tony Thiselton tells us that collaborative ministry is not demeaning. Paul did it – joint authorship of the epistles.

10.40. Paul Perkin says that we need the safeguards for the sake of those ordained women who find the headship of women difficult to take.

10.45. Miranda Threlfall-Holmes voices it clearly. We have spoken too much about avoiding the ministry of women and not enough about their gifts to us. However she will vote for Clause 2, and withdraw her later amendment (which was about allowing the Measure to lapse after 40 years).

JF comment: this last hour has rebalanced the debate. But whether those disappointed by Saturday are hearing enough to help them I do not know.

10.25 The Steering Committee is pleased to have had Clause 2 tested.

We are to vote (simple majority).
373 For. 14 Against. 17 abs.

Off for coffee.

11.33. Back in. Further amendments (about consulting electoral roll members), requiring PCCs to reconsider voting on making a resolution, etc) all fall.

Now talking about the requirement to have two thirds of the Pcc to be present when discussing the resolution.

Amendment to delete the two thirds being present is defeated.

Now on to an amendment which the Steering Committee will welcome (they say). It is possible under the Measure for a third of PCC members simply not to turn up, and therefore frustrate the process. This amendment allows it to be be done by simple majority even if two thirds are not present.

Carried overwhelmingly.

12.02. Now on to an amendment on 3. 10 (c) which currently allows a veto for the Parish Priest (on the basis that if the incumbent is happy with a female bishop and the PCC wants a male one then that makes the position of the Parish Priest untenable.) It’s not simply a matter of democracy, of simple numbers.

Eva Macintyre nails it: “I hold the cure of souls with my Bishop.” Rosalyn Murphy says much the same.

We are voting by houses. I assume the clergy will resist the amendment.

Bishops 2 For. 34 Against. 3 Abs
Clergy. 35 For. 136 Against. 8 Abs
Laity 83 For. 104 Against. 7 Abs.

We all did!

12.28 Clause 3 now up for the final vote after a speech or two. Prof Richard Burridge is pointing out that the legislation is all about parishes and does not relate to sector ministry or chaplaincies. He gets an answer – yes we need to look at it.

I should have said that you can get all the legal stuff and texts at the Thinking Anglicans site. They type faster than me too!!

We agree Clause 3 and Clause 4 and Clause 5, and Clause 6.

Now we get on to Clause 7, which is about the Equality Act. It will be quite a fine legal argument.

Robert Key (ex MP) has just told Synod that the Bishop of Durham is ‘wholly wrong’. (about the relation between church and politics).

He doesn’t want an exemption from equality legislation.

Difficult choice – should we institutionalise discrimination? Archbishop of York about to speak. There are appropriate matters of conscience which need legal recognition. We need exceptions to the Equality Bill, and they don’t enshrine discrimination.

We’ll include Clause 7 I’m sure.

… and we did – with interesting comments about the nature of Establishment, and who decrees what is the C of E’s doctrine and discipline.

2.45. Here we are again – approving further clauses 8, 9 and 10. Now we are invited to insert a clause which will require a two-thirds majority in each house for any future change to the Measure.

Caroline Spenser invites us to pass this as an act of generosity.

We are going to vote electronically.

287 yes, 78 against. 20 abstentions. We have been generous.

Now we are being asked for provisions for people who resign and then face financial hardship. No specific proposals about how much though. Paul Benfield wants it in the measure, rather than in the care of the Archbishops’ Council and dioceses. And he appeals again for generosity.

We are now debating it. The Steering Committee considered a compensation package but rejected it.

David Houlding has ramped up the pressure – Clause 2 is especially problematic. There will be hardship. His speech is about the deep principles of the making of women bishops, about reception and jurisdiction. Hasn’t talked much about the financial package though. The implication is that there will need to be compensation, because people will leave.

Norman Russell says that passing the Measure will amount to constructive dismissal, and therefore there has to be provision for hardship.

He describes David Houlding’s speech as ‘hurt speaking, but not speaking the whole truth’. And he says that reception requires the community to stay together rather than for some to leave.

This feels like another crunch point: “you will make us leave and will not help us…”

The Steering Committee remind us that it does want there to be recognition of hardship, but not by Measure.

3.34 Bishop of Beverley speaking. Very emotional – we had an honoured place, and we have one no more. I’m OK because I have a pension. What about the younger priests foolish enough to sign up thinking that they had a future?

It feels like the constituency think that by not putting a hardship clause in the Measure you are kicking us while we are down.

ABY says we can work this out, and not by Measure.

Vote by show of hands – the proposal is heavily defeated. It feels like David Houlding and + Beverley are still in Saturday, and no talk of generosity will help at all.

Excitement now: procedural motion under Standing Order 58. This would send the Measure back for further revision by committee.

Simon Killwick (Catholic Group) makes it sound reasonable…and says that the Measure as it stands is likely to fail…

Steering Committee name the issue: the Catholic Group want the decisions taken properly on Sat and today to be revisited. Not a good plan.

Now we debate whether to adjourn for thought. And we carry on.

Is this the last roll of the dice, or are there more procedural delays to come?

Pete Broadbent: the Standing Orders allow various mechanisms for further revision. Clause 2 can’t go back for revision in the same way. Give it to the dioceses. We have followed procedure. Get on with it.

About to vote on whether to send it back for further revision or send it on to the dioceses.

Vote: 102 For. 293 Against. 12. Abs

No recomittal – off it goes to the Dioceses. Phew.

++Rowan speaking. We have decided to send to the dioceses a Measure about which we are not all agreed, but which we want them to help us think about. There is lots more to do, and we all need to listen to each other and to pray.

So… we’ve done it and early too. I’ll do a separate blog later, but the feel was interesting today. Lots of generosity from the ‘victors’, and some real hurt from the ‘losers’, who were not mollified in any way, and some of whom feel driven out. Diocesan debates will be fascinating.

On voting against

July 11, 2010 § 14 Comments

I left General Synod last night, not in anger, but because I’m officiating in my own church in Beverley today. Having organised the Synod service at York Minster since 2003 I’m not sure whether I’m sad not to be there this morning or utterly thrilled.  Doesn’t matter. Beverley calls.

This reflection is therefore after a sleep in my own bed and breakfast with my family, rather than the confines of York University. All the press rports make it sound that those who voted against were determined that there shoudl be no provision for those who cannot accept the ministry of women as bishops, and that rather overstates it. The Measure builds in provision, and the vote was about whether that provision should be legally required (so that a woman bishop would have no choice but to offer it) or formally sought, so that a woman bishop would delegate it.

On this distinction was put unbearable pressure. To vote one way would be the end, we were told. But earlier in the debate a respected Bishop had pleaded that ‘grace’ be given a chance, rather than law. An Oxford Professor had pointed out that it would be in no one’s interestes, least of all a woman bishop’s, not to make such provision, and to ensure that such provision was acceptable to those who needed it. But to require it by law would be to dimish the episcopal standing of a woman diocesan.

I could not see that the Arcbishop’s amendment helped with this problem, and neither could the Steering Committee, who have lived with this for two years. I listened carefully, very carefully. And I voted not to kick a group of people out of the church, but to invite our church to operate with grace, rather than wielding writs at each other.

I believe that the Measure will enable exactly the kind of provision for those whose consciences cannot take a woman bishop to exist within the church. But that provision will need to be by grace rather than law. So offered, I think it will be a better church that results. But I do not doubt the despair of those who made the result such a telling event. And I pray that, before the debate resumes on Monday, grace may abound.

Synod Live Again

July 10, 2010 § 1 Comment

Women Bishops as they happen!

9.45. ++Sentamu giving a Presidential Address about the recovery of the nation. “Medicine is to health what fire prevention is to forest management.” Concentrate on the good, not outcomes like profit. 10.10. All about Psalm 15. How to lend money at interest without lending money at interest. And we were introduced to the Chocolate Trinity.

10.12. Here we go on Women Bishops.

10.20. Clive Mansell, Chair of the Steering Committee. “This has not been an easy time for the Revision Committee”. He’s not wrong. Wants us at least to Take Note of the Report. Lots and lots of applause. Perhaps we will be ok.

10.32. Christine Hardman on the Single Clause: no one can serve two masters. Lots of applause.

10.34. Jonathan Baker – St Stephens House. Also on the Revision Committee. Asking us not to take note. Let’s see how much applause he gets. It’s not about Gender. It’s about ‘Sacramental Assurance’. But isn’t that about the gender of the sacramental minister? Not as much applause as the others, but enough to make the day interesting.

10.42. Tony Baldry MP. Get on with it now! But let’s keep people in the church. Parliament has a massive equality agenda and stuff could fail if legislation makes women Bishops look second class. Wow. Massive applause.

10.47. John Saxbee, Bishop of Lincoln. Let’s welcome women bishops warmly. He will vote against his Archbishop. Wow again. Let’s give grace a chance.

10.51. Rowan on his feet. Does not believe that different understandings about women’s ministry are defining of other theological divides. We share language and then come to different conclusions. Women Bishops need not split the C of E. He doesn’t like the simple reference to ‘a male Bishop’. It is about more than gender. But doesn’t say what.

10.58. Emma Forward (26). The theology of the church goes beyond equal rights. But she develops the ‘male’ business. She needs a man ordained by a man, and so on throughout history.

11.05. Bishop of Beverley. If this goes through you will unchurch us.

11.06. Jenny Tomlinson. Who ordained us? God did. At last! (I say…). It’s not about lineage. Get rid of the theology of taint. Assurance is about confidence in Christ.

11.10. Chris Sugden makes an interesting point that most Synod votes have agreed the principle of transfer rather than delegation.

11.12. Rose Hudson-Wilkin. Catholic consent is ‘childish’. Let’s grow up. There is no need to build a wall. Resist the two tier solution.

11.17. I need a coffee. Mercifully cloudy outside. Swans swimming serenely. But horrid little black insects like my shirt.

11.45. Blissfully drinking coffee – looks like we are about to take note. In we go.

11.52. We have, overwhelmingly, taken note of the Revision Committe’s report. Phew. On to the ‘leggislation’ (as the Bishop of Beverley would pronounce it).

11.58. Our Chairman, Professor Clarke, calls us to take this profoundly rather than fatuously.

12.05. Got through the first clause. Now to the big amendments about making legal provision. A vital hour in the C of E’s life begins. First amendment about the creation of new dioceses is being debated. There’s a big block of traditionalists sitting together who will ensure that their amendments get debated.

12.30. Miranda Threlfall-Holmes makes clear that ‘Sacramental Assurance’ is about ensuring not just that your Bishop is male, but also that he is untainted by touching a woman, and also is in complete agreement with you.

12.35. Fr Thomas tries to say it isn’t, and talks about apostolicity. But still says there needs to be separation.

12.45. Elaine Storkey names it. Of course it is about gender! We have declined the first amendment. No separate dioceses. 134 wanted it. 258 did not. 8 abstentions.

2.30. On we go with next amendment – about transfer of powers. Rod Thomas is moving it.

2.40. Maggie Swinson, for the Steering Committee, puts Chris Sugden to context. Synod has not previously voted for ‘this kind’ of transfer. We are now debating the amendment.

2.46. Simon Killwick clarifies the ‘gender’ matter. It’s that maleness is not enough. There has to be the right kind of maleness.

3.05. Pete Broadbent has described a version of monepiscopacy (everything derives from the bishop) as ‘ecclesiastical stalinism’. And any bishop in a parish needs to be a bishop. Good speech saying we might have to vote for something unpalatable.

3.10. Sarah Finch has threatened that lots of conservative evangelical congregation will leave and so will their money.

3.16. Tony Berry. If you ditch monepiscopacy you get monoparochialism. 3.30. Voting on the amendment. Bishops.

For 10 Against 28. Abs 2 Clergy. For 52 Against 124. Abs 3 Laity For 78, Against 118. Abs 4. Lost in all three.

A lovely, and almost unprecedented 10 min break.

3.45. Archbishop of York moves his and Cantuar’s amendment.Trying again. +Coventry is for the Amendment. Christina Rees is not. Here we go – this is the heart of the debate.

++Rowan speaking. “Even a seamless robe may be a coat of many colours”.

4.15 John Barton has just made a clever speech saying that the practicalities of delegation (rather than law) will be fine, unless the very idea of delegation by a woman bishop cannot be countenanced. Spot on.

4.20 David Houlding has pressed the nuclear button. This is it! The amendment saves us. Voting against it splits the church. Very emotional.

4.25. +Bradwell will vote against his Archbishop. Christina Baxter is for it, but with a good code of practice.

4.45 Christine Allsop speaks powerfully against the amendment.

4.47 ++Sentamu on his feet again. These speeches can go either way. He is felt (by Pete Broadbent) to have introduced new material in his speech, and wants comment by the Steering Committee.

5.00. Not sure how this will go. Close though. Some powerful speeches against the amendment. The Steering Committee think it is capable of too much differing interpretations.

Just about to vote by houses.
The Amendment has been lost because it has been lost in the house of clergy – even though a majority voted for it.

Bishops: 25 For. 15 Against. 0Abs.
Clergy. 85 For. 90 Against. 5Abs
Laity. 106 For. 86 Against. 4 Abs

We are being invited to adjourn for a bit.

No adjournment, but the Catholics and Evangelicals are devastated. Lots now out of the chamber.

The Archbishops said their amendment was not a loyalty test, but lots of people are baffled that the vote could go against them.

5.30. +Sarum says ‘ceding pastoral care gives airspace to the dream of impossible purity’. He doesn’t want the Bishop to delegate pastoral care.

No appetite for his amendment, or the next one. Rather stunned feel here. There will be a sense of huge injustice that the simple majority supported the Archbishops but that the vote was lost in only one house. What a shame that all the emotion and theology got loaded into that one amendment – but that’s what happens.

We are now adjourned, with Clause 2 unamended.

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