Working towards women bishops: Are we any nearer there yet?
Where are we now? May 1st, 2013
WATCH campaigns for the full inclusion of women and men at all levels of the Church of England. The main focus of the campaign is to change the law to allow women to be bishops. Draft legislation to this end failed to get the necessary majorities (two-thirds in each house) in General Synod in November 2012, despite the overwhelming support the measure had received across the Church of England at large.
Following the failure of that legislation, efforts are being made to find a new way forward towards having women as bishops, and WATCH has been part of those consultations (our formal response to the consultation document GS Misc 1042 can be read here). We don’t know yet what proposals will go to the House of Bishops in May.
However, what we do know is this: the failure of the draft legislation had a dreadful effect on the morale of clergywomen and their supporters, and on the reputation of the Church of England in the nation at large. The strong mood articulated by WATCH members, and by those at our AGM in January, is that previous attempts at compromise had clearly failed, and WATCH now wants to see the simplest possible legislation – to say that women can be bishops, without discrimination in law.
Any legislation to allow women to be bishops would need to get a 2/3 majority in each house of General Synod, and it is hard to see what package would gain that support in the current Synod. So we are now working towards a General Synod that better reflects the views of the church at large on the issue of women’s ministry. The next General Synod will be elected in 2015, but the work starts now!
Church electoral rolls have been revised this spring. Make sure you are on yours – you can get your name added at any time but you need to do it before the end of 2013. Ask your church Electoral Roll Officer for the form for you to fill and return to her/him saying you live in the parish or have worshipped there for the last six months. Only those on the electoral roll can stand for PCC, Deanery Synod, Diocesan Synod or General Synod.
Next spring, new Deanery Synods will be elected. It is crucial that we do not allow deanery synods to be packed by those from the minorities which oppose women’s ordination, because members of Deanery Synods form the electorate in General Synod elections. And when we come to those elections, we will need to be sure of candidates’ view on women bishops. Some direct questions will need to be asked of candidates who do not make their position clear on this issue.
London WATCH recently held an evening about church representation, and material from that meeting can be found here Better Prepared Better Represented (3) April. WATCH can provide advice or material if you would like to hold a similar event in your diocese or area.
WATCH believes that a woman’s place is in the House of Bishops – and that is the majority view of the Church of England. We need a Synod that reflects that view, and your support, in order to help that happen.