Response to the announcement of the membership of the Steering Committee appointed to prepare women bishops’ legislation


The prompt formation of the Steering Committee, demonstrating the Church of England’s determination to proceed with its commitment to opening the episcopate to women, is welcomed by WATCH.


We are glad to receive information on the committee’s makeup, particularly the inclusion of experienced, respected women, lay and ordained, in the discussions. We note the strong presence of those representing groups opposed to the episcopal ministry of women and requesting provision and hope that presence of the Archbishop’s Director of Reconciliation will enable the different groups to work together to produce constructive legislation.


We look forward to seeing legislation produced that will:


• honour and uphold both the content and spirit of Option One, which received strong support from General Synod in July.


• reflect the House of Bishops unequivocal support for women within all three orders of ministry.


• enable women to flourish in all ministries to which God calls them; lay, ordained and episcopal, on equality with men, reflecting the inclusive heart of Christian scripture and tradition.







Synod affirms desire to have women bishops as a matter of urgency

WATCH is pleased that the House of Bishops’ preferred option received overwhelming support from General Synod, which today re-affirmed its commitment to admitting women to the episcopate as a matter of urgency.  The positive experience of the facilitated conversations was reflected in the tone of the debates.  WATCH remains committed to full engagement with the ongoing process.


Vice-Chair, Charles Read commented, “This is an encouraging start to a process that will enable women to be bishops on equal terms as men.”




Revd Charles Read – Vice Chair of WATCH

07910 128 265


Revd Anne Stevens – Vice chair of WATCH

07960 873 009 

Chair of WATCH to step down

Women and the Church (WATCH) today announced that the Rev’d Rachel Weir has decided not to seek re-election after serving her term of three years as Chair. She will step down at the end of September.

She said, “It has been an enormous privilege to lead WATCH for the past three years.  We have faced many challenges but it has been a great joy to work with such a wonderful group of people in advancing God’s Gospel work of liberation.” 

Over the past three years, Rachel has provided strong direction for WATCH and its mission to affirm, campaign and transform. Her wisdom and leadership have supported many through both the positive and the challenging times. She will be greatly missed and WATCH thanks her and wishes her every blessing for the future.

The new Chair will take office at WATCH’s AGM in the autumn and full details of the post will be available in the near future. Enquiries about the post of Chair should be directed to the WATCH Vice Chairs, the Rev’d Anne Stevens ([email protected] ) and the Rev’d Charles Read ([email protected] ).

WATCH continues to campaign for the full equality of women and men as part of God’s will for the Church and for the world, which reflects the inclusive heart of Christian scripture and tradition.

General Synod will have its first opportunity at its meeting in early July to discuss and debate new legislation for women in the episcopate.  These discussions will continue over at least the next two years, as the earliest possible date for ‘Final Approval’ in General Synod is July 2015.

WATCH has been very encouraged by the first stages of this new process. The bishops have indicated that they want to see simple legislation that is unequivocal about women being priests and bishops on the same terms as men. WATCH sincerely hopes that General Synod will endorse this approach and allow the Church to move forward on the issue when it meets next month.


Comments from WATCH’s Vice-Presidents:

The Rev’d Lucy Winkett said “Rachel Weir has led WATCH through a challenging time for the Church with great dignity and ability. She has steadfastly and imaginatively put the case for the consecration of women as well as consolidating and widening the activity of WATCH”.

The Ven. Dr Jane Hedges said, “Rachel has served as Chair of WATCH during a particularly challenging period in Church history and has done so with unswerving commitment and enormous energy.”

“Rachel Weir’s leadership of WATCH during an extremely demanding period has been energetic, intelligent and clear-sighted. She has been concerned to place WATCH’s campaigning work within a wider theological vision, and to encourage the Church to think creatively and adventurously about the place of women and men in society and ministry.” Dr Nicola Slee

Baroness Elspeth Howe added “what a sterling example to us all she had been of how not to give up on this vitally important mission of achieving Women Bishops.”

“I have worked with Rachel Weir in her position as chair of WATCH for the past three years and have always been impressed by her knowledge of the situation, the way she has dedicated herself to our cause and by her many achievements on behalf of WATCH. I’m very sorry that we are losing Rachel, however understand her reasons for moving on and wish her well”.     Ann Cryer JP

Parliament to debate women in the episcopate

Parliament to debate women in the episcopate: Diana Johnson MP introduces bill next Wednesday.

On Wednesday 13th March Diana Johnson, MP for Kingston upon Hull, will introduce a bill under the ten-minute rule that would enable women to become bishops in the Church of England. In this way she will remind the Church of England that it lies within Parliament’s power to legislate for this, if the Church cannot do so quickly and in a way that is acceptable to Parliament.

After the disastrous vote last November when General Synod failed to support women bishops legislation, bishops were called to Westminster to explain to MPs how they planned to bring a speedy resolution to the problems this vote had caused. A House of Bishops Working Group has now consulted widely, and from the responses to the consultation that have been made public it appears that there is even less common ground than before between those in favour and those against women bishops. Nevertheless WATCH remains committed to the Church of England’s process of reconciliation and continuing conversations.

WATCH believes that Diana Johnson’s bill is timely in reminding the Working Group, and the House of Bishops, that legislation for women to be bishops must be passed by the Synod sooner rather than later, and in a form that allows no discrimination against women.

You can read about the proceedings here

Second reading will be on 3rd May

WATCH urges the House of Bishops to bring back a Single Clause Measure

Women clergy and supporters of their ministry have had enough of the wasteful wrangling over women bishops.  Years have been spent in trying to make legal provision that would satisfy those opposed. The cost in human and financial terms has been enormous. Since 2000, there have been three major church reports, and the work of a legislative drafting group, revision committee and steering committee.  General Synod has discussed the question at 10 of its meetings, and it has been debated at every level of the church.

(Full details of the progress of the debate can be found at

The draft Measure represented the furthest possible compromise for those in favour. It was not enough for those opposed. After all these years of discussion, debate, and drafting it is clear that that there is no legal settlement that can be devised that will allow women to be bishops whilst satisfying the demands of those opposed. We therefore have to ask whether it is wise to allow the entire church to be held to ransom by minority factions who resist a change that the Church of England has discerned and declared to be entirely consistent with its understanding of the Christian faith.  These same voices have spoken out repeatedly against any of the compromise proposed by the Church, and supported widely, including by WATCH.

Bishop John Gladwin said “What a small minority has done is blow up the bridge to any compromise solution.  There is now only one route which must be travelled to that outcome.  That is the route which removes all discriminatory provisions from the life and ministry of the Church

It is now time to go for the simplest possible legislation – a single clause measure. This would enable people to vote for or against legislation simply enabling women to be bishops. Provision can be made at local level as appropriate for those who find this difficult. This option will maintain the greatest degree of unity and open dialogue between those of differing views and prevent ghettos forming within the Church. This is the way that every other Province in the Anglican Communion that has voted to ordain women as bishops has chosen to proceed.

It is also time for honesty in this debate. Those opposed do not want women bishops. They do not want resolution of the issue but to extend the decision-making process as long as possible.  We cannot see how further conversation will result in any proposals that have not been tested and rejected before. They will simply prolong the process.

With the disproportionate number of conservatives in the House of Laity, the nature of the internal debate within the church has been so weighted to accommodating small minorities that we have lost sight of the legislation’s main objective – to make women bishops. We are now in a changed landscape. It is clear from the debates in Parliament and the response in the country at large that those outside the church are scandalised by the acceptance of gender discrimination in the established church. As Helen Goodman MP said in the emergency Commons debate on 22nd November,

 “too many concessions have been made to those who are opposed to women priests…  It is simply unjust to do that at the expense of women in the Church.” 

For the sake of the future of the church we need to act swiftly and unequivocally to make women bishops without any discrimination in law. WATCH urges the House of Bishops to recommend a single clause measure be returned to Synod in July with the aim of getting Final Approval in a newly elected Synod.

In the meantime, it is imperative that women are present at the discussions of the House of Bishops in December and beyond. We call on the bishops to open their proceedings to the public and invite senior women to play a full part in their discussions. As Diana Johnson MP said in February 2012

“It is inconceivable to anyone engaged in equality and diversity work in other contexts that the Church would make decisions about consecrating women as bishops without seriously engaging during this last phase with those who will be most directly affected by the decision.”

The Reverend Rachel Weir, Chair of WATCH said

“We have spent enough time in exploring how to accommodate the views of those who do not want women as bishops. Generosity is laudable but without limits it becomes a kind of profligacy. We are wasting the Church’s precious resources, both its money and its people if we seek to continue the debate about provision in law. The House of Bishops must act decisively now to legislate for women bishops in the simplest possible way.”

Pressure for simple legislation mounts as first analysis of voting patterns shows General Synod House of Laity dramatically out of step with lay members of diocesan synods

A week after the disastrous vote in General Synod and after a period of intense scrutiny from both houses of Parliament, pressure continues to grow on Church authorities to find a way to break the impasse on legislating for women bishops.

Given the failure of all attempts at a compromise enshrined in statute, there is increasing support for the adoption of the simplest possible legislation with provision for those opposed being made outside the legislation itself.

On Monday 26th November, the voting records were published. This shows how individual members of the House of Laity of the General Synod voted and also enables comparisons with the votes previously cast by the lay representatives in the diocesan synods.

As expected, there was a considerable discrepancy between the local and national voting patterns.

When the legislation was debated at diocesan level, it achieved more than a two-thirds majority among lay people in 37 of the 44 dioceses.  In Guildford, for instance, 70% of lay members voted in favour at diocesan level, but three of the four General Synod members voted against. Had the General Synod members representing six dioceses chosen to reflect the views expressed by their diocesan synods, the measure would have passed.

Full details of the House of Laity voting figures can be found via Thinking Anglicans

Women Bishops: House of Laity says ‘no’ by 6 votes

Today’s vote in General Synod is a devastating blow for the Church of England and the people of this country. It is a missed opportunity for a whole generation to see women and men sharing fully in the mission, ministry and leadership of the Church of England.
There is overwhelming support for women bishops in both in the church and in the country at large. We have been discussing this issue for a generation and working on the details of this compromise legislation for over ten years. 42 out of 44 dioceses supported the draft Measure: 75% of all votes were cast in favour.
Today, almost 73% of General Synod members voted in favour of women bishops. Both the House of Bishops and the House of Clergy voted overwhelmingly in support, but the Measure narrowly fell in the House of Laity where it failed to reach the required 2/3 majority:  by 6 votes.
In the coming weeks, bishops will need to act promptly to offer pastoral support to women clergy and others who will feel devastated by this outcome.
The General Synod clearly needs to look again at how it represents the will of the people in the pews.
Our Christianity calls us to the future and not the past. WATCH will continue to work towards a future for the Church of England where the gifts and callings of women and men are equally recognised and valued.
The Reverend Rachel Weir, Chair of WATCH said,
“This is a tragic day for the Church of England after so many years of debate and after all our attempts at compromise. Despite this disappointing setback, WATCH will continue to campaign for the full acceptance of women’s gifts of leadership in the Church’s life.”

Women in the episcopate: Time to move on!

Where we are now – Anglican women in ordained ministry

The Church of England depends on its women priests. Twenty years ago (11.11.92) General Synod voted to ordain women as priests. Today we have over three thousand women ministering in parishes and others in chaplaincies in hospitals, prisons, schools and universities. One in three priests is female and almost 50% of new ordinands. Four of our cathedrals have female Deans and there are 26 female archdeacons active in the leadership teams of dioceses

There have been women bishops in the Anglican Communion since Barbara Harris was ordained in 1989. Since then 34 women have been consecrated in New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Cuba, South Africa and the USA. In all these provinces of the Anglican Communion, no legal provision was made for those who oppose women in ordained ministry. Other provinces as varied as Scotland and the Sudan have opened the way for women bishops but not yet made a first appointment.

The discussion so far…

GS voted on a motion to ordain women as deacon, priest and bishop in 1978 – it lost. We have been discussing this issue ever since – for a whole generation.

The present legislative process began in 2000. Since then there have been 3 major church reports, regular debates in Synod and fifteen months of detailed drafting work. All the dioceses in the country have been consulted and at every step of the way support for this legislation to enable women to be bishops has been overwhelming: 42 of 44 dioceses voted ‘yes’ – with more than 75% of all votes cast in favour.

The provision for those opposed in the draft legislation

One reason for the overwhelming support for this legislation is the generous support offered to those who are opposed. Under the draft Measure any parish can request a male priest or bishop on the grounds of their theological conviction and these convictions must be respected. This will be backed up by a Statutory Code of Practice with legal force. Some people say that this is not enough, but it is as much as can be given without seriously damaging the Church – and 29 dioceses voted against further provision being made.

This is a compromise for everyone

The draft ‘Measure’ is a considerable compromise for those in favour of women bishops. There will be parishes where women will be barred from serving as priests, and women bishops will have to delegate to a male bishop where the parish requests it. Nowhere else in the Anglican Communion has provision been spelled out in law at all – things have been worked out through building relationships ‘on the ground’. Most of WATCH’s supporters would much prefer to have seen this sort of arrangement in the Church of England too. But we have compromised so as to make space for those who are finding this change difficult.

Voting ‘yes’ for this would also be a compromise for those opposed because the legislation does not give them as much reassurance as they would like.

The 20th November

On Tuesday 20th November, General Synod will have to consider “The Measure” as it stands. Nothing can be done to amend it now without starting all over again.

Some, from both sides, want to wait in the hope of getting something better, but to do so would be incredibly destructive. Another 10 years going over and over the same arguments would cripple the Church’s credibility and mission. It would also deprive the Church of the skills and wisdom of women bishops. To waste our time and talents in this way would be quite wrong.

Despite our concerns that this Measure does not do enough to eradicate discrimination from the Church, WATCH is praying that Synod will vote ‘yes’ on 20th November. This is far from the perfect Measure for women, but it is what has been negotiated after years of consultation amongst those of all perspectives. A ‘yes’ will enable women bishops to be appointed whilst allowing that those who disagree to have a respected place within the Church of England.

Time to Decide!

‘To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven’Ecclesiastes 3:1

There is a time for discussion and a time for decision. Twenty years after the vote for women’s ordination to the priesthood, and twelve years after we started exploring this issue in detail, it’s time to decide – time to move on.

The Reverend Rachel Weir Chair of WATCH said  “This week we have been celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the vote for women priests. We pray that next week, Synod will complete the work that was started in November 1992 and vote for women bishops”


WATCH (Women and the Church) PRESS RELEASE

Wednesday 12th September, 2012


Today the House of Bishops announced that it had voted by a large majority to substitute a new set of wording in place of the controversial Clause 5(1)c.

WATCH is pleased that the House of Bishops listened to the anxieties voiced concerning their amendment to the legislation in May, and is encouraged by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recognition of the enrichment that the ordained ministry of women has brought to the Church of England and her mission.

WATCH is, however, disappointed that the House of Bishops did not feel able to withdraw Clause 5(1)c completely.

It will take time to explore the implications of the new wording fully and WATCH will now begin a process of consultation with members and others before issuing any further comment.

The Reverend Rachel Weir, Chair of WATCH said

The House of Bishops has today confirmed its commitment to having women as bishops and has attempted to find a new way forward that will ensure the draft legislation is passed by General Synod in November. Time will tell whether the new Clause 5(1)c will produce the desired outcome.”

WATCH warmly welcomes the appointment of Bishop Justin Welby

WATCH is delighted to hear that Bishop Justin Welby has been appointed as the next Archbishop of Canterbury. Bishop Justin is a supporter of women in ordained ministry and is fully supportive of the consecration of women as bishops. He was ordained in 1992, the year that General Synod voted to open the priesthood to women so his entire priestly ministry has been in the context of a Church that ordains both men and women as priests.  His previous work outside the Church brings valuable experience of working alongside women as equals in positions of leadership.

If General Synod votes for female bishops on the 20th of this month, Bishop Justin will have the privilege of serving at a time when the first women become bishops in the Church of England. It will be a time of enormous opportunity for transformation, growth and renewal.  We have every confidence that Bishop Justin will be the person to make the most of these opportunities.

The role of Archbishop of Canterbury is a great challenge for anyone, but Bishop Justin’s reputation as a strong and decisive leader and his extensive experience in working for reconciliation makes him very well placed to take the Church of England forward in exciting new directions.

The Reverend Rachel Weir Chair of WATCH said

“We are delighted to hear that Bishop Justin has been appointed to Canterbury. He is a strong supporter of women’s ministry and has all the skills and experience the Church could hope for in a new Archbishop.  We look forward to working with him in future years”