Comments on Further Report of the Legislative Drafting Group on Women in the Episcopate

Comments on Further Report of the Legislative Drafting Group on Women in the Episcopate by Revd Joanna Collicutt

The following paper is one of a series written by members of WATCH (Women and the Church) in response to proposals contained in the Report of the Women Bishops Legislative Drafting Group (GS 1685, April 2008) and the Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecra- tion and Ordination of Women) Measure (GS 1708, December 2008).

The papers focus on the proposals, some of which imply an underlying concept of taint with regard to women priests and bishops, and others which, if passed, would further erode the unity and damage the historic episcopacy of the Church of England.

You can read all the comments by downloading the PDF above


The Act of Synod and Theological Seriousness1 by Dr Judith Maltby

Introduction to the Revd Dr Judith Maltby’s essay in Act of Synod – Act of Folly? edited by Monica Furlong, SCM Canterbury Press 1998.

One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, but Two Integrities?

On 11th November 1992, after many years of debate and discussion at all levels in the Church, the General Synod voted to make it law- ful for women to be ordained as priests. Almost exactly one year later, with only two debates a day apart, the General Synod passed the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod, creating provision for three separate ‘flying bishops’ to minister to those opposed to women’s ordained ministries.

Five years after the Act of Synod was passed, the late Monica Furlong edited a collection of essays entitled Act of Synod – Act of Folly? Canon Dr Judith Maltby, Fellow of Christ Church College, Oxford, has given WATCH her permission to use her contribution to Monica’s book. We are grateful to Judith for her essay, which traces the theological and ecclesiological flaws inherent in the Act and the dam- aging precedent it has set, not only for the Church of England but for the entire Anglican Communion. 16 years on, the Act is still in place, although only 2% of parishes in the Church of England have signed Resolution C, the resolution calling for the extended Episcopal oversight created by the Act.

As the Church prepares to open the Episcopate to women, WATCH continues to work for the rescinding of the Act of Synod and for the simplest and most straightforward legislation for women bishops.

I. Introduction

In about 1980 or 1981, I attended a Central Council meeting of Movement for the Ordination of Women. One of the tasks set the meeting was to break into the inevitable small groups, armed with magic markers and newsprint, and ‘buzz’ about the reasons we thought that the Church of England should admit women to the priesthood. Bluetack in hand we then reported back to plenary. The vast majority of the reasons given, it is fair to say, had a great deal to do with the feelings of the people there: the deaconesses present felt frustrated that their gifts were not being fully employed; the male priests felt guilty that the same vocation they saw in themselves was being denied to their female colleagues; the women, both lay and the would-be ordained, felt that comparisons of the ordination of members of one half of the human race to the ordination of a monkey or a pork pie was, truth to tell, deeply insulting and unchristian. After a while, a senior bishop present stood up and told us all, in short, to stop whinging. He said that the leadership of the church was not really interested in the feelings of women: we had to make an intellectually rigor-ous, theological case for why the Church of England should reform itself in this regard. I am to this day deeply grateful for the painful honesty of that bishop. The Movement for the Ordination of Women responded to the challenge and produced literature of a high theological content. Authors who published on the pro-side included Janet Morely, John Austin Baker, Rowan Williams, Monica Furlong, and Elaine Storkey to name just a few. In an article published in 1984, Rowanb Williams eloquently argued ‘the case for theological seriousness’, criticizing the lack of theological rigour in the ordination of women debate..

You can read the rest of the essay by downloading the PDF from the link above

Statement to the House of Bishops regarding the Single Clause Measure as outlined in the Manchester Report

From: Women Clergy

We welcome the work done by the Legislative Drafting Group outlining ways forward for the Church with regard to the consecration of women as bishops. As ordained women, from amongst whom some of the first generation of women bishops may come, we wish to make our own contribution to the current debate.

We believe that it should be possible for women to be consecrated as bishops, but not at any price. The price of legal “safeguards” for those opposed is simply too high, diminishing not just the women concerned, but the catholicity, integrity and mission of the episcopate and of the Church as a whole. We cannot countenance any proposal that would, once again, enshrine and formalise discrimination against women in legislation. With great regret, we would be prepared to wait longer, rather than see further damage done to the Church of England by passing discriminatory laws. In this, we support the recent principled stand taken by the Archbishop and Bishops of the Church in Wales.

After 21 years of ordained ministry and 14 years of priesthood, many of us have much experience of building trustful relationships with those unable to accept the priestly ministry of women. In the Anglican Communion overseas, women take this experience into the episcopate, which leads them to invite other bishops into their Dioceses or Episcopal areas to ordain, confirm and take other services when required. Bishops should be trusted to act wisely and behave with dignity, and all bishops should work within clear expectations and codes of practice. The language of “protection” and “safeguard” is offensive to women, and we believe the existing disciplinary procedures are enough for women or men to be brought to account if they behave inappropriately. We would commend the good practice over the past 20 years of the 15 Anglican Provinces which have already opened the episcopate to women: none of these has passed discriminatory legislation.

Discussion of a single clause measure without including the possible arrangements for those opposed, characterises those who argue for it as somehow “not caring” about those who oppose the ordination/consecration of women. This is far from the truth. Strong relationships have been forged on the anvil of profound disagreement and there is ample testimony to the richness of these encounters, to set alongside those situations which have proved painful. As the broken body of Christ on earth, the Church’s internal relationships should rest on trust, forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation, rather than on protection and an over-anxious reliance on the letter of the law. Work has already been done on a draft proposal of robust and clear arrangements that make the passing of a single clause measure realistic in today’s Church, as well as theologically and ecclesiologically cohesive.

We long to see the consecration of women bishops in the Church of England, and believe it is right both in principle and in timing. But because we love the Church, we are not willing to assent to a further fracture in our communion and threat to our unity. If it is to be episcopacy for women qualified by legal arrangements to “protect” others from our oversight, then our answer, respectfully, is thank you, but no.

May 2008

Legislation For Women Bishops

Legislation for Women Bishops by Revd Canon F.A. Jackson

The following paper is one of a series written by members of WATCH (Women and the Church) in response to proposals contained in the Report of the Women Bishops Legislative Drafting Group (GS 1685, April 2008) and the Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecra- tion and Ordination of Women) Measure (GS 1708, December 2008).

The papers focus on the proposals, some of which imply an underlying concept of taint with regard to women priests and bishops, and others which, if passed, would further erode the unity and damage the historic episcopacy of the Church of England.

This paper was written for GRAS (Group for Rescinding the Act of Synod) by the now Archdeacon of Llandaff, Revd Canon F.A. (Peggy) Jackson when she was Rector of Mortlake with East Sheen Team Ministry and Dean of Women’s Ministry for Southwark Dio- cese. We give our thanks to GRAS for allowing us to print Archdeacon Peggy’s paper.

In summary…

We urge General Synod members in February 2009 to stand firm, and keep a close regard for the decisions taken in their own chamber in July 2008 – to keep good faith with the hard- won matters of principle which were actually decided at that time. And, in passing this legislation on to the Revision Com- mittee, to do so with a clear reaffirmed mandate for:

  • a simple statement of the eligibility of women for episcopacy on identical terms with men
  • special arrangements within existing structures, set out in a Code of Practice, which:
    • make explicit pastoral provisions for all existing clergy and parishes who have need of them, on an individual basis
    • do not create or perpetuate existing discriminatory structures, amounting to a theology of taint
    • do not offer structural provisions to meet the pastoral needs of those entering ordained ministry after the coming into operation of the new legislation
    • are framed to be entirely mutual and interchangeable with regard to gender
    • are framed in such terms as do not automatically require, nor anticipate a need for, any future revision by Synod.

      The Church of England has reason to be especially grateful to those currently serving on General Synod, and the members of the Legislative Drafting Group. They have laboured nobly to try to find a formula, by which the wishes of the majority that women should be enabled to be consecrated as bishops can be met, while causing a minimum of offence to those who in conscience will not be able to accept such a development.

You can read the full paper by downloading it from the link above

An Invitation to Prayer and Fasting


You are invited to join in a day of prayer, meditation and fasting as General Synod debates the draft legislation and code of practice for women bishops.

On the morning of Wednesday 11th February, the General Synod will be giving first consideration to the draft proposals which will open the episcopate to women and which will also include arrangements for those who remain opposed to women’s priestly and Episcopal ministry in the Church of England.

The General Synod will have to decide whether or not to commend the draft proposals to the revision stage, where further work will need to be done. There are difficult decisions to make on the proposals for women bishops, and we wish to support members of General Synod and one another as we join with the wider church community to pray for God’s wisdom and guidance during this continuing process.

Whilst many of us look forward with eager longing and expectation to the day when women and men together will share in the Episcopal ministry in the Church of England, we acknowledge that some do not share in our confidence and joy. We do not seek to disregard or dismiss our differences and we trust that, through ongoing prayer, we may all receive healing of our hurt and pain and a renewed vision of God’s will for our Church, as together we seek new ways to express the unity to which Christ calls us.

We believe differences on women’s ordination and on other issues must not be allowed to obscure the faith we share: our utter dependence on and acceptance of God’s unconditional love, our interdependence as members of Christ’s body, and our calling to care for one another and the world in which we live. We remain committed to working with our sisters and brothers in Christ, regardless of our differences, to the glory of God and to the furtherance of the Kingdom.

The National WATCH Executive Committee

Women Bishops: The Real Threat

From a talk given by Hilary Cotton to London WATCH on 15th June 2009

1. Where are we in the process?

The proposals on the table are draft legislation that would allow women to be bishops, and includes arrangements for those who will not accept them, or who will still not accept women priests. These proposals are currently being looked at by a General Synod Revision Committee, who are discussing a large number of amendments suggested from all quarters of the Church. They will bring revised proposals to General Synod next February (2010); Synod may ask them to revise them some more. Once Synod is happy then the proposals go for debate at Diocesan Synods; they then come back to General Synod for final approval, then are presented to Parliament for approval. Finally they receive Royal Assent and General Synod signs them off

2. The Church of England claims exemption from the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act (under section 19), and will claim a similar exemption from the Equality Bill currently before Parliament. WATCH is working with our Parliamentary supporters to challenge whether the Established church should continue to be exempt from such equality legislation, but we don’t expect that to change imminently.

3. In all that I say I aim to remember that those who think that women should not/cannot be bishops are trying just as hard as we are to be faithful.

Why are the Proposals as they are?

General Synod has said three times that it believes that it is the will of the Church of England for women to be allowed to be bishops (in July 2005, 2006, 2008). So the principle is established. However, in the debates at Synod it was clear that Synod was saying ‘Yes, but…’

You can continue reading the talk by downloading it above


An Open Letter From The Reverend Lindsay Southern to the Archbishops

An open letter from the Reverend Lindsay Southern to the Archbishops regarding their proposed amendments


Dear Archbishop Williams and Archbishop Sentamu,

It is with great dismay and disappointment that I read your proposed amendments to the Women Bishop’s draft legislation issued on Monday 21st June. I doubt there are many who will feel this offers good news. Far from being attentive to the full diversity of voices within the Church of England, these amendments suggest that you, our Archbishops, are primarily concerned with a particularly vocal minority. Neither do you seem to trust that the Legislative Drafting Committee have, in fact, been extremely attentive to the diversity of voices for the past year and have worked hard to come up with the current proposals. There is nothing to suggest, for example, that you are listening to the voices of those who signed petitions in 2008 requesting a single clause measure. Or those, like WATCH, who have made it clear that the proposed legislation already demands many concessions and compromises from the simple single clause measure they requested and which has been favoured by all other Anglican provinces who have chosen to open the episcopate to women.


There will be many who will be unable to support the proposed transfer arrangements and continual public undermining of women’s spiritual authority implicit in these amendments (paragraph 6), even if it means proceeding sooner rather than later.


Click here to read the full letter

The Case Against The Archbishops’ Amendment


The Archbishops’ Amendment was presented to General Synod in June 2010 after the Revision Committee had published its carefully crafted and agreed revised draft legislation. It was an untimely intervention. General Synod did not have scrutiny of how it would work legally or in practice. The Amendment proposes that the diocesan bishop should ‘co-ordinate’ some aspects of episcopal ministry with a male bishop for those parishes that request it, rather than ‘delegate’ this ministry as in the present draft legislation. (“Co-ordinate” is an ambiguous phrase which means variously “share with a willing colleague” and “give away entirely” – experience shows that such ambiguity does not serve the church as a whole)

General Synod debated this Amendment in July 2010 and it was defeated. For those who were not then members of General Synod, the debate is well worth reading. It can be found at pages 150 – 168

Read the full report here to find out why we do not support the Archbishops’ Amendment

WATCH (Women and the Church)

January 2012

A Woman’s Place Is In The House Of Bishops

I thought women could already be bishops….

No – when the Church of England agreed to ordain women as priests in 1992 it explicitly disallowed them from being bishops. That is why we are going around many of the same arguments again. The Church now has over 3000 female priests. If your parish doesn’t have one, a neighbouring parish probably will. There are four female Deans of Cathedrals and many in others in senior posts.

Why does it matter?

Because the Church has kept women ‘in their place’ for too long, wasting their gifts and allowing women to be treated as second-class. Because the Bible says that women and men are both made in God’s image – and share an equal responsibility for the care of God’s creation. Therefore they should lead the Church together in mission and care. Because most younger people find the way the Church treats women unacceptable, and are therefore deaf to the Church telling the Good News of God’s love for them. Because being a bishop is difficult. The Church needs to choose bishops with as wide a range of gifts, skills and experience as possible: why limit that to men?

The key question is:

How shall we appoint women as bishops in a way that:

  • maintains the traditional understanding and role of bishops
  • leaves space for those who in conscience cannot accept women as priests or bishops
  • avoids any flavour of discrimination or half-heartedness by the Church towards women priests and bishops? (General Synod Manchester Report April 2008)

After four years of thoroughly exploring this question, most of the General Synod believes that the legislation is ‘good enough’: perhaps a typical Anglican compromise. It is a compromise for those in favour, as there will still be parishes where women will not be invited to serve as priests or bishops It is a compromise for those against, as it does not create the separation from the rest of the Church that they would ideally like. The provisions in this legislation are the most the Church can offer without discriminating against women or undermining the role of the bishop in an unacceptable way.

What happens next?

Diocesan Synods have to vote on the legislation by November 2011. Provided more than half of them support it then there will be a final debate and vote in General Synod, probably in July 2012. Deaneries and Parishes are asked to discuss and debate the legislation – but it is Diocesan Synod voting that counts. If you want women bishops – say ‘Yes’ to this legislation and ‘No’ to any further provisions, which would delay women bishops for another ten years at least.

To find out more about the draft legislation or the arguments against women being bishops read the full report here

Women bishops – Are We Nearly There Yet?

If all goes as planned, the draft Measure (legislation) for women to be appointed as bishops in the Church of England will come to General Synod in July 2012 for Final Approval. The key factors leading up to a successful outcome are summarised here, with the key dates in the process.


Key factors


  1. Diocesan Synod voting results.


The national consultation across the Dioceses has produced very clear endorsement of the draft legislation. Only two Dioceses voted against (London and Chichester) and those by very small margins. 33 Dioceses voted explicitly against adding additional provisions for those who will not accept women as bishops, and only 9 in favour of doing so. The message from the Church at large is: “We want women bishops, and we consider this legislation to be the right way forward. “


  1. Possible amendment of the draft Measure by the House of Bishops


The House of Bishops is the only body able to amend the legislation at this late stage. They are under a lot of pressure to do so from those who will not accept women bishops and also some who consider this would be a way forward that will enable everyone to stay in the Church of England.  The main suggestion is to incorporate the Archbishops’ Amendment of July 2010. This has always been unacceptable to WATCH and most senior women, as it changes the Episcopacy in ways which would undermine the catholicity, integrity and mission of the Episcopate and of the Church as a whole, as well as limiting the ministry of female bishops too far.


  1. Contents of the draft Code of Practice


The standard legislative process means that the Code of Practice will remain as a draft document until after the Measure to allow women to be bishops has received Royal assent; so its contents cannot be finally confirmed until then. Supporters of women bishops are clear that the Code must not restrict the authority, decisions, actions or ministry of female bishops beyond what is already in the draft Measure. In particular, the Code should not REQUIRE a Diocesan bishop to accede to a request from a parish that the male bishop they want should be one who does not ordain women or who has not been ordained by a woman. This would in effect be allowing parishes to choose their own bishop, and would open the door to this possibility in other contexts. We believe that this would seriously undermine the traditional historic episcopacy of the Church of England.


  1. Parliamentary involvement


Once General Synod has approved the Measure, then it goes to Parliament. It is very clear that Parliament is against unfair gender discrimination, and that it sees the Church of England as out of step in having only male bishops. Furthermore, any provisions the Church it makes in law for those opposed to women bishops will require additional exemption from the 2010 Equality Act. Tony Baldry MP is the 2nd Church Estates Commissioner and is thus the member of the Government tasked with steering  Church legislation through Parliament. He is also ex officio a member of General Synod. In July 2010 he told the General Synod to ‘be under no illusion about one thing: a difficult task could well become impossible if I had to steer through the House of Commons any Measure which left a scintilla of a suggestion that women bishops were in some way to be second-class bishops.’ In other words, any changes to the draft Measure or further restrictions in the Code of Practice would be viewed with serious concern by Parliament.


  1. Involvement of women in discussions


In June 2008 some senior lay and clergywomen attended a meeting of the College of Bishops to discuss proposals for women bishops. Since then no women have been part of the discussions amongst the House of Bishops.  It seems inconceivable to anyone engaged in equality and diversity work in other contexts that the Church would make the decision about consecrating women as bishops without seriously engaging during this last phase with those who will be most directly affected by that decision. Bishops therefore need to seek out those whom this legislation will most affect and be sure that their views are fully represented in discussions on the Code of Practice and on the possibility of amending the Measure.  Women are the majority of church attenders, and  many women (and indeed men) are seriously considering whiter they can remain part of the Church of England if this legislation does not go through unamended and with an acceptable Code of Practice.  


6 Voting decisions by General Synod members


After the election of a new General Synod in October 2010 the opponents of women bishops declared that they had a ‘blocking minority’ in the House of Laity. In other words, they were sure that more than one third of the members of the House of Laity would not support the draft Measure as it stands. General Synod members are not delegates: they vote according to their own consciences, not as representatives of the views of their Diocese or constituency. So even though Diocesan support is overwhelming, the Measure may still fall. It will be important next July that all General Synod members weigh up their voting decisions in the context of the mission of the Church of England and its future as a place where women and men can flourish together. We entrust to them the decision not just for themselves but for the whole Church of England.


Key dates


6th– 10thFeb General Synod, London. Report on Diocesan voting; presentation on Code of Practice


6th Feb WATCH event in St Margaret’s Westminster and Dean’s Yard


21st -22nd May House of Bishops meets


26th May WATCH Pentecost event at Birmingham Cathedral: all welcome


6th -10th July General Synod, York. Final approval debate and vote.


Produced by WATCH, December 2011