What do all those words mean? A Short guide to Resolutions, Letters of Request, Bishops and Parishes

Every few months, WATCH is contacted by someone from a parish where they have discovered that a group of people, or perhaps the incumbent, are proposing a PCC meeting to “pass a Resolution” . The purpose of this is nearly always to request that the parish comes under the oversight of a bishop who does not accept ordained women.   If the Resolution is passed, it also usually means that no ordained woman will be able to lead services or be appointed to the parish. Most people, even Church Wardens, do not know about this process, what it may mean for the church and community,  or how it should happen, and so WATCH has produced this short guide to explain what the terminology means, what the p[process should be, and suggest ways of consulting widely.

If you think there is anything else that would be helpful to include,  let us know and we will note this for any future editions.

Appreciation for trustees stepping down in 2022

This is an excerpt of our time together, in person and online, for our AGM and interview with The Rt Revd Christine Hardman, Bishop of Newcastle 2015-2021, during which various WATCH members show their appreciation of ongoing trustees and Rev’ds Emma Percy as the outgoing chair.

Interview: The Rt Revd Christine Hardman by Emily Howarth

Interview: The Rt Revd Christine Hardman

Bishop of Newcastle 2015-2021

interviewed by

Emily Howarth, ordinand (St Mellitus), 

Secretary of Transformations Steering Group.

The Right Reverend Christine Hardman, Bishop of Newcastle 2015-2021. 

“The church does feel like a different place now and it’s not about women’s rights, it’s about men and women being equally represented in the leadership of the church. We still have much work to do in the church, for example working in diversity in terms of ethnicity. There’s no place for us to sit back and be complacent.”

+Christine was made a Deaconess in 1984 and ordained Deacon in 1987. She then served in the diocese of St Albans, before her appointment as vicar of Holy Trinity and Christ the King, Stevenage in 1996.

She also worked as rural dean of Stevenage in 1999 and served as archdeacon of Lewisham and Greenwich in the Diocese of Southwark in 2001. Serving on General Synod from 1998, she was involved in the legislation enabling women to become bishops.

Be on your church’s Electoral Roll – Join your Deanery Synod – Vote in the General Synod election

Do you want the Church of England to be a forward-looking, welcoming, open and inclusive church?

Do you want a church that welcomes and celebrates everyone in the name of Jesus Christ, regardless of gender, disability, ethnicity, economic power, mental health or sexuality?

If you do you need to do three things:

Be on the Electoral Roll for your church

You can do this if you are aged 16 or over, are baptised, and either live in the parish or have worshipped for at least six months at the church.

Become a representative of your church on the local Deanery Synod

These positions are being elected at your Annual Parochial Church Meeting, held in March, April or May. You can stand if you are on the Electoral Roll, you don’t have to be already on the PCC.

Deanery Synods meet around three times a year and let Anglican churches from your area discuss how to work together, support each other and debate issues in the church locally and nationally. Having an inclusive voice at Deanery level is very important. It is a good way to meet Christians from other churches, worship together and learn more about local Anglican churches. To find out more, talk to your priest, PCC Secretary or a Deanery Synod member.

Vote in the 2020 General Synod Elections

<p”>Progress on inclusion needs the General Synod, the Church of England’s national decision-making body, to be supportive. Big changes in how the church works, such as accepting women as priests and bishops, only happen when General Synod approves the legislation. Voting for inclusive General Synod reps in 2020 will help change the future of the church. The General Synod is up for election in 2020, with voting in September. We need you to be able to vote for inclusive candidates.

<p”>You can only vote in the General Synod elections if you are a member of your local Deanery Synod. General Synod elections will take place in every diocese, and every single vote will count. These elections are always close, with many members being elected by just one or two votes, so your vote is crucial.

Remember – you can only vote in the General Synod elections if you are a member of Deanery Synod. Join your local Deanery Synod at your Annual Parochial Church Meeting this Spring.

Be on your church’s Electoral Roll

Join your Deanery Synod

Vote in the General Synod election.

Planning for the 2020 Elections to the General Synod


The Church of England’s General Synod is due for re-election in 2020, and we are working in partnership with a coalition of inclusive organisations to ensure there will be good representation for people wanting a welcoming, open and inclusive church for all.  The campaign has produced this leaflet giving and overview of what is happening and what you can do to prepare.  With Deanery Synod elections taking place just before the main General Synod elections it is also important that lay people know what will be happening and how they can be involved.

Could you pass this link on to other people and churches who you know share the inclusive values of the campaign.


Please download and print out copies or the leaflet and pass them on to people who might be interested.  Getting the message out and raising awareness, both with clergy and laity, will be essential to ensuring there are enough candidates standing in every diocese and voters in position to elect them. With Deanery Synod elections also taking place earlier in 2020 it is an ideal time for lay people to become more involved and be able to vote for General Synod.

Colour version of the GS Elections Leaflet
Black and White version of GS Elections Leaflet

If you are interested in knowing more about General Synod, perhaps with a view to standing for election, please contact Nic Tall ([email protected]).

The next twelve months will help set the course of the C of E until 2025, and it is important that a strong inclusive voice is elected to Synod.

The Church of England is at an important point in its history. Against a backdrop of falling participation, the Church faces significant questions about how it engages with those it is called to serve. Fully integrating women’s ministry into the life of the Church, the full inclusion and equality of LGBT+ Christians, responding to environmental concerns, reforming church structures and bureaucracy, being a broad church for everyone in society – how Synod addresses these questions will shape the Church’s future. Conservative groups in the Church, who opposed women becoming bishops and do not want equality for LGBT+ Christians, are organising to maximise their influence in these debates. If the broad mainstream of open, forward-looking, inclusive Anglicanism is not fairly represented in General Synod we will face more delay and obstruction to becoming a welcoming Church for all.

What is the General Synod?

The General Synod is the national assembly of the Church of England. It considers and approves legislation affecting the whole of the Church of England, formulates new forms of worship, debates matters of national and international importance, and approves the annual budget for the work of the Church at a national level. It is, therefore, the Church’s Parliament and elections to it for the next five-year term will be taking place in 2020.

Who are the members of General Synod?

Synod is made up of three Houses – Bishops, Clergy and Laity. The House of Bishops has all 42 diocesan bishops and 9 elected suffragan bishops. The House of Clergy is largely made up of clergy representatives elected within each diocese by licenced clergy of that diocese. The House of Laity is largely elected by dioceses, elected by the lay members of deanery synods in each diocese. Numbers of clergy and laity vary according to the size of the diocese, but there are usually at least three of each per diocese, and each house has around two hundred members in total. These elections will set the tone of debate in the Church for the next five years, and it is vital that we elect representatives reflecting the will of the majority in the Church, supporting inclusion and opposing discrimination.

When are the next elections?

Nominations of candidates to General Synod will be around July/August 2020. Voting will be in September/ October and the new Synod will meet in November 2020.

Who can stand for election to General Synod?

Clergy – any member of the clergy who is (a) licensed by the bishop, or (b) has permission to officiate and is a member of a deanery synod. Laity – any layperson aged 18 years or older whose name is on the electoral roll of a parish in the diocese and who has received communion at least three times in the last year. They do not need to be a current member of a PCC or a deanery synod.

How can we ensure a strong inclusive voice in General Synod?

To ensure a positive result in the 2020 elections we need to start organising now, concentrating on four areas:

One: Have people in place to vote

  • Make sure your parish takes up all of its deanery synod places, and that your deanery synod members have inclusive views.
  • If you are a layperson, get onto deanery synod in Spring 2020. This is the only way you will get to vote in the General Synod elections later in the year.
  • Make sure you vote! Electoral turnout is around 50%, many potential voters don’t engage. If you don’t cast a vote for an inclusive, outward-looking church you probably won’t get one.

Two: Think about standing for General Synod

  • We need people who care about the future of the Church to stand for General Synod, clergy and laity.
  • If you are not able to run for election, maybe you could encourage someone who would be a good candidate.
  • We need several candidates running in every diocese, both clergy and lay. With a proportional voting system having many inclusive candidates does not split the vote.
  • In 2015 some dioceses only had one inclusive candidate, who topped the poll, but the other places were taken by conservatives. The more inclusive
  • candidates we have standing, the more inclusive representatives we can elect.
  • We need a broad range of candidates with experience across the breadth of the Church to give the widest possible appeal to voters.

Three: Help organise in your diocese

  • We need people on the ground in every diocese who can help organise for the elections, who can ensure enough candidates are running, encourage people to be on deanery synod, remind people to vote, organise a local meeting to raise awareness, etc.

Four: Pray

  • For the process, for those considering putting themselves forward, for existing members thinking about standing again, for those wanting to be on deanery synod, and for God’s blessing on every aspect of the 2020 elections.
  • About what role you could be playing in the synodical life of the Church.
  • That God’s will for the future of the Church will be enabled by the people who are elected in 2020.
  • Who is organising the Inclusive Synod Campaign?

This campaign is being organised by a coalition of key organisations from across the full breadth of traditions in the Church of England – evangelical, catholic, liberal. We represent the broad mainstream of the Church, those who want our national Church to be for everyone, regardless of gender, age, disability, tradition, race, socio-economic background or sexuality. Members include Inclusive Church, WATCH, One Body One Faith, Ozanne Foundation, Affirming Catholicism, Accepting Evangelicals, Modern Church, the Society of Catholic Priests, the Campaign for Equal Marriage in the C of E, the Progressive Christianity Network and Thinking Anglicans. We are the only campaign for Synod organising across the whole of the Church.

Who can I contact to find out more?

The 2020 Election Organiser is Nic Tall, who can assist you with any questions you may have. You can contact Nic at [email protected] or on 01823 323180. He will be able to put you in touch with local election organisers and give advice and support to candidates.

Prayers and Liturgy resources in the lead up to General Synod July 2014

Notes for organisers and leaders

The inside pages of this booklet are designed to be a ready-made order of service on a single sheet that you can simply photocopy and use as it is. The text is also available in a Word document on the WATCH website, so you can adapt it to fit your local requirements if you wish.

The liturgy is designed to be used in groups, and can be used in as formal or informal a setting as you wish – in a home, a meeting room, a chapel, church or cathedral.


The theme of the liturgy is ‘Looking towards the Promised Land.’ We have been journeying through the wilderness for a long time, and we are now at a turning point – whether we will enter the Promised Land or face a longer journey in the wilderness, we do not yet know; but either way we need to pause and prepare for a new stage of our journey. Nicola Slee has written a litany especially for us, to help us express our memories, prayers and hopes as we remember out journey so far and look towards the next stage.


You will need:

  • A cross.
    If you are sitting in a circle, you could put this on the floor or a small table in the middle of the circle. If you are sitting in rows facing an altar, you could put this on or in front of the altar.
  • At least one stone per person.

3 large candles.
These could be around the cross or slightly separate; they will be lit near the end of the service as you pray for the 3 houses of General Synod.


Within solidarity of the sisterhood we watch
Within blessings of the brotherhood we wait
Within cherishing of the church we witness
…the watching of the angels
…the waiting of the called
…and the witnessing of the world.
Be over us Watching One
Be beside us Waiting One
Be before us Witnessing One
…may the church, the angels and the world rejoice.
.                                                                                  Elizabeth Baxter, Holy Rood House.

A hymn may be sung

Litany of struggle and remembrance

1st voice          Wandering for years in the wilderness
looking for a way out, a way forward

2nd voice         footsore, parched throats, sunstroke, hardened skin, clothes worn thin

3rd voice         going round in circles, chafing at the bit
bored with limited rations, angry with our leaders
irritated with each other
forgetting where we’ve come from
losing the sense of where we are going

1st voice          Some of our mothers died in the desert
bones bleached by sun, unremembered graves

2nd voice         Others went mad with the waste of it
patience worn to the bone

3rd voice         Some wrested power for themselves,
refusing to wait for scraps from the master’s table

1st voice   Others absconded, abandoned the caravan trail,
headed off on their own up isolated ravines seeking an oasis,
the impossible dream.

2nd          We hear snatches of their stories,
but much is lost, scattered in the desert sands,
snatched up by the wind and blown away.

All             We remember the ones we knew or heard tell of:

3rd           women who refused to give up on their calling,
who had a sense of our common destiny to share a sacred priesthood,
who led the way when few were ready to follow

1st            women who kept vigil, protecting the embers
of the fire of God’s smouldering passion
who spoke out against restriction, limitation, small and mean vision,
who took their elders to task, shamed them, demanded something better

2nd          women who hunkered down for the long haul,
who prayed their way through refusal, ignorance, resistance,
who found the means to inspire and nourish sons and daughters
when they had been offered little themselves

3rd           women who heckled and complained and insisted
when many around them demanded they keep silence;
women with bold, expansive dreams and theologies to match

1st            women who clung to the hem of the garments of healing,
refusing to let go,
who wrested a blessing from their opponents,
who blazed a trail for others to follow

2nd          Women too numerous to name,
even when their names have been remembered

All             We remember them,
We mourn them and celebrate them,
We take hold of their boldness and courage,
We are here because of all they have dared and hoped and believed,
We will not fail them now.

Nicola Slee

 Stories of the journey

Bible Reading Deuteronomy 30.11-20

Prayer ritual

This is not just our journey – it is the journey of the whole of the Church, and all those the Church is called to minister to. Let us now pray for all who are on this journey, willingly or reluctantly, knowingly or unaware, joyfully, brokenly, with friends or alone. As you make your prayer, aloud or in the silence of your heart, you are invited to place a stone by the cross to represent those on the way.

A chant may be sung

Litany looking towards the promised land

Leader     We’ve learnt to survive in the wilderness;
All             are we ready yet for the promised land?

We’ve filled our bellies hastily with the limited fare of sojourners;
are we ready to feast at our own tables
pomegranates, dates and figs?

We’ve worn thin our dusty pilgrim tunics;
are we ready to robe ourselves in fine silks and costly garments?

We’ve eked out an existence in alien territory;
are we ready to take possession of our own land?

We’ve been nomads, camping out in desert wastes,
no place to call our own;
are we ready for a settled life,
nowhere to escape to when things go wrong?

We’ve recited a history of slavery and shared oppression;
are we ready to make a new history
shaped by responsibility and freedom?

We’ve railed against the power others have wielded over us;
are we ready to take up our own power, use it for each other’s good?

We’ve stuck together in a hostile environment,
sharing a common enemy;
are we ready to face different and disagreement,
the dialogue that comes with power?

We’ve kept each other going with the rhetoric of utopia;
are we ready to face the frustrations and disappointments of the real?

Nicola Slee

Prayer for those who will choose our direction

Almighty God,
you have given your Holy Spirit to the Church, to lead us into all truth:
bless with the Spirit’s grace and presence the members of General Synod;
in the house of Bishops                                                      (light the 1st candle)
in the house of clergy                                                         (light the 2nd candle)
and in the house of laity.                                                   (light the 3rd candle)
Keep them steadfast in faith and united in love,
that they may manifest your glory and prepare the way of your kingdom;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.
Amen                                                                                       Adapted from Common Worship

 A hymn may be sung

 WATCH Prayer

Gracious, loving Lord,
we look forward with hope and joyful anticipation
to the time when men and women can serve you, and all people,
equally in every task within your Church.
Thank you that every position held and task done
is valued by you and furthers your mission on earth.
Thank you Lord for hearing our prayer.

Amen                                                                                                Rev’d Canon Pamela Wilding

Closing blessing

The blessing of the God of Sarah and Hagar, as of Abraham;
The blessing of Jesus, born of the woman Mary;
The blessing of the Holy Spirit who broods over us
as a mother over her children,
Be with us now and forever.
Amen                                                                                                         The St Hilda Community



We have suggested two places in which you could include a hymn.

We have also suggested singing a chant during the prayer ritual – a Taizé chant or something similar may be appropriate; you may wish instead to play quiet background music or simply be quiet.

Stories of the Journey

This is a point at which you may choose to invite one or more people in advance to come and share the story of their journey to this point – the struggles and the rejoicing.
You may, depending on the size of your congregation, wish to invite everyone present to share their story, or the story of someone who has inspired them. You may like to invite each person to put a stone at the foot of/around the cross as they finish telling their story, in which case make sure you have plenty of stones as each person will also need one for the prayer ritual.

Prayer Ritual

This is an opportunity to offer our own hopes and fears to God, but also to intercede for others who will be affected by the outcome of the General Synod vote.

Prayer for those who will choose our direction

This is a prayer for General Synod. You may like to pray by name for the Synod members from your Diocese, adapting it like this;

Almighty God,
you have given your Holy Spirit to the Church, to lead us into all truth:
bless with the Spirit’s grace and presence
the members of General Synod in the house of Bishops                 (light 1st candle)
especially Bishop N, representing our Diocese;

bless with the Spirit’s grace and presence
the members of General Synod in the house of clergy    (light 2nd candle)
especially N, N, (etc) representing our Diocese;
and bless with the Spirit’s grace and presence
the members of General Synod in the house of laity                         (light 3rd candle)
especially N, N, (etc) representing our Diocese.
Keep them steadfast in faith and united in love,
that they may manifest your glory and prepare the way of your kingdom;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.

Additional prayer resources

WATCH have also produced a Novena (reflections, readings and prayers for the 9-day period leading up to the vote), and prayer cards in two sizes with the WATCH prayer.

There are also additional prayers and reflections on the WATCH website.

The Submission by WATCH (Women and the Church) to The Blackburn Committee, 1999


WATCH thanks the Bishop of Blackburn for this opportunity to contribute to the review. WATCH notes that the review body does not enter the review with a preconception that it will result in proposals to rescind the Act, and this is as it should be. However, we believe the facts will speak for themselves, and lead inevitably to that result. We are sure that the review body would not exclude that outcome either. WATCH believes that the practical and pastoral considerations cannot be divorced from the theological ones; it is the fact that the Act was hastily prepared and is not founded on sound theological considerations that lead to the practical and pastoral failures and objections. The Act was prepared almost exclusively by bishops (men) and in haste, with discussion severely limited, in contrast to the rigorous examination of the decision to ordain women. WATCH is an organisation which ‘has a vision of the Church of England as a community of God’s people where, regardless of their gender, justice and equality prevail.’ The organisation has many members, both men and women, priest and lay. You will particularly note that we not a ‘women’s organisation’, although the pastoral effects of the Act bear most obviously on women. We have ample evidence that many men object to its effects and feel disadvantaged by and ashamed of them. To quote one obvious example there are Dioceses where men (and, of course, women) are rarely selected for posts or promotion if they support the ordination of women.

Ever since the Act was introduced WATCH has consulted with many of its members, and with others interested in this matter, while MOW did the same during the steps that led to the ordination of women. We have received’ a number of comments from members since your advertisement of 17th July 1998, in some cases these were copies of remarks sent to you. All these confirm our previous knowledge. Particularly interesting is that we have received several letters from bishops who prefer not to make their views public through your enquiry, but confidentially through WATCH. Over the years WATCH has not only received comments, its leading members have also had to counsel and support people who have been horribly treated by those very people whom the Act protects. It would be pointless to rehearse all these incidents of abuse, insult, mistreatment, and disadvantage that in a secular situation would certainly be actionable under the laws of civilized society dealing with race, age, gender, and so on. it is astonishing that the Church of England accepts such discrimination. Some of the more extreme cases reach the press and receive widespread public condemnation, to the shame of the Church. In this submission we shall use certain cases as illustrations but we do not suggest that we cover every case of which we are aware.

WHO IS PROTECTED? The first point that must be made is that the whole thrust of the Act is to ‘protect’ those who are opposed to the ordination of women. From whom? No protection whatsoever is offered to those who take the opposite view, and the Act was developed and drafted in haste and in a wholly one-sided manner.

THE EXPERIENCE OF BISHOPS One bishops tells us that, despite having early on come to a formal arrangement with the local PEV, that arrangement has been absolutely disregarded by the PEV who has operated as an independent bishop directly in contact with the parishes. The position exactly corresponds to that of the local RC bishop and his flock. Those parishes have disregarded their appointed bishop and operate as an independent church under the PEV.

In effect a separate Diocese has been formed with no allegiance to the established church, nor its councils and disciplines. Offers to discuss a way forward have been ignored by the PEV.

The same bishop was concerned that men were being trained in certain colleges, and in their training curacies, with no discussion of the matter of the ordination of women. He had two who came to be ordained by him who, when questioned, disclosed that they had simply followed the pronouncements of their mentors opposing women’s ordination without discussion. They had been taught that this was a matter of unquestioned and unquestionable dogma in the Church.

The same bishop was very concerned at the failure of the Act to provide protection for those who supported the ordination of women and who were discriminated against. There were such individuals, sometimes a majority of the congregation, in parishes led by Forward in Faith priests. In other cases one parish was ‘protected’ whilst several

parishes in the group had to bend to their will; the greater part of the group had to accept a Forward in Faith priest, willy nilly. Lastly, where a bishop was against the ordination of women it could and did happen that a majority of people and parishes in his diocese were of the other persuasion; he knew that in some cases bishops had used their powers unfairly. The Act had no mechanism to redress such discrimination.

Another bishop was concerned by the suggestion that PEVs, and assistant bishops acting as PEVs (such as those returning from overseas) were suggesting that they might continue to operate without territorial limits after retirement. It is a long- standing tradition that on retirement a bishop ceases to function as such. This is in order to maintain the authority of each bishop in his diocese. The proposal is unacceptable.

A bishop points out that already one may question the provision that serving bishops and suffragans may operate outside their own diocese in order to service parishes that object to their own bishop. The effect of this is to dispute the authority of the appointed bishop. This is particularly so when the arrangement is made directly with the visitor, and without the involvement of the appointed bishop, as has happened.

We must report that another bishop had found little difficulty, since those very few clergy who had objectd initially to the ordination of women had failed to persuade their congregations to follow that line. In nearly every case these priests had accepted their congregation’s verdict, even if reluctantly. This bishop was aware of the distress that the few Forward in Faith individuals (priests and laity) felt. With his blessing the local PEV had visited them and celebrated with them from time to time. In one or two cases clergy had presented candidates to the PEV for confirmation without explaining this to the families. This had caused problems but has now ceased. There remained a minuscule number of parishes in his diocese where a PEV operated. The fact that the situation was so exceptional made the Act operable. The bishop said he was aware of the problems faced by bishops with many such parishes.

The Act established a form of discrimination amounting to a suggestion from those opposed to women that some bishops are ‘pure’ and others are not, even that some are tainted by contact with ordained women at one or more removes. This amounts to setting up a form of apartheid. From it follows:

The loss of the role of the bishop as the focus of unity in his diocese. A diminution in the authority and policy making function of the Diocesan bishop. It is a fudge to say that the PEV only operates with the Diocesan’s permission; the Diocesan cannot in practice refuse, and we have reported above that some PEV’s disregard the Diocesan’s authority and do not even consult him. The opportunith arises for other cases for ‘dissent of conscience.’ Other groups may, and do, demand ‘their own’- bishop. This is congregationalism and has occurred already in Newcastle. Why should not those who support the ordination of women reject bishops who espouse Forward in Faith or Third Province status? It is difficult for them to relate to such bishops, especially when these bishops set the example of division. The Act has denigrated the very clear decision of the General Synod, taken after many years of discussion and prayer, to ordain women.

The action of those who have persuaded people and parishes to reject the ministry of women has prevented them from experiencing this ministry and has forced them to receive an unwelcome ministry or to leave the parish. Further, they are prevented from receiving the ministry of their Diocesan unless they go to another parish. Finally, other parishes in a group benefice may be forced to accept both priests and bishops whom they cannot love and respect. These effects have important outcomes on the pastoral and practical worship and life of the individuals and parishes. They also affect those who reject the ministry of women; they can easily become an embattled and resentful minority. This is bad for the Church and for thern.

RESOLUTIONS A, B and C and their consequences We would draw attention to the way in which Resolutions A, B and C are sometimes in practice arrived at in a parish, and the consequences, not only for the congregation but also for the wider parish population. We have support for these remarks from at least one of the bishops with whom we talked, as well as from individual cases reported to us by priests and laity. How widespread the problem is we cannot tell: there should be a study to find out.

In most parishes that have signed the resolutions it is the priest, or his predecessors, who have led the people to that conclusion. Some congregations have neither had the relevant theology explained to them nor understood it. In other cases the explanation given to them has been partial or biased. (We note that where the attempt to influence them did not always succeed, the priest may have felt alienated from his congregation). The Act does not provide, as it should, for an independent check on such misdirection. We realise that this will be seen by some as interference with the autonomy of a parish priest, but that autonomy can only rest upon trustworthiness.

Some congregations are not actually concerned with theology; they simply want tradition, King James’s Bible and the BCP, and for nothing to change. This understandable, though maybe wrong-headed, view has been used to introduce the resolutions. Once again there is no check, as there should be. We are aware that some priests have tried to change such attitudes unsuccessfully.

Some congregations (PCCs) that sign the resolution do not have their roots in the local community. They have gathered, and sometimes have deliberately been selected, from far and wide to reflect a particular view. At the same time those of the other persuasion have been discouraged, sometimes by deliberate offensiveness. Often it is ‘leaders’ that are deliberately targeted and that have left – the remainder are then easier to influence. Others have left because they do not care for the argument. Once again there should be safeguards against manipulation. Examples of each of these malpractices have been reported to us. Without the division of the Church into ‘two integrities’such malpractices would not have arisen.

We wish to comment too about the method of deciding Resolutions A, B and C. Effectively the PCC does so, and the way in which the PCC does so has been discussed above. Further the decision effectively takes away the church from the local population. They may rarely go to the church but it is theirs and an important part of the local culture and scene. The argument for having so many parish churches revolves about this sense of belonging. The decision to vote on the resolutions should be taken by all those entitled to vote for the churchwardens. This would be particularly important if the day ever comes when a Third Province, or its like, is seriously considered.

SOME MORE GENERAL PROBLEMS We have a report of one parish in which the parish newsletter mentioned the Bishop of Beverley (PEV) and his activities, but did not refer to the Diocese of Southwell in which the parish lies, or its Bishop Patrick
We have reports of cases where priests have manipulated their parish and PCC to achieve their desired result, for example by introducing written items into a mass of PCC papers at the PCC so that it would be impossible to examine these papers and find these items. Also a habit of calling PCC meetings at very short notice when those supporting the ordination of women were away, or others ‘must have forgotten’ when the meeting was to be.

We do not suggest that such practices are common, but that they do occur and should be noted. More frequently such techniques have not succeeded. Maybe, of course, some enthusiasts for the ordination of women have committed similar excesses. In either case it is unacceptable, and only arises because the Church is divided and some want to achieve that division on their own terms. This is pastorally very upsetting to those involved.

Finally, there is in practice little chance of a community reversing a decision to vote A, B and C, let alone if it joins another ‘integrity.’ There should be a regular confirmation of the decision.

ECUMENICAL ARRANGEMENTS Several of our correspondents said how distressed they were that the effect of the Act is to rule out any serious rapprochement with those other churches that do ordain women. This is particularly so in the case of the Methodist Church. Our Church seems to be rejecting the Porvoo Agreement, at least in an important part. We recognise, of course, that the Roman Catholic Church is of the other persuasion, but two wrongs cannot make a right.

‘When women were ordained priest, we expected that the Church would welcome and affirm us. We were prepared to be charitable and recognised the need for a time of reception – giving parishes and individuals the chance to come to terms with the new situation. We nevertheless believed that the Church of England had made a decision by which it would stand. Instead we discover that the acceptance is half- hearted, grudging, reluctant and based on the premise that the Church might, in fact, be wrong and all we women priests can be disposed of, dispensed with and wiped off the face of history as a temporary aberration! Meanwhile great care is being shown to the needs, feelings and sensitivities of young men opposed to the priesting of women who are preparing for ordination….What is the justification for going on ordaining young men who will not accept women priests? It is one thing to show compassion and concern for older priests who were ordained before the Church of England accepted women priests. It is quite another to perpetuate opposition. . .’

The Rev. Jean Mayland writing in Ontlook, the magazine of WATCH, Spring 2001.


WATCH response to GS Misc 1042

The WATCH response to GS Misc 1042

Women in the episcopate: a new way forward

(1) Preliminary comments:

1. In light of the failure of the Measure before General Synod last November, WATCH appreciates the urgency with which the House of Bishops seeks to address the question of the ordination of women to the episcopate. We applaud the efforts being led by Archbishop Justin to seek a way forward and were pleased to participate in discussions to that end on 5/6 February.

2. We endorse strongly the analysis presented in para. 8 of GS Misc 1042, that ‘the outcome of that day [20 November 2012] has left the Church of England in a profoundly unsatisfactory and unsustainable position.’

3. This document is the WATCH Committee’s response to the invitation laid out in para. 53. Individual members will be submitting their own responses. Although there may be some diversity in our general constituency over the spectrum of possibilities sketched out in paragraphs 37-50, we have to report that those who have been in touch with us since November and those who were present at our AGM last month were absolutely unanimous in viewing ‘simplest possible’ legislation as the only acceptable way forward now.

4. For the sake of the gospel, and of our witness to the nation, we believe that it is now imperative that the Church of England should address its institutional discrimination against women, not only by consecrating women as bishops, but also by finding more creative and collaborative ways to deal with our internal differences than were found in 1992/3. As you will see from the detailed responses below, we believe that the 1992/3 provisions have sadly increased our divisions and perpetuated a culture of discrimination which has undermined both the priestly ministry of women and the overall integrity of the Church. We call on the Working Party and the House of Bishops to find ways forward that will bring us more fully into relationship with one another so that mutual trust and respect can grow.

(2) The four propositions:

53. Synod members and others are invited to help the working group in the next phase of its work by:

(a) Indicating whether they endorse the four propositions in paragraphs 17-29 which have emerged from the recent conversations;

1. We endorse the first two propositions (paras 18 and 20). A fresh set of proposals is required, but these must not call into question the jurisdiction and position of the


diocesan bishop. We are pleased to note para. 22’s strong rejection of ‘any notion of a two-tier episcopate.’

2. The third proposition (para. 24) gains our qualified assent: whilst we recognise the merits of clarity ‘so far as possible’, we believe that a process-based solution that is inherently relational may present the best way forward. A package which contained process-based elements (rather than a codified set of provisions) would, by its very nature, exclude the possibility of absolute clarity or finality. In this connection, we also wish to express our doubt that a package of ‘provisions’ would be likely to command the necessary majorities in the current General Synod: stronger provisions for those opposed, and the Clergy will reject it; weaker provisions, and – as we saw in November – the Laity will vote it down.

3. We endorse the first aspect of the fourth proposition (para. 29.5), namely that a ‘shorter, simpler measure’ is desirable. We would, however, be unable to support any Measure that, though short, contained elements that justified continuing discriminatory practice.

4. We have, however, grave concerns regarding the second half of the proposition (para. 29.6), both in terms of its substance and in what is implicit in its language.

(i) The language of ‘security’ is deeply problematic. The issue is not that one party needs ‘security’ (in the sense of protection) from the other, but that all parties need a sense of confidence: those unable to accept women’s ministry need to be confident that they will have a continued place within the Church of England; ordained women need to be confident that they have the institutional support of the Church which has decided to ordain them. Moreover, wider society needs to be confident that the established Church treats her ordained women fairly and in line with current anti-discrimination/equality legislation.

(ii) We find the language of ‘minority/ majority’ unhelpful. It is true that the overwhelming numerical majority of the Church of England, as expressed in General and Diocesan Synod levels is supportive of the ordination of women to all three orders of ministry. Nevertheless, in terms of the numbers of those ordained, and particularly occupying stipendiary roles and senior Church positions, women form a substantial minority. The experiences of ordained women expressed in the Transformations feedback and articulated in WATCH’s ‘After November’ document (a précis of which was circulated to the Working Group in February), indicates the extent to which the institution’s cultural minority is in need of protection from discriminatory assumptions and the practices which flow from those assumptions.1

(iii) This language of ‘an accepted and valued place’ also raises concerns, as we need to be able to distinguish people from the theological traditions they espouse. Whilst people, of course, are accepted and valued, not every opinion should be: we might accept that there should be a place for dissenting theological opinion, but would struggle to agree that the Church should value theologies and traditions which discriminate against women, undermine the decision of the Church to ordain women, and run counter to her order causing the very ecclesiological confusion which earlier propositions given in this consultation paper seek to avoid.

(iv) We are concerned that ‘valuing’ theologies which discriminate against women contributes to a church culture which undermines both women (lay and ordained) as individuals and devalues their ministry. The College of Bishops and the Working Group have already received feedback to this effect (as referenced in 4 (ii) above), accounts corroborated by – for instance – Maggi Dawn’s Like the wideness of the sea.2 In a week in which the media has reported a shocking decline in the number of women in senior positions and public life (https://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/feb/24/shocking-absence-women-uk- public-life), the Church should seize the opportunity of prophetic witness to wider society about the value and potential of every human being before God. Such witness would assist in dismantling wider cultures which devalue and demean women, and would challenge the ‘attitudes accepting…gender inequality’ which the WHO cites as risk factors for both perpetrators and victims of violence against women. (https://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en/).

(v) We are unsure of what is implied by ‘any new element of compromise’. The 1992/3 settlement has never been fully debated. A settlement which was intended to be transitional has been exploited to create separation, as the material with which to build silos within the Church (cf Rosalind Rutherford, ‘Promises – kept, broken, or never made?’3). The enduring nature of that settlement underlies much of the discriminatory culture to which we have already referred. We therefore regard it as extremely unlikely that people will accept an extension of the 1992/3 settlement with the ‘compromises’ it entailed, let alone ‘any new element of compromise.’

5. In light of these grave concerns surrounding the second half of proposition /4/, we suggest seeking to reframe the second objective thus:

‘Construct an overall package that will (a) clearly endorse the ordination of women to all three orders of ministry, and (b) set out appropriate arrangements for those who cannot accept their ministry [ie arrangements which can provide alternative priestly and episcopal care in ways that fully comply with existing equality legislation].’

(3) The spectrum of possibilities:

53. Synod members and others are invited to help the working group in the next phase of its work by:

(b) Offering any initial comments on the spectrum of possibilities sketched out in paragraphs 37-50 (see also Annex B);

1. We are concerned to note that the paper posits ‘the simplest possible legislative package’ as sitting at one end of the spectrum (para. 37). The desire for simple legislation is not an unreasonable or extreme position, and such a package would result in much greater theological and ecclesiological coherence than could any possible alternative.

2. Paras 38-40 imply that the ‘voluntary (and therefore unenforceable) basis’ of provision for those opposed to the ordination of women constitutes a weakness of a simple legislative package. We question this analysis: in a number of areas of church life there is variation in ministry patterns from diocese to diocese (in patterns of licensed lay ministry, ordained local ministry, episcopal policies regarding the recommendations of Bishops’ Advisory Panels inter alia); there appears to be no need for enforceable national assurances to be offered in these areas. Rather, we would hope that the House of Bishops could work together to seek creative solutions as required, and that – like the vows and oaths that underpin all the Church’s ordained ministries – these ‘aspirations’ would be treated as commitments given in good faith, reliant on ‘the help of God’ for their delivery.

3. The explanation given in para. 41 for the failure of the previous Measure is clearly accurate. However, we wish in this connection to reiterate the argument advanced in 1.4(i) above: the language of ‘security’ is both problematic and hurtful, and we submit that no fruitful new way forward will be found so long as the discussion continues to be framed in such terms. As we suggest in 2.2 above, we are sceptical that any package which relies on sets of provisions would have a better chance of success, whether in the lifetime of this Synod, or beyond: ‘stronger’ provision for those opposed to women’s ordained ministry, and the Clergy will reject it; ‘weaker’ provision will be unlikely to command consensus in the Laity.

4. We are in broad agreement with the sentiments expressed in paras 44 -45: as noted, we are in favour of a simpler package, not least because of the pastoral and missional effects indicated in para. 45.

5. We concur with the opinion expressed in para. 46, that any package more complex and carrying stronger provisions than the previous draft Measure would be unlikely to command support in General Synod or in Westminster. The success of the adjournment debate in July 2012 asking for reconsideration of the first iteration of Clause 5(1)c indicates that this risk is serious and genuine.

6. Attractive though the option might appear, we have grave reservations about the possibility of a package which tried to take the 1992/3 settlement as a starting point and extend similar provisions to the settlement on women in the episcopate.

(i) We have already noted the damage which that settlement has done, both to the morale of women clergy and to the institution as a whole. Unity has not been maintained through the establishment of ghettoes, and the slippery use of the doctrine of ‘reception’ has been deeply detrimental to ordained women: WATCH has consistently argued that the Church needs to remove the institutional question mark which hangs over women’s orders, and which calls into question our corporate commitment to our historic formularies and to our canons. It would be theologically incoherent to extend and entrench a settlement which relies on the idea that the ordination of women is yet to be received by the Church, in order for that Church to ordain women to the episcopate.

(ii) We would also question the political wisdom of extending the 1992/3 settlement: the legislative landscape has altered substantially since 1992/3, with the passage of the Equality Act 2010. Indeed we understand that the 1992/3 settlement may itself contravene that Equality Act and therefore be open to challenge in the courts. Any such package is unlikely to be acceptable to the Ecclesiastical Committee in Parliament which as Judith Maltby has demonstrated4 has changed significantly since the passage of the 1992/3 settlement.

The debate in the House of Commons on 12th December 2012 indicated how much MPs are concerned about possible discrimination in any new legislation to allow women in the episcopate. The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry, said in that debate: ‘If we are going to have women bishops – everyone has agreed that we are going to have them – they have in every regard to be treated the same as, and have the same powers, rights, privileges and disciplines as their male counterparts.’

WATCH is further bound to ask what sort of witness it gives for the established Church to seek to enact legislation that would be illegal in any other sphere.

(iii) The failure of the legislation has left the morale of ordained women at an all- time low, and the perpetuation of the 1992/3 settlement would likely constitute the last straw for many. Recent correspondence regarding the Vacancy-in-See in Blackburn and the suffragan see of Whitby indicates a wider rejection of that settlement in a church public now highly sensitized to the issue, and unwilling to tolerate continued institutional discrimination.

(iv) Rather than tweaking the 1992/3 settlement, therefore, we suggest it is time to effect with confidence the decision the Church made then, and to affirm our full commitment to the ordained ministry of women to all three orders. In acting on this commitment, the Church would, in effect, be acknowledging the end of the period of reception (as, in fact, General Synod’s acknowledgement in 2006 that having women as bishops is ‘consonant with the faith of the Church of England’ implies). As Maggi Dawn argues (Dawn 2013, pp. 26-28), the time has come to bring to an end the interim period of ‘Reception’: As suggested in 3.6(i) above, the Church of England as an institution can no longer say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to the ordination of women. It is time to decide unequivocally and move forward with conviction. Only then will we move beyond the ‘life-in-death’ impasse we have reached.

(4) Further comments:

53. Synod members and others are invited to help the working group in the next phase of its work by:

(c) Offering any other comments that they would want the Working Group and the House of Bishops to take into account as they carry this work forward.

1. Throughout the whole of the previous legislative process, there was a deep imbalance in the debate: all provision was discussed in terms of meeting the needs of those opposed to women’s ministry. However, WATCH is deeply concerned about the needs of those in favour of women’s ministry (and thus in line with the majority of the Church of England and her stated doctrine) who belong to dioceses wherein none of the bishops ordains women. The damage this does to the ordained women whose orders are not recognised by their bishops, and to an increasingly disenfranchised and marginalised laity in these dioceses, is substantial. We therefore regard it as essential that any new package of proposals includes a commitment to ensuring that in every diocese there is a serving bishop who ordains women as deacons and priests. It is of the greatest urgency that the Church of England lives out its decision to ordain women by ensuring that there are not geographical exceptions: if it is accepted that there should be extra-diocesan provision for those who cannot accept the ministry of the bishops in their diocese because of their views regarding the ordination of women, it follows that that provision should be reciprocal.

2. In similar vein, we have to question whether it is right that those opposed to the ordination of women should continue to be appointed as diocesan bishops. There must be no doubt regarding the validity of women’s orders, and we are unclear as to how those who dissent from the Church’s teaching regarding ordination can simultaneously be guardians of it and foci of unity. Continuing to appoint as diocesan bishops those who do not accept the ordination of women embodies the ‘two integrities’ thinking which has been identified as detrimental to ordained women, and harmful to the institution. The extra-diocesan provision requested in 4.1 above would, therefore, be required only as an interim arrangement.

3. WATCH requests most strongly that there be a reframing of the debate surrounding whatever proposals ensue. Events in November changed the context, and it is now urgent that the Church of England recognises – at an institutional level – the needs of ordained women, the ordained men who support them, and the majority of lay people. Paramount among these needs is the end of the discriminatory culture arising from the 1992/3 settlement, and the wearying institutional uncertainty over women’s orders. In order to have any hope of commanding consensus, any new package of proposals must address the needs of those in favour of women’s ministry, as well as those opposed, in order to inspire confidence that each party occupies an accepted and valued place within a Church of England that ordains women as bishops.

4. To this end, we regard the simplest possible legislative package not as an extreme at one of the spectrum, but as the most coherent way for the Church of England to effect its conviction that women can be ordained to all three orders of ministry. Any legislative provision is de facto discriminatory, and therefore problematic: for the morale of women clergy, from the Parliamentary perspective, and for our proclamation of the gospel in our generation. Clergywomen need the assurance that the Church which ordained them fully endorses their ministry; of the possibilities sketched in this paper, only the simplest possible legislation can achieve that. The consultations earlier this month highlighted the essential gospel truth that our common life is relational, members of a body bound not by law but by the grace we receive in our common baptism. We suggest, therefore, that confidence may best be inspired not by ‘enforceable provisions’ but by commitment to a guaranteed process of facilitation of the transition towards having women in our episcopate.

5. We therefore urge that the ‘new way forward’ sought by this paper is one in which the barriers erected by the 1992/3 settlement are dismantled, through growth together in grace and trust. Tweaking the boundaries will not achieve this; only simple legislation will now do.

The Revd Rachel Weir, Chair
The Revd Anne Stevens, Vice-Chair
The Revd Charles Read, Vice-Chair, GS Norwich 171 The Revd Hugh Lee, GS Oxford 181
Ms Gill Gould, Secretary
The Revd Dr Hannah Cleugh

For and on behalf of the WATCH National Committee

After November: Comments, stories and experiences from WATCH members and supporters

“After November…”

Comments, stories and experiences from WATCH members and supporters

4th Feb 2013

“…I am beginning to look for a job outside of the church after 16 years of ordination” “…I have felt very cast down … I wonder whether to quit and go and work in a bookshop”

“…the vote has been a rude awakening and has knocked me right off course spiritually – I find it hard even to go to church, let alone to exercise my ministry”

“I felt that my authority to preside at the Eucharist was suddenly in question”

“The next day I was surprised at how hurt I felt – really hurt physically. My chest seemed sore with the weight of the pain of it”

“On what basis can I challenge injustice when my Church has institutionalised it?”

1. I write as a laywoman, and licensed lay preacher. As a former member of General Synod I was not very optimistic about the result, before the debate. I was worried when my stepdaughter, ordained deacon only last year, announced that she was going to go to London to queue for the Gallery because she wanted to be there when the legislation passed, just as I had been there when the legislation for women priests passed. I listened to the afternoon speeches on my office computer in the company of a senior woman colleague who is not a Christian but was interested from the point of view of a woman.

When the result came through, I was not surprised, but quite angry. My colleague was furious. When I spoke to my stepdaughter, she said she felt numb. Both she and I were horrified by the way that speakers opposed to the legislation had not spoken about it specifically, but had rehearsed all the old arguments which had previously been rejected when Synod had concluded that there are no theological objections. It was a step backwards, rather than a simple no to the legislation.

What surprised me was my reaction the following Sunday at my church. A baby girl was being baptised, and when the words of the service said ‘we welcome you’ I was suddenly struck by how our church does NOT welcome her – not if she is ordained and then shows the gifts and skills that would make her a fine bishop. I broke down and cried, much to the consternation of the rest of the congregation who don’t expect me to show emotion at yet another ‘no’ from our church.

Since then, I have been heartened and supported by members of the congregation whom I had thought did not care one way or the other, but who turn out to be as appalled as I am at what feels like a slap in the face for women clergy and for women laity. I have seriously questioned how I can stay in this church with any integrity and I suspect that is something on which I will need to go on reflecting.

Lay woman

2. On the day of the vote I met several female colleagues at a meeting. Quite honestly, the mood was one of depression and no matter how many voted in favour of women bishops, here we feel as if the Church has said that our ministries are not valued and that the Church has to make do with us. Amalecolleaguewantedtopickmybrainsandcouldn’tunderstandwhy female clergy should be feeling depressed as so many voted FOR women bishops, but he eventually got the picture. Life goes on in the parish with only a few tuts after the vote. My diocese held an Epiphany service to celebrate women’s ministry which was wonderfully affirming. Several of my parishioners attended in support. The feeling I detect now is that we are expected just to get on with things. As one (male) parishioner said, ‘It was a fair vote’ and the response from supporters has shown us up as being sour and unable to accept what the majority have wanted. It seems that this vote has been viewed in the same way as a general election. Perhaps that’s the nub of it for me: theology and vocation is not the same thing as politics and election.

Female Priest

3. It has been surprisingly draining continuing to minister in the parish post – November. All my ordained life, in fact all my life as an adult Christian, we have been on the journey to women’s full inclusion in the church. So although in practical terms nothing has actually changed, it feels very different indeed to have had ‘No’ said, rather than ‘we are working towards it’. It feels rather like a bereavement, and so is taking an amount of mental energy/ resilience that I hadn’t anticipated fully. In addition, I find myself wondering whether I am simply colluding by propping up a fundamentally unjust institution, by continuing to minister within. This nagging question also inadvertently takes up mental energy. So I feel drained – the sort of drained that you feel after a night of weeping – which means there is less energy for other things. I’m carrying on, of course, but I’m snapping more at my children and so on simply, I think, because I feel tired and sad.

Female Priest

4. I heard the news about the vote as I was driving to our diocese’s office for a Readers’ meeting and I nearly turned the car round and went home. As it was I think I drove rather badly after that and when I got there and met some of the other women Readers, could hardly hold back tears. The next day I was surprised at how hurt I felt – really hurt physically. My chest seemed sore with the weight of the pain of it. I felt that I was lucky to be part of an Anglican/Methodist LEP where I know that my ministry is valued and treated as valid.

I think that I have got past the point of making excuses for those who cannot accept women’s ministry. I keep repeating to myself that if they substituted ‘black’ for ‘female’ no-one would tolerate it, and rightly so and this exposes this prejudice for what it is.

This time, I think, no compromise – a single simple measure. It’s all taking energy and time which would be much better spent on the body of Christ.

Lay woman

5. After years of crap from opponents of women priests that I put up with as we appeared to be on an upward curve with first the amendment and then the failure even of that I am beginning to look for a job outside of the church after 16 years of ordination. I walked out of chapter as my colleagues evangelical and catholic exchanged strategies to ‘stop us having a woman’. I have sort advice from others as to more women friendly Deaneries and looked at 2 posts outside of the C of E plus discussing with another denomination a switch but am dismissing that as an option.

Female Priest

6. It has been very difficult to continue since November. I have felt very cast down. The worst thing though is that several key members of the congregation which I serve are wavering in their commitment – they are angry and upset and are considering whether their gifts could be better used elsewhere – I think it is only because they want to support me that they have struggled on. Our numbers on Sunday mornings have dropped noticeably since November. In this tough UPA parish November’s decision has made things much harder. I wonder whether to quit and go and work in a bookshop.

Female Priest

7. It has been extraordinary the huge wave of support which has developed since November. Our Bishops wrote to us all immediately expressing their sorrow, anger and support and colleagues at the Rural Deans meeting said that the decision had diminished their own ministry. However the pain remains.

Lay Woman

8. I’m studying full time in a college that is very supportive of women’s ministry and of the consecration of women as bishops. I think it is fair to say that the vast majority of people here were extremely shocked when the vote did not go through. The nature and level of debate also gave cause for general concern. Several of us who are WATCH members were more aware of the potential for the vote to fail but were still extremely disappointed.

As you know, training for ordination is a time of great liminality and uncertainty. The process of priestly formation is a challenging and precarious business. The question many have been asking is – what does it mean for each of us, as women, if the laity whom we have felt called to serve have rejected the possibility of women as bishops? This has raised some serious questions for all of us, and I think the experience for younger people in training has probably been far more disturbing – as they have grown up in a church that welcomes the ministry of both women and men and for the first time properly ‘heard’ all these arguments.

Some people here have had a lot of support from their dioceses, DDO and/or Bishops, but the level of contact has been patchy and some of us, myself included, have had no correspondence at all. Which was both disappointing and unsettling.

If any good has come out of this event for us, it is that the shock brought the whole community together and we have felt very supported by our male colleagues and all the tutors. We were given plenty of time and space to talk, cry and eventually start to laugh about it.


9. I am ordained. Everyone I have met is either despondent or angry or both. Very deep reserves of emotion are being touched, and together the above two feelings seem to yield a sort of paralysis, an abandoning to our unhappy fate, a distrust of the church and its processes. It’s not that we won’t do anything. It just FEELS hopeless.

Male Priest

10. I was devastated (like all of you) when the measure didn’t get through Synod. I feel undervalued – a second class citizen. I feel supported by my ministry team and congregation, but they can’t understand what is going on. It’s very hard to carry on when I feel so undervalued. This is made much worse by the fact that my Rural Dean and Archdeacon both voted against the measure. They’ve both assured me that they value my ministry – but that’s not how it feels.

So of course I carry on with my ministry – leading worship, preaching, weddings, funerals, baptisms etc etc-because the people I meet don’t care whether I’m a woman or a man. They just want me to be a good priest.

Female Priest

11. I’m a Reader-in-training, I’m 29 and work for a large UK charity. I was completely taken aback by the results of the vote in November, more shocked than upset initially as I had really expected the vote to pass. Someone featured on the BBC news – I think perhaps a Forward in Faith spokesperson – was endorsing this decision as being right for “Church unity and mission”. I found that statement in particular very hard to swallow.

People at work know I’m a Christian and that I’m training for ministry – it’s part of my ministry to be a Christian in the workplace after all! The morning after the vote I walked into an office (literally, in some cases) laughing at the Church of England. I would say the general mood was one of baffled incredulity. As a known Church ‘rep’ working with a lot of women in the mid- to late- twenties, many of whom are non-Christians but certainly not anti-Church, I was asked repeatedly for explanations about why the Church had made this decision. It was hard to come up with anything convincing or persuasive and, honestly, this decision has made the Church look outdated, irrelevant, sexist and just plain weird to most of the people with whom I work. Who, in this day and age, is allowed to discriminate against women!? It has made the work of mission in the work place just so much harder as the CofE has lost a great deal of its respect for a generation of young women, reinforcing the sense that it is completely out of place in society now.

Lay woman

12. Since the vote on women bishops and during the immediate aftermath I faced many questions from the lay people that I met, and am still meeting, asking for an explanation. Yesterday the female nurse at mydoctor’spracticecameoutofherroomtospeaktomeaboutthevote. ThemenIhavemetfeel angry and frustrated, understanding the political view more than the women, who feel more hurt and disappointed, not to mention demoralised. ‘Whatever were they thinking of?’ is a common response. This example of discrimination has been difficult to swallow for those who have working lives and expect to be treated equally with men.

I find myself praying for the women in ministry more often and looking at them with anxiety. I think of children at school facing the challenge of belonging to a church that ‘hates gays and women’ as one teenager said to me. I pray for those with lost vocations who will not now come forward, particularly the young women and men who value democracy and are stunned at the reaction of the House of Laity. I set up a petition which is still online so that people could express their opinions in the public arena.

Church life is affected as we are looking at our mission action plan and are wondering what we can now do that will be effective. In fact we will be starting the mission now with ourselves, so that we can try to keep our members. Our Lent study will be ‘Everyone Welcome’, a course which meets the needs of our hearts.

Lay Woman

13. I am a male priest who has always been a supporter of WATCH and its predecessor MoW. My coming to faith was very much influenced by time I spent living in the USA where of course women were priests quite a long time before they were in England. When I trained for ministry it was on a course where the majority were women. I have only realised since the vote quite how much my spirituality is bound up in the view that the gospel imperative is to break down barriers – between different races, nationalities, social groups, and of course genders. I realised that it was a journey for the Church to accept this as far as women were concerned, but we were travelling in the right direction. However, the vote has been a rude awakening and has knocked me right off course spiritually – I find it hard even to go to church, let alone to exercise my ministry. It doesn’t help that my day job (I am NSM) is in an organisation led by a woman and one which takes issues of equal treatment seriously. My experience in the church is that having women priests but not bishops has a toxic effect in the treatment of women throughout the organisation – they are patronised and even bullied by some of their male colleagues and their priestly ministry is seen as in some way flawed or second best, and this hurts all of us. I hope the group can find a way through this and it must be stressed that this is far larger than just about ordained women themselves.

Male Priest

14. I am an ordained woman in my second year of curacy and a member of the local WATCH committee. Following the vote I was surprisingly calm but those in my congregation and friends of mine were not.

I received many messages via email and Facebook asking me what I was doing remaining in ministry within the Church of England. All of them told me I was an intelligent woman and they could not see why I stayed in an institution that was so irrelevant to the people on the ground – those it purports to serve. Many members of the congregation also received messages from their friends along the same lines and part of my ministry, and that of my incumbent since November, has been helping them to articulate how they feel and enabling them to have a balanced response rooted in the grace of God.

During the week following the vote I was at a couple of local community events as the ‘curate’ and was staggered by the anger that people felt on my behalf, people who would not call themselves Christians or darken the door of the church except for weddings and funerals. Theywantedtoknowwhy‘their church’ was behaving in this way.

Many people could not understand how the vote had been unrepresentative of their thinking and wanted to know how they could now be part of General Synod. Most people in the congregation were appalled at what had taken place and had just thought that the vote would go through. Asateam of churches we had so many people asking for information and further understanding that we arranged a ‘conversation’ evening for people to come and ask questions about the nature of Synodical Government within the Church and the wider issues pertaining to the Episcopacy of women. People came from four of the five churches and a lively discussion ensued – leaving some people in total disbelief about the fact that General Synod allows people to have a ‘free’ vote and a deeper understanding of some of the main issues surrounding the consecration of women to the Episcopacy.

As for me the anger and the sadness came later. It was only when I wrote a parish magazine article on the situation that I realised how angry I was – pointed out to me by the magazine editor who thought he couldn’t publish it without a counter view. Suffice to say I changed it for it certainly wasn’t ‘gracious’. I have to say that the sadness was not on my part – I don’t think I have a calling to be a Bishop – but for those young girls in my own congregation who are already saying they want to be a vicar when they grow up and have huge potential in leadership of the church for the future. However, the flip side of that is whatever we end up with it has to be right for them – there is no point in rushing this now.

A very wise woman Bishop in America told me not to let ‘them’ take away the joy in serving God at this time and she was right to let me know that, as I realised the joy that I should have been feeling in the run up to Christmas was definitely diminished by what had happened. I am in a more settled place with it all now, through prayer and a renewed trust in God, rather than the church but feel very tired about everything. The exhaustion is beginning to hit now just at a time when we need to gather ourselves for more campaigning.

For me personally, I have mainly had support from my colleagues, although I work within a Deanery that has a high level of parishes who are either Conservative Evangelical or Anglo-Catholic and who have passed resolutions. This leads again to the question of always needing to be ‘gracious’ that eats away at our energy and therefore our effectiveness in ministry as a whole.

God is faithful and I do believe that we are to now called to wait at the foot of the cross with Mary and Mary Magdalene. Let’s pray that Easter Morning will be utterly glorious and that Easter Saturday doesn’t last too long.

Female Priest

15. This decision has made be seriously question whether I want to belong to an organisation which would probably sink without the work of women but will not recognise them in senior roles. If women are deemed fit and able to be parish priests why are they not deemed able to become Bishops.

My frustration is increased by the news that ‘Gay Bishops’ are acceptable. How can this be fair? Are we not all equal in the eyes of God – or are some more equal than others.

Female Priest

16. I am a priest, in the same benefice since being ordained in 1998. I can’t say that the carrying out of my ministry has been affected. However, since the oh-so-disappointing and disheartening November vote, I have had so many expressions of commiseration especially from parishioners (and “how could this have happened?”) and colleagues; caring and concerned comments together with puzzlement / mystication / incredulity from people attending baptisms and funerals, and friends and relatives around the UK.

Female Priest

17. It really is quite simple … The Ministry of Women Priests is a NORMAL part of life in this Diocese … it’s normal. Women as Bishops is part of this Normality … and so it should be throughout the Church of England.

Lay man

18. I am ordained and in my 3rd year of curacy.

My first reaction was to feel better (oddly). I think it was partly just relief that the vote was over. I became aware of how much time I have spent (perhaps wasted?) since I started training with attempting to fit into a male pattern of ministry which does not fit me or my life. And also of how much emotional energy I have invested in trying to fit into that pattern and failing and then feeling bad about not being able to live well within it. So there was a certain sense of greater freedom – I’ve spent all this time being a good girl, doing my best to fit into a mould that doesn’t fit me – many other women have worked hard and faithfully for many years – and it still hasn’t worked. So maybe it’s time to stop apologising for being different from the male norm.

My second reaction was to feel shattered, vulnerable and shaken in my identity as an ordained woman in the church of God. I didn’t preside until 2 weeks after the vote but when I did the ground literally felt unsteady beneath my feet. I felt that my authority to preside at the Eucharist was suddenly in question. This might seem extreme but it’s just logical. If women aren’t fit to be bishops then why are they good enough to be priests?

The whole experience has raised my awareness of misogyny which suddenly seems to be everywhere. For me there are very clear parallels between the failure of the church to affirm women’s ministry and the ways in which women in wider society are prevented from being fully the people that God is calling them to be. It has made me determined to be far less tolerant of sexism within the institution.

There have been some interesting conversations since the vote. My neighbour’s husband (not a Christian) asked “Why is the church exempt from equalities legislation?” He wasn’t being provocative – he genuinely wanted to know. I don’t think that there’s a mission shaped answer to that question.

Female Priest

19. I am an NSM working in a benefice of five rural churches. I was down to preach on the Sunday following the vote. My male incumbent was adamant that I should not make any mention of the vote as he intended to say something about it before the Service, and “Gender has never been an issue in this benefice and I don’t want it to become an issue”. Not surprisingly this did nothing to reassure me about his understanding of the legitimacy of my ministry. Like many clergymen, my incumbent believes in equality but is unable to practice it because he doesn’t recognise that what he does and says is discriminatory. Although he did recognise that, as emotional women, we might be upset about the vote, his instinct was to sweep the whole matter under the carpet with no understanding of the healing that I, my fellow female NSM and others in our congregation might be needing.

I did challenge him, but got nowhere. Happily on the Sunday, I received some very positive support from members of the congregation, but it didn’t stop me from feeling angry and let down again. The cherry on the cake is that since then my incumbent has announced that two funeral parties have specifically requested for a male clergy person to conduct the funeral. This was raised at an executive meeting with the suggestion that a policy be formulated to accommodate such requests. I pointed out at that as my incumbent is retiring this Autumn, perhaps it would be appropriate that this be left until his replacement is appointed.

All this has made it more difficult for me to overlook the constant undertone of sexism that colours our incumbent’s ministry and has consequently put a strain on what was a reasonably amicable working partnership. We just overlook it don’t we? But I think, if I didn’t know that he was going, I might well have found it very difficult to carry on working with him without a major set to, which I guess he would have found both mystifying and hurtful.

On the other hand, our Bishop has been outstandingly brilliant in sharing our anger and distress, and in supporting women’s ministry both here and nationally.

Female Priest

20. At a really good New Year party at 1.30am I found myself explaining yet again the Synod’s decision. I have lost count of similar conversations since November which I have had in this rural area. Absolutely no-one who has interrogated me can understand the mess that the CofE has got itself in and no-one can understand why we are exempt from equality legislation. The Synod and “the church” seems to have lost all credibility and respect – but not locally where there seems to be a rallying behind our 3 wonderful woman priests. There is huge sympathy for the way their ministry has been treated and astonishment that such a small minority has such power in spite of the votes of the dioceses.

Having sat through all the GS debates from 1993 to 2010, I am still unable to adequately explain to anyone in or outside the church why the November legislation would not satisfy the opponents. I feel exhausted by the whole business. My daughters won’t talk about the subject with me; their husbands and friends simply laugh at us or dismiss us as irrelevant in this day and age.

Trying to cope with the attacks on the church is really hard for me as one-time lay leader but the pain for my ordained women friends is awful – even in a very supportive diocese.

Lay woman

21. I did not expect to be so upset by the vote as I was quite prepared to wait to ensure a single clause measure. However I did have a profound emotional response. I was angry, bewildered despairing and weary. I simply could not believe that after all this time, we would still be discussing this. The tenor of the debate was hurtful. Attitudes which were completely unacceptable were aired without challenge. It seems to me you can say anything about women provided you define it as a “theological”.

I have not doubted for one minute that God has called me to the priesthood because it was a very loud calling with no room for ambiguity. When people say that women can’t be priests/bishops I find it personally hurtful because they are saying that I can’t hear from God, that I am fundamentally mistaken, indeed that I am a liar. Most of the time I live with this, suppress it, ignore it, but at the moment it is very raw.

I am not particularly motivated at the moment. I feel no matter what I do it won’t be appreciated. While the public has been very supportive of women priests, there is a sense that my status as a Vicar/leader/public voice has been damaged. I don’t like people feeling sorry for me and asking “How do you put up with it?” I also feel unable to provide any kind of moral lead. On what basis can I challenge injustice when my Church has institutionalised it? I hate to admit it but sometimes I haven’t cared as much as I should, I haven’t bothered, I’ve gone through the motions. I don’t know where my energy has gone.

I have questioned my behaviour at Diocesan meetings as I have been much more vocal than usual and then worried about being that vocal. I contribute to meetings, feel my contributions are welcome but then I berate myself afterwards for putting myself out there too much.

My parish has been supportive by and large, but having to rehash all the arguments again has been draining. When my parishes have discussed matters such as joining WATCH or putting forward a motion to Deanery Synod I have not felt able to be present. I don’t want to force them into taking a decision to please me and I don’t really want to know if anyone would argue against women bishops.

I feel my Bishops have done the best they can to be supportive, and affirming on a personal level. Although the House of Bishops voted overwhelmingly in favour, I do not have huge confidence in them and their decisions, because they are all male and because of the level of sympathy that there seems to be for the opponents of Women’s Ministry. Why didn’t the House of Bishops give a lead on the issue earlier than it did? Why don’t they challenge some of the more misogynistic attitudes and say they are beyond the pale? Why were opponents of the measure allowed 50% of the debate when they certainly didn’t reflect 50% of the opinion? If Bishops feel this is so important why don’t they so something personally costly such as all resign until there is a level playing field or stop appointing new bishops until they women can be considered. Why don’t they appoint a women for a suffragan and give her a different title. Why aren’t they behaving prophetically? I think it is because they don’t really get it and they don’t really care.

I am not cross with God, and I do not feel myself any less a child of God as a result of the debate or the current climate. I have become aware that some people do consider me less, but that is their problem. However I have been exploring with great joy the idea of God as Mother. I had not wanted to do this. I had resisted it. I hate overtly inclusive liturgy changing hymn words etc, but I wrote a poem called if God were Woman and it felt great. I got rid of a lot of anger that way.

I won’t leave, but I’m tired of fighting. It’s exhausting being a woman in this Church.

Female Priest

Promises – kept, broken or never made? A reading of General Synod debates from 1993

Promises – kept, broken or never made?

A reading of General Synod debates from 1993

by Rosalind Rutherford

  1. Introduction
  2. What were the Bishops trying to do in 1993 by proposing the Act of Synod?
  3. What did other members of Synod think they were voting for?
  4. How permanent was the Act of Synod intended to be?
  5. What did General synod understand about the purpose of PEVs?
  6. How did Resolution C parishes and PEVs put the Act of Synod into practice?
  7. Lambeth Resolution III.2 (1998)
  8. The promise that was not kept
  9. Conclusion
  10. Glossary
  11. Timeline


1. Introduction

At various points in the debate over legislation to permit women to become bishops, much has been made by the legislation’s opponents of promises that they claim were made in 1993 when the Act of Synod was being debated.

However, we always tend to remember selectively, and usually select those remarks which support our views. “Proof-texting” is subject to as many shortcomings in discussing recent history as when it is used to support a theological position. I decided I wanted to find out what was actually said and promised, rather than rely on the reports of others, so I went back to the records of the debates in General Synod in July and November 1993 when the Act of Synod was proposed and debated.

The overwhelming impression I had from reading the debates was of the House of Bishops trying to persuade General Synod members into being as generous as possible to those who had been shocked by the decision taken in November 1992, and members of Synod responding with some uncertainty about what they were doing and why, but with similar generosity. The debates are charged with emotion, but it is also clear from questions left unanswered that there had been no detailed scrutiny of the measure and how it might work in practice (the summing up speech from the final debate reiterates points made, but barely answers any questions raised). We have to bear this context in mind when reading what was said.

2. What were the Bishops trying to do in 1993 by proposing the Act of Synod?

In considering what promises may have been made when the ordination of women was passing through the legislative process, I have concentrated on what was said when the Act of Synod was debated in General Synod. The Act of Synod, which created the office of Pastoral Episcopal Visitor (PEV), was the response of the House of Bishops to the outcry after November 1992 from those who still opposed the ordination of women, and in particular the conservative elements of the Anglo- Catholic wing of the Church of England.

Bishops’ hopes and aspirations were expressed at the time, albeit without any authority other than the individual’s personal views, and without any scrutiny by Synod Committees. But the important question, when seeking to discover whether or not there has been a great betrayal, is what did the bishops and Synod think they were doing and think they were putting into place; and has this intention been upheld?

The document on which the legislation was based was Bonds of Peace which is often quoted by those seeking ways of being “protected” from the ministry of women. Bonds of Peace is the document produced by the House of Bishops (not a Synod Committee) after the vote on women priests was passed in November 1992, which came as a great shock to some opponents, and it included such commitments as:

Paragraph 3: We now enter a process in which it is desirable that both those in favour and those opposed should be recognised as holding legitimate positions while the whole Church seeks to come to a common mind.

The following paragraph continued likewise:

Those who for a variety of reasons cannot conscientiously accept that women may be ordained as priests will continue to hold a legitimate and recognised position within the Church of England.

This may seem totally clear, and indeed is frequently quoted today. However, we also need to look at what the then Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey said. He did not speak in either of the debates, so his presidential address to General Synod in July 1993 is the clearest indication of his views. In this address, he tried to set out the purposes of the legislation:

“In the commitment (of the House of Bishops) to maintain the unity of the church…the House of Bishops has been guided by three principles: first our determination to maintain the ecclesial integrity of the church of England as a whole and of each diocese under the pastoral authority of its bishop; second our determination to respect and uphold the place of all loyal members of the church of England, irrespective of their view on this issue; third, our rejection of the notion that bishops and priest who participate in the ordination of women thereby invalidate their … sacramental ministries

As a result (of these arrangements) we will give space to those opposed to the ordination of women to the priesthood so that while remaining under the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop they will, if they wish, be able to receive extended Episcopal care from another bishop”

July 1993 [p392] (my emphases)

It seems from this that Archbishop Carey, at least, imagined that the Act of Synod would produce a system which worked in a way very similar to that envisaged in the legislation approved by Synod in July 2010 (which is currently being debates in dioceses). The main reason that this legislation is challenged by some clergy, particularly by those who claim Sacramental Assurance, is that they do believe the very thing Carey and the House of Bishops rejected – that bishops and priests who participate in the ordination of women invalidate their sacramental ministries. However, looking at this statement, it is very clear that Carey at least had no concept that the Act of Synod would be used to set up what would become, in effect, parallel jurisdictions under the PEVs.

It also means that promises made by George Carey about maintaining a position in the Church of England “in perpetuity” should be taken in the context of this statement. It could be argued that, if the current proposals are agreed, the very provisions which the House of Bishops was trying to put into place in 1993 will become part of legislation.

3. What did other members of Synod think they were voting for?

In the speeches made in Synod in July and November 1993, there is no detailed discussion about how these additional provisions might work in practice, and they were never scrutinised by any Synod committee. However, various themes emerge in the speeches.

The overwhelming theme is that of trying to be as generous as possible to those who were finding the idea of women ordained to the priesthood difficult and to create a “space” for them. Precisely what this space might be or how it might work was not explained or discussed.

“We must never break communion with each other unless we believe that the Gospel itself is at stake. …We must leave space for each other and not drive one another into corners. We must not build walls or dig ditches that people find they cannot cross.” 

The Bishop of Birmingham (Mark Santer) July 1993 [p692]

Another theme which emerges strongly is that the Act is seen as a “pastoral” response to the particular context of 1993. Most speakers were very concerned to be clear that they did not expect PEVs to set up separate groups within the Church of England but to enable unity between those of different beliefs to be retained.

For example:

“I want to underline the extent to which the House of Bishops has worked to ensure the continuing openness of the Church of England. The legislation before your Lordships is, I submit, pastoral in intent and generous in spirit, making detailed provision for those who cannot support the decision that has been made. …The arrangements in the draft Act of Synod are not suitable for legislation. They are more about style and method than about rights and duties…”

The Bishop of Guildford (Michael Adie) in the House of Lords 2 Nov 1993

“What we seek to provide are opportunities and safeguards, which we hope will be used in a pastoral rather than in a legalistic way, so that none of us is trapped in unnecessarily rigid divisions…
One of the important safeguards lies in the role of the provincial episcopal visitors….My personal hope is that they will not rush round conducting services here, there, everywhere,…My hope is that they will act more as friends and advisers for clergy and parishes, I a position to bring their concerns to diocesan bishops…”

The Archbishop of York (John Habgood), General Synod Nov 1993 [p718-9]

It is also clear that Synod did not want to tie the church down to strict permanent rules.

“what I hope is that , if the Synod can agree to a broad framework within which we work, people will use their common sense. You cannot legislate in detail for what will happen in every little parish”

The Archbishop of York Nov 1993 [p739]

“Yes, this act is in many ways illogical. Yes, it is untidy, but is not goodwill, is not love, illogical and untidy….”

Paul Rippon, Nov 1993 [p990]

4. How permanent was the Act of Synod intended to be?

Much is being made at the moment of “promises” that the Act of Synod would be permanent, or last as long as it was needed (though this not the same as lasting as long as an individual might personally wish for). No such unambiguous promises were made in General Synod when the Act was debated there. In fact, there was clearly a good deal of uncertainty and ambiguity about this. Although statements and aspirations from the debates are quoted as definite, clear and predictable commitments, the reality is that there was a sense of provisionality about the legislation and uncertainty over how things would develop.

“…if he reads the act of Synod carefully he will see that there is built into it a high degree of flexibility. The Archbishops say that they shall ordain from time to time and the ‘shall’ represents a commitment; ‘from time to time’ recognises that times may change. One has heard voices on one side saying, ‘We do not know what the future is.’ We have to live with those kinds of uncertainties. This is why we must not set proposals in concrete. We must make a commitment, give an assurance and go ahead in faith, not knowing what the future is going to bring.”

Archbishop of York July 1993 [p 701 –2]

“The Archbishop was right to talk about this being a pastoral, not a legalistic, arrangement… For me the greatest principle of all is that we need time to decide and to test whether what we have done is right.”

Canon John Sentamu Nov 1993 [p735]

“To begin with, however, I imagine that we shall not be appointing men who could be there for 40 years or men, who if the need was no longer felt, could not move anywhere else. Clearly there must be a flexibility in this depending on need.”

Archbishop of York Nov 1993 [p998-9]

The background paper for the current debate on women in the episcopate issued by General Synod offices (A8 (WE)) also includes a quotation from George Carey in relation to the Act of Synod which is much used to argue for transferred jurisdiction in the current legislation:

“it is our intention for this to be permanent and we are not thinking of rescinding it.”

203rd and 204th Reports of the Ecclesiastical Committee [p134]

However, this remark was not made to Synod, and had been made before the key debates of November 1993. More importantly, it referred to the whole Act of Synod, including the understanding that

  1. (a)  the Church of England could lawfully ordain women,
  2. (b)  that taking part in such ordinations would not call into question the orders of

    other bishops and priests, and

  3. (c)  that PEVs would not be expected to take over jurisdiction from the diocesan


Within this context, the 2010 measure keeps the sort of “space” in the Church of England that Carey was talking about. I think this makes it clear that what was promised for “as long as is needed” was episcopal oversight clearly exercised in full cooperation with the Diocesan who would retain jurisdiction, not a totally separate oversight defined by being uncorrupted by having ordained women. It could be argued that the current legislation is making good that commitment, and that what has been practised by PEVs in the past 15 years has gone well beyond what General Synod and the archbishops thought was being offered.

5. What did General synod understand about the purpose of PEVs?

Similarly, it is quite clear that the general understanding of the role of the PEVs who were to be created by this legislation was that they would support pastorally those who found it difficult to accept women as priests.
For example:

“Let us be absolutely sure that we are passing a pastoral act for pastoral purposes – a very different thing from passing legislation which could tie the church into further complications. I believe the act is needed for pastoral purposes and that we must vote for it, but we must be sure it is not legislation.”

Canon Ruth Wintle, General Synod July 1993 [p 690] (after making the point that similar support was never provided for women deacons)

With hindsight, those Anglo-Catholics for whom sacramental assurance was more important than any other mark of Catholicity will probably have interpreted “pastoral” to mean “sacramental” because this was the sticking point for them. However, almost certainly most of the rest of Synod did not even know that such a concept existed. Most people thought that what was being objected to was having to deal with ordained women, not that if a bishop ordained a woman priest he would be seen as having invalidated his orders. Financial compensation was being offered to those who felt they had to leave the church because of the decision to ordain women, so it seemed logical that those who were remaining accepted that women were fully priests, even if they did not want to worship with them.

Statements and remarks made by both archbishops at the time also emphasised that the proposals in the Act of synod were not intended to set up parallel Episcopal jurisdictions:

“The arrangements the House envisages are designed to ensure that appropriate pastoral Episcopal care is provided for those in favour and those opposed to the legislation, without undermining the authority of the diocesan bishop.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury (George Carey) in the House of Lords 2 Nov1993

“..The visitors *PEVs+ are intended to provide an extended ministry in certain agreed places, working with and through the diocesan bishops concerned…

The importance of lending them out and placing them strategically is so that they can do some ordinary episcopal work and be part of a diocesan team..”

The Archbishop of York (John Habgood) to General Synod July 1993 [p674]

This is what was said about the working of the legislation:

“The arrangements the House envisages are designed to ensure that appropriate pastoral episcopal care is provided for those in favour and those opposed to the legislation, without undermining the authority of the diocesan bishop. Our intention is to give continued space within the Church of England to those of differing views on this subject.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury to the House of Lords 2 Nov 1993 This theme was echoed by many speakers in the debates in Synod.

6. How did Resolution C parishes and PEVs put the Act of Synod into practice?

It is worth, in this context, noting what was actually allowed to develop. This is an extract from an interview given recently by Andrew Burnham, former Bishop of Ebbsfleet, after had had resigned his office in the Anglican church:

I took the view that what we were aiming to be was a diocese, an orthodox diocese: bishop, priests, deacons, and laypeople. And therefore that, even though we weren’t an actual diocese, we should organise ourselves as if we were. So I wrote a pastoral letter to the people every month, more or less every month for 10 years. I had a council of priests. This was before anyone else was doing this sort of thing. I had a lay council and a lay congress. I had deaneries, with clergy organised in deaneries for pastoral care.

We did all this as if we were setting out to be a diocese, which irritated people no end. It was done in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury because it was all about how best to care for people. And the apologia I gave was that of the Apostolic District, which was the term in canon law to describe a group that is not yet a diocese but might become so and has an apostolic administrator. Of course an administration, a jurisdiction, was the one thing we weren’t. We didn’t have the legal authority to do any of it. But that was what we were in search of becoming.

Catholic Herald 13 Jan 2011 (my emphasis)

It could be argued that what has been practised by PEVs in the past 15 years has gone well beyond what General Synod and most of the bishops thought was being offered or were willing to agree to, and that the current legislation is making good the original commitment and intention of the archbishops and the House of Bishops.

7. Lambeth Resolution III.2 (1998)

Although the Lambeth Conference was held five years after the Synod debates on provision for those who could not accept the November 1992 decision, a section from one of the resolutions passed by the 1998 Lambeth Conference is frequently quoted by those who want separate legislative provision for those who cannot accept the ordination of women. However, it was never a promise made to any group in the Church of England – it is a statement from the Lambeth Conference of 1998 (and so 5 years later than the debates when the Act of Synod was proposed) drafted by a group which had been considering issues around the unity of the whole Anglican Communion. The third sub-clause of this resolution

…calls upon the provinces of the Anglican Communion to affirm that those who dissent from, as well as those who assent to, the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate are both loyal Anglicans…

This is not particularly surprising because the Lambeth Conference is the meeting of bishops from all over the Anglican Communion – and it was a fact that some Provinces were ordaining women and some were not. So unless the Conference was to define some of the Provinces as more Anglican than others, the reality was and is that both views on the ordination of women are held by different Provinces and different individuals, and the conference accepted this. What this Resolution does not say (and has no need or right to say) is what this should mean for differences of opinion within a Province.

However, the introductory clause to this resolution is significant for the current debates:

This Conference, committed to maintaining the overall unity of the Anglican Communion, including the unity of each diocese under the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop:
a) believes such unity is essential to the overall effectiveness of the Church’s mission to bring the Gospel of Christ to all people…

(my emphasis)

What the resolution does say is that it expects each diocese to be united under the jurisdiction of its diocesan bishop – exactly the basis for the legislation for women in the episcopacy currently being discussed in the dioceses. It could therefore be argued that this proposed legislation is in line with this Lambeth Resolution.

It is worth noting that the background paper issued by General Synod Office for the current debate on women and the episcopacy quotes clauses from this resolution, but ignores the all-important preamble [GSA8 (WE) point 13, p3].

8. The promise that was not kept

Looking at the records of debates, we see that the provisions for PEVs were not coherent when they were introduced to General Synod; we read that a large number of speakers said publicly that they had reservation about the Act, but still voted for it to show their commitment to be as inclusive as possible. When we read what the bishops and others thought they were voting for, and which bishops said would last in perpetuity, we realise that this was different from what soon developed once PEVs had been ordained. What is being asked for now by opponents of the current legislation is not keeping the promises made, but keeping the system which was set up afterwards and went much further than most members of Synod had intended or ever imagined anyone would be thinking of.

There is, however, one implicit promise, made on 11th November 1992, which still has not been completely kept. This is the promise made to the people of this country when the vote was taken that allowed women to become priests, which was greeted throughout the country with joy. People who never went into a church were really glad that the Church of England had been prepared to say that discrimination is not God’s will. Donald Barnes put this into words in Synod saying:

“all were saying, ‘this is terrific. At last the church has done something important and significant. Good on yer mate. Alas, over the past year the whole character of that has altered, and the same people have been saying: ‘…whenever the church seeks to do something which is important and speaks to the people of our time, when it says that sexual discrimination has no place in the church, immediately all sorts of efforts are made to backtrack on the decision’”

General Synod Nov 1993 [p727]

We still have not kept this promise in its entirety, but I think it is the most important promise, because the church exists to serve and witness to the whole of society.

It was left to Lord Runcie, retired Archbishop of Canterbury, to speak clearly in the House of Lords of the truth of the Act of Synod. He spoke with great insight:

“The assurances, the special provisions, the extraordinary episcopal oversight are all judged necessary—I accept that—but nevertheless they are symptoms of an illness which replaces trust and good will with the flawed logic of two integrities. It is a sad paradox that those most fearful of one development in the life of the Church should be blind to their collusion with another which seems far more obviously illegitimate within that same spiritual life.”

Lord Runcie, to the House of Lords 2 Nov 1993

9. Conclusion

This comment, made recently by a member of the General Synod who voted in the 1993 debates, sums up the feeling of many:

“we’d won the debate; we were going to get women priests; we bent over backwards to be generous, but we were too accommodating.”

In the past fifteen years attitudes and expectations have changed for almost everyone. However, the more we look carefully at what was actually said in its entirety, the more we discover that what is being proposed now in the legislation to enable women to be appointed bishops is very close to what those who voted for the Act of Synod in 1993 thought they were getting. No promises made to those who demanded “safeguards” have been broken, and there are no grounds based on past history or the willingness of bishops to work with the Act of Synod, to suppose that any commitments made in the current legislation will not be kept with generosity.

RER 2011

Page references are to General Synod “Report of Proceedings” for July and November 1993

10. Glossary

Act of Synod – The Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993, which followed the legislation passed in1992 enabling women to be priests, and made provision for people to seek the care of an alternative bishop

Lambeth Conference – a 10-yearly meeting of the bishops of the Anglican Communion (the Anglican churches from around the world)

The measure – The Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993, which enables women to be priests in the Church of England, and allows PCCs (Parochial Church Councils) to pass Resolutions A and B to avoid the ministry of women priests.

PEV – Provincial Episcopal Visitors, or “flying bishops” – bishops with the remit of caring for those opposed to the ordination of women who have requested alternative care. This is a role created by the Act of Synod.

Resolution A – A resolution brought in by the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993, which enables a PCC (Parochial Church Council) to decide that no woman can perform the priestly tasks of celebrating the eucharist or giving absolution. Resolution A had been passed in 6.2% of parishes as of December 2009 (nb this is not the same as 6.2% of members of the CofE).

Resolution B – A resolution brought in by the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993, which enables a PCC to decide that no woman can be the incumbent. 7.5% of parishes had passed Resolution B as of December 2009 (nb this is not the same as 7.5% of members of the CofE).

Resolution C – A resolution brought in by the Act of Synod, which enables a PCC to request alternative episcopal care. As of December 2009, 2.8% of parishes in the Church of England had passed this resolution (nb this is not the same as 2.8% of members of the CofE).

Sacramental Assurance – the view (held mainly by the Anglo-Catholic wing of the

church) that it is not possible for a woman to be a priest, and that therefore none of her other priestly actions are valid. Thus, if a woman presides at the eucharist, it is not a valid eucharist. This position would hold that a woman cannot be consecrated as a bishop either, and if she were a bishop, and then confirmed or ordained others they would not be validly confirmed or ordained, whether they were men or women. Nor would she be able to delegate episcopal authority to a man as she would not truly have this authority. However, for some who hold this view, anyone who participates in the ordination or consecration of a woman calls his orders into doubt. So, they believe, a male bishop who has ordained a woman has called his orders into question (which is why those who think like this will not take communion if their bishop presides) and therefore a separate line of male bishops is needed, who have never ordained women as priests.

For example, “If someone is not consecrated in the traditional manner by other male bishops, then inevitably the sacramental life of the Church will be called into question.” Prebendary David Houlding. Church Times, 27 May 2011

11. Timeline

1975.  General Synod votes that there is “no fundamental objection to the ordination of women to the priesthood”

1978. General Synod debates motion to “bring forward legislation to remove the barriers to the ordination of women to the priesthood and their consecration to the episcopate”. After six and a half hours of debate, the motion falls.

1985.  General Synod votes to allow women to become deacons

  1. 1987  first women deacons ordained in the Church of England
  2. 1988  141 bishops from different parts of the Anglican Communion, led by Bishops

    of Bristol, Manchester and Southwark, declare their belief in the ordination of women to all three orders. First woman bishops elected in US and New Zealand.

  1. 1992  11th November – General Synod votes to permit women to be ordained to the priesthood
  2. 1993  November – General Synod passed the Act of Synod enabling parishes opposed to the ordination of women to request alternative Episcopal oversight.
  3. 1994  1,500 women deacons ordained as priests

2000 Archdeacon Judith Rose puts down motion in General Synod asking for

House of Bishops to set up Working Party to look at issues of women in the

episcopate. The motion passes

  1. 2004  Report is published of House of Bishops Working Party, chaired by Bishop of


  2. 2005  February – General Synod debates Rochester Report. Group chaired by

    Bishop of Guildford asked to bring to Synod options for ways of going ahead

    with women as bishops

  1. 2005  July – General Synod approves motion to begin process to remove “legal

    obstacles” to women in the episcopate.

  2. 2006  February – General Synod debates option put forward by Guildford Group –

    the TEA (Transferred Episcopal Arrangements) proposals. Motion passes to

    proceed “along the lines of TEA”.

2006 July – General Synod passes motion agreeing with majority of bishops that

having women as bishops is “consonant” with the faith of the Church. Insufficient support for TEA, or SEA (a later refinement) in the House of Bishops means that a Legislative Drafting Group is commissioned to prepare draft legislation with a variety of possible provision for those who will not accept women as bishops.

2008 April – Manchester Report published with a spectrum of possibilities, from a single clause measure – ie “women can be bishops” – to creating new dioceses.

  1. 2008  July – General Synod asks the Legislative Drafting Group to draw up legislation based on delegation from the diocesan bishop with provisions contained in a national statutory Code of Practice: it rejects other options for provisions
  2. 2009  February – Draft legislation is accepted by General Synod and sent to a Revision Committee


2010 May – Revision Committee Report is published, containing draft legislation that has been considerably revised from that originally drafted, but retaining the approach based on delegation from the diocesan bishop and a statutory Code of Practice.

2010 June – The Archbishops of Canterbury and York propose an amendment to the revised draft legislation that would introduce “Coordinate Jurisdiction”.

  1. 2010  July – General Synod accepts the revisions offered in the Revision Committee report, rejects the Archbishops’ amendment, again rejects other options for provisions, and commends the revised draft legislation to the 44 Dioceses for debate.
  2. 2011  14th November the consultation with the dioceses must be completed.
  3. 2012  July – the legislation is likely to come before General Synod for final