November 22nd, 2017

I thought women could already be bishops....

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

Why does it matter?

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

The key question is:

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

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

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

What happens next?

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

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