THERE IS UNCERTAINTY about the fate of legislation to permit women bishops due to be debated in synod next month. Those who oppose the changes made by the bishops could unite with others to defeat the measure. If this happens no further legislation could be introduced for five years.
More likely, synod could send the legislation back to the bishops and ask them to review their amendment. If this happens, the legislation could be debated at a synod in November although some members are reported to be pressing for a delay until February, when Archbishop Williams will have retired, or until July, when a new Archbishop will probably have taken over.
The Bishops’ amendments have continued to attract a good deal of hostile comment. In a long statement Modern Church argues that ‘by giving parishes the legal right to demand alternative bishops it would subordinate the Church of England’s open, inclusive and developing theology to exclusive minority convictions, and thereby encourage division into separate parishes’.
Modern Church claims the amendments would weaken the authority of bishops and encourage isolationism with Anglicans of diverse views failing to worship with each other or learn from each other.
Modern Church says the ‘usual conservative evangelical position is comparatively easy to understand’ but thinks the opposition to women bishops of Anglo-Catholics ‘seems rooted in arcane, mystical claims’.
The statement makes no mention of the doctrine of reception or the need to guarantee a place in the church for those opposed to women bishops until the development is accepted by the wider church.
Dr Elaine Storkey is one prominent member of General Synod to have expressed opposition to the bishops’ amendments. She has said that she cannot support the measure that will come before synod in its amended form.
“At the end of the final drafting stage, the House of Bishops – an all-male assembly – has met behind closed doors and brought forward new proposals in the shape of amendments, which cannot now be further amended by synod,” Dr Storkey complains. “In my 25 years on synod I have never known this to happen – it is constitutional but unprecedented.”
Tim Hind, vice-chairman of the House of Laity and a member of the group of six that approved the bishops’ amendments, told The Times that people were ‘fighting shadows.’ He denied the amendments gave a parish carte blanche to choose a bishop and argued that ‘people are fighting what they fear might happen’.
WATCH is warning that the amendments put the legislation at risk of defeat. The measure will need to secure a two-thirds majority in all three houses. Most observers reckon this is likely in the House of Bishops and the House of Clergy but there is uncertainty about what will happen in the House of Laity.