The tensions over women bishops increased today when a group of female General Synod members wrote an open letter urging that the issue is voted on, as rival groups urged an adjournment.
The Gloucester diocesan synod is the latest to call for the vote to be put off, warning that they have never experienced “such disappointment, hurt and anger expressed.’
Supporters of women bishops have reacted angrily to a last-minute amendment put forward by the House of Bishops, which would effectively create no-go areas for women prelates. Opponents however argue that the amendment simply provides space for those who cannot accept women in mitres.
The Synodical package cannot be amended, and the idea of an adjournment has been proposed as a compromise, referring the issue back to the bishops before a special General Synod meeting in November.
However, in their open letter, women Synod members, calling themselves Proper Provision, say that the cost of staging a Synod meeting before Christmas would be expensive and unnecessary.
They write: “In November 2010 it was estimated that a four-day Synod in London cost approximately £400,000 (including the lost revenue from Church House). While recognizing that our meeting may be shorter, we are not convinced that this would be money well spent.
“If the Measure returns in its present form then nothing will have changed; we will have simply delayed the day when supporters of a female episcopate finally have to decide whether their priority is the Bishop’s attempt at church unity or their own particular understanding of equality.”
The group, which argues that ‘our families and churches prosper when men take responsibility to provide godly oversight and headship’, says that the amendment put forward by the House of Bishops is ‘insubstantial’ and ought therefore to go to the vote.
However, Rachel Weir of WATCH told us that momentum is ‘clearly building for the House of Bishops to withdraw their amendment.’
The text of the letter from Proper Provision reads:
Dear Member of General Synod,
We are writing to you on behalf of the thousands of loyal Anglican women who believe that men and women are inherently equal, and that. You may have heard about the petition we took to the House of Bishops asking them to amend the Measure. We would urge you not to seek an adjournment for three reasons:
1) The House of Bishops have listened: To the laity and clergy in the Dioceses, of whom 23% rejected the unamended Measure and 3% abstained. To General Synod: who in February voted to ask the House of Bishops to make amendments as long as they were insubstantial.
The Group of Six has ruled that they are insubstantial. and who historically have never given two-thirds majority support to an amendment or motion on this topic unless it specifically moved towards proper provision.
The House of Bishops have listened to the concerns of this substantial minority and simply sought in their amendments to clarify two points in order that it would make it easier for these people to give their consent to this innovation, the heart of which goes against their conscience.
2) The amendments have revealed how unwilling to compromise some proponents of women bishops can be. WATCH have suggested that both sacramental assurance and headship are “non-gospel theologies” which “indirectly contribute to domestic and sexual abuse and violence against women”.
WATCH have also criticised the House of Bishops for attempting to “provide a permanent, guaranteed doctrinal space” for those who seek male clergy and bishops.
The suggestion that we are not fellow-Christians and that the women in our congregations are unsafe is personally hurtful. Doctrinally, it makes a mockery of the 1998 Lambeth statement, affirmed by General Synod in July 2006, which recognized that both those in favour of women bishops and those opposed were loyal Anglicans.
The House of Bishops deemed the amendments necessary to provide proper provision for all loyal Anglicans. The adjournment motion is simply an attempt to remove even that (inadequate) provision in favour of arrangements that are anticipated to be purely temporary and which will immediately be wholly insecure.
2) An adjournment will be expensive and may achieve very little. If the Measure returns without the amendments then, unless it is defeated, we will have confirmed that there is no secure place in the Church of England for those who until now have been considered loyal orthodox Anglicans.
It has been the constant desire of the majority of General Synod both to consecrate women as bishops and to provide for those who seek male clergy and bishops. Let’s use the time we have in July to try and convince one another that this Measure could work and if we can’t do that, then so be it. Surely the time has come to put this Measure to the test and move on.
Lorna Ashworth GS 287
Jane Bisson GS 428
Mary Durlacher GS 272
Sarah Finch GS 344 Susie Leafe GS 416
Andrea Minichiello Williams GS 293
Jane Patterson GS 403
Kathy Playle GS 275
Alison Ruoff GS 350
Ruth Whitworth GS 277
Alison Wynne GS257
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