The Church of England has published the report of its Revision Committee on the draft legislation to enable women to become bishops in the Church of England, with an amended version of the draft Measure. Its press office has announced that the stage is set for key July debates on the legislation at the General Synod.
Here in Wales, the Governing Body debated a Bill on this matter in 2008 and narrowly rejected it. As in the case of the Bill to allow women to be ordained priests, it was supported by the bishops and laity but failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority in the House of Clergy.
It fell because of the failure of an amendment which would have required the Bench of Bishops to provide pastoral care, through an Assistant Bishop or Bishops, for those who in conscience cannot accept the ordination of women as priests and bishops. Archbishop Barry felt a constitutional (not voluntary) arrangement of this kind would create a church within a church and the amendment was defeated.
Here are a few comments from those who took part in the debate:
‘How can a Church, which claims to set people free and treat all as equal, refuse even the possibility of considering whether women can be called to the episcopate?’ – Archbishop Barry
‘This whole debate is looked upon by the outside world with bemusement.’ – Bishop John Davies
‘After eleven years, we should be celebrating the contribution of the ministry of women in Wales, not stifling it.’ – Mrs. Helen Biggin
‘I am deeply disappointed, especially since it was lost with a very low margin in the house of clergy. Had we been willing to compromise and have an assistant bishop in the constitution to look after those who in conscience were opposed to the ordination of women, the Bill would have sailed through. But that would have sanctioned institutionalised schism and would have been disastrous for the Church in Wales.
‘This is an issue that is not going to go away or be ignored. The Church in Wales will have to grapple with it. I am sad that we have to go through the whole process again.’ – Archbishop Barry
Good luck, C of E …
Meanwhile, in America, the Episcopal Church appointed its first woman Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori (the equivalent of our Archbishop) in 2006.