07 July 2008

Church of England says "yes" to women in first round of voting

After passing two amendments, the Church of England said “yes” to the consecration of women. The short version is that this Synod:

(a) affirm that the wish of its majority is for women to be admitted to the episcopate;

(b) affirm its view that special arrangements be available, within the existing structures of the Church of England, for those who as a matter of theological conviction will not be able to receive the ministry of women as bishops or priests;

(c) affirm that these should be contained in a statutory national code of practice to which all concerned would be required to have regard; and

(d) instruct the legislative drafting group, in consultation with the House of Bishops, to complete its work accordingly, including preparing the first draft of a code of practice, so that the Business Committee can include first consideration of the draft legislation in the agenda for the February 2009 group of sessions."

According to Mark Harris,

There will be women bishops, there will be a strong reaction. There will not be peace in the valley. But the C of E did something substantive. They declared that it is the wish of the church leadership that "women be admitted to the episcopate." Thanks be God.

Now we wait for appointment, and for the code of practice. Assuming that appointment waits on the code being in place it will be a while before there are actual women bishops in the CofE.

This is only the first of two necessary steps to make women’s consecration canon law. A committee will draft the final form of the statute and it will be voted upon in February. Th motion could fail. The hardliners aren't finished fighting yet. It's also worth noting that this will be statutory -- it will be canon law and there is no hiding from it in 'women free safe zones.'

Damian Thompson of The Telegraph has an excellent analysis of today’s bold move by the General Synod

A couple of hours ago, the Church of England decisively severed itself from its Catholic roots. By voting to ordain women bishops without significant safeguards for traditionalists, it reasserted its identity as a Protestant Church. Whether it will be a liberal or conservative Protestant denomination remains to be seen. But any hope of unity with Rome and the Orthodox has gone forever.

I'm not sorry. From the moment the C of E voted to ordain women priests in 1992, it cut itself off from the Catholic mainstream. But unexpectedly generous safeguards allowed traditionalists to cordon themselves off from the rest of the Church, persuading themselves that they, rather than the main body, preserved its true Catholic identity.

This was always a delusion, and now it is truly unsustainable. The General Synod tonight made a commonsense decision. If you have women priests, you must have women bishops - indeed, I remember Dr David Hope, then Bishop of London, telling me that the Church should in theory have started with women bishops and then moved on to priests.

What the Anglo-Catholics have lost tonight is their standing in the Church of England. They are no longer honoured traditionalists who have been allowed to preserve an (almost) watertight communion of their own, nurtured by powerful bishops who sustain their sacramental purity.

From now on, they will be the C of E's granny in the attic, whose eccentricities are tolerated only at family get-togethers. If, that is, they are silly enough to stay.

What a painful debate this was. This time round, in contrast to 1992, the Synod knew it was demolishing a wing of the building, and there was preciously little triumphalism. Dr Rowan Williams seemed especially crushed: he had argued - reluctantly - for tight safeguards for traditionalists, but the assembly ignored his advice. That doesn't bode well for Lambeth. [Emphasis added.]