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Monday, 16 November 2009

Women in the Episcopate: Press Release and Information

The Church of England Revision Committee on Women in the Episcopate has released a statement which I post to help keep the people of this Diocese in Europe up to date. What is clear is that the Committee, in seeking to accommodate those who will not be able to accept women bishops, has ruled out (at present) these possible options:
(a) the setting up of a separate Province
(b) the setting up of separate dioceses
(c) the establishment of some sort of special society within the the Church of England, rather along the lines of a religious order
(d) the vesting in law of the authority given to those bishops charged with oversight of clergy and parishes who cannot accept ministry of a woman bishop.

Their statement hints at the options that are left. I also append some questions and answers which were prepared for communications purposes. Click read more for the statement and appendix...

Revision Committee on Women in the Episcopate: Embargoed until 0930hrs, Saturday 14 November

The Revision Committee met for its third scheduled meeting yesterday (13 November) since 8 October (see earlier statement: It concluded a substantial exploration of ways in which the draft legislation could be amended to enable certain functions to be vested by statute in bishops who would provide oversight for those unable to receive the episcopal and/or priestly ministry of women.

After much discussion, the members of the Committee were unable to identify a basis for specifying particular functions for vesting which commanded sufficient support both from those in favour of the ordination of women as bishops and those unable to support that development. As a result all of the proposals for vesting particular functions by statute were defeated.

The effect of the Committee’s decision is therefore that such arrangements as are made for those unable to receive the episcopal ministry of women will need to be by way of delegation from the diocesan bishop rather than vesting.

There remain important issues for the Committee to determine at its forthcoming meetings over the shape of the proposed legislation in the light of this decision, in particular whether to retain a statutory code of practice or adopt the simplest possible legislation.

The work of a Revision Committee in scrutinising draft legislation, and in considering submissions to amend it, is only part of a longer legislative process. The Revision Committee on this draft legislation will report to the full General Synod at the conclusion of its work and the Synod will debate its proposals and have its own opportunity to support, amend or invite further reconsideration of the legislation by the Revision Committee. Further stages in the legislative process would require consideration of any legislation by the Diocesan Synods of the Church of England, final approval by the General Synod, Parliamentary approval and the Royal Assent.

Questions and Answers for Communications Office use

What does this mean?
It means that the Committee could not identify which functions or powers they thought should be given by law to the bishops who would give oversight to traditionalist parishes, so the idea essentially falls. They now have to decide whether to return to the idea of a statutory code of practice or to adopt a solution that would set out no provision in the legislation itself for those who object to women bishops. But whatever this Committee decides, it remains for the full Synod to debate the matter fully.

What’s the difference between delegation and vesting?
Delegation means that functions would be exercised on the authority of the diocesan bishop, who in future may be female. Vesting would have meant certain functions being exercised as of right by those bishops providing oversight for traditionalist parishes.

What do you mean by ‘functions’?
Functions in this context mean episcopal activities such as conducting the ordination of priests, and providing pastoral oversight of parish clergy.

Is this the result of the Pope/the Westminster Hall debate/anger from women?
The 19 members of the Committee spent a lot of time exploring possibilities in some detail and were unable to find a basis for vesting which commanded sufficient support. What influenced individuals to vote as they did on particular proposals can only be a matter of speculation.

Why issue statements when the decisions keep changing?
Synod members coming to speak to amendments that they have submitted have the right to know when there has been a major change affecting their proposals. Since such decisions will quickly become widely known the Committee concluded that it was best to put the facts on the public record.

How did people vote?
The voting figures will be included in the Committee’s report to Synod.

Will the report be ready for the February Synod?
That has always been the Committee’s aim, but the timetable is now extremely tight. The Committee has three further meetings scheduled between now and early January.

Isn’t this decision simply going to push many Catholic Anglicans to go to Rome?
There are many further stages yet in the legislative process (see 8 October statement) and nothing is certain until the draft Measure has secured a two thirds majority in each House of Synod on final approval and then secured parliamentary approval and Royal Assent. It will be at least 2012 before the Synod has concluded its own consideration.

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