Article 8 of the Constitution of the General Synod provides that certain kinds of legislation may not receive the final approval of the General Synod unless they have first been approved by the majority of diocesan synods. The draft legislation to permit the consecration of women bishops falls into this category. Due to a quirk of our diocesan constitution (which was put in place before we had a diocesan synod), it is to our Bishop's Council that Article 8 business must be referred.
In October the Bishop's Council looked at this matter. It took account of the fact that we now have a diocesan synod, so it makes sense for this wider body to have an opportunity to give the proposed legislation full consideration. The Bishop's Council thus noted the Article 8 referral and then resolved:
(a) to remit discussion of the matter to the next meeting of the Diocesan Synod;The key documents referred to us by the General Synod can be found here. The 2004 Rochester Report on Women in the Episcopate can be found here. It is 302 pages long, but it does merit close attention if we are going to be well informed for the coming debates at diocesan (and archdeaconry and deanery) synods. It is a comprehensive study on
(b) to request the Standing Committee to ensure that all the relevant papers (which shall include a copy of chapter 5 of the Rochester Report and any additional background material as the Diocesan Bishop and the Suffragan Bishop may consider appropriate) are made available so as to allow adequate time for full consideration by members of the Diocesan Synod in advance of the meeting;
(c) to request the Standing Committee to allocate sufficient time for a full and comprehensive discussion during the Synod;
(d) to request the Bishop, following consultation with senior colleagues, to invite an informed speaker in favour of, and an informed speaker who is not in favour of, the draft Measure and draft Amending Canon to address (for equal periods) the Diocesan Synod in May 2011; and
(e) to commend the matter to Archdeaconry and Deanery Synods for informed discussion
(a) the nature of the episcopate in the Church of England;We have a major piece of work ahead of us in the diocese. Bishop Geoffrey and I are considering possible additional resources and possible speakers for Diocesan Synod.
(b) whether it be right in principle for a woman to be a bishop;
(c) whether this is an appropriate time for the Church of England to make such a move; and
(d) the nature of the provision, if any, that should be made for those who would be unable to accept such a move
When we come to the Diocesan Synod in May, we should bear in mind the qualities of listening and theological engagement that we should embrace as we look at this question. In his presidential address to the General Synod in November, Archbishop Rowan said:
... it is important that, here and in the dioceses, we should not be afraid of discussions that clarify the theological issues. It will be a great pity if we come to our final decision without having confidently articulated why women bishops would be theologically in tune with our deepest commitments. Those like myself who believe women bishops to be a development both good and timely for the Church and wholly consistent with its mainstream understanding of ministry and sacraments should be ready to make the argument in the strong theological terms in which it can be made. And those who do not share these convictions have both the right and the responsibility to articulate the theology of the Church and its authority which makes them hesitate, because listening to these points is a necessary part of the whole body's discernment..Of course it is a matter of real sorrow that some have already decided that they cannot in conscience continue this discussion within the Church of England. They remain in our prayers and we continue to give thanks for the ministry they have offered all of us.