Thursday, January 01, 2009
Women Bishops in England: Dave Walker Explains It All (As only Dave Walker Can)
ENGLAND: Women bishops draft legislation published;
measure to be debated at February synod
December 30, 2008
[Church of England] The General Synod will have its first opportunity to consider draft legislation enabling women to become bishops in the Church of England in February, having given an in-principle agreement to the shape of the legislative package last July. The Legislative Drafting Group on Women in the Episcopate, chaired by Bishop Nigel McCulloch of the Diocese of Manchester, on December 29 published its further report and drafts of a measure and associated amending canon.
"We have published our further report at the earliest opportunity to give everyone the chance to study it before debate. We finished our discussions only just before Christmas," said McCulloch. "The General Synod mandated us to draft a measure including special arrangements, within existing structures, for those unable to receive the ministry of women bishops and to do that in a national code of practice. We believe we have achieved that by providing for male complementary bishops, as we suggested in our earlier report, and now hand our work to the synod to discuss the drafts in detail."
The draft measure sets out legislation to accord with the mandate given by the General Synod last July 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" and that those arrangements "should be contained in a statutory national code of practice to which all concerned would be required to have regard." The draft measure provides for such arrangements, which include -- as foreshadowed in the illustrative draft Measure circulated in July -- provision for male "complementary bishops" to whom authority to provide episcopal ministry would be delegated by diocesan bishops.
A covering note to the drafting group's report from the House of Bishops acknowledges that the house would continue to have a special responsibility for seeking to help the Church of England, through the legislative process, come to a conclusion that built trust and that enabled as many people as possible to remain loyal Anglicans notwithstanding their differing theological convictions on this issue. Individual bishops would be able to lend their support to attempts to amend the draft legislation during the revision process.
The further report and drafts of a Measure and associated Amending Canon, together with an illustrative draft Code of Practice and an Explanatory Memorandum, can be read here.
Further details are available here.
In 2006, the synod passed a motion calling for the practical and legislative arrangements of admitting women to the episcopate to be explored and inviting dioceses, deaneries and parishes "to continue serious debate and reflection on the theological, practical, ecumenical and missiological aspects of the issue" of ordaining women bishops.
It is estimated that women bishops in England will not be canonically possible until at least 2014.