The General Synod vote on Women Bishops

Posted on the 22nd November 2012 in the category Announcements


Bishop Jonathan writes

 

After the General Synod failed to give Final Approval to the draft legislation on the ordination of women to the episcopate, I had hoped for a period of calm, prayer and reflection all round; and perhaps some sense of regret, on the part of the proponents of the Measure, that they had not got the legislation right. Of course, as we now know, this was very far from the case: instead, a media furore, and a sense from some quarters that those who had voted against the Measure need to be punished in the future for daring to step out of line.

 

We need to say very clearly, that we understand, and deeply regret, the pain, hurt and anger felt on the part of many women clergy and their supporters; that we value the huge contribution of ordained women to the life of the Church of England; and that we recognise the gifts which God has given in and through their ministries.

However, we also need to challenge some errors and misunderstandings which have been widespread since the vote was taken. 


First, it has been suggested that the draft Measure represented the fruits of work done over many years by representatives of all traditions in the Church of England, and that it was a compromise and the best possible way forward. This is simply not the case, as anyone – myself included – involved in the various processes of preparing the legislation for Final Approval (the legislative drafting group, the revision committee stage, and so on) would have to admit. At every step of the way, provision for the traditionalist minority was withdrawn altogether or significantly watered down. Looking back, we can see a number of decisive forks in the road: when delegation (rather than a transfer of jurisdiction) was adopted as the basis for the legislation; when the Archbishops' amendment for co-ordinate jurisdiction was defeated – by just 5 votes in the House of Clergy – in 2010; when the amendment to Clause 5.1. (c) of the Measure, proposed by the House of Bishops, was withdrawn in the face of pressure from members of WATCH in July of this year. In the light of all this, it seems to me that there is only one analysis of the vote on 20th November which rings true: that the draft Measure was driven 'over the cliff' by those unwilling to agree proper provision for those of us who have conscientious difficulties concerning the ordination of women.

 

The second misunderstanding is that the Synod's processes were somehow abused or manipulated to produce this result. Again, we need to say clearly that this is not the case. Every member of General Synod understands very well what the processes are which are followed in order to pass legislation: processes which, in matters of doctrine, are designed precisely to ensure a high level of consensus, such as is surely appropriate for a Christian community. The meetings of General Synod are always framed with prayer – prayer that the Holy Spirit will guide the hearts and minds of those speaking and voting. It is difficult not to be amazed at the confidence with which many people have rushed to conclude that the Holy Spirit could not have spoken through Synod on 20th November. Having said all that, I would be the first to agree that the Synodical system has not served the church well in discerning the way forward on this matter. Perhaps one thing that the Holy Spirit might be saying to us, is that there might be a better way.

The third thing which I have found puzzling in the last week or so is the growing sense in some quarters that there was an 'unholy alliance' between traditional cathiolics and conservative evangelicals to defeat the Measure. To say this is again, surely, to misunderstand how General Synod works. Individuals vote on the legislation laid before them, and, while it is true (and hardly startling) to say that of course anglo-catholics and evangelicals will have different – often, markedly different – theological instincts and insights, what mattered in this case was only the fact that Synod members from both traditions found the draft Measure wanting. We also know now that a significant number of Synod members who are wholly supportive of women in the episcopate nevertheless voted against this draft legislation; they did so out of concern for their brothers and sisters in the Church of England with whom they disagree, but whose flourishing they desire: surely a model for us all.

 

Where do we go from here? I very much hope that all parties to this debate will resist the calls from some MPs and peers that Parliament should legislate 'over the head' of the Church of England in order to impose a solution. That way cannot be right.


The Bishop of Durham, our next Archbishop of Canterbury, has called for fresh discussions early in the New Year, with a view to preparing the way for fresh legislation on women bishops. I am sure that is right, although I do hope that the desire for haste in some quarters will not squeeze out what I am sure the whole Church truly needs: real listening, engagement, and, above all, mutual charity. We must get away from the whole sense which has dogged us for so long, that this is a zero-sum power game, with winners and losers, and, at the end of the process, first and second class bishops, serving – as Fr Simon Killwick put it so well – first and second class Anglicans.

So what, in our local context, can we – priests and people of the See of Ebbsfleet – actually do? The first thing, obviously, is to pray – and the fact that this is such an obvious thing to say makes it no less true. My late confessor and spiritual director always urged upon me the virtue of praying, consciously and by name, for those with whom I disagreed, had fallen out, or had (in reality or just in my imagination) done me wrong. That was good advice then, and I commend it to all of you now.


The second thing to do is actively to work to maintain the bonds of charity with all those who are your partners in the mission of the Church in your area – clergy and laity of other traditions, male and female, all those involved in the life of your diocese and deanery. Let it never be said that the traditional catholic voice is absent from the life of the local church.

Third, we must all seek renewal in those great gifts which our tradition brings to the life of the whole of the Church of England: our zeal for souls; our liturgical worship; the sacramental life; our incarnational faith, rooted in the community and especially in service to the poor; our deep commitment to the full visible unity of the one Church of Jesus Christ. You can all, I am sure, add other things to that list of equal or greater importance, but there are five to be getting on with!

We have just celebrated the great feast of Christ the King; now we come to prepare for the celebration of the birth into this world of time and space of that same Word of God who is King of the Universe and King of our lives. May each of us be deeply renewed in our discipleship this Advent and Christmastide, and may the Lord stir up in us those supernatural gifts given us at our baptism: faith; hope; love.

 

+Jonathan Ebbsfleet



A Message from Bishop Jonathan

Posted on the 30th October 2012 in the category Announcements


It was announced this morning from 10 Downing Street that I am to be the next Suffragan Bishop of Fulham in the Diocese of London.

 

I am very sorry indeed to be leaving the priests, people and parishes of Ebbsfleet after this short time as your bishop, and I will miss my ministry among you enormously. However, I believe that this move is the right one for me at this time in my own Christian pilgrimage, and I hope you will continue to pray for me as I prepare to move on.

 

I will fulfil my diary as Bishop of Ebbsfleet until Ash Wednesday, 13th February 2013: indeed it will be 'business as usual' until then. After that, I will have a period of leave in order to move house and office and to prepare to take up my new duties some time in Eastertide.

 

I have been given every assurance that a new Bishop of Ebbsfleet will be appointed to succeed me, and that matter is in the hands of the Archbishop of Canterbury and his successor. Please pray for all involved in the selection and appointment of the next Bishop.

 

Looking beyond Ash Wednesday, I hope that, in the short term, other bishops will be able to step in to cover Ebbsfleet events and engagements, as happened last time the See was vacant, until a new bishop is in post. I hope and pray that any time of vacancy will be brief.

 

Please be assured of my continuing prayers for our common life and mission,

 

Yours in Christ
+Jonathan Ebbsfleet




Better Together Campaign

Posted on the 15th August 2012 in the category Resources


Better Together is a new campaign calling on all Anglicans to come together to enhance the Church’s mission and ministry. Through applying the principles of unity, diversity, freedom and respect, we can positively affirm what we believe is best for the Church of England and for its role at the heart of our society.

 

Click here for more »



The Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993

Posted on the 1st January 1995 in the category Resources

The Act of Synod provides for what is commonly known as 'Resolution C'. Where the parochial church council of a parish has passed one or both of the resolutions set out in the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993 (Resolutions A and B), a decision may be taken jointly by the minister and the PCC to petition the diocesan bishop concerned to the effect that appropriate episcopal duties in the parish should be carried out in accordance with this Act of Synod.


 

Passed by the General Synod to make provision for the continuing diversity of opinion in the Church of England as to the ordination and ministry of women as priests, and for related matters. Whereas:

 

Whereas:

 

(1)       The Church of England through its synodical processes has given final approval to a Measure to make provision by Canon for enabling women to be ordained to the priesthood;

 

(2)       The bishop of each diocese continues as the ordinary of his diocese;

 

(3)       The General Synod regards it as desirable that –

 

            (a)       all concerned should endeavour to ensure that –

 

            (i)        discernment in the wider Church of the rightness or otherwise of the Church of England’s decision to ordain women to the priesthood should be as open a process as possible;

 

            (ii)       the highest possible degree of communion should be maintained within each diocese; and

 

            (iii)      the integrity of differing beliefs and positions concerning the ordination of women to the priesthood should be mutually recognised and respected;

 

            (b)       the practical pastoral arrangements contained in this Act of Synod should have effect in each diocese.

 

 

Now it is hereby declared as follows: -

 

Ordinations and Appointments

 

1.         Except as provided by the Measure and this Act no person or body shall discriminate against candidates either for ordination or for appointment to senior office in the Church of England on the grounds of their view or positions about the ordination of women to the priesthood.

 

Appropriate Arrangements

 

2.         Three types of arrangements may be made in order to provide an appropriate ministry for those who are opposed, namely –

 

            (a)       diocesan arrangements to be made by the diocesan bishop in accordance with section 3 below;

 

            (b)       regional arrangements to be made by the diocesan bishops of each region in accordance with section 4 below;

 

            (c)       provincial arrangements to be made by the archbishop of the province in accordance with section 5 below.

 

Diocesan Arrangements

 

3.         The diocesan bishop shall make arrangements so far as possible within his own diocese for appropriate care and oversight of the clergy and parishes in the diocese.

 

Regional Arrangements

 

4.         (1)       Whenever possible the diocesan bishops of each region acting jointly shall from time to time nominate from within their region for the purpose of this Act of Synod one or more bishops who are opposed.

 

            (2)       Each bishop so nominated shall, in addition to his other duties, be approved by the archbishop of the province to carry out for any parish in the region such episcopal duties as the diocesan bishop concerned may request.

 

            (3)       In subsection (1) above, except where the context otherwise requires, “bishop” means a diocesan bishop, suffragan bishop or a full-time stipendiary assistant bishop serving in the region in question.

 

Provincial Arrangements

 

5.         (1)       The Archbishop of Canterbury shall from time to time take steps to secure the appointment of up to two additional suffragan bishops for his diocese to act as provincial episcopal visitors for the purposes of this Act of Synod in the province of Canterbury.

 

            (2)       The Archbishop of York shall from time to time take steps to secure the appointment of one additional suffragan bishop for his diocese to act as a provincial episcopal visitor for the purposes of this Act of Synod in the province of York.

 

            (3)       Each provincial episcopal visitor shall be commissioned by the archbishop of the province to carry out, or cause to be carried out, for any parish in the province such episcopal duties, in addition to his other duties, as the diocesan bishop concerned may request. The provincial episcopal visitor shall work with the diocesan bishop concerned in enabling extended pastoral care and sacramental ministry to be provided.

 

            (4)       Each provincial episcopal visitor shall act as spokesman and adviser for those who are opposed and shall assist the archbishops in monitoring the operation of this Act of Synod.

 

6.         Where a vacancy occurs in the office of provincial episcopal visitor, the archbishop of the province concerned shall, before taking the steps referred to in section 5 above to secure the appointment of an additional suffragan bishop, consult the other provincial episcopal visitor or visitors and all other bishops who are directly concerned.

 

Parochial church council petition

 

7.         (1)       Subject to subsection (2) below where a resolution set out in Schedule 1 to the Measure is in force, a decision may be taken by the parochial church council of the parish concerned to petition the diocesan bishop concerned to the effect that appropriate episcopal duties in the parish should be carried out in accordance with this Act of Synod.

 

            (2)       Subsection (1) shall not apply in relation to a parish in which there is a parish church cathedral.

 

8.         (1)       Subject to section 10 below, on receiving any such petition the diocesan bishop shall, either personally or through his representative, consult with the minister and the parochial church council of the parish concerned; and having done so he shall make appropriate arrangements for episcopal duties to be carried out in the parish in accordance with this Act of Synod.

 

            (2)       Where any such arrangements are made or proposed, the minister and the parochial church council of the parish concerned may seek the advice of the provincial episcopal visitor in connection with the matter.

 

9.         (1)       Where a parochial church council has presented a petition in accordance with section 7 above, the council may at any time take a further decision for the withdrawal of the petition; and, subject to section 10 below, upon the withdrawal of the petition the diocesan bishop concerned shall ensure that any arrangements made in pursuance thereof are cancelled.

 

            (2)       Where a parochial church council has presented such a petition, the council shall review the working of any arrangements in force in pursuance thereof at least once in every period of five years.

 

10.       Where a parochial church council has presented or withdrawn a petition in accordance with section 7 or 9 above and the diocesan bishop concerned is not satisfied that –

 

            (a)       except where notice of a vacancy has been sent to the secretary of the council under section 7(4) of the Patronage (Benefices) Measure 1986, the secretary of the council gave to the members of the council at least four weeks’ notice of the time and place of the meeting at which the motion proposing the resolution in question was to be considered;

 

            (b)       the meeting was attended by at least one half of the members of the council entitled to attend;

 

            (c)       at least two thirds of the members of the council present and voting were in favour of the resolution in question; and

 

            (d)       the minister was in favour of the resolution in question, whether or not he was present and voted;

 

            he shall not be obliged to make arrangements of the kind mentioned in section 8 above or to cancel any such arrangements, but he may do so if he thinks fit.

 

Ordination etc. by archbishop or his commissary

 

11.       (1)       Subject to subsection (2) and (3) below, where the bishop of a diocese has indicated that he is opposed and, in the case of a bishop in office at the relevant date, that he is unwilling to make a declaration under section 2 of the Measure, the ordination to the priesthood of women from the diocese and their licensing and institution shall be carried out by the archbishop concerned, either personally or through a bishop acting as his commissary;  and the archbishop shall cause the archiepiscopal seal to be affixed to any documents that are needed for that purpose.

 

            (2)       The archbishop that act under subsection (1) above either at the request of the diocesan bishop concerned or in pursuance of his metropolitical jurisdiction, but shall not so act unless he is satisfied that the diocesan bishop concerned has no objection.

 

            (3)       Subsection (1) above shall not apply where the bishop of a diocese has made arrangements for the ordination of women to the priesthood and their licensing and institution to be carried out by another bishop.

 

Interpretation

 

12.       (1)       In this Act of Synod –

 

                        “the Measure” means the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993;

 

                        “minister” has the same meaning as in the Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1991;

 

                        “opposed” means opposed to the promulgation of the relevant Canon;

 

                        “parish church cathedral” has the same meaning as in Part II of the Measure;

 

                        “provincial episcopal visitor” means a suffragan bishop appointed as such in pursuance of section 5 above;

 

                        “region” means an area, comprising two or more dioceses in a province, which is designated by the archbishop of the province as a region for the purposes of this Act of Synod;

 

                        “relevant Canon” means the Canon of the Church of England enabling a woman to be ordained to the office of priest;

 

                        “relevant date” means the date on which the relevant Canon is promulged;

 

                        “senior office” means any of the following offices, that is to say, archbishop, diocesan bishop, suffragan bishop, dean or provost of a cathedral church, archdeacon and residentiary canon in a cathedral church

 

            (2)       This Act of Synod shall apply in relation to a guild church designated and established under section 4 of the City of London (Guild Churches) Act 1952 as it applies in relation to a parish, but as if the references to the parochial church council of the parish were references to the guild church council of the guild church and the references to the minister were references to the vicar of the guild church.

 

            (3)       Any arrangements made under sections 2 to 5 above and any action taken under section 11 above by an archbishop in connection with the ordination of women to the priesthood, shall be without prejudice to the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop concerned.

 

Citation and commencement

 

13.       This Act of Synod may be cited as the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993 and shall come into force on the coming into force of the Measure.



 

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