Living God's Love Values - Generosity, Joy, Imagination and Courage
Living God's Love Values - Generosity, Joy, Imagination and Courage

p>Last week I attended a meeting of the House of Bishops in Oxford where we spent a great deal of time reflecting on the Draft Legislation for the Ordination of Women to the Episcopate. You will be aware that General Synod had asked us to reconsider Clause 5 (1) (c) which caused so much dismay when it was brought to General Synod last July.

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Present throughout the debate were members of the Standing Committee, which included two women (although they were not present for the vote). The House considered a range of possible alternative wordings but eventually adopted an amendment which was proposed by the Revd Janet Appleby, who is a priest from the north of England.

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This reads: ?The House of Bishops shall draw up, and promulgate, guidance in a Code of Practice as to: 5 (1) (c) the selection of male bishops and male priests in a manner which respects the grounds on which the Parochial Church Councils issue Letters of Request under Section 3.?

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Those people who wished to remove Clause 5 (1) (c) altogether and those who wished to retain it had to compromise a little more for the sake of finding a way forward. As you can see, the amendment ensures that women bishops will be treated the same as men and have the same responsibilities as men, whilst providing a conscience clause for those who, for theological reasons, cannot receive their ministry. This new amendment received the overwhelming support of the House. It is a compromise, but I believe it will enable us to move forward. Equally importantly, I am convinced that it is likely to provide the best chance for us to achieve a two-thirds majority in the House of Bishops, House of Clergy and House of Laity, when the draft measure returns to General Synod for final approval at the meeting in November.

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When you read the amendment carefully, you will notice that it uses the word ?respect?, which we were advised by the lawyers will demand that bishops take such requests, based on theological convictions, with the utmost seriousness.

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Of course, the details of this will have to be worked out in the Code of Practice. Nevertheless, if a bishop were to ignore such a request, it could be taken to judicial review.

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For a significant period of time the vast majority of people in the Church of England – including myself – have expressed their support for the ordination of women to the Episcopate. I am aware that those who disagree with this, for theological reasons, may still not feel able to vote for the measure in November. However, I hope that those who had been planning to vote against the legislation will now reflect on whether they would be willing to abstain, so that the Church of England will be able to move forward with the greatest degree of unity possible.

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If the legislation is not passed in November, then not only will this be a terrible blow to the thousands of women priests who are now serving faithfully in the Church of England, but it will also leave us with the prospect of another ten years of disagreements over unresolved business. I would ask for your prayers for all those who are involved in the ongoing discussions and the General Synod meeting in November, that we may not only discern the will of God but also follow it courageously.

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+Alan St Albans

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20 September 2012

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