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Synod votes to discuss issue of women bishops

Posted on: July 31, 2001 3:55 PM
Related Categories: Australia

The 12th General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia has voted to continue to discuss the issue of women bishops.

26 July 2001

The General Synod, meeting in Brisbane passed the following motion:

Dr M Porter moved, Bishop D McCall seconding,

That this General Synod noting that though the Bill for a Church Law (Further Clarification) Canon 2001 with its accompanying schedule has been approved in principle by 135 votes to 95 votes with 2 abstentions, significant concerns have been raised in debate, requests Standing Committee to:

  1. prepare a report on some of the issues raised in the debate and some of the possible outcomes for consideration by Dioceses, Provincial Synods, Provincial Councils and the Bishops' Conference, seeking their responses by February 2003; and
  2. in the light of responses received, prepare amended legislation and accompanying material in consultation with Dioceses, Provincial Synods, Provincial Councils and the Bishops' Conference for the next session of General Synod.

The Synod also passed a motion affirming the ministry of women for the sake of the Gospel.

Dr Porter said discussion on women bishops had paused, not stalled.

"We have given ourselves space to comment further and wider and that is a good thing, given the level of confusion and disagreement in the synod debate on the Bill," Dr Porter said. "We have three more years to get this right, and we will have to get it right in three year's time.

"It is certainly not going to go away.

"The Synod has experienced the strong leadership of women in the church,> which is only going to get stronger.

"Ultimately the Church will not be able to deny the full leadership of women in all three orders - bishop, priest and deacon."

Seconder of the women bishops Bill and deputy chair of the working group, Dr Ann Young, also acknowledged that discussion had paused, not stopped.

"We must be careful not to impose middle-class Anglo-Celtic attitudes on members of our church from other backgrounds and cultures," Dr Young said. "A major issue we need to discuss more is how we care for those in the church who are in a minority in the final decision.

"As our God is patient, we need to be patient in learning to understand one another better, as well as to hold to our convictions.

"Whatever our views on women bishops, we admire the ministry of women, both clergy and lay women, and we recognise that their ministry is extensive."

The General Synod earlier this week adjourned its debate on a Bill removing all the legal obstacles to the consecration of women to the episcopate (women bishops).

Also earlier in a secret ballot, the General Synod voted 135 "for" and 95 "against", with two abstentions, on a motion to accept the Bill in principle, which simply took it into a further stage of debate. The motion was moved by Dr Porter and seconded by Bishop McCall. The women bishops Bill was the result of wide consultation throughout the church by a working group formed following the last General Synod in Adelaide in February 1998.

The Bill was modelled on the Law of the Church of England Clarification Canon 1992 - the church law which removed any possible legal obstacles to the ordination of women as priests.

But it went further, giving the General Synod the opportunity to recognise that there are differences of opinion in the church as to whether a woman can or should perform the duties of a bishop, but also recognises and affirms the essential unity of the church under God within a tolerable diversity.