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Church of England says yes to women bishops

Posted on: July 14, 2014 4:12 PM
The Revd Rosemarie Mallett celebrates after the historic vote
Photo Credit: Church of England
Related Categories: England, women bishops

By ACNS staff

Women can now become bishops following an historic vote by the Church of England's General Synod today. 

Following a day of debate at the General Synod meeting in York on the issue of women in the episcopate, at least two thirds majority of each house - laity, clergy and bishops - voted in favour of the measure1 to pass.

General Synod votes in favour in all three houses:

  • Bishops: 37 in favour, 2 against, 1 abstention.
  • Clergy: 162 in favour, 25 against, 4 abstentions.
  • Laity: 152 in favour, against 45, 5 abstentions.

This means the first woman bishop could potentially be appointed by the end of the year. It also means that the Church of England joins 20 other Provinces or Extra-Provincial dioceses that allow women bishops2.

COFE_York _Synod 2014b

Before the vote, the Archbishop of York John Sentamu asked for the result to be met "with restraint and sensitivity" but when it was announced there was a flurry of cheers.

Today’s vote comes 18 months after the proposal was last voted upon in November 2012 when the proposal failed to achieve the required two thirds majority in the House of Laity.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said:

“Today is the completion of what was begun over 20 years with the ordination of women as priests. I am delighted with today's result. Today marks the start of a great adventure of seeking mutual flourishing while still, in some cases disagreeing.

The challenge for us will be for the church to model good disagreement and to continue to demonstrate love for those who disagree on theological grounds. Very few institutions achieve this, but if we manage this we will be living our more fully the call of Jesus Christ to love one another. As delighted as I am for the outcome of this vote I am also mindful of those within the Church for whom the result will be difficult and a cause of sorrow.

My aim, and I believe the aim of the whole church, should be to be able to offer a place of welcome and growth for all. Today is a time of blessing and gift from God and thus of generosity. It is not winner take all, but in love a time for the family to move on together.“

SCREENGRAB_York _justinwelby

The legislation approved today includes a House of Bishops declaration, underpinned by five guiding principles and a disputes resolution procedure. Following the vote on the measure which enables women to become Bishops, the Synod voted on enabling legislation (Canon) and also rescinded existing legislation (Act of Synod) as part of a package of measures being proposed.

Following today’s vote the measure moves to the Legislative Committee of General Synod and then to the Ecclesiastical Committee of the Houses of Parliament where the legislation will be considered. Subject to Parliamentary approval the measure will return to the General Synod in November of this year where it will come into force after its promulgation (legal formal announcement).

Today’s vote follows a process which began at the 2013 July Synod  which created a steering committee on women bishops, chaired by the Bishop of Rochester James Langstaff, with a mandate to draw up a package of new proposals. Bishop James opened the debate on behalf of the steering committee and responded to the debate urging synod members to vote for the proposals.


Editor's notes:

1. The motion that was put before the General Synod under Item 503

Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure

To make provision for the consecration of women as bishops and for the continuation of provision for the ordination of women as priests; to repeal the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993; and for connected purposes.

Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure

1 Provision for consecration of women as bishops and for continuation of provision for ordination of women as priests

(1) It shall be lawful for the General Synod to make provision by Canon for enabling women, as well as men, to be consecrated to the office of bishop if they otherwise satisfy the requirements of Canon Law as to the persons who 5 may be consecrated as bishops.

(2) It shall continue to be lawful for the General Synod to make provision by Canon for enabling women, as well as men, to be ordained to the office of priest if they otherwise satisfy the requirements of Canon Law as to the persons who may be ordained as priests.

(3) The Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993 (No. 2) is repealed.

2 Amendment of Equality Act

In Schedule 6 to the Equality Act 2010 (c.15), there is added at the end—

4 The office of diocesan or suffragan bishop is not a public office.”

3 Repeals

The enactments mentioned in the Schedule are repealed to the extent specified in the second column of the Schedule.

4 Citation, commencement and extent

(1) This Measure may be cited as the Bishops and Priests (Consecration and 20 Ordination of Women) Measure 20--.

(2) This Measure comes into force on such day as the Archbishops of Canterbury and York may jointly appoint.

(3) Subject to subsections (4) and (5) this Measure extends to the whole of the Provinces of Canterbury and York except the Channel Islands and the Isle of 25 Man.

(4) This Measure may be applied to the Channel Islands, as defined in the Channel Islands (Church Legislation) Measures 1931 and 1957, or either of them, in accordance with those Measures.

(5) If an Act of Tynwald or an instrument made under an Act of Tynwald so 30 provides, this Measure extends to the Isle of Man, subject to such exceptions, adaptation or modifications as may be specified in the Act of Tynwald or instrument.

You can see the full paper (complete with footnotes) here.

2. Women bishops across the Anglican Communion

Provinces and extra-provincial dioceses that have serving women bishops:

Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Australia, Canada, The Episcopal Church, Cuba (extra-provincial diocese), Southern Africa, Ireland, South India

Provinces that allow women bishops but haven’t elected or appointed any to date:

Bangladesh, Brazil, Central America, Japan, Mexico, North India, Philippines, Scotland, Sudan, Tanzania, Wales.

Provinces that don’t allow women bishops:

Burundi, Central Africa, Congo, England, Indian Ocean, Jerusalem and the Middle East, Kenya, Korea, Melanesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, South East Asia, Southern Cone, Uganda, West Indies, West Africa, Hong Kong.