Bookended by Holy Communion at 9.15 am and a ‘brief Evening Worship’ at 7.00 pm, the timetable of General Synod of the Church of England for 20th November was devoted to the legislative business ‘Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure and Draft Amending Canon No.30’. Consideration of the meanings of ‘respect’ and ‘grounds’ were covered in an earlier post, and for convenience, links to the legislative documents are repeated below:
- Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure [item 501], GS 1708D
- Draft Amending Canon No.30 [item 502], GS 1709C
- Draft Petition for Her Majesty’s Royal Assent and Licence [item 503], GS 1709E
and the explanatory document and Annex
- Reconsideration of Clause 5(1)(c) by the House of Bishops, GS 1708-09ZZZ.
It is almost 20 years since General Synod voted in support of the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993; and if the present drafts had been supported, the first consecrations under the new provisions could have take place in 2014. However, their rejection seems that it will be 2019 before the matter may be reconsidered.
At the start of the day it was believed that whilst the majority of the House of Clergy would vote in support of the Measure, the views of the House of Laity were more evenly divided. As it progressed, the debate was summarized here, and for those wishing to know who said what, the link is still open. The debate was opened by Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester, who said that rejecting female bishops would be a ‘devastating blow to the morale of many, not least our female clergy’. The Anglo-Catholic point of view was given by Simon Kilwick suggesting that the proposed Measure was ‘not fit for purpose’ as it did not included proper provision for traditionalists.
There was some early concern regarding tweeting by members of the public, though not by Synod delegates, although this was apparently permitted “ from the tea room” according to a spokesperson.
Paul Owen of The Guardian gave the ‘half time’ assessment that:
‘Those for and against the measure have spoken in a morning of mostly polite and respectful debate. Justin Welby . . . . . . said the compromise measure before them – under which women would become bishops but could delegate authority to a male bishop if their parish requested it – was “as good as we can get”. He urged the General Synod to vote for the motion. Earlier, Rowan Williams had said he wanted the world to look at the Church today and say: “That looks like Jesus Christ”.
During the afternoon session, Lizzy Davies of The Guardian reflected the perceived closeness of the vote in her tweet
‘Somewhere during the day, the mood at synod went from optimism to profound unease. Which way is this vote going to go’.
A different perception, but similar conclusions was reached by John Bingham of The Telegraph in his tweet
“It is noticeable how strong the applause is for people speaking on both sides – looking very tight”
At 6.16 pm however, it was announced that the Church had voted against the ordination of women as bishops. The voting was as follows:
In favour of women as bishops
Bishops: 44 Clergy: 148 Laity: 132
Against women as bishops
Bishops: 3 Clergy: 45 Laity: 74
Bishops: 2 Clergy: 0 Laity: 0
A two-third majority in each of the General Synod’s Houses (Bishops, Clergy and Laity) was required for the motion to pass.