Friday, 26 October 2012

Catholic Group in General Synod: "Legislation not fit for purpose"

From the Catholic Group in the Church of England's General Synod:

Women Bishops’ Legislation Not Fit for Purpose

The legislation is unfair, unstable and incoherent; it does not command consensus; there is a better way forward.


1. There is no legally-binding provision for minorities; instead a Code of Practice is proposed, to which bishops would “have regard”. The only form of appeal against a bishop’s decision would be judicial review, which few parishes could afford.

2. Bishops provided for traditionalists would not have proper oversight as bishops; they would just be allowed to conduct services. There would be no guaranteed future supply of bishops for traditionalists.

3. There is no legal prohibition on discrimination against traditionalist candidates for ordination.

4. Traditionalists would become 2nd. class Anglicans served by 2nd. class bishops.


5. The Code of Practice cannot be decided until the legislation has become law. Supporters of the legislation have already stated that they will oppose any further provision being made for traditionalists in the Code of Practice. There would be more years of in-fighting before the Code was agreed.

6. The Code could be changed at any time, meaning that any provision it made for traditionalists could be campaigned against and whittled away over time.

7. The application of the Code would vary from one diocese to another – a postcode lottery.


8. The draft legislation would oblige male bishops to delegate certain functions to male bishops - a pointless exercise! It needs to be more specific and to provide for religious conviction.

9. The House of Bishops amendment stating that the Code of Practice shall give guidance as to the selection of delegated male bishops is not enough: (a) the details should be in the legislation itself; (b) the word ‘respects’ has no legal definition – meaning that the amendment is not prescriptive of the contents of the Code; the Code is therefore an unstable instrument.


10. Major changes in Church order require a clear consensus; this is why legislation like this needs a two-thirds majority in each of the three Houses of the General Synod, in order to pass. At no stage in the process so far has this draft legislation achieved the required majorities in the Synod, meaning that there is no clear consensus. No real attempt has been made to reach consensus outside the formal synodical process.

11. Supporters of the legislation realise that there is not enough consensus, and are resorting to unprincipled attempts to pressurise those opposed to the legislation to abstain, rather than to vote against, as their consciences would dictate.


12. A better way would be to follow the example of the Church in Wales *, whose Governing Body rejected unsatisfactory legislation for women bishops, and is now looking at a new process with two linked pieces of legislation, one to provide for women to be made bishops, and the other to provide for traditionalists; the legislation for women bishops cannot come into force until the legislation providing for traditionalists has been passed. Such an approach would lead to the prayerful and reconciling dialogue the Church of England now needs in order to move forward.

 Canon Simon Killwick
(Chairman of the Catholic Group in General Synod)

* But please see the first comment (below), to which I would only add the caveat that there is widespread scepticism as to whether the Welsh 'two-tier' approach is anything more than a smokescreen to induce the Governing Body to vote in favour of the principle of women bishops. With regard to the second putative tier of legislation, that of provision for opponents, the first reality is that only the reappointment of a Provincial Assistant Bishop (himself of the 'original integrity') would even begin to tackle the ecclesial and theological needs of traditionalists here; the second is that the Bench of Bishops remains implacably opposed [see here]  to such an appointment and continues to justify its unjust and unilateral  - even dishonest, in the light of the assurances given in 1996 - suppression of the PAB following the 2008 retirement of Bishop David Thomas.


  1. >>A better way would be to follow the example of the Church in Wales<<
    I wouldn't be so sure about that. Having succeeded, just, in getting approval for women bishops in the Church in Wales, sacramental and pastoral oversight by a bishop of the same persuasion was terminated by their Archbishop Dr Barry Morgan when the Provincial Assistant Bishop retired. Barry and his bench sitters have convinced themselves that they can provide the oversight required despite holding totally different views and showing no apparent understanding of the Anglo-Catholic position. Added to which Father, going back to your previous entry, Dr Morgan quoted Galatians 3:28 in the Guardian back in 2008 to justify his secular argument in favour of women bishops. What is the point of having the oversight of a bishop who holds beliefs contrary to the catholic church?

    1. Yes, Galatians 3.28 has become something of a totemic verse for revisionists to justify their 'liberal trajectory of the Gospel'and, however many times it is pointed out that theirs is an wholly illegitimate interpretation of St Paul's theology, they keep trotting it out regardless - possibly on the basis that if you keep repeating a lie often enough people will believe it to be the truth - or as Stephen Cottrell seems to be saying, whatever may have the case in the past, Galatians 3.28 means this now.It's hard to grapple with this kind of theological sleight of hand which draws its inspiration not from scripture or sacred tradition but from an alien source of 'Enlightenment' scepticism masquerading as objective 'reason.'

    2. Oops! My apologies Father. In my haste I intended to write "Having succeeded, just, in getting approval for women priests, [not bishops] in the Church in Wales". I hope I didn't give anyone goose pimples!

  2. Sorry - rushing to an appointment - what I meant to say was "an alien source of 'Enlightenment' or even post-modern scepticism masquerading as objective 'reason."
    To put it another way, the a priori assumptions (and we all have them) of those who espouse a liberal theology seem not to have been formed and nurtured at the heart of the community of faith, but through the prevailing secular mind-set - although how in the contemporary Anglican context it's possible to disentangle the two I'm not sure, secularism having made such inroads.


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