WOMEN IN THE EPISCOPATE: NEW LEGISLATIVE PROPOSALS
STATEMENT FROM FORWARD IN FAITH
We are grateful for the work of the working group whose report is annexed to the House of Bishops report GS 1886 (‘Women in the Episcopate – New Legislative Proposals’). We strongly welcome the House of Bishops’ endorsement of the group’s five-point vision (para. 12 of the House’s report).
However, we are puzzled by the conclusions that the House has apparently drawn from the working group’s report.
We continue to believe that a solution to address the new reality of women bishops will need to build on the existing framework which has enabled us to live together in the Church of England over the last twenty years. We agree with the view that there can be ‘no cheap trust’. Our future can only be based on a mutually trusting relationship. The proposal of legislation which sweeps away existing legal security damages trust.
In November, an attempt to push through a Measure with legal provisions which no representative of the minority recognized as remotely adequate failed – after much prayer and invocation of the Holy Spirit. We are puzzled as to why the House of Bishops apparently believes that its new proposals, which would involve no legally binding provision at all, are more likely to gain the necessary majorities.
As an organization whose members are overwhelmingly lay, the fact that the House of Bishops’ proposals would involve a significant shift of power in favour of incumbents and bishops is of particular concern to us. So too is the fact that the proposals would expose lay representatives, as well as incumbents and priests in charge, to the risk of incurring significant costs in defending themselves against legal challenges.
We still hope that the ‘new way forward’ promised in February will involve prayer, reconciliation, mutual respect and consensus. We welcome the facilitated conversations as a means of moving towards this end. We do not believe that the House of Bishops’ preferred option (Option 1) represents the mind of the whole Church of England.
We therefore hope that the General Synod will choose a way forward which builds on the existing arrangements rather one which destroys them. Such legislation would be far more likely to secure final approval in the shortest possible time.
Our comments and questions are set out in more detail in the document which accompanies this statement.
+ JONATHAN FULHAM