This blog post has been hard to write, as I have had to get my head round what took place at Synod via twitter mostly, with a few excellent blogs to help me grasp what the church has done!
What was General Synod doing?(good question!)
As a lay person, by that I mean “lay” as in not understanding how synodical governance of stuff works in practice, I am personally wondering if this clunky form of governance is fit for purpose. Whether it is our own fault (as an individual communicant member of the church) regarding WHO represents us at Synod, we cannot avoid the glaring truth that the bias of representatives from our Diocese especially among the laity of this Diocese DOES NOT reflect the views and the votes in our own Diocese (despite the views of Chichester from outside). WE have arrived at this point – in part – because of the part some of our own representatives played in the vote back in November 2012. The worst thing would be to STAND for Synod simply on a ticket of some kind of partisan desire to MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN that others do not want, OR, to STOP IT . . . my prayer is that THIS Synod (as in, the people elected to serve us until 2015) finish the legislative job of enabling women to join the Episcopate.
What took place yesterday, was the first step in this being done. As back in November last year the proposed legislation was rejected, the whole process has to begin again – with some alacrity – as we not only stunned ourselves in November, but those watching from outside . . . and, we cannot bleat that MP’s in parliament should not have a view or get involved – it IS what comes with the territory of being the Church of England. The Established Church has to be prepared to take the occasional brick bats from the “Establishment” (especially as Bishops and senior staff in the Church are increasingly vocal about political decisions that require a Christian and / or spiritual response).
So, before Synod were a bunch of options of HOW we might get where we have long agreed we are heading:
- a simple measure which removes bars on women becoming bishops
- the removal of previous arrangements for those who oppose women priests (the old Resolution A & B arrangements, and the Act of Synod which introduced the “flying bishops”)
- provision for those who cannot accept women bishops by means of either a new Act of Synod or a Declaration from the House of Bishops
- The same components as Option 1, but with reference in the measure to the new Act of Synod, with a clause that provision under these means can only be changed with a special majority in General Synod
- This option would definitely not use a House of Bishops Declaration, but instead use an Act of Synod
- a much more complex option, which includes the same components as Option 2, but also retains some of the legislation passed in 1993 (Resolution A and B processes) to allow parishes to pass resolutions preventing women priests from either presiding at communion or acting as priest in charge
- significant modification of the 1993 legislation would be required for this to work
- this option is to put all the required provisions in a new measure, which contains all provision for those who cannot accept women bishops in the face of the measure
The various options above were voted on – the full detail of the work done by the Bishops and others is found in GS 1886 which you can read here.
I tried to follow it through on twitter (whilst in a meeting, so a bit distracting – not properly following what was happening in my meeting, and not properly following what was happening at Synod either). The upshot though, was the various options were voted on – although, I don’t think option 4 was as the Bishops had said they would not support this option, so it would have been daft to vote on it. Helpfully, given the tension and the level of disagreement last time – rather than do the vote in “Houses” (Bishops / Clergy / Laity) the vote was done as the whole Synod, with the vote as follows:
(the following taken from the Church of England website):
Accepting the proposal made by the House, the General Synod passed the motion, by 319 votes to 84, in the following form:
‘That this Synod:
(a) reaffirm its commitment to admitting women to the episcopate as a matter of urgency;
(b) instruct the Appointments Committee to appoint this month a Steering Committee to be in charge of the draft legislation required to that end;
(c) instruct the Business Committee to arrange for the First Consideration stage for that draft legislation to be taken at the November 2013 group of sessions, so that the subsequent stages can follow the timetable set out in paragraph 141 of the annex to GS 1886;
(d) instruct the Steering Committee to prepare the draft legislation on the basis described in paragraphs 79-88 of the annex to GS 1886 as ‘option one’ with the addition of a mandatory grievance procedure for parishes in which diocesan bishops are required to participate and invite the House of Bishops to bring to the Synod for consideration at the February 2014 group of sessions a draft Act of Synod or draft declaration to be made by the House to accompany the draft legislation; and
(e) urge that the process of facilitated conversations continue to be used at significant points in the formulation and consideration of the draft legislation.’
amendments 45 and 47 in Order Paper V having been carried by the Synod.
So there we have it! Finally, a couple of thoughts from me:
– Whilst the above notes the majority in favour of Option 1, the amendments bring it closer to an Option 1.75, but not quite Option 2.
– Also, the above vote numbers don’t include the abstentions which were 22 – added to the against and you get 319 for with those either against or abstaining 106 – which gives a percentage “for” of just 75.05% . . . yes, 3/4 but – work still to be done!
Where do we go from here?
The following is cribed from the GS 1886 document, giving the timescale and processes through which this must now be done following the vote yesterday:
1. November 2013: First Consideration
2. January – April 2014: Revision Committee considers draft legislation
3. July 2014: Revision Stage in full Synod
4. August – end of November 2014: Article 8 reference to the dioceses
5. February 2015: Report back from the dioceses and Final Drafting Stage
6. May 2015: Article 7 reference to the House of Bishops
7 July 2015: Article 7 reference to the Convocations and House of Laity
8. Either July/ November 2015: Final Approval
Wow, this is pretty tight in terms of timing! IF the plans are followed through with discussion and agreement along the way (and the above timetable is only a possible), people listened too and included etc etc – then there MIGHT be a vote on actually legislating in July 2015 – if this is missed, we will have the CRAZY situation of having done all this work with this group of people on Synod (who have also been through the pain of November last year – pain experienced on all sides of the discussions, and have hopefully learnt from that process) only to then expect a NEW Synod to make it law.
Despite this, I am optimistic, especially by the Archbishop’s own comments:
“The approach before us is a radical way forward. It provides the possibility of building trust, it gives us space for imagination, and it affirms an inclusive approach that is consistent with our previous resolutions – as I have said, the commitment to ordaining women as bishops on exactly the same basis as men, and the flourishing together of all parts of the church. The approach we have in this amended resolution sets a clear principle combined with a follow-through to the consensus building approach that we are developing.”
So, that was my rather poor grasp of what I think has happened and where things go next – if I have left you feeling more confused, then here is a quick blog roll call of VERY helpful writers / contributors to the picture I have tried to established of what is going on:
Jeremy Fletcher’s Blog – this is really helpful, gives the low down from the floor + the voting information.
Church of England – a quick summary from CofE Media is found here (also note the link to audio if you want to listen to speeches)
Archbishop of Canterbury – this is Justin Welby’s speech, made yesterday. I refer to his speech above, but read the whole thing yourself (and, also from the Archbishop’s website, it is worth reading his first presidential address – challenging and inspiring us to revolution!)
Thinking Anglicans – Worth a read of stuff here, updates and info – and they reference others who are worth a read too.
Watch – Read the news of what took place here on the Watch website.
YES 2 Women Bishops – A good summary of the options and – mostly – some clarity about what happens next (bits of what it all might mean are woolly at the moment!)