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Diocese in Europe agrees Women Bishop's legislation

Posted on 28 October 2011

The Bishops Council of the Diocese in Europe has approved draft plans for women to be consecrated as bishops. The European vote will be counted with the other 43 dioceses at a major debate in General Synod in February 2012, although the number of diocese who have already declared themselves in favour has passed the requisite number for General Synod approval next year.

Unusually and uniquely the decision making process according to the constitution of the Diocese in Europe leave Bishops Council the voting body although the fuller Diocesan Synod approved it in June this year.

Anders Bergquist

Rev Dr Anders Bergquist,  Vicar of St John’s Wood,  (pictured) gave a background briefing to Council members incorporating historic debates about the role of women in ministry and updated the progress of legislation – how matters would proceed technically after General Synod approval. He said that it would be2014 at the earliest before a woman would be likely to be consecrated as a bishop.

He also spoke about preserving the historic unity within the Church of England and provisions for a code of practice for parishes which find it difficult to accept women bishops. He said the problem was that such a code could not be published until a final decision in principle had been made.

In a debate on Friday 28 October 2011 Rev Canon Debbie Flach focussed attention on the issue of “authority” and who has authority in the Church. The diocesan bishop has an authority which, she said, cannot properly be delegated. We are all “faithful Anglicans and loyal to the Church”. It is how we develop this issue where we have differences. 

Lay Canon Mrs Ann Turner urged that the General Synod plans for women bishops were not satisfactory – particularly for people who were unhappy with the present scheme - and a vote against would get that message over.  She accepted that women would “in due time” be ordained bishop but the present proposals and the time was not right now.

A fuller report of contributions to the debate will be published on this site shortly.

After a time of prayer and reflection voting by Bishops Council (by houses) followed a short time of silent prayer and was

Bishops              0  For   2  Against

Clergy             10 For  4 Against  

Laity                6 For    3  Against     1 Abstention

A “following motion” relating to provisions for those who cannot accept women bishops was passed by Bishops Council. Proposed by Canon Simon Godfrey, from Malta, it asks the House of Bishops to bring back earlier proposals for legal strength to be given to safeguards which were narrowly defeated in General Synod when proposed by the Archbishops. Voting was 13 in favour, 10 against with 3 abstentions.

The wording of the motion was that - This Bishop’s Council

  1. Desires that all faithful Anglicans remain and thrive together in the C of E and therefore
  2. Requests the House of Bishops in exercise of its powers under Standing Order 60b to amend the draft Bishops and Priests (consecration and ordination of women) measure so as to incorporate the amendments proposed b y the Archbishops of Canterbury and York at the general synod group of sessions in July as follows:- In clause 2 (1) leave out the words “way of delegation to” and after clause 2 (1) insert

The Episcopal ministry referred to in subsections (1) (3) and (5) shall be exercisable by virtue of this section and shall not divest the bishop of the diocese of his or her functions.     The clauses referred to are in draft legislation.