Church of England announces Code of Practice working group

The Church of England has announced the members of a working group tasked with advising bishops on the preparation of a draft statutory code of practice for opponents of women bishops.

The Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, the Rt Rev Nigel Stock, has been appointed Chair of the group.

The other six members are: the Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Rev Dr Christopher Cocksworth; the Bishop of Whitby, the Rt Rev Dr Martin Warner; Dame Averil Cameron, retired Warden of Keble College, Oxford, and former chair of Cathedral Fabrics Commission; the Venerable Christine Hardman, Archdeacon of Lewisham and Greenwich; the Reverend Angus MacLeay, Vicar of St Nicholas Sevenoaks; the Venerable Jane Sinclair, Archdeacon of Stow and Lindsey; and Mrs Caroline Spencer, Chair Canterbury Diocese House of Laity.

The group is to conclude its report for the House of Bishops by autumn 2011, before a draft of the code comes before Synod in February 2012.

The code must receive Royal Assent before it can be drawn up by the House of Bishops and approved by Synod.

The Church of England said it would not be possible to receive Royal Assent on the code before 2013.

Draft legislation on women bishops cleared the revision stage in July’s Synod in York. While Synod members rejected ‘co-jurisdiction’ or the creation of separate dioceses, the draft legislation maintains that a female diocesan bishop must make arrangements for the exercise of certain episcopal duties by a male bishop where this has been requested by a traditionalist parish.

The legislation was passed down to diocesan synods for consideration last month and dioceses have until November 14 to vote on it. If it is approved by the majority of dioceses, it will come before the General Synod in 2012 for the final drafting stage.

The issue of women bishops remains divisive. Last month, Anglo-Catholics in the Church of England set up a new society to offer opponents of women bishops an alternative to converting to Roman Catholicism.

The nine Church of England bishops backing the Mission Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda, among them the Bishops of Blackburn and Chichester, said the new society reflected a “determination not to accept a code of practice” but to work for a “more realistic approach which allows the integrity of those who cannot accept this innovation to be preserved”.

The society has faced opposition from supporters of women bishops, including Women and the Church (WATCH), which criticised the society’s supporters for refusing to accept the will of Synod.

The Church of England has said that the first consecrations of women bishops are not likely to take place before 2014.

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