Diocese of Nottingham and Southwell could see first woman bishop


The first female bishop could well be instated in the next year, likely in the diocese of Nottingham and Southwell, the Secretary General of Synod said today.

The dioceses of Gloucester, Oxford and Newcastle each have vacancies, William Fittall said, and any of them could become home to the first female bishop in the Church of England. However, Nottingham and Southwell will be the first to have the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC) meet, the process by which candidates are nominated, since women bishops were approved by the Houses of Parliament.

Two dates have been set for the process in the diocese: November 3, and December 2-3.

Fittall confirmed that conversations were already taking place within those dioceses with vacancies as to who will become their next bishop. Women bishops will be promulgated in law during the General Synod's meeting in November, but, he added, "The key test will be who is best placed for the particular seat in question".

While "positive action" may be implemented, whereby extra effort is put into preparing and encouraging female candidates and women are favoured over men in the case of a dead-heat, committees will always strive to appoint the best person for the job, whether male or female, Fittall said.

"I would be surprised if the first [woman bishop] didn't happen in 2015," he added.

"When you have half the human race not eligible for a post, as we have done, when we're at the point where they do [become eligible]...it would be surprising if some weren't considered suitable for the position [in 2015]", he said.

Other items on the agenda of this year's Synod include a private members bill regarding a change to Canon law in relation to the funerals of those who have committed suicide, and the bedroom tax. A panel discussion will also be held regarding religious minorities in Iraq and Syria.

Thought to be for the first time, a Muslim – Dr Fuad Nahdi, director of the Radical Middle Way and a key voice on interfaith relations – will be addressing the Synod as part of this panel. He will be joined by Rt Rev Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Great Britain and Rev Dr Rachel Carnegie, co-director of the Anglican Alliance.

Synod will also debate and vote on a resolution to implement the Anglican Methodist Covenant, which is charged with tackling some of the issues standing in the way of a closer relationship between the two churches.

First signed in November 2003, recent years have seen steps taken to see the Covenant's main priority – "to develop ecclesiologically sound proposals for the interchangeability of ministry" – become a reality.

Fittall said today that the biggest obstacle to this for the Methodist Church, which has ordained women since 1974, has been the Church of England's refusal to do so. However, now that women bishops are to be instated in the Anglican Church, Synod's debate on the Covenant is "timely".

"The Anglican-Methodist Covenant has come a long way since 2003, but....significant challenges remain," a report from the Council for Christian Unity reads

"The Methodist Conference warmly supported the recommendations in July. The General Synod is now asked to do the same."

The General Synod will meet this November 17-18 in London.