Orthodox Anglicans to vote against legislation on women bishops

The Reform group of orthodox Anglicans in the Church of England has said it will vote against legislation to allow women in the episcopate.

After years of difficult negotiation, the Church of England General Synod is being asked to give its final approval to legislation on women bishops when it meets in York next week.

Support for women bishops is strong in the Church but there are deep divisions over the provisions that should be made for Anglicans who cannot in conscience accept a female bishop.

The legislation being presented to Synod includes a controversial concession added in by the House of Bishops to allow orthodox parishes to select oversight from an alternative male bishop who shares their theological convictions.

The amendment has angered supporters of women bishops, whilst also failing to win over opponents of women bishops.

Addressing 200 orthodox Anglicans in central London, Reform Chairman the Rev Rod Thomas said the bishops had not succeeded in “persuading our members that there is a secure future” for them in the Church.

"The furore created by some in response to these small amendments reveals most clearly the reason why those who hold to our biblical position need legislative clarity, not just a code of practice if we are to continue to encourage young people to come forward for ordination,” he said.

"There is clearly a desire on the part of some to see any provision for us as strictly temporary, despite the fact that we're simply seeking to follow the Bible's teaching about how God wants his Church to be organised.

“They hope we'll just leave. However, we believe the majority of Anglicans want to honour the promises made to us over the last two decades to preserve a place for us in the Church of England. As it stands, the draft Measure doesn't do this - and we'll be asking General Synod to withhold approval of the draft Measure so that some proper compromises can be agreed.”

Pro-women bishops group WATCH criticised the amendment for going against the wishes of 42 out of 44 dioceses that voted in favour of the unamended legislation.

Outlining their main concerns with the amended legislation, WATCH said: “It legitimates negative theologies about women and expects women to live with permanent institutional uncertainty about their orders. This is bad for women and bad for the Church.

“It opens the way for parishes to require a bishop and priest in accordance with their theological convictions. This is a new and unwelcome departure for our Church that will lead to conflict and increasing fragmentation.”

It is not possible for General Synod to amend the legislation in the York sessions, although it could be referred back to the House of Bishops for reconsideration, prolonging the process of allowing women bishops even further.

Last week, the Salisbury Diocesan Synod passed an emergency motion calling upon the bishops to withdraw their amendment.

Addressing Synod, Bishop Nicholas Holtam said: “The bishops have destabilised the compromise agreed by 42 of the 44 dioceses.”

The emergency motion was also supported by the Bishop of Sherbourne, Dr Graham Kings, who is calling for the debate to be postponed until November.

“This would allow time for the full import of the amendment ... to be considered by a wider group of bishops,” he told the Church of England Newspaper.