General Synod takes significant step towards welcoming women bishops

First published 20th November 2013

General Synod says 'Yes' to new proposals to enable women bishops.

After an extensive debate, during which 33 speeches were delivered, (the vast majority warmly in favour of the current proposals that have been set out to enable the consecration of women bishops) members voted to take the proposals to the next stage. 378 for; 8 against; 25 abstentions.

In contrast to last year's debate which took place in an atmosphere of protectionism and fear this time there was a sense that perhaps we have now reached a point where we can trust each other. Much of the credit to this must go to Archbishop Justin Welby for spearheading the process which has helped us thus far. This has included small group discussions that have enabled us at last to really listen, to understand, to value each other and even to recognise that those who may disagree with us have an honorable place within the life of our church.

It was immensely encouraging to hear Christina Rees, David Houlding and Rod Thomas speaking warmly and generously about each other and about the motion, when a year ago the possibility of agreement seemed an impossibility. All of us from Bristol have felt immensely encouraged by this morning and we are so much more hopeful that by next July there is a real possibility that the way will be open for the consecration of the first female bishop. But equally that the way is open for conservative evangelicals and traditional catholics to remain an honoured and important part of the life of the Church of England.

Interestingly a year ago, Philip Giddings and other lay members of the Synod were pilloried for voting against a motion which they believed did not provide a suitable way forward. Today I think many, if not most of the membership would say that what we have today is so much better, and thank goodness we did not go down that route which would have resulted in a complex and legalistic solution which pleased no one. Instead today we stand on the verge of achieving a consensus about the way forward.

There is still some way to go, and a lot of work to do, but we have an opportunity to build a new way of working together which may go far beyond the single issue of Women Bishops. As Bishop James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester, said, "The champagne is on the verge of making its way from the rack to the fridge."

Chris Dobson

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