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Women in the Episcopate - Statement

Women in the Episcopate - Statement

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Published by George Conger
Forward in Faith
Forward in Faith

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: George Conger on Jun 04, 2013
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08/20/2013

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WOMEN IN THE EPISCOPATE: NEW LEGISLATIVE PROPOSALSSTATEMENT FROM FORWARD IN FAITH
We are grateful for the work of the working group whose report is annexed to the House of 
Bishops report GS 1886 (‘Women in the Episcopate – 
 
 New Legislative Proposals’)
. We
strongly welcome the House of Bishops’ endorsement of the group’s five
-point vision (para.
12 of the House’s report).
However, we are puzzled by the conclusions that the House has apparently drawn from the
working group’s report
.We continue to believe that a solution to address the new reality of women bishops will needto build on the existing framework which has enabled us to live together in the Church of England over the last twenty years. We agree with the
view that there can be ‘no cheap trust’.
Our future can only be based on a mutually trusting relationship. The proposal of legislationwhich sweeps away existing legal security damages trust.In November, an attempt to push through a Measure with legal provisions which norepresentative of the minority recognized as remotely adequate failed
 – 
after much prayer andinvocation of the Holy Spirit. We are puzzled as to why the House of Bishops apparently believes that its new proposals, which would involve no legally binding provision at all, aremore likely to gain the necessary majorities.As an organization whose members are overwhelmingly lay, the fact that the House of 
Bishops’ proposals would involve a significant shift of power in favour of incumbents and
 bishops is of particular concern to us. So too is the fact that the proposals would expose layrepresentatives, as well as incumbents and priests in charge, to the risk of incurringsignificant costs in defending themselves against legal challenges.We still
hope that the ‘new way forward’
promised in February will involve prayer,reconciliation, mutual respect and consensus. We welcome the facilitated conversations as a
means of moving towards this end. We do not believe that the House of Bishops’ preferred
option (Option 1) represents the mind of the whole Church of England.We therefore hope that the General Synod will choose a way forward which builds on theexisting arrangements rather one which destroys them. Such legislation would be far morelikely to secure final approval in the shortest possible time.Our comments and questions are set out in more detail in the document which accompaniesthis statement.
 
JONATHAN FULHAM LINDSAY NEWCOMBEThe Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, Bishop of Fulham Dr Lindsay NewcombeChairman Vice-Chairman4 June 2013
 
GS 1886
 – 
COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS FROM FORWARD IN FAITH
1.
In commenting on the ‘Report from the House of Bishops’ on new legislative
 proposals, we begin by reiterating that we are not trying to prevent women from becoming bishops in the Church of England.2. Rather, we are trying to ensure that new legislation will provide a firm basis for thosewho uphold the traditional understanding of the Church and its ministry andsacraments to continue to flourish within the Church of England. We cannot see that
the House of Bishops’ proposal would achieve this.
 3. The
Secretary General’s note about ‘a new way forward’ (GS Misc 1042), circulated in
February with the agreement of the House of Bishops, reported that the facilitated
conversations revealed ‘strong support for giving the highest priority to finding a solution
 
which will enable legislation to be approved by Synod on the fastest possible timetable’
(para. 9)
 – 
involving final approval by the present Synod. We are puzzled as to why theHouse of Bishops apparently believes that its new proposals will achieve this.4.
The House of Bishops’ proposal would transfer power from the laity (who currently
have the ability to pass the legally binding Resolutions A and B) to bishops, patrons,
and incumbents or priests in charge, who would be free to take ‘
discretionarydecisions
’ (GS 1886: Annex, para. 88) about appointments and ministry in parishes,
taking such account as they wished 
of any statements declarations or guidance that
the House of Bishops might have made nationally’ (Annex, para. 83). As the great
majority of 
Forward in Faith’s members are laypeople (including very large numbers
of lay women), we note this with particular concern. We are also puzzled as to whythe House of Bishops apparently believes that this new proposal is more likely tocommend itself to the House of Laity than the Measure which failed in November.5. Reference is made to the legal right of representatives of the laity to veto parochialappointments. However, we note that if the Bishop suspends presentation to theliving, as happens in a great many cases, parish representatives have no legal right toveto the appointment of a priest in charge.6. We note with concern that, as the report admits, there would be a possibility of litigation against lay representatives exercising their veto on the presentation of an
incumbent, in which case they would be ‘personally exposed to having to defend (attheir own cost) their decision’ (Annex, para. 133). Again, we are puzzled as to why
the House of Bishops apparently believes that this new proposal is more likely tocommend itself to the House of Laity than the Measure which failed in November.7. We further note with concern that an incumbent or priest in charge who declined to
nominate a female curate ‘would be in a similar position’ (Annex, para. 1
34).8. GS 1042 included four propositions from the working group
which ‘commanded awide measure of endorsement’ in the facilitated conversations (para. 17). The fourth
of these (paras 28-9) was that any new package would need to fulfil two objectives:
 
to produce a shorter, simpler measure than the one that was defeated;
 
to provide, through the totality of the elements in the package, a greater sense of security for the minority as having an accepted and valued place in the Church

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