General Synod Debate, Monday 7th July 2008
(This brief summary of the debate has been prepared by the Portsmouth Diocese elected members of the General Synod)
Headlines catch the eye. They are designed to do so and, like all shop window displays, present only a glimpse of what lies behind them. The General Synod debate and decision on draft legislation to enable women to be bishops produced many headlines. As those whom you have elected to serve on the Synod, we think it useful to describe for you what lies behind the media reports.
What did the Synod do? The outcome of many hours of debate was to agree the original motion presented by the House of Bishops in response to the ‘Manchester Report’, requesting that legislation be drafted for women to be admitted as bishops in the Church of England (as already agreed by the Synod at previous meetings). It also asks the drafting group to ‘put in place special arrangements for those who as a matter of theological conviction’ are not able to receive the ministry of women priests or bishops (also previously agreed by the Synod). The route Synod preferred is for as simple a legal process as possible, with a code of practice for the pastoral care and support of those who cannot, for theological reasons, accept this. Two amendments were made to the motion, requesting that the code of practice be statutory and noting that it is a majority of Synod members which desires to admit women to the episcopate.
A range of other amendments was considered, proposing legally structured frameworks to accommodate those who cannot in conscience receive the ministry of women as bishops. None of these secured a majority in the process of voting by houses, though on one such amendment more members overall voted for than against. It is clear than the Synod is far from being of one mind about the way forward, reflected in the outcome of a proposal to adjourn the debate until February, which was defeated by a margin of twenty-three votes.
In summing-up the Bishop of Gloucester indicated that the drafting group would take account, in preparing detailed proposals for the February 2009 meeting of the Synod, of the mood of the debate, the content of the contributions made by members and the clear division of opinion within the Synod.
The process is ‘underway’ rather than ‘complete’ and no final or binding decisions have yet been made. We will endeavour to keep you informed of any developments and to seek to continue to listen to and reflect upon the variety of views and opinions within the Diocese.
Details of the motion and amendments are available on the Church of England General Synod website, as below. Of the amendments listed on the Order Paper, items 67 and 76 were agreed by the Synod.
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