The Rt Revd Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, shares what he hoped to have said at the February Synod and the need for proper provision for the minority

The summary of the meeting of the House of Bishops held in York in December [HB {08} M4] reveals that a number of bishops, most of them in favour of the consecration of women bishops, expressed support for further work to be done on providing a Measure with cohesion and assurance for the minority who oppose this move, by developing a new, recognized, religious society within the Church.

This proposal grew from the opportunity to take stock in dioceses after our discussions in York.

may welcome the prospect of the consecration of women bishops, but not at any price.

And there is a substantial minority for whom the Synods decision has raised profound questions about the interpretation of Scripture and our relationship to the Church Order, which we share with other parts of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

The majority in Synod has also affirmed, and this is re-iterated in the papers before us, that they wish to proceed in a way that does not unchurch the minority who, after all, are only adhering to church practice as it is now and as it has been for some centuries past.

Of course there are also some who believe passionately that this is a justice issue, and that in consequence anyone who cannot accept this change has no place in the Church of England. As the debate develops it will be important to discover how widely held this position is.

Most accept, I believe, that it would be a tragedy if we minced and atomised our Church on this issue. The clergy in my diocese who are part of the minority include able and hard-working ministers, serving in some of the most challenging parishes in the country. I would not want to press ahead with the evangelization of London without them.

So we come to the question of devising some arrangements that can preserve the catholicity, integrity and mission of the episcopate of the Church as a whole.

The concept of a Code of Practice has become deeply neuralgic to members of the minority for reasons that have been heard. We should give ourselves time to help one another understand why this should be so, while also honouring the principle that we ought not to be consecrating anyone to what might be called episcopacy-lite.

To do this would end in creating more problems than it would solve, in our struggle to find ways in which those with radically different views on this particular issue can continue to minister alongside one another with grace and generosity.

I do believe that the formation and recognition of a new religious society within the Church, a society in which the bishops mentioned in Section Three of the Draft Measure would have a special role, could deepen the cohesion and assurance which the Code of Practice intends to supply but which, as things stand, fails to deliver.

Understandably the Drafting Group considered that this went beyond the brief they had been given by Synod. It was not possible for them to give further thought to the idea and it would not be possible in a brief speech to explore the matter further this morning. But on such an important question Synod should give itself time, in the stages of this process that are to come, to see whether this approach can help us to press ahead with this change as the majority wishes, but without unchurching the minority.

This would be in the spirit of Synods endorsement in the amendment put (by Fr Houlding, 209 voting for, 166 against) in July 2006 of Resolution III. 2 of Lam beth 98, ‘that those who dissent from as well as those who assent to the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate are both loyal Anglicans.’

General Synod 11 February 2009

On 11 February, Synod debated the motion proposed by the Bishop of Manchester (the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch) “That the Measure entitled ‘Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) consideration by a Revision Committee. The motion was carried by 281 votes to 114 with 13 recorded abstentions, there being no division by houses.

Following that debate, the Synod voted that the Draft Amending Canon (No. 30) should also be considered for revision in committee. This was passed by 309 votes to 79 against with 14 recorded abstentions.

These two texts are essentially what both bishops would have said during the debate, had they been called by the Chairman, with only a minor editing of tenses.