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Synod: Women May Now Apply

Adapted from an Anglican Communion News Service report

Women may become bishops in the Church of England because of a historic vote by General Synod July 14.

Following a day of debate at the General Synod meeting in York on the issue of women in the episcopate, at least two thirds majority of each house — laity, clergy, and bishops — approved the measure:

Across the Communion

Provinces and extra-provincial dioceses in which women serve as bishops — Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia, Australia, Canada, Cuba (extra-provincial diocese), Southern Africa, Ireland, South India.

Provinces that allow for women bishops but have not elected or appointed any — Bangladesh, Brazil, Central America, Japan, Mexico, North India, Philippines, Scotland, Sudan, Tanzania, Wales

Provinces that do not consecrate women as bishops — Burundi, Central Africa, Congo, Hong Kong, Indian Ocean, Jerusalem and the Middle East, Kenya, Korea, Melanesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, South East Asia, Southern Cone, Uganda, West Indies, West Africa

  • Bishops: 37 in favor, 2 against, 1 abstention
  • Clergy: 162 in favor, 25 against, 4 abstentions
  • Laity: 152 in favor, 45 against, 5 abstentions

The first woman bishop could be appointed by the end of the year. The Church of England joins 20 other provinces or extra-provincial dioceses that allow for women bishops.

Before the vote, the Most. Rev. John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, asked synod members to greet the result “with restraint and sensitivity,” but a flurry of cheers arose nonetheless.

The vote comes 18 months after the proposal was last voted upon in November 2012, when the proposal failed to achieve the required two-thirds majority in the House of Laity.

The Most Rev. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, said:

Today is the completion of what was begun over 20 years with the ordination of women as priests. I am delighted with today’s result. Today marks the start of a great adventure of seeking mutual flourishing while still, in some cases, disagreeing.

The challenge for us will be for the church to model good disagreement and to continue to demonstrate love for those who disagree on theological grounds. Very few institutions achieve this, but if we manage this we will be living our more fully the call of Jesus Christ to love one another. As delighted as I am for the outcome of this vote, I am also mindful of those within the Church for whom the result will be difficult and a cause of sorrow.

My aim, and I believe the aim of the whole church, should be to be able to offer a place of welcome and growth for all. Today is a time of blessing and gift from God and thus of generosity. It is not winner take all, but in love a time for the family to move on together.

The legislation includes a House of Bishops declaration, underpinned by five guiding principles and a disputes resolution procedure. Following the vote on the measure that enables women to become bishops, the synod voted on enabling legislation (canon) and rescinded existing legislation (act of synod) as part of a package of measures being proposed.

The measure now moves to the Legislative Committee of General Synod and then to the Ecclesiastical Committee of the Houses of Parliament, in which the legislation will be considered. Subject to Parliamentary approval, the measure will return to the General Synod in November, when it will come into force after its promulgation (legal formal announcement).

The vote follows a process that began at the 2013 July Synod, which created a steering committee on women bishops, led by the Bishop of Rochester, James Langstaff, with a mandate to draw up a package of new proposals. Bishop Langstaff opened the debate on behalf of the steering committee and urged synod members to vote for the proposals.


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