Women Bishops in the Church of England?
Women Bishops in the Church of England?, the report of the House of Bishops' Working Party on Women in the Episcopate, chaired by the Rt Revd Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, is published today, Tuesday, 2 November. The General Synod will discuss the report in February.
Women Bishops in the Church of England? is a survey of the theological issues the Church needs to consider as it decides whether or not to ordain women bishops. "We have tried to do this as comprehensively as possible," says the Bishop of Rochester, "and hope that our report will prove to be a useful resource for discussion and debate in the Church as a whole."
The important theological issues covered by the Rochester Report will be debated by the Synod in February. The Synod will also have the opportunity, on the basis of a motion from the House of Bishops, to consider what the next steps should be. Synod will be invited to agree that, following a period of reflection on the report, there should be a decision at the July Synod on whether to embark on the process of removing the legal obstacles to ordaining women as bishops
The members of the Working Party, women and men, represent a wide range of views, both lay and ordained, from within and outside the Church of England. "Our meetings have demonstrated a basic unity, not only in faith and a commitment to scholarship but often also in theological approach," said Bishop Michael.
In the course of its meetings, the Working Party heard evidence directly from representative groups and individuals and received some 500 items of written evidence. In its task of setting out as even-handedly as possible the fundamental issues that will need to be addressed, it has borne three key questions in mind:
- Would it be right in principle for women to be bishops?
- If the answer is 'yes', is this the right time for the Church of England to ordain women bishops?
- If it is the right time, how should women bishops be introduced and what provisions should be made for those conscientiously unable to accept their ministry?
Women Bishops in the Church of England? takes nothing for granted and examines the fundamental issues that the Church will need to bear in mind as it seeks to reach a decision. It goes back to the Bible itself and to the role of bishops in the Early Church as well as considering how the Church of England understands the role of the bishop today. It advocates an approach to the forthcoming debate that is rooted in Scripture and also makes proper use of tradition and reason.
The chapter that looks at the options facing the Church examines each one carefully. It does not come down in favour of any one of them. Rather, as requested by Synod, it focuses on the issues that need to be addressed in preparation for the debate and leaves it to Synod to decide the way ahead.
Welcoming the report, the Archbishops of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and York, Dr David Hope, said, "We are happy to commend it for prayerful study within the dioceses of the Church of England and to invite other Churches in the Anglican Communion and our ecumenical partners to let us have their reflections on it."
Women Bishops in the Church of England? is published by Church House Publishing, priced £12.99, and is available from all Christian bookshops and Church House Bookshop, 31 Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BN, tel. 020-7898 1300, e mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the web at: www.chbookshop.co.uk (mail order available).
The Church of England's General Synod requested a thorough theological study in July 2000 after debating a motion put by Archdeacon Judith Rose as follows:
"That this Synod ask the House of Bishops to initiate further theological study on the episcopate, focusing on the issues that need to be addressed in preparation for the debate on women in the episcopate in the Church of England, and to make a progress report on this study to Synod within the next two years."
An interim progress report was presented to Synod in July 2002.
The House of Bishops' Working Party on Women in the Episcopate
Working Party members
The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd Dr Michael Nazir-Ali (Chair)
The Bishop of Stafford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill (Vice-chair)
Dr Christina Baxter (Principal, St John's College, Nottingham)
The Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Revd Wallace Benn
The Dean of Leicester, the Very Revd Vivienne Faull
The Bishop of Bolton, the Rt Revd David Gillett
The Revd Deacon Christine Hall (Director, Bishop Otter Centre for Theology and Ministry, Chichester to 2003)
The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Christopher Herbert (member until September 2002)
Professor Ann Loades (University of Durham to 2003 )
The Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, the Rt Revd Dr Geoffrey Rowell
The Archdeacon of Worcester, the Ven Dr Joy Tetley
The Revd Dr Anthony Barratt - The Roman Catholic Church (Ecumenical Representative on General Synod. Formerly: Vice Rector, St John's Seminary, Wonersh. Latterly: Our Lady of the Annunciation Church, New York)
The Revd Dr Richard Clutterbuck - The Methodist Church (Chair of the British Methodist Faith and Order Committee. Formerly: Principal of The West of England Ministerial Training Course. Latterly: Principal of Edgehill Theological College, Belfast)
The Revd Canon Dr Nicholas Sagovsky (Westminster Abbey)
The Revd Canon Professor Anthony Thiselton (University of Nottingham)