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Norwich Diocese backs women bishops idea

BishopNorwich370The Norwich Diocesan Synod has decisively backed proposed legislation which would allow women to become bishops. Keith Morris reports.
The Norwich Synod met on Saturday (October 15) and debated the controversial issue for two hours, chaired by the Bishop of Thetford.
The Revd Canon Steven Betts introduced and moved the motion which is being considered in all the dioceses of the Church of England: "That this Synod approve the proposals embodied in the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure and in draft Amending Canon No. 30"
Synod backed the proposal by 67 votes in favour, including all three Bishops, and 23 against.
The Bishop of Norwich (pictured above), a strong supporter of women priests, spoke in the debate: “My conviction about the rightness of our decision to ordain women as priests has grown over the past 17 years as a result of my experience of women in ordained ministry. I do believe that women should be bishops. It is impossible to mount any theological argument in favour of women as priests and deacons but not bishops as well. “
The Bishop went on to say: “The apostolic ministry of a diocesan bishop cannot have no-go areas without that ministry being damaged. A damaged episcopate leads to a damaged church. I do want women to be bishops on equal terms with men. The idea that a female bishop, simply because of her gender, would have some parishes in her diocese removed from her jurisdiction or that parishes could so remove themselves during her ministry, would inevitably damage her episcopate. 
“If the episcopate is seriously damaged and the apostolic ministry of bishops, whether women or men, compromised and limited then I will find it hard to believe that as a Church we are ready for this development yet. But my heart longs for it to succeed because we are squandering the gifts of too many women at the moment. God does not want us to squander what he is gracious enough to give us.," he said.

The Revd Robert Parsonage introduced a motion: “to ensure that those unable on theological grounds to accept the ministry of women bishops are able to receive episcopal oversight from a bishop with authority conferred by the Measure rather than by delegation from a Diocesan Bishop." The so-called Flying Bishops proposal.
This motion was narrowly defeated by 47 votes to 38 in the Synod vote.
The possibility of women being admitted to the orders of deacon, priest and bishop has been on the Church of England's agenda since at least 1966 when Women and Holy Orders was produced for the Church Assembly. Over the succeeding two decades, the General Synod followed up with The Ordination of Women to the Priesthood (1972), The Ordination of Women (1978) and The Ordination of Women to the Priesthood: Further Report (1984).
In July 2008, General Synod called for legislation to be drafted to “affirm that the wish of its majority is for women to be admitted to the episcopate”. The legislation, in the form of a draft Measure, was published May 2010.
The voting figures for the Diocesan Synod will now be sent to the General Synod which will be voting on the legislation to move forward the consecration of women as bishops in July 2012. Should the legislation be passed at general Synod, it would then need to be approved by Parliament and the first women bishop could be ordained by 2014.   
To read more on the debate visit: www.norwich.anglican.org/article/1173?t=


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