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Women bishops vote welcomed in Norwich

The General Synod of the Church of England yesterday (November 20) voted overwhelmingly to approve a package of measures as the next steps to enable women to become bishops. And the move has been welcomed in the Norwich Diocese.

GeneralSynodMazur450Proposing the package of measures the Right Reverend James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester (and former Bishop of King’s Lynn), said: "These measures look to the day when the Church of England as an ecclesial entity will have made a clear decision to open all orders of ministry to women and men without distinction, whereby all those so ordained are true and lawful holders of the office which they occupy."
The motion, to move forward with the legislation at the next Synod meeting in February and thereby clearing the way for a possible vote on final approval later in 2014, was carried with 378 votes for, eight against and 25 abstentions.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: 'Today's overwhelming vote demonstrates the widespread desire of the Church of England to move ahead with ordaining women as bishops, and at the same time enabling those who disagree to flourish. There is some way to go, but we can be cautiously hopeful of good progress.
“The more we learn to work together the more effective the church will be in meeting the huge challenges of spiritual renewal, and above all service to our communities, so as to both proclaim and demonstrate the reality of the love of Christ.”

The Diocese of Norwich representatives on the General Synod returned from the vote and gave their reactions.
Sue Johns (Member of General Synod – House of Laity), said: “Having been on Synod since 1990 I was present when the Women Priests measure went through. I can honestly say that yesterday was the first time I dared to believe we had discerned the way forward to allow women to become bishops. Yes, there were still some dissenting voices but they were few. The tone of the debate was completely different and a privilege to be part of. Everyone has truly listened to those who have a different point of view. There is now a real hunger to do what the retiring Bishop of Guildford urged us in his valedictory speech - get on with it!”
Robin Back (Member of General Synod – House of Laity) and churchwarden at, Guestwick, said: “This General Synod seemed to be a different body from a year ago and indeed from July. The fresh approach shepherded through by James Langstaff,  Bishop of Rochester, has struck a much more inclusive tone and demonstrated genuine efforts from all sides of the debate to square the circle. Some misgivings were expressed but, to hear the same levels of support for the process (and likely outcome) expressed publicly by members of Watch and Forward in Faith, reflected a genuine rapprochement.”

Revd Charles Reed (Member of General Synod – House of Clergy) and Director of Reader Training, said: “This was a much better debate than others we have had with very few speeches against the proposal to have bishops who are women. The whole thing felt more positive and I hope we can speed this through General Synod so it gets final approval next July and we can perhaps see the first female bishops in England by the end of 2015. I am delighted that the General Synod begun to do what Norwich and most other dioceses asked it to do – get on with it!”
Rev Canon Heather Butcher, adviser on women’s ministry to the Bishop of Norwich, told BBC Look East: “We have made tentative progress, this is the first hurdle and we shall have to see how it goes. I sincerely hope it will go through and then hope that Synod will accept most of what is being said without changing it.
“We are trying to hold together a variety of people who have different views and that is one of the greats strengths and joys of the Church of England, that we are a broad church.  I shall continue to meet people who oppose women bishops to build bridges and create good relationships. We could have a woman bishop in 2015.”
Pictured above is the Church of England General Synod. Picture courtesy of Mazur/catholicchurch.org.uk.

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