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Women bishops yes vote welcomed in Norwich

The General Synod of the Church of England has today (July 14) given its final approval for women to become bishops in the Church of England and the move has been welcomed in the Diocese of Norwich. Keith Morris reports.

GeneralSynodYork450The vote in the General Synod, being held in York, on the measure was carried by the required two-thirds majority in the three constituent parts of the Synod:  the House of Bishops (Yes 37 No 2 Abstentions 1), the House of Clergy (Yes 162 No 25 Abstentions 4) and the House of Laity (Yes 152  No 45 Abstentions 5).

The vote means the first woman bishop could potentially be appointed by the end of the year.

Today's 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.
Welcoming the historic vote, the Bishop of Norwich, Rt Rev Graham James, said: “"It is thrilling that the vote was over 81% in favour in the General Synod today.  The celebrations of supporters were heartfelt.  There was also a recognition by many of those opposed to women bishops that the new legislation honoured their place in the Church so we were able to move forward together.  I look forward to the ordination of the first female bishop and to ensuring that those who remain opposed have an honoured place in our Church."
Long-time supporter of women bishop and the second most senior female priest in the Diocese of Norwich, the Ven Jan McFarlane, Archdeacon of Norwich and Director of Communications, said: “It was a positive debate and the result which the vast majority wanted to see, both inside and outside, was achieved. It was generally agreed that what we have now is a better legislation than the one which was turned down in 2012. It looks as if the Holy Spirit was at work all along! There is a great atmosphere here in York this evening. We've waited a long time for this.”

Jan was one of the first women to be ordained a priest 20 years ago, is a strong advocate of the move and a member of General Synod. She made sure that she was in York to cast her vote during the crucial debate today, despite undergoing recent surgery and chemotherapy for breast cancer after being diagnosed in April.

The Very Rev Dr Jane Hedges, Dean of Norwich and the Diocese's most senior female priest, said: "What fantastic news from General Synod. Although most of those in favour of admitting women to the Episcopate had been hopeful that today’s vote would go in favour, it is a particular joy that the measure has been passed with such a healthy majority – around 81% over all. This gives a signal to women in Holy Orders that the Church at last is receiving their ministry with enthusiasm and is a huge boost to morale. Passing the Measure today also means that this issue which has been absorbing so much energy for so long, is now close to being resolved, so that the Church can turn its energy to other pressing matters in our world.

"It’s good to think that when the appointment process for the next new Diocesan Bishop begins that women with the appropriate experience can be considered – hopefully we will see a woman in purple by the beginning of 2015.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: "Today is the completion of what was begun over 20 years ago 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 Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said: "This is a momentous day. Generations of women have served the Lord faithfully in the Church of England for centuries. It is a moment of joy today: the office of Bishop is open to them. 

“We move slowly because we move together. But in moving together we achieve not only what is just but also model what is right. As the African Proverb says: "Whoever walks fast, travels alone. Whoever walks far, walks in the company of others."

The legislation approved today includes a House of Bishops declaration, underpinned by five guiding principles and a disputes resolution procedure.
Subject to Parliamentary approval the measure will return to the General Synod in November when it will come into force.

Read our previous article on this subject

Pictured above is the Church of England General Synod. Picture by Keith Blundy

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