General Synod at York votes yes to women bishops

The General Synod of the Church of England has given its final approval for women to become bishops in the Church of England.

The vote at the University of York (Monday July 14th) was carried by the required two-thirds majority in the three constituent parts of the Synod:  the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy and the House of Laity.

The voting results were as follows:

  • House of Bishops: Yes 37 No 2 Abstentions 1
  • House of Clergy: Yes 162 No 25 Abstentions 4
  • House of Laity: Yes 152  No 45 Abstentions 5

(Picture by Keith Blundy)

It is thought that 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.

The Rt Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, said,“I’m delighted that the General Synod has today voted in favour of the legislation that will allow women to be consecrated as bishops.

 “It’s been a long time coming, but that’s because the Church of England has worked hard to hold together those of contrasting views, even when those opposed were in the minority. But the wrestling has paid off and we have upheld our commitment to being a broad church.

“With the guiding principles the bishops have set out, we have a process that will both fully support women bishops while providing for the flourishing of those who are still opposed, and we can now move forward in a spirit of reconciliation and trust.

“I believe women bishops will have a hugely positive impact on the Church of England, and I look forward to the first consecration.”

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who chaired the debate 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.

“To those who ask ‘what took you so long?’ my answer is that every decision has a cost and there will be those within our body who will be hurting as a result of this decision. Our answer to the hurting should not be ‘get over it’ but rather ‘we will not let go until you have blessed us.’

“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 Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, 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 approved includes a House of Bishops declaration, underpinned by five guiding principles and a disputes resolution procedure. Following the vote on the measure which enables women to become Bishops, the Synod voted on enabling legislation (Canon) and also rescinded existing legislation (Act of Synod) as part of a package of measures being proposed.

Following today's vote the measure moves to the Legislative Committee of General Synod and then to the Ecclesiastical Committee of the Houses of Parliament where the legislation will be considered. Subject to Parliamentary approval the measure will return to the General Synod in November of this year where it will come into force after its promulgation (legal formal announcement).

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

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