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Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Reflecting on the Women Bishops debate - (a) 8July2008

(Updated* with electronic voting data)

So, the vote was finally taken at well after 10pm on Monday night, after more than 6 hours solid debate, and within a hair's breadth of being adjourned, moments before the final vote, finally, substantially the original motion presented by the House of Bishops was passed. The final and amended motion was:

‘That this Synod:
(a) affirm that the wish of its majority is for women to be admitted to the episcopate;

(b) affirm its view that special arrangements be available, within the existing structures of the Church of England, for those who as a matter of theological conviction will not be able to receive the ministry of women as bishops or priests;

(c) affirm that these should be contained in a statutory national code of practice to which all concerned would be required to have regard; and

(d) instruct the legislative drafting group, in consultation with the House of Bishops, to complete its work accordingly, including preparing the first draft of a code of practice, so that the Business Committee can include first consideration of the draft legislation in the agenda for the February 2009 group of sessions.’
The voting was:
Bishops: 28 for 12 against 1 abs
Clergy: 124 for 44 against 4 abs
Laity: 111 for 68 against 2 abs
meaning that there was a simple majority in each house (allowing it to pass), but the house of laity vote was only 61%, not the 66% that a final legislation vote that would require.

It was a very difficult debate, and apart from Justin's masterful and swift postings on this blog (some results of votes online within 35 seconds some readers later observed!), Peter Owen and particularly Ruth Gledhill were also putting votes, and some background to the speeches. You can listen for yourselves from the podcasts (actually .wax files) already online - each of these is about 2 hours long: Afternoon session 1, Afternoon session 2, Evening session & final vote.

It was moving - many speeches seeking to make the progress needed towards having women bishops that the Manchester Report unanimously recommends; many speeches seeking to allow particularly the conservative catholic wing to feel that they are not being excluded.

I will probably further blog on the benefits and pitfalls of voting by houses, as I think that was one of the issues that muddied the waters, obfuscating some of the key principles of the debate.

For me, one of the most powerful things was the emotion within the debate. Both for and against the principle of ordaining women as bishops. Ruth Gledhill noted that a bishop was in tears - I suspect more than one, having heard impassioned interventions from both the bishops of Dover and Burnley, but I suspect others, too. But tears also from those seeking not to have women bishops overruled again as well. And tears from those seeking a way to balance both.

At the end of the debate, the Archbishop of York, conscious that the (conservative) Bishop of Beverley was due to be celebrating the Holy Communion on Tuesday morning, and here would be an opportunity for Synod to gather in communion around the Lord's Table. The morning communion service is at the eyewatering time of 7.30am, and usually has 100-120 members at it. Tuesday  mornings service had the significantly enlarged numbers of about 200.

Whatever the next stages may be, I trust we will still be at, and in, communion.

Alastair Cutting, GS101

* Updated by Alastair 16 July 2008
The electronic voting data has now been published online, and Peter Owen has put up a grid of how the bishops voted at Thinking Anglicans.

1 comment:

mewmewmew said...

For me, one of the most powerful things was the emotion within the debate. Both for and against the principle of ordaining women as bishops. Ruth Gledhill noted that a bishop was in tears - I suspect more than one, having heard impassioned interventions from both the bishops of Dover and Burnley, but I suspect others, too. But tears also from those seeking not to have women bishops overruled again as well. And tears from those seeking a way to balance both.


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