Speech to General Synod on Women Bishops

Not for the first time, the Bishop of Manchester and his Group have brought us back something better than the message with which we sent him away. I must say I was puzzled at the reaction to the debate on women bishops at the York Synod: we were episcopally led and synodically governed; so if bishops and even archbishops were not satisfied with the outcome, their problem, surely, was that they could not persuade the House of Bishops of what they wanted.

It would be an extreme action indeed to refuse to send this Measure to legislative review where, as the Bishop of Manchester has explained, all the proposals and amendments which have previously fallen can be brought forward again.

So, here we are, turning an occasion of affirmation and joy into a damage limitation exercise; all the focus is on limiting the pain of the minority who dissent, most of whom were ordained after this debate began in 1975 and should have known what might be coming. Indeed, at York the opponents of women bishops who made most noise in the gallery were those ordained only the week before.

We are, essentially, being asked as liberals to  make room in the Church of England for people on the one hand who want to undo the Reformation and those on the other hand who want to undo the Elizabethan settlement; it's a big ask. We will do our best. We all need to pay more attention to the pain if the measure fails, as it could, by a handful of votes in the House of Laity. There is surely a balance of pain; have we, who support this Measure, not got consciences too? And if this measure fails, do you think its opponents will leave it there? Things never stand still. The momentum will shift.

In the long run, traditional Catholics in the Church of England and in the Roman Catholic Church will have to choose between women clergy and Eucharistic access; now, today, Evangelicals have to choose between male headship and the effectiveness of mission in deprived communities here and overseas where the leadership of poor communities is almost exclusively provided by women.

Finally, throughout this debate there has been a line of argument which says that this measure is born merely out of justice; who can read the Magnificat and say that ecclesiological rules are more important than justice?

I support the Measure being sent to the Revision Committee.