Following last weeks failure by General Synod to agree on legislation that would have enabled women to become bishops in the Church of England, Bishop John Packer has spoken of his 'bitter dismay' at the decision. The legislation required a two thirds majority in all three Houses of Bishops, Clergy and Laity but failed to achieve that majority in the House of Laity by six votes.
Bishop John Packer said he deeply regretted the outcome: “I am bitterly disappointed by today’s Synod result. I believed we had evolved a piece of legislation which was both positive in affirming women and their ministry as bishops but which at the same time made proper provision for those who in all conscience could not accept this. The House of Bishops and the House of Clergy overwhelmingly supported the motion and I am very disappointed that it failed in the House of Laity. A significant majority of Synod did in fact support the legislation and the overall vote was massively in favour.”
In a letter sent immediately after the vote to all clergy, Bishop John, he sought to reassure parishes of his commitment to the principle of women bishops and his support for the ministry all women clergy. Full text below
Bishop John says he believes that pressure needs to be put on central church authorities by diocesan synods to move as quickly as possible to have women bishops. "I want again to affirm the excellent ministry of women in our own diocese and my own absolute belief that they ought to be considered for Episcopal roles. I believe we need to spend a bit of time in thinking and praying and then we need to press on in finding a way forward to enable women to become bishops.
"I am absolutely clear that large majority of people in the church, and an even greater majority in the nation, and those we seek to serve, see it as an important measure of our commitment to the place of women in the church.
"I believe it to be important that dioceses which feel strongly about the General Synod decision should say so through their own diocesan synods. This would include putting pressure on the central church authority to move as quickly as possible to ensure the ordination of women as bishops.
"It would also be possible for dioceses to express their views on the Southwark diocesan motion, already tabled and calling for the rescinding of the Act of Synod.
Bishop John says that the Advent Lecture and Communion service at Ripon Cathedral on December 6th, 11am, will be an opportunity for clergy and lay people to gather and pray. "The Advent lecture will continue to be on rural ministry since this is a crucial area of our concern. However, the Advent communion does provide a moment for clergy and others to come together in penitence and hope around the Advent theme."
James and I wanted to write in the wake of the General Synod decision to reject the legislation to allow women to become bishops in the Church of England. We are both bitterly dismayed at this decision, delaying as it does the admission of women to the episcopate and running counter to the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Diocesan Synods.
We send our prayers to you all, and especially the women clergy of this diocese the flourishing of his ministry has been constrained by the Synod decision.
Ours has been amongst those dioceses which have most enthusiastically demonstrated the value of women clergy in leading us in mission and pastoral care. Since 1994 our experience has shown that Episcopal ministry in the Church of England would be enhanced by the inclusion of women, and we are sorry the church has been unable to find a way to provide us with that benefit at thispoint.
We know there are some of you who feel that this is the right decision and James and I will continue to seek to provide support for those who cannot in conscience accept the ordained or Episcopal Ministry of women. I regret that the provision made in the Measure was rejected as inadequate after so long a period and so much work to ensure the measure was as good as it could be.
We need now to think and pray through how we can respond to the mind of the church and the expectation of our society in ensuring in the future that God’s call to women as bishops can be tested and recognised. I hope you will feel some encouragement from the overwhelming vote in favour of the House of Bishops, who know the need for the contribution women bishops will make.
Meanwhile we both hope that at a time of missed opportunity for the Church of England we will be aware of God’s continuing care and inspiration, and will be strengthened to continue to work for the coming of God’s kingdom.
Nothing in this letter is confidential! Do share it as appropriate with colleagues and congregations.
James joins me in prayers and thanks for your ministry.
God bless you in all your thinking, praying and pilgrimage.