Friday, 2 March 2012

Report on Tuesday's Westminster Hall Debate

Last Tuesday MPs debated 'Women Bishops; the Church of England and Exemption from the Sex Discrimination Legislation'. The following report came through today from Hilary Cotton who attended.

'All MPs present were in support of the CofE having women bishops and urged the Church to 'get on with it'. This included MPs from all three major parties, the most urgent pleas coming from male MPs.

Three significant points were:

1. The warnings given by a number of MPs to the House of Bishops not to amend the Measure or otherwise frustrate the clearly expressed wish of the dioceses that this draft Measure goes forward to Synod for approval in July.

 2. The message from Tony Baldry MP, 2nd Church Estates Commissioner and an ex officio lay member of General Synod, to all members of General Synod about the final approval vote:
"When we come to the Church of England’s General Synod in July, I very much hope that even those who have been opposed to women becoming bishops will recognise the overwhelming support within the Church of England for the Measure to go forward. In fact, if 42 outof 44 dioceses have voted in favour of women becoming bishops, it would look very perverse—indeed, it would look ridiculous—if the General Synod in July was to use its convoluted voting mechanisms not to allow that Measure to move forward. Between now and July, I hope that everyone will search their soul and I also hope that, if people are opposed to the Measure, they will recognise that there comes a point when it is necessary to acknowledge that, in the interests and well-being of the Church of England, the Measure must make progress. 
We have always wished to continue to be a broad Church, maintaining space for all those who wish to remain within the Church of England. However, there must be a recognition that this issue has been deliberated for a long time and that it has been considered carefully, with everyone in the Church of England having had the opportunity to make a thoughtful and deliberative contribution to the debate, and that—as demonstrated by the votes in the dioceses during the last year—the views of the members of the Church of England are very clear."

 3. The fact that the 2nd Church Estates Commissioner has already paved the way in the Parliamentary timetable for Parliament to get the Measure approved by the end of this year, giving General Synod the opportunity to complete the legislative process early in 2013.'

I was also very struck by these words of one of our Yorkshire MPs, Diana Johnson (kingston Upon Hull North, Labour)

'When I looked at this issue, I was struck by the fact that women have actively engaged with the bishops in the discussions that have been held so far. In June 2008, senior lay and clergywomen attended a meeting of the College of Bishops to discuss proposals for women bishops. Since then, no women have been part of the discussions in the House of Bishops. It is inconceivable to anyone engaged in equality and diversity work in other contexts that the Church would make the decision about consecrating women as bishops without seriously engaging during this last phase with those who will be most directly affected by that decision.'

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