Diocesan Synod tells Bishops to effect the will of the Church

The Bristol Diocesan Synod has passed a vote of no confidence in the ability of the General Synod of the Church of England to effect the clear will of the majority of Church members in relation to women bishops.

Members of the Diocesan Synod also reaffirmed its strong conviction that women should be Bishops and called on the House of Bishops to explore every avenue to move this forward with great urgency.

51 members of Synod voted in favour of the motion which was proposed by the Revd Mat Ineson, Vicar of St Matthew’s and St Nathanael’s, Kingsdown. Three voted against and there were no abstentions.

Speaking at the meeting, the Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Mike Hill, said:

“There have been no ten days in my ministry quite like the last ten days. To make a masterful understatement, the current situation does not feel good.

“I wholeheartedly believe that the ministry of the Church of England will remain underdeveloped until we get women bishops. We would get a new and different perspective within the episcopate and I believe that new and different perspective would be a gift to the present House of Bishops and to the wider Church. It is certainly a gift I, personally, would love to receive.”

Proposing his motion (video above, full motion at the bottom of this article), the Revd Mat Ineson made it clear that, in passing it, the Diocesan Synod would not be stating a lack of confidence in the individual members of the General Synod but rather in the ability of its systems and processes to reflect the will of the wider Church on this issue. He said:

“In voting for this motion, we are expressing our frustration and disappointment that the clear support of 42 out of the 44 dioceses in this country for the women bishops legislation – including our own, where not one vote was recorded against it – has not been reflected in the national decision-making. The system has failed the people and urgently needs fixing.”


At a national level, the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England decided at its meeting this week that a process to admit women to the episcopate needed to be restarted at the next meeting of the General Synod in July 2013.

There was agreement that the Church of England had to resolve this matter through its own processes as a matter of urgency. The Council therefore recommended that the House of Bishops, during its meeting in a fortnight’s time, put in place a clear process for discussions in the New Year with a view to bringing legislative proposals before the Synod in July.

The Diocesan Synod also debated and agreed the 2013 Diocesan Budget and a proposal to allow greater participation in budget setting and discussed and noted how it would consider its business and responsibilties over the next three years.

pdf document Read Bishop Mike’s Diocesan Synod Address on Women Bishops >>
Youtube Watch Bishop Mike’s Diocesan Synod Address >>

The full text of the approved motion:
In the light of the recent failure of the General Synod to pass the Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) measure at its sessions of November 2012, despite overwhelming support for this legislation by this and other diocesan synods of the Church of England, Bristol Diocesan Synod:

1. Reaffirms our strong conviction that it is God’s will that women be ordained as bishops in the Church of England.
2. Has no confidence in the General Synod’s ability to transact the clear will of the majority of the Church with the urgency required to further the mission and witness of the Church.
3. Calls on the House of Bishops to explore, as a matter of great urgency, every possible avenue to effect the will of the Church on this issue.

18 thoughts on “Diocesan Synod tells Bishops to effect the will of the Church

  1. There are still a significant proportion of the Church of England who do not want Women Bishops. Under straight forward majority voting which occurs in Diocesan synods these people are irrelevant. Under the more elaborate voting systems in the General Synod this becomes significant, but still not sufficient, so then it comes down to the quality of the proposals and what people in their own conscience and with the guidance of the will of God think of them, and in this instance as also happened in the summer and two years ago the motion as drafted failed. The synodical system may well be less than perfect – but as the organisation WATCH said in their press statement “It is important that we all continue to honour the processes of Synod and move forward in the light of the decisions they have made” said the Revd. Rachel Weir (11/07/10) we need to look again at the legislation and improve it. It is better to take a bit longer and get it right than to try and rush things, the church has only been in existence for a bit over 2,000 years, this issue has only been around for a few decades, there’s plenty of time yet.

  2. The decision by General Synod is indeed extraordinary and completely unexpected but is I suspect the result of having representatives at Synod who are not there to represent their diocese or local church(s). They are simply required to listen to the debate and to take a view accordingly, and that is what they have done. To expect them to act as representatives is to misunderstand their role.

    In that context it is also incorrect to say that a majority of dioceses support ordaining women as bishops. Undoubtedly a majority of diocesan synods have done so but that does not reflect the view of the church membership. Those elected to serve on diocesan synods are not mandated to represent the views of the parishes from which they come. There is no consultation over any issues except with PCC’s which don’t consult with parishioners either. So there is a huge democratic deficit.

    As a very long standing and often extremely reluctant member of the C of E I don’t hold strong views over the proposed ordination of women as bishops, but it is logical to expect that this has to be the outcome of the decision to admit women to holy orders. One cannot have the one without the other. And it is the same for other contentious matters such as the church refusing to stand firm over the Biblical condemnation of the PRACTICE of homosexuality. Proposals for same sex marriage should not be a surprise. It is the logical outcome of the original decision to depart from taking our stand on God’s Word.

    Much as I hesitate to disagree with our bishop and those who are so such strong advocates of having women as bishops, I cannot help but feel that those who originally voted to ordain women as bishops have been influenced by the secular feminist desire for equality with men, and forgotten that God created men and women for different roles. The amount of dissension it has created within the church certainly invites asking if it really is God’s will. It has certainly obscured the Christian message of salvation in our country: Satan must be delighted. Church attendance and membership is now at an all time low.

    That said we are where we are and there is a case for saying that this issue has been blown up out of all proportion. In the real world bishops have no power and very little influence. That being the case one might be forgiven for wondering why a small minority of women want to be ordained into that role. And if one is a parishioner who objects to women as bishops, one can simply ignore them.

  3. The Lord’s prayer (the one that Jesus actually Himself prayed) teaches the importance of holding together (“Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your Name – the Name You gave Me – so that they may be one as We are one. …. May they be brought to complete unity.” John 17 v 11 & v 23). Given that there are Anglican Christians and parishes convinced that it is right and important to have sisters in positions of oversight authority (episcopal ministry) and Anglican Christians and parishes convinced this would be quite wrong, and that this fact-of-life is not likely to change in the foreseeable future, full and proper provision needs to be made to respect and accommodate both views. The provisions contained in the drfat Measure that was before the November synod did not achieve this, in that they were by way of delegation only. The draft Measure did make provision for functions to be exercised by episcopal brothers, but it also made clear that the diocesan bishop (who may be a sister) would still retain his or her full authority and functions! The relevant text in the draft Measure read thus: “any such delegation shall not be taken as divesting the bishop of the diocese of any of his or her authority or functions”. This was, in effect, expecting our old-path sisters and brothers and old-path parishes to concede the very point of conscience, i.e. the oversight (episcopal) ministry authority of sisters. The draft Measure did note and acknowledge the fact that bishops exercise their episcopal functions by virtue of their holy orders and that the authority that a special bishop would have by virtue of delegation from the diocesan bishop would not affect that special bishop’s personal episcopal functions, and would be distinct from his personal episcopal functions. This went a long way, but not far enough. Chrsitian love and fellowship require of us that provision be made for Christians who firmly believe (whether rightly or wrongly) that the oversight (episcopal) ministry authority of sisters is wrong to be able, genuinely, to say with clear consciences that they are not sitting under spiritual oversight authoritythat derives through or from a sister. Further work is needed on the wording of the proposed Measure, and we should be thankful to God that the Measure as drafted was not passed in November.

  4. Well done to the Diocesan Synod for the vote – I feel it’s fully justified. I believe that there is no reason in theology, biblical history, justice or common sense why women should not be Bishops. It seems to me that the women Priests we have in the church have made a significant positive contribution and have more that proved their suitablility for the roll. I do wonder, though, if our difficulties are caused by asking the wrong question in the first place. Should we not be asking whether the current pattern of ministry in the church is still the right way forward? Should we still be thinking in terms of Priests, Bishops etc., with their specific rolls in worship and the life of the church, at all? Or is there a better pattern of leadership and worship to which we are blind by our adherence to tradition? In times past when the world was governed from the top down it was appropriate, but is it still? I’m not proposing that we rush into unwise changes, and I’m not sure quite what form a new pattern of ministry would take, but I feel we do need to ask awkward questions and face the consequences courageously, whatever the answers may be. In the meantime I am proud to be, and intend to remain, an LLM in the C of E.

  5. Democracy was indeed violated at the General Synod and it is especially saddening that it was the House of Laity and some members of that house who voted against are women. There is so much in the world that Christians should be concerned about but our voice has been weakened in the eyes of the world by this ridiculous politicking. Well done Bristol for supporting this motion! Let’s get the CofE into the 21st century.

  6. Speaking as just a simple Christian and church-goer, blissfully unaware of the politics and in-fighting which clearly exists within the upper echelons of our church I must express how saddened and disappointed I am because of the negative public image that this has created.

    As a church we need to reach out to all and encourage people to share in God’s love irrespective of their gender, race, background, previous misdemeanours etc. etc. If we can’t even demonstrate fairness, compassion and equality within our own house then how can we expect others to respect and understand the values we are seeking to convey?

    Please stop the nonsense now, and act as one to allow women bishops before we do any further damage to our church.

  7. The General Synod allowed women to become priests in 1992 by 6 votes and it was deemed to be the work of the Holy Spirit. Now in 2012 women will not be allowed to the Episcopate by 6 votes and there are calls to reform the Synod. All this shows is that 8 people have changed their minds in 20 years.
    Maybe Ms Harwick (OP) should consider whther or not it is the will of God to be “elevated” to the Episcopate, or just misplaced careerism?

  8. Ridiculous. Progressives opposed the Measure because it created a class of second-tier bishops. Oh, but let’s lay the blame at the door of intransigent conservatives.

    I should think that by 2015, all House of Laity candidates should seek campaign funding from the Diocesan Synods in return for supporting specific issues. Whips could ensure that Synod representative vote on key issue in line with the will of those who elected them.

    In fact, why not insinuate political partisanship into the whole synodical government process?

    Woe worth the day!

  9. Whilst perhaps not a popular view, I been somewhat surprised at the strength of raw anger and incredulity at the undesirable outcome for many, and it has caused me to question whether such reactions are helpful in the witness to the many unchurched and non-believers. Clearly, there is a popularist view which assumes this move should be ‘obvious’, and just because there is not a good reason to do something is not the same as having good reasons for doing something.

    I do believe that it will come to pass in due course (the real hurdle was priesting women in the first place), and that the fault here was a voting system which has such a high hurdle in three houses.

    However, I am really struggling to believe that this is God’s greatest priority for his church at present. Somewhere in this mix must be something about an all-powerful God who acts in His time, and through us. I have no doubt that God’s time is not always our time, and I would hope that we have a very simple prayer that God’s will is done, at all times. I guess there are those that believe God’s will was one way, and others who believe, equally faithfully, that His will is another way, or maybe just not the right time. The reports and reactions I have heard, in the main, are that we have a simple ‘right’ for women to be bishops, perhaps without total deference to God’s will.

    My greatest concern now is that this issue is going to become massively divisive and, frankly, is not the biggest concern I have about His church.

  10. Thank you Bishop Mike and the other people involved in proposing this vote of no confidence in the recent decision to exclude women from ministering as senior colleagues within the church.

    I do so wish you all the best as you face the process of trying to bring attention for the need for justice in this. We who have experienced Christ’s light, have found ourselves given justice, have something to share with the whole world. We can work together and celebrate our God given gifts. We can show each other respect and honour. And in this embodied process, share Christ’s love for the whole world.

    How good would it be if the Church folk followed Christ’s call, and were represented in the media as those representing justice at the cutting edge, rather than feeling shamed about finding secular organisations have opened the door before us

  11. Wonderful news. How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings Good News. Thanks be to God and Bristol souls with integrity and passion for the truth into which humankind is led by the Word incarnate awaiting re-birth.

  12. Pingback: Bristol Diocese passes motion of ‘No Confidence’ in General Synod | Kiwianglo's Blog

  13. Wow!

    This is fabulous. I was sponsored for ordination by the Diocese of Bristol (back when Peter Coleman was D.D.O.); trained at St. John’;s College Nottingham,; ordained Deacon in Bristol Cathedral (June 1976) by Bishop Tinsley, and ordained Priest in the USA with letters dimissory from that Bishop.

    I was so happy that Bristol was the first English Diocese to ordain women as Priests, and overjoyed at this Synod vote.

  14. Well done Diocesan Synod, but I fear that if there is a rush to get it through this General Synod there may be more compromises. It is my view the present special measures, for those that object, should be withdrawn. Bishop Mike’s speech is excellent and very generous; I’m not sure that I could be so generous.

  15. Hate to rain on your parade, but the governance of the Church of England has systems in place for a reason. The General Synod is not a rubber stamp body and there were always tensions in that Synod about this particular legislation, even when it was sent down to the dioceses. If we have no confidence in the processes, so be it. I personally don’t believe in theology by voting. But I also have limited confidence in Diocesan Synods as forums for theological discernment. General Synod may have saved us from an even greater train wreck and given that we all prayed for the ‘right’ outcome a bit more trust in Providence surely wouldn’t go amiss right now.

  16. Having only been ordained deacon this June and with no prospects of being elevated to the episcopate, I still feel that my ministry has been affirmed by this decision and am extremely grateful for the support and love shown to me and other women clergy, by our bishops, Mike and Lee.