The House of Bishops has recently amended the draft legislation for women to become bishops in the Church of England.
This was despite the original draft legislation having been the product of six years of debate in Synod and over a year of detailed drafting in committee. The original draft had received the support of 42 out of 44 dioceses in a nationwide consultation that itself took 18 months.
The House of Bishops made two amendments. The amendment to Clause 8 has been accepted as a helpful clarification that does not alter the Measure significantly and may allow some opponents of women's ministry to feel reassured without undermining the ministry of ordained women.
But the amendment to Clause 5 has caused widespread dismay. It would entrench discrimination against women in the Established Church and place a permanent question mark over the validity of women's orders. The confusion over its interpretation amongst commentators demonstrates that it would prove to be bad law.
The Church can only flourish when lay and ordained women in the Church can flourish. The amended legislation will be both damaging to women and damaging to the Church: the House of Bishops should withdraw the amended Clause 5(1)c and allow General Synod to vote on draft legislation that is as close as possible to that approved by the dioceses.
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