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Women Bishops

Volume 559: debated on Thursday 7 March 2013

10. What assessment the Church Commissioners have made of the proposals contained in the General Synod document “Women in the episcopate: a new way forward”. (146574)

As I am sure the hon. Lady is aware, there have been several developments since I last updated the House. The initial facilitator discussions have been completed and the consultation stage on a new document has just closed. The working group met earlier this week to consider 376 submissions and will meet again later this month. The intention, as I have mentioned to the House on occasions too numerous to particularise, is to have the House of Bishops give consideration to the results from the working party when it next meets in May.

“Women in the episcopate: a new way forward” could have been written by Sir Humphrey Appleby. It shows little urgency and, with both sides further apart, even less prospect of progress in July. Is it not time that the House took a stand and supported my ten-minute rule Bill next Wednesday on allowing women bishops?

There are two serious points there. First, I promise the hon. Lady that the Church of England is moving as fast as humanly possible on this, and I can assure her that everyone from Archbishop Justin to every member of General Synod wishes to have this matter resolved as speedily as possible. Secondly, the House needs to be cautious about wanting to go back to the position prior to 1919, when matters of doctrine and worship of the Church of England were settled by Parliament. In 1919, Parliament decided that those were matters for the Church Assembly—now the General Synod—and I am not sure that Parliament would wish to go back to that pre-1919 position without giving it some serious thought.