Comments: Women in the Episcopate - proposed amendments - what do they mean?

Nothing constructive to add until I've looked at this in more depth, but just wanted to say thank you Peter for helping us lesser mortals to understand this!

Posted by tommiaquinas at Tuesday, 6 July 2010 at 10:10am BST

Help a poor Yank understand a few things:

I know the PCC is the functional equivalent of what we call a vestry. Our vestry is elected by the lay members of the parish at our annual meeting. How is the PCC chosen?

I ask because I'm trying to figure out how much this whole dilemma is being driven by the conservative clergy and how much by the conservative laity of the parishes.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 6 July 2010 at 11:03am BST

I agree with @tommiaquinas - thanks for the translations

Posted by riazat at Tuesday, 6 July 2010 at 12:37pm BST


Most of the members of the PCC are elected by the annual meeting, where the voters are the members of the electoral roll. In addition there are the two churchwardens. They are elected at a separate meeting where the electors are the members of the electoral roll, plus anybody on the register of local government electors who lives in the parish. The annual meeting may also decide that one of more of the parish's readers should be PCC members. The vicar/rector/priest-in-charge plus any other clergy licensed to the parish are also members.

Posted by Peter Owen at Tuesday, 6 July 2010 at 1:59pm BST

OK, had a little chance to digest this now.

512-514 - Amply covered previously and elsewhere, I have nothing to add.

515 - Why? This amendment seems pretty spiteful to traditionalists and undermines a bishop's role as pastor.

516 - Unclear as to what this would achieve, help appreciated!

517 - Whole new can of worms. What's the remit of the review body? Who sits on it? But largely a secondary issue.

519 - Well intentioned but difficult in practice. I would say go one way or the other - either make the decision at APCM or let the PCC do it.

520 - I have no objection per se but can see why others will have.

521 - Again, unsure what this will achieve.

530 - I'm naturally suspicious of absolute discretion, particularly in areas as important as this.

540 - Major issues with this. The CofE cannot continue to speak the 'equal and honoured' line whilst acting as if traditionalists are a bunch of old people to be lovingly euthanised. My major regret is that the 'equal and honoured' debate has not been properly thrashed out. If we believe it, we should act upon it. If we don't, we should stop saying it. Both of those avenues are honourable, but this one isn't.

541 - Seems reasonable

542 - Honourable but controversial I'm sure!

Posted by tommiaquinas at Tuesday, 6 July 2010 at 2:19pm BST

This is becoming WAY too complicated and legalistic. If a woman can be called by God to be Queen and Sovereign, and reign for over 50 years, then God can most certainly call a woman to be a bishop in the church. Those attempting to thwart the ordination of women to the episcopate are simply trying to turn back the clock and live in denial.

Posted by rob at Tuesday, 6 July 2010 at 2:56pm BST

As a Catholic convert from Anglicanism (admittedly I didn't stay Anglican very long) I agree with Rob.

"If a woman can be called by God to be Queen and Sovereign, and reign for over 50 years, then God can most certainly call a woman to be a bishop in the church."

The Anglican Church has a political principle of authority, and hence can and should embrace political expediency.

Posted by Michael Hopwood at Tuesday, 6 July 2010 at 4:43pm BST

All that is needed is to add the words

'and women'

to the Service of Consecration , for pete's sake !

All this stuff about validity and tender consciences is just play-acting being RC. We aren't RC. And the response to Jo Ratzinger's offer (with the fancy sounding name), makes it clear that the high church members of our national protestant but diverse church --have NO intention of going over to Rome either.

So let's just get on with it.

Posted by Pantycelyn at Tuesday, 6 July 2010 at 5:09pm BST

Thanks for the info, Peter. One more question--who exactly is on the "electoral roll"? It sounds like it's anyone who lives in the parish...or is it only the actual members of the CoE who live there? I suspect the consequences of establishment are making this tough for me to understand.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 6 July 2010 at 5:19pm BST

On some of the queries, this is my take:

515 Retains as much of the role of the Diocesan Bishop as possible when some functions need to be transferred (eg sacramental roles)

516 Operates in those dioceses where the Bishop has said he will not ordain women to ensure that those who do support the ordination of women are fairly treated

517 Appendix III says who will be on this - a sort of standing Blackburn Review

519 Wide consultation is supported by Affirming Catholicism, and by others like me who see people bemused when they ask simple questions about whether women can take part in services - it makes the policy of the Parish Church well known, and ensures it has widespread support.

520 Requires PCCs who have no questions about women bishops to consider such questions every five years. PCC agendas are full enough already. No idea what happens if you don't?

521 is an attempt to avoid covert discrimination, eg patrons/bishops considering only male candidates when the parish would have a man or a woman. (at least it gives space for this to be in the Code of Practice)

Posted by Mark Bennet at Tuesday, 6 July 2010 at 6:02pm BST

Pat: "I ask because I'm trying to figure out how much this whole dilemma is being driven by the conservative clergy and how much by the conservative laity of the parishes."

Although the Vestry in the Episcopal Church and PCC in the C of E fulfil much the same function, in practice, C of E parish priests, especially in both the extreme Anglo-Catholic and extreme Evangelical parishes, hold sway over their PCCs to an extent which, I understand, would not normally occur in Episcopal churches. I know of many C of E parishes in the Anglo-Catholic tradition where the anti-women resolutions were driven through by determined parish priests though the majority of parishioners did not personally oppose women's ordination - the well-known Anglo-Catholic parish where I served my curacy being an example.

Likewise, I remember being told by my neighbour, who was there, of the famous parish meeting at St Andrew's, Linton Road, a leading Conservative Evangelical parish in Oxford, at which the vicar, shocked that his parishioners did not actually disapprove of the consecration of Jeffrey John as suffragan Bishop of Reading, told them all he would resign immediately unless they supported him in his opposition... needless to say, they meekly thought "well, if he's so worked up about it, we'd better let him have his way," which is fairly typical of the long-suffering laity of England in the face of bizarre clergy behaviour.

Posted by Fr Mark at Tuesday, 6 July 2010 at 9:58pm BST

Fr. Mark:

Thanks a bunch for the info. Yes, it is highly unlikely that any TEC rector could control his vestry to that extent, or threaten to resign confident that his congregation would back down.

For one thing, of course, in TEC, the parish congregation hires the rector (he/she is not assigned by the diocese or the national church). Therefore, it is unlikely that any parish could have a rector who was that different in regard to theology and policy from his congregation. Although, once hired, a rector cannot be dismissed except for certain offenses (mostly regarding money, actually), the parish can certainly make things so difficult for him as to force him out.

(Include the female in all the uses of male regarding the rector, of course.)

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Tuesday, 6 July 2010 at 11:52pm BST

Electoral Roll membership in the C of E is for those people who live in the geographical parish (or those who have worshipped at the church "regularly" [a matter of interpretation] for a period of six months or more. To be a member of the C of E you need to be a baptised member of the Church of England and over 16 (I think). Members of other Trinitarian churches can also apply to join.

People filling out the application form will then have their names and addresses added to the Electoral Roll and they will then be eligible to vote at Annual Church Meetings, where the ER is the body that elects the Parochial Church Council and also representatives of the Deanery Synod (those representatives are important as it is membership of Deanery Synods that confers a right to vote in elections to General Synod NOT membership of PCCs).

One other point about eligibility to vote at church meetings: Churchwardens (usually two) are elected annually by the parish. ANYONE resident in the parish, Muslim, Atheist, Hindu, whatever, has the right to turn up to the Annual Parochial Church Meetings and vote for the churchwarden of their choice - the voters are the residents of the parish. The meeting at which this takes place is technically a separate meeting from the meeting which elects the PCC and the Deanery Synod, and takes place at the beginning of procedures. This has something to do with the ancientness of the office - churchwardens date from the time of Edward the Confessor, our penultimate Saxon King from the early 11th Century.

Membership of a parish's electoral roll is automatic for four years (unless you die or move or choose to have your name removed), but at the end of each quadrennium the Roll is torn up and a new one made which requires every member to reapply.

ER numbers in parishes are (obviously) very much smaller than the population of the parish, but almost always more than the Usual Sunday Attendance figure. Dioceses use the ER and USA figures to calculate what they call loosely a "membership" figure for parishes, usually, if my memory servies me right 2/3ds ER x 1/3 USA - i.e. the fairly committed group of people at the heart of the life of a parish.

Hope that is of help.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Wednesday, 7 July 2010 at 10:50am BST


Yes, that helps a lot...the idea that non-Christians--let alone non-CoE members--get to vote for parish officers is astonishing to me (and probably to many on this side of the pond).

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Wednesday, 7 July 2010 at 11:28am BST

I'd like to know how often it happens, though.
In practice, no-one who is not a member of a particular church has any interest in who is churchwarden there.

This strikes me as one of those quaint rules still on the statute book that are of no practical consequence.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 7 July 2010 at 1:18pm BST

Er - not quite, Erica. I am sure non-Christians in towns never vote - but in rural parishes it is not unheard of - usually when there is a bit of a ruckus going on and a clique in the village want to embarrass the vicar by voting someone unsuitable in!

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Wednesday, 7 July 2010 at 3:24pm BST

Just to clarify: 530, the amendment to Clause 5, will only be debated if Clause 2 is thrown out, in which case Clause 5 has to be amended to make no reference to the things in clause 2. No more than that.

Posted by Hilary at Thursday, 8 July 2010 at 12:13pm BST

Hilary wrote: "Just to clarify: 530, the amendment to Clause 5, will only be debated if Clause 2 is thrown out, in which case Clause 5 has to be amended to make no reference to the things in clause 2. No more than that."

I don't mean to pick on Hilary, but I use her post as an example of the absurdity we've reached in the church. We are really witnessing the death of the model of church we've known. What will replace it remains to be seen, but clearly with legalism like this we've become so deeply mired in the trivial that we've ceased to be relevant to the world. Why would any non-believing person take the church seriously with infighting and legalistic nit-picking like this? The current model of church needs to die...and the sooner the better so we can get on with the task of starting over with the remnant of the Gospel that somehow survives from generation to generation.

Posted by pete at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 2:37am BST

Sorry Pete? Legalism ... and law ...

A Measure (like the one on women bishops) goes through a process to become a law with the same status as an Act of Parliament - and therefore has to be right, and not have hanging clauses etc.

That has been the same for every Measure, it is a law. The perjorative sense of 'legalism' is inappropriate. The process of making a law may be convoluted, but it is what it takes to make a law for the established church.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 1:42pm BST

Actually, even in an unestablished church, like TEC, changes to diocesan or national canons are quite legalistic...and must be, since they operate much like the by-laws of a corporation (in fact, under US law, most churches are corporations). Ambiguity is not a good idea in these instances.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Friday, 9 July 2010 at 9:43pm BST
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