Update to AAC from Canon Chris Sugden

Brothers and Sisters,

The General Synod of the Church of England that has just finished in York attempted to change the culture by which the Church of England tries to square the circle of welcoming women into the episcopate on exactly the same terms as men while at the same time making provision for those who cannot accept their ministry on theological grounds.

Last November, inadequate legislation to achieve this predictably failed. The clear signs that it would not achieve the necessary special majorities were ignored.

Then came a new Archbishop who immediately introduced facilitated conversations into the Synodical process. First, a working party was convened who engaged in round table talks with representatives of all the major parties. The working party produced a report for the House of Bishops.

This report set out a vision as something “around which all those who aspire to keep the Church of England as a broad church might gather.” These are that:

1.Once legislation has been passed to enable women to become bishops the Church of England will be fully and unequivocally committed to all orders of ministry being open equally to all, without reference to gender, and will hold that those whom it has duly ordained and appointed to office are the true and lawful holders of the office which they occupy and thus deserve due respect and canonical obedience;

2.Anyone who ministers within the Church of England must then be prepared to acknowledge that the Church of England has reached a clear decision on the matter;

3. Since it will continue to share the historic episcopate with other Churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and those provinces of the Anglican Communion which continue to ordain only men as priests or bishops, the Church of England will acknowledge that its own clear decision on ministry and gender is set within a broader process of discernment within the Anglican Communion and the whole Church of God;

4. Since those within the Church of England who, on grounds of theological conviction, are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests will continue to be within the spectrum of teaching and tradition of the Anglican Communion, the Church of England will remain committed to enabling them to flourish within its life and structures; and

5. Pastoral and sacramental provision for the minority within the Church of England will be made without specifying a limit of time and in a way that maintains the highest possible degree of communion and contributes to mutual flourishing across the whole Church of England.

The tenor of this report opened up possibilities. In his Presidential Address to Synod Archbishop Justin Welby said the following:

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