Last week, the House of Bishops, by an overwhelming majority, settled the text of the legislation to enable women to become bishops in the Church of England.

The House of Bishops made clear its desire for the draft legislation to be passed into law when it goes forward for final approval to the Church of England’s General Synod in November.

In a letter to all clergy, Bishop Tim says: “I do believe that the Measure, as it now stands, is faithful to the two key principles which are at the heart of this whole matter.

“Firstly, it will enable women to be consecrated as bishops and we can look forward to this with a sense of joy. Secondly, this Measure also encourages and enables as many as possible to stay within the Church of England as honoured and loyal members, even if they do not agree with this development at this stage.

“Of course, as you will know, the very difficult issue has been how we can keep these two principles clearly in our focus and not allow either, women on the one hand, to feel in some way they are not really bishops; or, on the other, allow those opposed to feel somehow they are not really being allowed to be loyal and honoured members of our church.

“The latest amendment we have agreed uses in one clause of the Measure the word ‘respect’. I believe that is a helpful word and, whilst I know often in common parlance it can mean the opposite (“with respect”), I do think it is a good and Christian word.

“Indeed, Paula Gooder (the New Testament scholar) said that in the New Testament the word would be better translated ‘reverence’ and surely it is a good thing for us to have such a high regard for other people, especially, perhaps, if we disagree with them.

“As you will know, since the ordination of women to the priesthood, there has been in place a process to allow parishes to ask for extended episcopal oversight if they don’t agree with the ordination of women for theological reasons.

“In this present Measure, there are plans to ensure that every diocese will have a scheme. Parishes will be able to write Letters of Request to the bishop and every diocesan bishop will have to have in place a scheme to describe how they will respond to such letters.

“I am committed to work with those parishes that write such letters and hope we can find a way to ensure they will be provided with proper oversight in a manner which will enable them to flourish and enable them to be a vital part of the diocese.

“I have come away from the House of Bishops’ meeting this week with a sense of confidence and a feeling that God is at work in this process … And I would ask, therefore, that across the diocese we build on this renewed sense both of listening and spending time with those who take a different position from ourselves.”

The full vote on the legislation takes place at the meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England which meets in London from 19 – 21 November – to be passed, it will require a two thirds majority in each of the Houses of Bishops, Clergy and Laity.


Full Text of Bishop Tim’s Letter


Link to Archbishop of Canterbury’s podcast