The House of Bishops of the Church in Wales has rejected calls for the reintroduction of a flying bishop for its members opposed to women clergy.
In a paper given to last month’s meeting of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales, the bishops said that while they wish to “uphold the principle of respect for those, who in conscience, cannot accept that women can be ordained to holy orders,” they would not permit the creation of any legal structures to safeguard these principles.
The paper stated the bishops “do not feel able to support any scheme for the reintroduction of alternative episcopal oversight, such as the appointment of a Provincial Assistant Bishop.”
In 2008 the Governing Body rebuffed Archbishop Barry Morgan and declined to support his bid to enact legislation permitting women bishops. At the September 2011 meeting of the Governing Body, Dr. Morgan announced that discussions on women bishops would be re-launched in 2012. Copies of the bishops’ proposals were distributed to the members of the Governing Body and delegates broke into small groups to discuss the paper. The results of the discussions will be compiled and distributed to the next meeting of synod.
The bishops asked the Governing Body whether it believes it is time to refight the women bishops’ battle, whether there should be safeguards for those opposed to women bishops, and if so, what form these safeguards might take.
The bishops proposed amending canon law to allow women to be ordained to the episcopate and to render the ordinal gender neutral. Two model conscience clauses were proposed by the bishops:
(a) No member of the Church in Wales who has a conscientious objection to the ordination of women to the episcopate shall be required to receive the sacramental ministry of a woman bishop. And (b) In circumstances where a member of the Church in Wales believes that they require specific arrangements under these provisions, he or she may make application to the diocesan bishop, who shall make such reasonable arrangements necessary to enable that member to receive such sacramental ministry from a bishop whose ministry is not subject to such objection.
Or: (a) At a meeting chaired by the Archdeacon, the Parochial Church Council of a Parish in the Church in Wales may, by secret ballot of its members, resolve: (1) not to receive the sacramental ministry of its woman Diocesan Bishop or woman Assistant Bishop; and (2) to make application to the Diocesan Bishop to receive only the sacramental ministry of a male bishop. (b) Upon receipt by the Diocesan Bishop of written confirmation of the resolution, the Bishop shall make the necessary arrangements, and notify the Archdeacon, the Incumbent and the Secretary of the Parochial Church Council in writing of the arrangements made. (c) The Parochial Church Council may at any time, and not less than every five years, by secret ballot taken at a properly convened meeting to consider whether to rescind such a resolution. (d) During any vacancy in the incumbency a further secret ballot shall be taken at a meeting of the PCC chaired by the Archdeacon.
The bishops also proposed legislation that would prohibit a bishop from refusing to sponsor for ordination, ordain or license a woman priest.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.