The campaign group WATCH (Women and the Church) has expressed "deep regret" that there will be no debate on the draft legislation for women bishops at the forthcoming General Synod of the Church of England which is its governing body.
Following the publication this week of the General Synod’s February agenda, it became clear that the Revision Committee set up to prepare the legislation which will open the Episcopate to women, had failed to complete its task in time for February’s synod. It was asked to complete its job within 12 months in a synod motion a year ago.
WATCH (http://womenandthechurch.org/ ) says that although it was not explicitly asked to do so, the Revision Committee considered a range of options for the legislation - including models already rejected by General Synod. This may have contributed significantly to the delay, suggest critics.
“At least no one can say that any stone has been left unturned” commented Christina Rees, chair of WATCH. “We now expect the very best legislation to be presented well in advance of the July meeting of General Synod. We hope to see a clear, workable and straightforward set of proposals, which are closely aligned to what Synod requested in July 2008, namely legislation making it possible for women to be bishops within the existing structures of the Church. Perhaps all the extra time this is taking will help the Revision Committee to reach the simplicity that lies beyond complexity.”
The Bishop of Manchester is due to give February’s Church of Englan Synod a report on the process so far and WATCH says it hopes that he will provide a full explanation of the reasons for the delay.
It would be "unthinkable" if their report is not brought to the July 2010 meeting of General Synod, the group says.
In a recent media release it stated: "This matter is of such ecclesial and public importance that should the Church fail to honour its decisions to allow women to be bishops, especially as women account for nearly 40 per cent of the Church’s active clergy, it risks becoming an object of ridicule."