jQuery Slider

You are here

LONDON: Testosterone Deficit Revealed in Women Bishops Debate

LONDON: Testosterone Deficit Revealed in Women Bishops Debate

Synod - Day One

By David W. Virtue in London

In an update on the progress of women bishops in the Church of England, exasperated Synod members groaned when it was revealed that there would be no discussion of a paper delivered by the Bishop of Manchester, The Rt. Rev. Nigel McCulloch on the subject of women bishops.

The announcement was greeted by public "no's" from some 400 Synod members. The bishop proceeded with his speech emphasizing that the Revisions Committee had met thirteen times, had received nearly 300 submissions, including 114 from Synod members.

McCulloch opined that while women bishops is likely a done deal those who had "conscientious difficulties" about women's ordination would be afforded another bishop, but such a bishop will be chosen by a delegation from the diocesan bishops including women bishops, thus leaving the situation still untenable to orthodox Anglicans.

The Rev. Canon Simon Bessant (Sheffield) rose to say that there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to support the view that the gender balance in Church of England congregations is getting seriously out of line.

In his report he said there are significant missiological issues emerging when a church experiences a testosterone deficit. He asked for "hard evidence" on the matter saying there are profound theological issues which characterize a church with a gender imbalance.

In a reply to Bessant, the Bishop of Bristol, the Rt. Rev. Michael Hill said the Revision Committee is moving beyond anecdotal evidence and building mission policies on something more substantial.

"The social analysis here is complex and there are no quick fixes in terms of mission practice. I believe every bishop is concerned to build a well-balanced church, and mission amongst men and younger people is on everyone's agenda."


Gerald O'Brien (Rochester) asked what action was being taken to arrest and reverse the 30% decline in the number of confirmations over the last ten years.

Bishop Hill replied that mission and evangelism strategies in the dioceses help bring new people to Christ, "they are a key source of confirmation candidates."


Stipendiary clergy will have to work additional years for a full pension and will be unable to retire before 68 or 70.
This affects clergy already working a six-day week. Recently the Church of England Pension Fund lost $70 million dollars in a failed real estate deal in Manhattan, New York.

The following is a statement from the Bishop of Manchester, The Rt. Rev. Nigel McCulloch.


1. I am grateful to the Business Committee for providing this opportunity to brief Synod about the draft legislation on Women in the Episcopate, which it committed for revision in committee a year ago. I speak, with the agreement of the Revision Committee and of its chair Clive Mansell. My role has been to be Chair of the Steering Committee which, under Standing Order 49, is assigned the task of being, and I quote, 'in charge of the Measure'. If only it were so simple.

2. The Steering Committee and Revision Committee held their first meetings on 23 April and 1 May respectively. Because of the exceptional significance of the task the Appointments Committee had chosen eight people to be members of the Steering Committee and a further eleven to serve with them on the Revision Committee, making both Committees the largest in recent history. In accordance with convention, the Steering Committee was appointed from among those who had signalled their general support for the legislation by voting for the July 2008 motion. The other members of the Revision Committee were drawn from a wide variety of viewpoints.

3. In just over nine months since our first meetings the Revision Committee has met [a total of thirteen times, most recently on 22 January]. It was clear from the outset that we all faced a daunting task. We received nearly 300 submissions, including 114 from members of Synod, who, under the Standing Orders, have the right to come, speak to their submissions and be present while the points they raise are under consideration.

4. Many of the submissions inevitably covered a large number of points. So, some Synod members have had the right to attend a large number of the meetings. Happily not all of them have chosen to do so but even so it has been an extraordinary logistical challenge for the Committee and especially the staff supporting it to ensure that everyone has the say that they are entitled to.

5. In the normal course of events Revision Committees quickly settle down to the task entrusted to them by the Standing Orders which is, and I quote, to "consider the Measure committed to them, together with any proposals for amendments, clause by clause."

6. In this instance, however, both the Steering Committee and Revision Committee were clear very early on that it would not be sensible to try and move straight into clause by clause consideration. We agreed that we needed first to take representations from those who wanted the shape of the Measure to be of a significantly different kind from what the earlier Drafting Group had prepared.

7. Some people argued for the creation of additional dioceses. Other submissions proposed the creation of a new, officially recognised, society. Others tabled proposals for the statutory transfer of certain functions. Others proposed dropping the Statutory Code of Practice and instead having the simplest form of legislation that would do nothing more than lift the present legal impediment to women becoming bishops.

8. These were all proposals that Synod members were perfectly entitled to submit and the Steering and Revision Committees had an absolute obligation to take them seriously. The specific mandate given by the Synod in July 2008 was to the Legislative Drafting Group. But - as I made clear to the Synod last February - once the legislative process proper started, all the earlier arguments could be run again, alongside fresh arguments and proposals. The consideration of draft legislation always allows of such possibilities. Indeed, it is not uncommon for Synod members to vote to send draft legislation to a Revision Committee not because they agree with all of it but because they want to try and secure significant changes to it in Committee. The Revision Committee has had to listen to and weigh every point to us, both large and small.

9. I hope all that gives some insight into the nature of the task we have been engaged in and some of the exceptional challenges with which we have had to grapple. Against that background let me come now to explaining where we've got to and what comes next.

10. Where have we got to? It was only at our tenth meeting on 26 November that the Revision Committee completed the first phase of its work, namely considering whether to substitute a significantly different approach for the one reflected in the initial draft of the Measure. What we had done in our earlier meetings was to adopt a 'traffic light' system of red and amber.

11. Having heard representations in favour of creating additional dioceses the Committee decided before the summer to give the idea the red light. But proposals for a recognised society, some sort of transfer or vesting, or for adopting the simplest possible legislative approach all got initial amber lights, that is to say, we agreed to consider them further.

12. We then did some serious work on these models, particularly to tease out the pros and cons of the society model and to understand exactly what it might mean in terms of who exercised what jurisdiction and on whose authority. After much discussion we came to the point of decision on 8 October. The Revision Committee voted by a clear majority to reject the society option but, by a similarly clear majority to go for the transfer or vesting route. This meant that, in relation to petitioning parishes, certain functions - though the Committee had not agreed which - would be exercised by bishops by virtue of the Measure rather than by way of delegation from the diocesan bishop.

13. We were then confronted with a dilemma over what if anything to say about such a significant decision. We had confirmed at the outset of this exercise that we would not offer a running commentary on progress. Nevertheless, we have no sanctions to enforce confidentiality. With 19 members we are a big Group and in addition there are usually several other Synod members present at our discussions. We were also conscious that people would be attending subsequent meetings and would need to know the changed context in which they were presenting their proposals.

14. So, it was clear that news of what we had decided would get out, not necessarily accurately. After discussion there was agreement across the Revision Committee that the least bad option was to put out a short factual press release.

15. Even with the benefit of hindsight I'm not sure that we could have done differently. But it did, in the event, create difficulty for us and necessitate a further statement when, on 13 November, further work resulted in all the specific proposals for the vesting of particular functions being defeated. The Revision Committee was simply unable to identify a basis for specifying particular functions for vesting which could command sufficient support both from those in favour of the ordination of women as bishops and those unable to support that development.

16. This meant that after more than six months work we had rejected all the options which would have involved conferring some measure of jurisdiction on someone other than the diocesan bishop. The legislation that the Revision Committee sends back to the Synod will, therefore, be on the basis that any arrangements that are made for parishes with conscientious difficulties about women's ordination will be by way of delegation from the diocesan bishops. That much is already clear.

17. What the Committee has been doing since November is to look at the Draft Measure and Amending Canon clause by clause to see how much of the original drafts should be retained, whether some provisions should be dropped or modified and whether others should be added.

18. Let me in conclusion say a few words about what happens next. We very much regret that the scale of the task made it impossible for us to conclude our work in time for the Revision stage to take place at this group of sessions. We did our level best. We are [not far off now] from completing the detailed scrutiny of the draft legislation and shall then need to agree the terms of our report to Synod. This will need to be a comprehensive document, setting out what we decided and why in relation to all of the proposals for amendment contained in the 114 submissions we received from Synod members.

19. Our aim is to issue this document, together with the revised draft legislation, so that Synod members have several weeks to consider it before July. Decisions on the amount of time to allow for the take note debate on our report and the Revision Stage that follows will be for the Business Committee but it has already signalled that it is prepared to make as much time available as is needed.

20. What happens thereafter depends on what decisions the Synod takes. At the Revision Stage it is open to members to table amendments - whether on large matters or small - inviting the full Synod to take a different view from that reached by the Revision Committee.

21. The key point is that the work of the Revision Committee is just one of many important stages in a process. Its task is to send back something that will provide a coherent basis for the next - and potentially most crucial - phase of the discussion, in which the whole Synod will have to consider afresh the many arguments and issues with which we have had to wrestle for so long.


Get the latest news and perspectives in the Anglican world.
comments powered by Disqus
Prayer Book Alliance
Trinity School for Ministry

Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee

Drink Coffee

Do Good

Sustainable Ministry

Coffee, Community, Social Justice


Go To Top