Consecrating female bishops in the Church of England
Steps taken during 2000 & 2001
Steps during the year 2000:
At the meeting of the mid-year General Synod of the Church of England
a number of resolutions to approve female consecrations failed
to receive support.
Venerable Judith Rose, the Archdeacon of Tonbridge, then introduced a private
member's resolution that would commit the church to study the possibility of
consecrating women as bishops. It proposed:
"That this Synod ask the House of Bishops to
initiate further theological study on the episcopate, focusing on the issues
that need to be addressed in preparation for the debate on women in the
episcopate in the Church of England, and to make a progress report on this study
to Synod within the next two years."
It passed "overwhelmingly."
Rev. Rose had been one of the first women to be ordained in the Church of
England. She commented: "Because of my age I am never going to be a
potential candidate, although the color purple suits me quite well."
When a tabulated vote was demanded by conservatives, the bishops voted 36 to
1 for the resolution; "clergy members by 154 to 39 and laity by 165 to
49." Those opposed expressed concern that Church unity would be further
threatened. They are also concerned about the long-term effect on ecumenical
discussions with the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic
not allow ordination of women or even internal discussion of the issue by its
An unidentified Anglican nun from the Community of St Andrew told
"We cannot be fully human and the Church cannot be fully
united in its ministry unless there are some women as well as men bishops."
The Right Rev David Hope, Archbishop of York -- where the Synod was held -- had
previously opposed women priests. He voted in favor of this resolution,
"The threefold nature of Holy Order as it has been traditionally
understood in the Church of England is that in theory at least a deacon
may become a priest and a priest become a bishop. Certainly, that is how
it has been both understood and practiced thus far for male persons, so
why not for female persons?"
The Right Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, also voted in
favor. But he expressed concern that the consecration of women may threaten unity
in the church or some dioceses. Anglicans who are unable to recognize a bishop
because of her gender may feel excluded and marginalized. 3
Steps during the year 2001:
2001-MAR-19: The Church of England established a working party
consisting of a chairperson, five women and
five men to study the issue of female bishops. Two ecumenical representatives --
one from the Roman Catholic Church and the other from
the Methodist Church were also included. The group is called the House
of Bishops’ Working Party on Women in the Episcopate. The Bishop of Rochester, Dr
Michael Nazir-Ali, was selected to chair the group. He commented:
of the Church is very important but it can never contradict the Church's basic
commitment to justice ... Some people have said
that, because the Church of England now ordains women to the priesthood, it
is only natural that they should also be appointed bishops. My view is that
we are now at the start of a process, rather than reaching the end of one."
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Stephen Bates, "Church of England Takes Cautious Step Toward Female Bishops. England's Anglican branch has resisted the trend toward women
bishops accepted in the U.S., Canada, and New Zealand," Guardian Unlimited, 2000-JUL-10, at:
- "Church of England to consider women bishops," AD2000 journal Volume 13, #7, 2000-AUG, Page 5. Online at:
- "Anglican Church of England Synod considers women bishops; Could be further obstacle to future union of Christians," Archbishops.org,
2000, at: http://archbishops.org/church.htm
- "Church of England Examines Female Bishops Issue," Daily Catholic, 2001-MAR-20, at:
Copyright © 2000 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2008-JUL-10
Author: Bruce A. Robinson