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UK: MPs vie to have woman bishop in their constituency

UK: MPs vie to have woman bishop in their constituency

By Madeleine Davies
Oct. 28, 2104

MEMBERS of Parliament competed to have the first woman bishop appointed in their constituency, as the House of Commons passed the Bishop and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure on Monday.

The debate marked the end of the Measure's parliamentary journey. It received Royal Assent on Thursday and is set to be promulgated at the General Synod in November.

The MP for Kingston upon Hull North, Diana Johnson, put in "an early bid", describing the bishopric as "an ideal starting-place for the first woman bishop in the House of Lords". The MP for Gloucester, Richard Graham, then suggested that the Church should not miss the "fantastic opportunity" to appoint a woman in his constituency.

The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry, said that there was "some competition from around the country", and he referred to the imminent vacacy in the see of Oxford.

MPs who spoke on Monday welcomed the Measure. Frank Field suggested that being able to choose from both sexes would "strengthen our [the C of E's] hand". In 2012, he suggested that the talent among bishops was "at such a low ebb" that the CNC had had to appoint an Archbishop of Canterbury "who had hardly got his bishop's cassock on".

Traditionalists were represented by Robert Neill, who spoke of the "generous" approach of Anglo-Catholics, and the desire to avoid undermining dialogue with "our Catholic and Orthodox brethren". The Church was committed to providing a place for traditionalists, Sir Tony said, "without a limited time". Ms Johnson later asked whether such a limit might be considered.

Helen Goodman emphasised that "it is not for Parliament, or politicians, or even the Government, to lay down the theological grounding"; but Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for Worthing West, argued that "We . . . should have forced this change through far earlier." He asked "all bishops, whether flying bishops or not, to ask every parish that went for Resolution A and B to reconsider".

Ben Bradshaw suggested that the response of Parliament to the "terrible vote" at the General Synod in November 2012 had "really made a difference".

Sir Tony reiterated the commitment to introducing a Bill to fast-track women bishops into the Lords, and hoped that it could take place in this parliamentary session.

After promulgation of the new canon at the General Synod on 17 November, each vacancy for a diocesan or suffragan bishop will be open to women.

A Church House spokesman confirmed on Tuesday that this would include diocesan appoint­ments in Southwell & Notting­ham, Gloucester, Ox­­ford, and Newcastle.

Six suffragan sees are vacant, but, as the diocesan bishop takes the lead on the appointments processes, it is not clear how many of these will still await an appointment after 17 November.

A spokesman for the diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, John Howard, said that a woman could be considered for the see of Dunwich.

The dioceses of Chester and St Albans declined to comment.


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