Church could see women ordained as bishops by 2014, but critics warn draft legislation contains a compromise too far
The Venerable Rachel Treweek, archdeacon of Hackney, will leave east London for York tomorrow with mixed feelings and a heavy heart. This weekend's gathering of the General Synod was supposed to be historic: the moment at which the Church of England would finally, after decades of struggle and division, pass legislation that permitted women to become bishops.
Instead of rejoicing, however, Treweek and many other supporters of the cause now find themselves in a very peculiar position. The legislation they fought so hard for is due to be presented for final approval and, if it is passed, the church could see women consecrated to the episcopate by 2014.
But Treweek is hoping for an adjournment and is dreading the possibility that the final vote will be held. Because, if it comes down to it, she will vote against.
"I cannot tell you – even sitting here now, I can feel it – how painful that feels," she says, in the low-lit quiet of St Anne's church in Hoxton. "I feel I have to hold the line of my integrity. It would be very easy to say: 'Oh, let's all just vote in favour and get this through.'… But I think it's very unlikely that I would press the yes button because of that place of integrity."
Until May, the draft legislation on female bishops met with the approval of people such as Treweek. A two-clause measure that sought to open the episcopate to women at the same time as providing for those who remain adamantly opposed to the idea, it had been approved by 42 of 44 dioceses (although not, to her chagrin, Treweek's own: the diocese of London voted against).
Although a compromise, it was viewed by many to be the least bad one in a church where fudges are a standard vehicle for change.
Then it all started to unravel. In May, the House of Bishops made two amendments to the legislation, one of which supporters say would enshrine discrimination against women in law. It is this clause – the now infamous 5(1)c – which prompted a group of senior female clergy to write to members of the General Synod expressing their "deep dismay" and hope that an adjournment would be reached that would allow for the offending passage to be looked at again.
"I've spent quite a long time trying to make myself feel it was voteable for so that we could just get on with things," said the Rev Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, chaplain at University College, Durham, of 5(1)c. "For the last few weeks, I've been really very upset – prone to bursting into tears.
"But I feel a bit calmer now. I've realised I just can't do that; I haven't got that dilemma any more. It's just completely unacceptable to institutionalise discrimination against women in that way."
The objections to clause 5(1)c are complex. Supporters of female bishops had accepted long ago that provisions should be made for those evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics who, for different reasons, view a female bishop as a theological impossibility. The draft legislation allowed for parishes to request alternative bishops.
But, according to a formidable coalition of senior female clergy, the legislation as it now stands is a compromise too far which in effect legitimises discriminatory beliefs.
Clause 5(1)c stipulates that a new code of practice being drawn up should include official guidance on how to ensure that "the exercise of ministry by those [alternative] bishops and priests will be consistent with the theological convictions" of the parish which has objected to a woman.
Its defenders say that this wording is merely making explicit what was already implicit in the draft legislation. But others says it is enshrining in law the very prejudices against which supporters of female bishops have battled so long. It would, they say, create a two-tier system in which not only women, but men who ordained women or who had themselves been ordained by women, would be considered second rate.
Not everyone, even fellow supporters of the cause, agrees with them; they have been accused of nit-picking at a crucial stage, and exposing the Church of England to yet more censure for its slow-moving decision-making.
But those opposing the amended clause are undeterred. "I've had a certain amount of emotional blackmail from some people ringing me up and saying: 'You've got to vote for it because otherwise what will the general public think?'" says Threlfall-Holmes.
"But the sense I've had from the [Durham] students and also from people in the pews … is very much that the last thing they will understand is if we vote for discriminatory legislation."
Treweek, who admits she was "quite naive" about the future of women in the church when she was ordained in 1994, two years after legislation allowing female priests was passed, says it is partly because of that that she feels so strongly about women bishops now.
"It has taken this long and I didn't think it would take this long and I don't want us to ever have to revisit this," she says. "I want to get it right now. I don't want to get something in legislation which means in 10 years' time we're having to come back to this.
"This is the moment for getting it right. And if that means it has to take longer, then that's where I'm sitting at the moment."
If, as is looking increasingly likely, there is an adjournment in the debate on Monday, the legislation would go back to the House of Bishops in September and would return to Synod at a later date. Hilary Cotton, strategy co-ordinator of campaign group Women and the Church (Watch), says she would like to see the bishops ask senior female clergy for their opinion on the wording of future amendments.
If there is not an adjournment and the vote goes ahead, Cotton says she will take no pleasure in either result.
"It's a joyless position at this stage and that's a tragedy," she says, sitting with Sally Barnes, also of Watch, in the cafe at St Martin in the Fields in central London. Barnes shows off pictures of Watch's tea towel, emblazoned with the words: "A woman's place is in the House … of Bishops."
She has, like many people, been campaigning on the issue of women in the Church of England for decades – in her case, since 1979. "And we were nearly there," says Cotton.
A woman has been confirmed as the new dean at the city's minster. The Very Rev Vivienne Faull, 57, was previously the first woman appointed to a cathedral deanery when she became dean at Leicester in 2000. She is expected to take up her post at York Minster in September.
Faull said she was delighted to have been nominated and added: " It is of course daunting to move from one of the smallest to one of the largest cathedrals." The dean, who studied at St Hilda's College, Oxford, has risen to become one of the leading female clergy in the church since her ordination in 1994. She has been a member of the General Synod representing deans of cathedrals since 2004.
There are only three other female deans running cathedrals in England.
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INC- Network of Local Radio Stations in cooperation with in total 15 local radio stations from Kosovo broadcasting in Serbian language and five local radio stations in Serbia including Radio Presheva, Albanian local broadcaster, with the support, of BTD, Austrian.., KFOS Soros Fund and NED, in the period of July-September 2011, produced and broadcast weekly shows titled The Bridge, Prishtina - Belgrade Civil Dialogue which as the main objective had promotion of ethnic tolerance, intra-ethnic and regional cooperation between Albanians and Serbs i.e. Kosovo and Serbia. The motivation for the initiation and then implementation of this unique project which involved in total 15 local broadcasters from Kosovo and Serbia was the beginning of the technical dialogue between two capitols with the mediation of European Union. As the opinion is aware these ongoing talks as the main objective had solving of issues that remains an obstacle in normalization of relations between two capitols. The project was unique for couple of reasons which will be elaborated in this report, however we need to underline here the fact that ‘The Bridge” is the first project which saw such close cooperation and joint work between local broadcasters from Kosovo and Serbia, i.e. for the first time local broadcasters from these two countries together produced and broadcasted same weekly shows, a fact that in itself is an indicator of the conclusion that this project was unique and that was successful in its implementation.