Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure
14th October 2014
Motion to Direct
That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.
My Lords, it is now 95 years since Parliament conferred on the Church of England the power to initiate legislation, which, following parliamentary approval and Royal Assent, becomes part of the law of England.
Most of the Measures passed by the Church Assembly and, since 1970, by the General Synod have been necessary but modest revisions of the church’s rule book and the law of England. Texts such as the Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure 2014 or the Ecclesiastical Fees (Amendment) Measure 2011 were not framed with excitement in mind, but even they sound positively racy compared with that early piece of Church Assembly legislation considered by this House in the days of Archbishop Davidson—the Ecclesiastical Dilapidations Measure 1923. Just occasionally, though, the church brings to Parliament legislation which is of more significance and effect. The Church of England (Worship and Doctrine) Measure 1974 was one such, and so was the legislation passed by Synod in 1992 to enable women to be ordained priests in the Church of England.
This evening—or late this afternoon, as noble Lords have been so quick on criminal justice—the House has before it another piece of legislation designed to achieve a change of historic significance, at least in church terms. Its effect is to enable the Church of England, for the first time, to open all three orders of ministry—deacons, priests and bishops—without reference to gender. The process that was begun by the legislation to enable women to become deacons in the 1980s and then priests in the 1990s will at last be completed by legislation which enables women to become bishops—and indeed, archbishops, since they are not a separate order of ministry in the Church of England. Over the past 20 years many women have given outstanding leadership as vicars, archdeacons and cathedral deans. Now for the first time every post will be open to them.
For many people within the Church of England—and others, looking at it from outside—it has been a process full of frustration. It has been somewhat baffling, particularly in recent years, that something which seems so simple and obvious should have become such a considerable problem. After all, surely the big step was taken in the early 1990s with the admission of women to the priesthood. That indeed is true theologically and psychologically. What matters to most people in the church is who the vicar is. For people in parishes the person who matters most is the vicar.
Nevertheless, the Church of England at the Reformation did not opt for a system of congregational or Presbyterian governance. We remained, like the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions, an episcopal church where bishops are the leaders in mission and ministry and give authority to others as ordained ministers of the gospel through the laying on of hands. Above all, they are the focus of unity. That is very relevant to the structure of this Measure. It is because bishops are at the heart of Anglican polity—indeed, they are included in the Lambeth-Chicago Quadrilateral as one of the four defining features of Anglicanism—that the process of securing agreement to this legislation has been so long and difficult. The heart of the dilemma has been how to try and maintain the theological breadth and diversity of the Church of England while securing a solution which avoids any appearance of equivocation over the Church of England’s commitment to equality between men and women.
In November 2012 the Measure failed and it looked as if the circle could not be squared. By a narrow margin in the House of Laity of six votes the General Synod rejected legislation at the final approval stage despite the fact that it had received approval from all but two of the dioceses in the country. In the course of last year, however, perhaps chastened by that sobering experience and the very adverse reaction across the country, people from a wide range of convictions in the Church of England came together and put together the Measure before us. The result is a very simple piece of legislation, buttressed both by a declaration from the House of Bishops setting out five key principles and by regulations, made under canon, to establish a grievance procedure with an ombudsperson, which will be overseen by independent review.
For traditional Catholics and headship evangelicals, it remains a matter of regret that the Church of England has taken the decision that it has, but they accept that the arrival of women bishops is the clear wish of the overwhelming majority within the Church of England and, in general, people have signalled their wish to remain as loyal members of this church for as long as it has a respected place for them. Similarly, for many of the advocates for gender equality, it remains a matter of regret that the Church of England has made special arrangements for those who on the grounds of theological conviction are unable to receive the ministry of women priests or bishops.
Nevertheless, the overwhelming majorities at Final Approval in the three Houses of Synod—95% in the House of Bishops, 87% in the House of Clergy and 77% in the House of Laity, majorities which in this House would be considered moderately comfortable—signal the commitment that there is to delivering this historic change while, so far as possible, maintaining the traditional diversity of the church.
It is not simply for reasons of history or nostalgia that we wish to remain a broad church. Reconciliation is at the heart of the Christian message; in fact, it has been said that it is the Christian message. It is a message which, as the discussions in this House during the past few weeks have shown, the world desperately needs. The example of being able to live with difference and yet to live in unity is called for more and more. We may regard other members of the Christian family as irritating, embarrassing or plain wrong, but they are part of the family and we do not choose our families.
There is much else that I could say, but let me in conclusion simply add two other points. First, I want to note that Clause 2 constitutes what in our view and that of government lawyers is a clarificatory provision concerning the definition of “public office” in the Equality Act. This is a complex area which we covered in some detail in our memorandum to the Ecclesiastical Committee, which is annexed to the committee’s report.
Under the declaration of the House of Bishops, there will be some occasions when some bishops—men as well as women—will need to ask another bishop to exercise some of their functions in relation to a particular parish. If episcopal posts were public offices, as defined in the Equality Act, appointing to them in the expectation that the person concerned would observe that self-denying ordinance would constitute discrimination in the terms in which the appointment was offered. We do not believe that episcopal offices fall within the definition of “public office” in the Equality Act—life Peers do not either, for that matter—but it is unclear what view the courts would take if the matter were ever tested, so Clause 2 puts the matter beyond any doubt.
Secondly, one of the many happy consequences of this Measure will be that the Benches of the Lords spiritual will in due course include women as well as men, but that could take some time if the normal seniority system were simply left to take its course. We have a bunch of young and vigorous Bishops who are not going to retire too soon, and they really do not die very often. The Synod did not have the power to include in the Measure amendments to the law on the issuing of parliamentary writs, but there has been consultation with all the main parties on the possibility of a very short and simple government Bill which could be taken through this Session to accelerate the arrival of the first women Lords spiritual. There has been solid cross-party support and I very much hope that the Government will be able to find a suitable legislative slot very shortly.
The Measure before your Lordships today is very long overdue. The arrival of women Bishops in this House is equally long overdue. I commend to you the Motion standing in my name.
My Lords, this is, on any view, an important debate, for the reasons given by the most reverend Primate. I wonder how many of your Lordships remember, as I do, the equally momentous occasion 21 years ago when we debated the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure. That Measure, too, had a very long gestation period, but there was one speech that I particularly remember on that occasion—others of your Lordships might remember it, too—and that was the speech of Lord Runcie, who had recently retired from being archbishop to the comparative safety of the Cross Benches. I remember him describing what had occurred as having been not unlike a battlefield, in which he described himself as being one of the “walking wounded”. It was a most wonderful expression to have used, and must in itself have won over a number of your Lordships on that occasion.
I also remember him listing, quite distinctly, the qualities that he looked for when interviewing potential candidates for ordination. He went on to say that he found those qualities every bit as common among women as among men. In some ways, he thought they would add something, so he simply said, “Why not?”. I remember that I was totally convinced by that argument. I think your Lordships then were convinced by that, too. He has, of course, been proved right.
I do not overlook the fact that there are still 1,650 parishes—I think it is—where Resolutions A & B are still in force. The fact remains, however, that women priests now make up one-third of all our serving clergy and that proportion, I suspect, is likely to increase. There are already 22 women archdeacons and six women deans. Why, as has been asked, has it taken so long to take this last step? In the words of Frank Field at the meeting of the Ecclesiastical Committee, to which I shall be coming back a little later, what, in the end, has all the fuss been about? If one asks the same question as Lord Runcie asked 21 years ago, surely the qualities necessary to make a good diocesan or suffragan bishop are every bit as frequently found among women as they are among men. Therefore, to that question, I would answer an emphatic yes. Certainly, it has proved to be the case in the other Anglican communions overseas, where women bishops have been in existence for many years.
Unlike Frank Field, however—and I do not want to take up too much time—I am not surprised that it has taken so long to reach the position that we have now reached. I do not think that the church is in any way to be criticised on that account. I say that for two reasons. In the first place, the theological convictions of those who opposed women priests 21 years ago have not lessened in the mean time. Indeed, their difficulties could be said to have been, in a sense, compounded by the fact that we are now talking about the consecration of bishops and not the ordination of priests. Secondly, and equally important, there is the ecumenical argument, which is simply not to be brushed aside. One can just about imagine the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions accepting women priests in our lifetime, but it is clear that, for them, women bishops are simply out of the question. That is clear from paragraph 25 of Annex 1, if your Lordships would like to refer to it. For those who have put so much effort into bringing the communions together, this will be a hard pill to swallow. One must bear that in mind.
For those reasons, I am not surprised that it has taken so long. As for the failure of the Synod to reach agreement, as it so nearly did, as the most reverend Primate explained, in November 2012, that was a great sadness—one suspects, particularly for the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Williams.
However, the church was quick to learn from that failure, and the Synod was surely right to make a fresh start under the inspired leadership, if I may say so, of the right reverend Primate, for all four reasons set out in Annex 2. The new Measure seems to me to be a great improvement on the previous one. As we know, it has been passed by all the dioceses without exception with great majorities in every case. It came before the Ecclesiastical Committee, which I have already mentioned. We had a full meeting with the representatives of the legislative committee of the Synod. We asked them all sorts of questions. I remember shrewd questions from the noble Lords, Lord Glenarthur, Lord Plant and Lord Judd. It seems to me that the team led by the most reverend Primate answered all our questions to our great satisfaction. When the Motion was put, it was passed unanimously—again, unlike on the previous occasion.
I hope that we will follow the lead of the Ecclesiastical Committee and, like the most reverend Primate, I hope that it will not be long before we can welcome our first woman bishop as a Member of this House. That would clearly involve, by agreement, finding some way to accelerate their progress, but I hope that we will do just that. For that reason, I support the Motion.
My Lords, who would have thought that last business on a cold and wet Tuesday could be so significant, so exciting? In fact, I called a rather bemused Table Office at 10 minutes to five on the last day of the summer term when I saw the Measure on forthcoming business and inquired urgently, “Am I allowed to speak?”. I have therefore been musing this summer what I should say on this seriously exciting stuff if you are a woman attending an Anglican church.
Perhaps I should briefly elaborate. If you are a woman in 21st century Britain and you take for granted your freedoms, you just need to read a novel such as A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, describing life today for Afghani women, to know how fortunate you are. If you are a woman in politics and lacking vision, you have just to pop to Victoria Gardens and stare at the statue of Emmeline Pankhurst; you will soon find fresh inspiration.
Women in leadership in the church is, of course, a trickier issue. With a few notable exceptions such as Elizabeth Fry, we are not brimming with role models in leadership—or so I thought until three years ago, when I visited the Anglican cathedral in Kampala, Uganda. And there you will find plaques on the wall to the people who left England in the late 19th and early 20th centuries at the invitation of the king of Buganda, who had asked the Anglicans to come with their Christian message. I noticed that the plaques on the wall fell into two distinct categories: the first was of small family groups, such as Dr and Mrs Manning and their six year-old child; and then there were women—women who left England alone to go to a land that they had never even see in a photograph and never came home. Perhaps they would have gone anyway, even if, at that time, they had been allowed to use their talents in English parishes. However, I suspect that many women went overseas as, at that time, it was one of the few options for them to use their talents. The irony that they taught and led congregations of black men may only have dawned on later generations. No one knows the names of these women, but they are role models. Their legacy is obvious, as after exporting much of the best talent for decades, if not centuries, it is perhaps no surprise that 98% of the Anglican Church is outside England, and much of it is growing numerically very quickly.
Since I decided to speak, the issue of the best talent for leadership has arisen in another guise for the Anglican Church, which the recruitment of women as bishops may inadvertently assist. There are no published data on the social background of the leadership of the Anglican Church, but the Church Times journalist Madeleine Davies applied the criteria from the recent report by Alan Milburn’s social mobility commission to the current Anglican leadership and found that half of our bishops are from public schools. Although I rate the most reverend Primate as the most down-to-earth Etonian I have ever met, I am keenly aware that this is treading-on-eggshells territory. Half the bishops may have been on assisted places to attend such schools, and there was certainly no chapel at my state comprehensive, so that might be the explanation.
I am convinced that God, who lived on earth as a skilled craftsman, has given the competence to lead churches to some unusual suspects. Women as bishops will probably give a head start to broadening the educational background among leaders, and I hope that the work of my noble friend Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint to talent-spot and develop leadership will include looking at barriers to entry, recruitment in your own image and unconscious bias, which we all carry. Perhaps my noble friend could do a wee investigation of those on the approved list held by the Crown Nominations Commission to see what the future trend might be.
There is one additional aspect that my noble friend Lord Green might consider that did not trouble Alan Milburn but may disproportionally affect women in the church. I was so troubled by this issue that when I attended Synod in York I mentioned it to Dr Caroline Boddington, who I understand holds the list I mentioned. I referred to the women going to Buganda alone. They were, of course, single women. Marital status, I am told, is irrelevant to selection, but if an institution which has so many single people in its ranks ends up disproportionately promoting married people, one might want to investigate. God was, after all, a skilled craftsman who was single.
The Measure before your Lordships’ House is a wonderful opportunity for the church to be a role model for our boardrooms, Armed Forces and, indeed, Parliament to show how leadership is done at its best. I thoroughly welcome the transitional provisions to see women bishops join this House earlier than the current system would allow. I hope that the heart of the most reverend Primate is not sinking at my high expectations of future leadership by both men and women in the church. I have always believed it is a miracle that this state comp girl is a Conservative Peer. All that I have outlined is eminently possible. An exciting era is about to begin.
My Lords, I will make a short speech, if I may, at several levels. First, as a member of the human race committed to fighting for gender equality and the smashing of glass ceilings that prevent women from rising to the very top of institutions, I welcome this proposal. Secondly, as a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee, I simply reiterate the support that I gave for this Measure when the committee met earlier. It is about time, too. We all think that, and we now just want the action to proceed. Thirdly, as a member and former president of the Methodist Conference, I am determined that it should not simply be Anglican voices that give expression to their delight in this debate; Methodists across the land will rejoice at it. We will of course endeavour not to gloat at the tardy joining of Methodists by Anglicans on the road that sees women in top leadership. Fourthly, as the husband of a wife who is a direct descendant of the Pankhurst family—my wife is sitting in the Chamber at the moment so I had better say the right thing—I have learnt what can be achieved by the determination of women seeking after justice and righteousness. Finally, in my own right, I want to be able to show my grandchildren with great pride my name on the record when this Measure was accepted.
My Lords, I was immensely privileged to be co-opted over many years as the only lay woman in a group of the most senior women in the Church of England, who for many years had a residential meeting once a year in the beautiful St George’s House within Windsor Castle. Those women had become quite senior—they were archdeacons or deans—but, alas, they had banged their heads against the concrete ceiling which the church, my church, had then imposed upon them. I cannot tell you of the immense pain which many of those women suffered with the feeling that their own church, which they loved and served, still did not recognise the potential that they had. As a lay member of that group and the church, I say how infinitely humiliating it was to feel that the church that I loved—and, if I may say so, that I found it increasingly difficult to love—continued to reject the potential of those wonderful women within it, who performed at all sorts of levels in the church in a way which made it so greatly enriched by the work that they did.
I feel that I speak in this House for those women, because they are not here today. I listened to their stories over those many years when we met. The one thing which I think was most outstanding about them was their immense patience. They put up with the way that they were treated. One woman who was extremely senior—I will not mention her role—had to work with male colleagues who refused to take the host when she was officiating and met without her at key meetings because they did not wish to have her voice heard. There were women who were criticised because their high heels clonked as they walked in procession up the aisle of the church, and so on. There were unbelievable stories and yet they remained patient and conciliatory. They were willing to give and to understand the views of those who disagreed with them and wanted to continue to reject them and their calling. These were women who genuinely felt that they had a vocation to serve in the church, not women who were trying to push themselves forward because they wanted promotion, yet time and again their sense of vocation had to be put to one side.
I simply want to put on the record the immense courage and patience which those women showed in all the negotiations, which were painful. If you are on the receiving end of a refusal of recognition, it is not much fun; yet, as I say, they continued to work patiently with the people who disagreed with them and wished to exclude them, giving concession after concession over the years. I cannot tell you how immensely happy I am at the passing of this Measure today. I remember one occasion when we were meeting down in Windsor and were joined by the wonderful Bishop Wolf from America. I speak of the immensely moving moment when, after a couple of days of Bishop Wolf being simply Jo—she was just one of the girls when we were all chatting, having our breakfast and lunch or in our discussions together, and so on—at the end of our meeting, the person who was chairing it turned to her and said, “Bishop, would you give us your blessing as we leave?”. The moment when a woman stood up and gave me her blessing as a bishop was one of the most moving of my life. I look forward very much to having this in my own church, here in England and in the United Kingdom. I welcome the Measure.
My Lords, first, I declare my interest as a vice-president of WATCH, or Women and the Church. Naturally, WATCH warmly welcomes this Measure. We also especially congratulate the most reverend Primate and the Synod on achieving a solution to what seemed an intractable problem, as we have heard from others, and for doing it in such a short time.
However, I still wonder whether there might be some problems for senior women who might be considered for episcopal appointments. One is that they may have served many years in more junior positions despite their gifts and experience, and therefore be older than the usual run of candidates. Further, while some have already achieved high office, others might not have had the opportunity to follow the path which has previously been the norm for candidates to high office. As we have already heard, there have been some examples of why that may well have benefited many other parts of the world. It is therefore not altogether something to be totally sad about.
The second issue relates to the arrangements for the appointment of Lords spiritual. New diocesan bishops normally have to wait their turn, which can take five years or more. Members of both Houses have expressed concerns on this point in relation to newly appointed women bishops and would be interested to know of any arrangements to appoint women to this House as early as possible. That point has also begun to surface, I think.
We have before us a very short Measure on which this House needs to decide. However, the substance of it lies in the declaration of the House of Bishops and supporting documents. This declaration sets out the arrangements by which clergy and laity who dissent from the Measure can still continue to worship and function as members of the Church of England. WATCH fully accepts that declaration and recognises its importance in achieving the goal of seeing women appointed as bishops. Naturally we shall rejoice, as will virtually the whole church, when that occurs. Nevertheless, inevitably, these arrangements incorporate some measures of discrimination against women and give rise to questions which may not have been tackled in the very short time allowed for framing this legislation.
I have four specific questions which I hope the most reverend Primate will be able to answer, and I think that he has already hinted at the direction in some of his comments. First, can the Archbishops confirm that they will continue to observe the long-standing tradition of consecrating each new bishop? The document was silent on this point, but the most reverend Primate will appreciate how important it is for the validation of the episcopal orders of women and of those male bishops who ordain women.
Secondly, how can congregations in favour of the ordained ministry of women request the episcopal ministry of a non-discriminating bishop? As I understand it, the bishops’ declaration allows for parochial church councils—PCCs—on behalf of their congregations, to request the episcopal ministry of a male bishop. However, there are already parishes that have a woman priest but whose bishop does not recognise that priest’s orders. The declaration is silent on the question of whether such a PCC can request a non-discriminating bishop under the new arrangements. It is also silent on whether such PCCs have access to the newly created independent reviewer of disputes, who is to pronounce on,
“any aspect of the operation of the House of Bishops’ Declaration”.
Thirdly, can the most reverend Primate confirm that any newly appointed conservative evangelical headship bishop will minister only to parishes that request his ministry? There appear to be two possible models for the appointment of a headship bishop. One would be the “flying bishop” model instituted by the Act of Synod of 1993. In this model such a bishop would minister only to those parishes that specifically requested his oversight. The other—and, one has to say, much less acceptable—model would be to make a suffragan appointment to a specific see. In this case the majority of parishes under his oversight would not wish to receive the oversight of a bishop wedded to the concept of the subordination of women.
Fourthly, and finally, can the most reverend Primate confirm that Clause 2 of the Measure will have the effect of allowing the church to discriminate exclusively on grounds of gender and will not facilitate discrimination on grounds of sexuality and remarriage after divorce?
Clause 2 of the Measure declares that the office of bishop is not a public office—and we have had that confirmed by the most reverend Primate—and therefore is not bound by Section 50 of the Equality Act 2010. This clause is crucial to the regime for women bishops set out in the House of Bishops’ declaration, because that regime depends in part upon arrangements that discriminate against women. Reluctantly, women and supporters of women bishops have accepted it on this basis. However, the effect of this clause is finally and irrevocably to exempt the bishops from the anti-discrimination requirements of the Equalities Act 2010, not only in relation to gender but also in relation to other protected characteristics under that Act, including, most importantly for the church, sexuality and remarriage after divorce. Verbal assurances have been given that the bishops will not avail themselves of that exception, and I think that that is also what the most reverend Primate was telling us, but to have that assurance recorded in Hansard would really be a great help. I very much look forward to the most reverend Primate’s reply.
My Lords, I thank the most reverend Primate for the most generous way in which he introduced this Measure. I also pay tribute to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, who is the chairman of the Ecclesiastical Committee—a committee on which I had the honour to sit for some 40 years—for the understanding way in which he spoke.
I do not wish to enter a jarring note in this debate, nor do I wish that anything I should say should diminish the delight and joy of those who have an unreserved welcome for this Measure. However, this is a debating Chamber, and where there are diversities of views it is important that those views should be voiced, if only briefly. I happen to belong to what Archbishop Hope—now the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Hope—referred to very memorably in earlier debates on the ordination of women as the traditional integrity within the Church of England. I have the great good fortune of being able to worship every Sunday in the cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lincoln. Before I moved from Staffordshire, I was churchwarden of the church of St Mary in Enville in the diocese of Lichfield.
For me, this is not a matter of equality in the secular sense to which the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, alluded in her speech. I honour the position of women in all walks of life. I revere the Blessed Virgin Mary, second only to our Lord himself. I have had the great privilege of being associated with some very fine women leaders in various walks of life, including the noble Baroness, Lady Howe; I have worked in a secular capacity with her for several years on matters of equality. So this is not a matter of gender discrimination. However, I happen to believe—this matter was referred to with great understanding by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd—that the majority of Christendom cannot be just lightly brushed aside. I talk of the Roman Catholic Church, and the Orthodox Church in particular. The majority of Christians in our world belong to one or other of those churches. I worked in the ecumenical field as a lay man, and I always longed for the day when there would be a unity among the catholic churches, of which the Anglican Church is one. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, was right when he said that what we are doing this evening—I shall certainly not oppose it—will not exactly accelerate ecumenism. Let us not put it any more strongly than that.
It is therefore very important indeed that those of us within the Anglican Church who believe, perhaps mistakenly—maybe I am wrong; I will always make that point—but sincerely, in traditional Anglican worship and doctrine are not driven out of the Church of England. That is why I welcome the generosity of tone of the most reverend Primate’s speech. I welcome the safeguards in the Measure before us this evening.
I had the privilege, not always easy, of serving for 10 years on the General Synod of the Church of England. Had I been present in November 2012, I would probably have sided with the minority who prevented this going through because the requisite percentage was not reached in the House of Laity. I can say with all certainty that had I been present in York this year I would have approved of the Measure before us this evening. There has been a real attempt to understand the sincerely held peculiarities of those of us who call ourselves traditional Anglicans.
I am passionately devoted to the Church of England. I have had the honour of being churchwarden in three different churches for, collectively, something like 35 years and consider it an immense privilege to live in Minster Yard in Lincoln and to be able to go to that glorious cathedral every Sunday. I do not wish to be driven out, nor do I wish the significant minority who share my views, prejudices—we all have both—and misgivings to be driven out either. If this Measure is passed, as I hope it will be this evening, we will not be driven out. There has to be generosity on both sides. The victorious have to show magnanimity and the minority has to show that what has been approved is indeed the will of the majority within our church.
We all attend prayers taken by a Bishop of the Church of England every day in this House. I hope that all of your Lordships, whether members of the Church of England or not, spare a thought for those of us for whom this is not a day of unalloyed rejoicing—although I do rejoice with those who are particularly happy that this Measure is before us tonight.
My Lords, to follow my noble friend Lord Cormack when I clearly come from a very different position might seem difficult, but I respect everything that he has said. I start by relating an anecdote. My step-grandmother died earlier this year. She was absolutely clear that she did not want her local woman vicar to take her funeral. The loving generosity of the incumbent not only to make the arrangements for somebody else to come and take that service but also to remove herself from the village on that day was very moving. I am quite sure that the magnanimity of which the noble Lord speaks is not only there, but comes from the heart of those who feel that today will see a long wrong righted while understanding that that is not a universal view.
There has been some jumping round the centuries since we started this debate, and I am minded of the joke when I was a bursar of a Cambridge college. At a bursars’ meeting there was an argument about the applicability of VAT on chapel repairs—it is the sort of thing you get used to at Cambridge bursars’ committees. After 20 minutes of debate, the bursar of St John’s turned to the bursar of a 17th-century college and said, in an exasperated tone, “You post-Reformation colleges just don’t understand our problems”.
I am reminded of the research by my noble friend Lord Tyler on the very early days of the precursor to your Lordships’ House, the council that King John founded. Although there is no evidence of women attending the council, there were women on the council because there were abbesses who were wealthy enough to be taxed, which is of course why King John wanted them there. So as and when there are women Bishops in this House we need to remind them that, while they may be the first to actually sit on the Bench, they will not be the first to have actually been appointed to the Bench.
Nearly half a century ago at my girls’ school, growing in faith, a group of us used to chat after our confirmation course and tea and biscuits about what we wanted to do in the future. We did not call it women’s ministry, but we talked about it in those days. We all felt very clearly that God was calling us to do something yet we did not know what it would be. We knew it was not just going to be the wife of the vicar, or a Sunday school teacher, although I have certainly been the latter. One of my school friends from those days was the first woman ordained on 12 March 1994. She will always say it is because her surname began with a “B”, but the truth is she was in that first group. Another close friend of mine was the reverend mother of an Anglican order. Both demonstrate that long before we moved to a position where we have bishops in the Church of England, even within my own shortish lifetime women’s ministry has been extremely important.
When I was a Sunday school teacher 20 years ago, just as the debate was raging about the ordination of women, I asked my Sunday school class how they felt about it. Even then, they did not understand what the issue was, and the girls in particular all saw that the women deacons in our church and those women who had special ministries were part of God’s plan for us here. Now they are adults, they are also fulfilling their own role in whatever way God sends them and it was wonderful to hear that a third of our vicars are now women. For those of us who are politicians and cheeky enough to comment about today as being a great day, when we look at the number of women MPs just at the other end of the corridor we perhaps ought to be mindful that we also have some way to go.
I sat in the public gallery of Synod at Church House on 20 November 2012 and I also attended the very helpful bishops’ meeting the following day for Peers and MPs. It is evident that the long consideration and careful love in the views of the House of Bishops and the House of Clergy in working with those for whom this has been theologically difficult has moved us to a different place. Justifiably there remain concerns yet, as a humble member of the Church of England, I feel quite clearly that in five or 10 years’ time we will have all forgotten what the deep issues were because we will have moved into a new era and be tolerant and understanding as our Lord would want us to be.
My Lords, I should like to speak briefly, first as a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee—which I count a great privilege—and secondly as, in some way, a representative of the many, many people in this country who are not members of the Church of England, or indeed of any church, but who are none the less, in some curious way, deeply attached to the Church of England. We are people who have grown up in a world in which the ministry of the Church of England has been very important to the social and, indeed, the political fabric of this country. Those of us who are in that place have watched the progress of this issue about women bishops over the past few years initially with considerable dismay and latterly with—yes—joy. Even for those like me, for whom the theological issues are not the main matter in dispute, there was a question of the role and the importance of the church in wider society. The fact that it stood out against the consecration of women for so long undermined some of its credibility in the communities in which it was ministering.
I live in, and am a trustee of the church in, a parish which, I am very sorry to say, still holds out against women priests. Therefore, I do not think that at least some of the people with whom I spend some of my time in that parish will be all that pleased to see this Measure go through. However, as I said, there are many people in this country who are not members of the church but who are very glad that it is there, both at the parochial level and more widely, and for whom this is a good moment. We should record our gratitude to the most reverend Primate for leading this last bit of process, which has resulted in this Measure coming forward.
Finally, we should just remember that, although I fully understand and respect the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, about the Church of England’s place within the wider ecumenical movement, it is none the less different from other churches because it is an established church. It is part of the polity, and the politics, of this country in a most unusual way. I hesitate to call it unique, because I cannot altogether authenticate that, but it is certainly most unusual. That is why all of us, not just the members of the church, have an interest in this Measure, and all of us, even respecting the theological differences which make it difficult for some people to accept this, should none the less see this as a very good day for the church and for the country.
My Lords, I stand here as one who has had the privilege—at least it felt like that most of the time—of chairing the General Synod’s steering committee, which brought this last piece of legislation to fruition. In that regard, I put on the record during this debate in your Lordships’ House appreciation—some of which has already been expressed—for the contributions and hard work of so many who have brought us to this point, where I think most of us are pleased to be.
Reference has been made to patience, which the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, mentioned, and which has been shown by many, as well as understandable frustration and all sorts of other things, too. We need to place on record our thanks to those who have continued—yes—with patience, but also with some sharpness at times to persuade, to lobby and to keep this issue at the forefront of our minds, our attention and our action over recent years. I also put on record appreciation—which does not get done too often—of those who have been our advisers on the national staff of the Archbishops’ Council, who have been tireless in their efforts to enable us to find the legislative and other ways to come to where we are today.
I also put on record appreciation for those who have continued to have their misgivings and reservations about the rightness of making this move, not least because many of them, as is witnessed by the vote in General Synod so recently, have brought themselves to the point of recognising that this is the way in which the church as a whole must go forward, and either voted in favour or declined to vote against when it came to the final vote. Many of those people, not least those who are traditional Catholics, have contributed generously and valuably to the process and the outcome that we have reached at this point.
The Church of England is a strange sort of animal and it is part of our DNA to want to include a range of viewpoints. That is why we have resisted approaches that might have “unchurched” people and have wanted to find a way in which we could continue to hold together difference within our unity, as the most reverend Primate said in his introductory remarks. This Measure and its accompanying instruments and documents seek to give expression to that in various ways. Thus it is acknowledged, not least in the five guiding principles in the House of Bishops declaration, that we live within a wider Christian world where this development is not accepted by all and that we have committed ourselves to maintain a place without limit of time for those who are of the traditionalist viewpoint. These commitments are important because they take us to the core of what the Church of England is about and how it sees itself within our national life.
The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, raised a number of issues, some of which have been hotly discussed at various points. To save the most reverend Primate having to respond to all the issues that have been raised in your Lordships’ debate, I will touch on only one or two of them. There was the question of how a PCC might ask for a non-discriminating bishop if, presumably, the diocesan bishop was of the traditionalist persuasion. I cannot quote chapter and verse but it is stated in the House of Bishops declaration that it is expected that there would be no diocese in which there would not be a bishop who would ordain women. That is part of the intention set out in the House of Bishops declaration. This therefore means that within any diocese there would be access to a bishop who supports the ordained ministry of women.
The noble Baroness also referred to so-called headship bishops and raised precisely the issues that are being looked at in drawing up the specification and job description, as it were, of a person who might be appointed to such a post. She expressed the hope that such a bishop would minister only to those who are of a like mind, as it were—that is, those parishes that had specifically asked for such a person’s ministry—and referred to flying bishops. Sometimes flying bishops minister to people beyond the group of those who have specifically asked for their ministry, so that model provides for something that goes a little wider. Our view is that it is important that a person appointed to the headship bishop role—to use the shorthand term—is acceptable to the people who requested that kind of ministry but, at the end of the day, a bishop is a bishop is a bishop within the church of God and it might be good if that person was somehow tied into what we might call the mainstream ministry of bishops in some way and therefore prevented from becoming overly sectarian. However, those issues are still being discussed and the issues to which the noble Baroness alluded are very much in people’s minds.
Many Members of your Lordships’ House who have spoken have given a very positive welcome to this Measure and its accompanying documents and declaration. We have been rightly reminded by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, that we are not as innovative as we might think. If we look at the history of the abbesses of old, we find striking examples of women who adopted leadership roles long before they gained those roles in most other walks of life.
This is clearly a development that most within the church, and many beyond it, welcome. In that regard, the contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, was much appreciated. However, we believe that the welcome can be more richly given precisely because we are giving attention to those who are, for various reasons, more reserved in their position on this change. It is a change that we wish to see and, as has been said, it has had clear support in all the dioceses. Many of our friends in this House, in the Commons and in society more widely are positively welcoming it. We look forward to the enrichment of the life of our church, of the nation and, as has been said, of this House through the gifts and contributions of those women who will be consecrated as Bishops.
I will end with a personal anecdote. More years ago than I would care to mention, when I was an undergraduate, another person was a contemporary of mine. That person is also now ordained and in a senior position in the church; she happens to be a woman. I have been conscious that our lives and vocations have, in many senses, gone in parallel over 30—gosh, 40—years and yet, until now, it has been possible for me to be made a bishop and not her. That difference will now no longer apply. For that reason, I am delighted that we have reached this stage of debate in your Lordships’ House this evening.
My Lords, I happen to be a Presbyterian and am associated with a church that is established in a different way north of the border but still in the United Kingdom. I want to emphasise, as strongly as I can, that we are dealing here with a decision by the Church of England. The Measure has been decided on by the Church of England and the role of Members of this House is to approve it so that it becomes part of the law of England. I particularly want to emphasise that it was for the Church of England to decide this, not Parliament. The Church of England has now decided it and it is for Parliament simply to approve it so that it becomes part of the law of England.
My Lords, I want to contribute briefly this evening because I was very moved by what my noble friend Lord Cormack said earlier. I should say, by way of background, that I come from a long line of Anglican priests. Indeed, I am the black sheep of the family, having fallen into politics, which is regarded by the rest of the family as being disastrous in that respect. My grandfather, a Cornish parson, was so horrified by the way in which Parliament treated the 1928 prayer book that he became convinced it was necessary to disestablish the Church of England. I follow in that respect, too.
I want to express my appreciation of what my noble friend Lord Cormack said earlier because his generosity should, I hope, be shared by others who may be disappointed, or even dismayed, by the way in which this Measure has come forward. I rejoice in the way it has come forward. I recollect very well a service in Truro Cathedral, on a bright, beautiful Cornish day nearly 20 years ago, when the then bishop, who had voted in the Synod against the Measure for the ordination of women, preached eloquently to us, expressing the most moving reason for changing his mind. He recollected that in the New Testament, in the Acts of the Apostles, the Almighty had given guidance to those who were voting on a decision to replace one of the apostles. He said, “What is good enough for the Apostles is good enough for me”. As part of that very moving ceremony, when he presented the seven candidates with a bible, he also presented them with a bunch of sweet peas, which he had picked from his garden that morning. It was a very moving moment when he, who had been relatively opposed to the ordination of women, said that he accepted the outcome of that vote. I hope that those who may now be concerned, apprehensive, worried or even dismayed will not only listen to my noble friend in the way in which he has accepted the outcome of this process but may also remember the words of that very distinguished Bishop of Truro.
My Lords, perhaps I may add a word from someone who was brought up in the Catholic Church and to whom, therefore, the ordination of women was very foreign. However, one word sums up much of what I have heard, particularly from the noble Lords, Lord Cormack and Lord Tyler, and that word is love. Recently, my wife was buried by a lady vicar, who also christened our grandchild. In the course of that, I came to realise that the semantics are not important; what is important is the degree of love. This lady bestowed a quite extraordinary gift on me, and I feel that we have come to a stage in our history where this is not only acceptable and desirable but extremely important. I have seen myself do a complete volte-face over the last decade, to a point where I enormously welcome women bishops, and I know that people such as the noble Lords, Lord Cormack and Lord Tyler, will do so as well. It is correct that we should also show great love to those who find this difficult. Having seen both perspectives, I can see that “love” may sound corny but it is in fact the answer.
My Lords, I thank the most reverend Primate for his introduction to this Measure and all noble Lords who have contributed to this historic and extraordinary debate. I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for the graciousness of being willing to stand up and explicitly commend this Measure to the House, given the pain that it clearly has caused him. I also thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, for having shared with us the context and the excellent report from the committee under his chairmanship. I thank all committee members who contributed.
I probably should declare an interest, in that I, too, am an active member of the Church of England. The nearest that I have come to high office is that I was briefly the secretary of my PCC. The downside of being brought into your Lordships’ House was that, tragically, I was unable to be present in Durham on the evening that the PCC met and was forced to relinquish that role—I can tell noble Lords now that they will never get me back to do it again. None the less, because of that, it is an enormous privilege for me to be even a small part of this debate. I am so pleased to be able to do it.
Of course it was so different in November 2012, when the last attempt to resolve this issue was rejected by Synod. I was among those who were dismayed by the result as well as slightly baffled. As the most reverend Primate pointed out, for any Chief Whip in this House a 64% majority would be a result, and we did not think that he could have done much better. At a meeting with a bunch of parliamentarians from both Houses attended by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop, people were concerned. He explained that he would address the matter with urgency. People were very impressed—as were, I am sure, other noble Lords who were there—but a Member of another place said, “That is all very well, but the same people will be in Synod until the next election, so how can anything possibly change?”. I shall paraphrase what the most reverend Primate said, but he said, “I do not know, but I have worked in situations where very unlikely people have been reconciled and I believe in a God who is capable of doing miracles”. He may have had a point.
I pay tribute to the most reverend Primate for the commitment that he has brought to this process, the urgency that he has taken and the care and love that he has lavished on it. Working with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester and all members of the steering group of the General Synod from a range of persuasions has enabled him to help Synod come to the place where it felt able to support the Measure before us today.
Many benefits will flow from this Measure. It has been said by some noble Lords and by many outside Parliament that the real advantage is that it brings the church into line with society. Certainly, many people looking at the church, such as my noble friend Lady McIntosh, have seen that it feels very different; it is somehow alien to see the church not looking like the community it represented. All of that is true. We have had some wonderful examples from the noble Baronesses, Lady Berridge and Lady Brinton, of the women who have gone before us in bringing the church out into many communities. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley of Knighton, has shown that, very often, just as love is known by its fruits, so have the benefits of the ministry of women in the church in the end come to be accepted because people have come to know it by its fruits. I have no doubt that that will happen with women in the episcopate as well.
Although it will be wonderful for lay people such as me to see women at all levels in the church—and I think it is a great idea—the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, is right that this is not in the end about gender discrimination. It is not about society’s view on equality; the church has made its decision for its own reasons. It got there for theological and ecclesial reasons and it has decided that this was the right thing to do. I am confident that it is right. There are so many wonderful female clergy who will make fantastic female bishops and the church will be enriched and blessed by their ministry. That is the reason for doing it.
I also think that the way we have got here, difficult though the last two years have been, has enabled the Church of England to show some lessons to the rest of us. First, I think that the strength of reaction from so many quarters has shown that a great many people, such as my noble friend Lady McIntosh, who are not themselves churchgoers, actually have a large stake in the Church of England and care about it. It matters. In a sense, it is their church—legally, they are entitled to be married, to be buried and to have their children baptised there—but it is also much more than that. In a visceral and emotional sense, it feels like their church. They therefore have a legitimate interest in what happens and we, as Parliament, for constitutional reasons also have a legitimate interest in what the church does.
The process by which we got here has brought other benefits, as the most reverend Primate mentioned in his introduction. After the vote, he went on “Newsnight”, and said, “The biggest change in the last 20 months has been the way we treat each other and the way we are learning to treat people we disagree with”. I wonder whether that process of reconciliation has something important to say to those of us in the political world about the way we go about handling good disagreement, about how to deal with very strong, differing views without ripping ourselves apart and about how to build consensus in the absence of unanimity. We have only to think about constitutional debates in our own, very recent political history to wonder what it is we can take from that experience and how the political world can learn from it. I also recognise that the process of reaching consensus has, as the Archbishop described, meant that there have been compromises to be made on all sides.
Some very important questions were raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Howe of Idlicote, and others, which have begun to be addressed and which the Archbishop will come back to, but I should like to flag up one which she mentioned in passing. The noble Baroness, Lady Perry, has described the pain of so many women over the years. Recently I was talking to a very close friend of mine who knew from the age of 21 that she was called to be a priest; but she could not. What do you do with that? What do you do with a clarity of vocation that is so strong when you cannot do anything with it? So she lived with that until the day when women could be ordained, and she was ordained. She is now a woman older than I am—and obviously, therefore, in the prime of life. It is none of my business but, interfering briefly for a moment, I just wanted to ask that those who will make decisions in the future about women being called into the episcopate should think about women with that level of experience and whether they might be usefully represented in the early stages of the episcopate.
I say that for two reasons. One is because it would be a shame, even if they have only a few years left to serve, to lose the opportunity of that wisdom and experience. The other is because I think there is something quite powerful and inclusive about taking that pain into the very heart of the episcopate when the church begins to do this. As I said, it is none of my business but why should I allow that to stop me talking about it? I commend that thought to the Bishops’ Benches.
Finally, what is more my business is that there is, of course, a widespread interest in seeing a female bishop join the Bishops’ Benches as soon as possible. I was delighted to hear the Archbishop talk about the possibilities that might be there. I know it is never straightforward, and changing the composition of either House of Parliament is not a straightforward matter, as we shall find only too soon. I look forward to hearing some more about that in due course.
Just before the Measure was voted on at Synod, a speaker called on the General Synod to express a spirit of unity and subsequent willingness and mutual adaptation. “In that way”, he declared, “you create a whole new world of possibilities”. We now stand on the verge of this new world of possibilities, a world where women and men can serve together as deacons, priests and finally bishops, where local people in our established church can enjoy the ministry of all of those who are called and ordained to join the episcopate, and where our communities and, in time, our own House can enjoy the unique contribution that women can make to the leadership of this church. For me, as for so many of us, that day cannot come too soon.
My Lords, on behalf of the Government, I, too, welcome the recent vote by the General Synod of the Church of England to allow the consecration and ordination of women bishops. I welcome the most reverend Primate’s presentation tonight of the relevant measure to enable this, and the thoughtful debate that we have had. The most reverend Primate rightly described this as a historic change and it is surely right that the church at every level should truly reflect the men and women in the populations it seeks to serve. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, I also pay tribute to those who have put their points of view in such measured terms. We heard moving speeches by my noble friends Lady Perry and Lady Brinton, and the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley of Knighton, as well as from others, on the deep significance of this change. I also note the tone of reconciliation that has been expressed.
On the subject of our House, I confirm that we are keen participants in the discussions mentioned by the most reverend Primate on the options that might be available to ensure that we do not have to wait too long before we see women bishops in the House of Lords. I noted the way that the most reverend Primate glanced back at his colleagues. From the Government I can confirm that although we are looking at all sorts of options, capital punishment is not among them, and nor is getting rid of turbulent priests. It is to be hoped that they have nothing to fear.
This is indeed a historic day. As a former historian, I feel privileged and delighted to be able to answer from the Government that we welcome this move by the General Synod of the Church of England and that we support the measure before your Lordships tonight.
My Lords, I begin by thanking your Lordships for the interventions that have been made. As has already been said, they have been moving, testing and interesting. I am particularly grateful that the tone of the debate has followed that of the General Synod, which was one of peaceful and thoughtful reflection rather than the much tougher and harder-edged debates of the past, which some of my right reverend colleagues will remember better than me, and from which they still bear the scars.
I cannot comment on everything that has been said by everyone or we would be here much too long, but I will pick up a few of the points that were made, particularly by the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, and answer the two questions that she asked that have not already been answered by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester. First, on behalf of the church and particularly the Lords Spiritual, I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, for his chairmanship of the Ecclesiastical Committee over an extended period and for the way in which he most helpfully enabled the committee to meet quickly after the General Synod vote. That is why, if the measure is approved by the House this evening and the other place next week, I believe, we will be able to proceed at the General Synod in November and have the whole thing, as they say, done and dusted. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, has worked very hard on this and we appreciate it very much indeed. I shall give the figures that he picked up on. Of our roughly 15,000 to 16,000 parishes, fewer than 1,000 have passed what they call resolutions to restrict the ministry of women priests: so it is not a huge proportion.
The noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, spoke eloquently about the quality of bishops—or, in her implication, the absence of quality in bishops for some time, perhaps as a result of the shallow pool from which they are drawn. I am very sorry about my education but I could not do much about it at the time. All I can say is that the pool is being improved.
The noble Lord, Lord Green, chaired a committee which completely reviewed the way in which those who are seen as potential bishops are developed and selected. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ely, who is in his place this evening, is in charge of that process, among many other things, and is advancing it quickly. I hope that we will see that improvement which was spoken about. Issues of selection on the basis of social background were also raised. Having sat on seven selection processes so far, I have never yet heard the subject mentioned or hinted at in any way whatever, so I can reassure the House on that. Being single or married is not relevant. Six of our 40 dioceses are led by single men, and I have no hesitation in agreeing with the noble Baroness about the exciting potential of the next generation of bishops, both men and women.
The noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, with his normal sense of humour, implied quite rightly that we will be following the Methodist example. I have confessed to him in person—but I may as well do so to the House for absolution—that it was one of my ancestors who chucked Wesley out: we all have our ancestors. The noble Baroness, Lady Perry, spoke eloquently about the pain undergone by many extraordinarily talented women and the patience that they have shown over the years. I echo that strongly and wish to speak of the change of mood in the church over the last few years.
In particular, I pay tribute to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester, who brushed over his extraordinary leadership of the steering group which took this measure through. This might be something for your Lordships’ House: at one point in the General Synod we abandoned completely our imitation of Parliament and met together in smaller groups with mediators—a remarkably skilled group of mediators led by one of the staff at Lambeth. I think it is fair to say that that was a turning point in which we learnt to listen to each other for the first time—and to love each other, as the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, remarked.
I turn to the very helpful speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, and I pay tribute to her as the deputy chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission when it began in 1976. She has considerable experience in this area and an eagle eye for bad practice, which keeps us all on our toes. I will say two things before answering her question. She spoke about the issue—as did the noble Baronesses, Lady Perry and Lady Sherlock—of what people had gone through for many years. They asked whether they were just forgotten. We have just appointed a Bishop of Hereford, aged 64, six years before obligatory retirement, and I see absolutely no reason—I feel passionate about this—why we should not draw on the experience of those who have spent many years in non-episcopal ministries. It is essential to improving the quality of bishops. As we deepen the pool, we do so in terms of gender but also in terms of looking very openly at those who have the greater experience.
I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, for mentioning that WATCH—Women and the Church—accepts the declaration of the House of Bishops. It is an important declaration which sets out five principles of non-discrimination, acceptance of diversity and recognition of difference across the universal and Catholic Church which is enormously important.
The noble Baroness asked what would happen at consecrations and whether we can commit to archbishops, as has been traditional, where possible playing a role as chief consecrator. It has always been in the power of archbishops to delegate to another bishop the normal role of chief consecrator, which has happened quite regularly when an archbishop is unwell or absent for another reason. Whether an archbishop would choose to do so in a particular case will as a matter of law remain for the archbishop to decide.
The present archbishops—I have discussed this at great length with the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York—cannot bind their successors, and we are very careful about that, but the five guiding principles of the House of Bishops provide a framework which should make it possible for arrangements to develop which are generally accepted and part of the way in which the Church of England continues to manage diversity. At paragraph 30 of the House of Bishops declaration is a commitment to continuing the supply of traditionalist Catholic bishops and headship evangelical bishops which can work only if there is a supply of such bishops, so we have to work within the traditions that exist. I shall come back to that in a concluding comment.
I believe that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester answered on how a PCC deals with the process, and he dealt also with where a headship evangelical bishop would minister. I want to say for the record that I agree entirely with every comment of the right reverend Prelate. He muttered, “Good”. I am their leader so I do what they say.
Clause 2, referring to the Equality Act, is not designed to facilitate discrimination in relation to any protected characteristic. It was put in place in particular with this characteristic in mind, but there would have been no logic in providing that episcopal posts were public offices for one equality but not for another—you would simply get in a muddle. The assurance that I can give is that already a large number of clergy posts in the Church of England are not within the terms of the Equality Act. As a matter of policy, the House of Bishops has advised that those in parochial appointments should act as though the Act applied. This change is not a cloak for discrimination on sexuality, marital status, marital history or, for that matter, age. I hope that that to some degree answers the noble Baroness’s question.
I was particularly grateful for the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. One of the most moving parts of this process has been listening to those who have been willing to go along with something that they feel passionately and deeply is not the right thing for the church to do. I am grateful for the graciousness with which the noble Lord spoke. I say again that the Church of England is deeply committed to the flourishing of all those who are part of its life in the grace of God. It is not our intention that any particular group should wither on the vine. The noble Lord spoke about generosity from traditionalists towards those who are changing the understanding of how the church works—and let us be clear that it is the change. That generosity is intended to be reciprocated.
The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, also made a very generous speech, which was referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock. She spoke very movingly, particularly about the importance of women’s ministry over the centuries. It was a notable Spanish woman saint in the 12th century who gave me one of my favourite comments. After a particularly bad journey back to her home, she arrived to find a river in flood and could not get home. She looked up at heaven and said to God, “If this is how you treat your friends, I’m not surprised you have so few of them”.
I have thanked the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester and echo as well his thanks for those who have been in favour, including those in WATCH—who have kept us and pushed us over so many years, with a certain sharpness from time to time that we have of course appreciated—and those who have been against. I have referred to that.
It is always wonderful to hear the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay: one waits for something weighty to come from him, as it always does. I would, with great temerity, slightly differ and say that although the General Synod has taken the decision, we do not believe that this House is a rubber stamp. Therefore, although I accept that it would be normal to accept the Measure, we take very seriously the presentation to your Lordships’ House and to the other place.
The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, spoke again on generosity. He spoke of the guidance to the apostles as to how they conducted elections. I might remind him that they ended up choosing the shortlist by lot and I need to reassure noble Lords that we are not going to do that. I have been in your Lordships’ House for a very short time, but long enough to see an elephant trap when there is one in front of me; I am not going to comment on the matter of disestablishment.
I am nearing my conclusion, but I would like to refer to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and, as many other Members of this House have done, send him my condolences on his wife’s death so suddenly and so early. I remind the House that my noble kinsman Lord Williams of Elvel—my stepfather—and my mother commissioned from the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, a piece taken from the first words of the Rule of St Benedict, which begins, “Listen, my child”. It was sung in Canterbury Cathedral at the service of my installation as Archbishop of Canterbury. Its impact was remarkable. In the word “listen” we find the way in which the church has got to where it has. We have listened to what the country said after November 2012; we have listened with great care to each other; and we have listened in love. It is in that love that this Measure has gone through the Synod—not universally, but almost.
That brings me, finally, to thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Sherlock and Lady Northover, for their very kind words. I observed the whole process, rather than led it, as a sort of decorative add-on. It is the steering group that really worked hard on it—a group comprised of every shade of opinion, from those strongly against the Measure to those strongly in favour.
With that hope that we will have a deeper and wider pool of bishops—and, as soon as possible, on these Benches—I commend the Measure to the House.
House adjourned at 7.10 pm