The draft legislation on women bishops will not be coming before the General Synod for debate next month as scheduled. Instead, the revision committee is expected still to be working on it after Easter. It will not now be debated till July.

In February last year, the Synod asked the revision committee to consider the arrangements, embodied in a statutory code of practice, for those opposed in conscience to women bishops. At its October 2009 meeting, however, it appeared to move away from the code of practice, and voted for “the vesting by statute of certain functions in bishops with a special responsibility for those with conscientious difficulties”. The options of an alternative diocese or a regis tered society for objectors were ruled out, but it appears there was no vote on the adoption of the simplest form of legislation without a statutory code of practice.

After the move was publicised, there was reportedly confusion among committee members as to what “vesting” involved, and what they had actually voted for. At its November meeting, the committee failed to agree which powers should be ceded legally to bishops who might oversee traditionalist parishes, and voted each function down in turn.

As a result, a statement after that meeting said: “The committee decided, that such arrangements as are made for those unable to receive the episcopal ministry of women will be by way of delegation from the diocesan bishop rather than vesting.”

The secretary-general of the General Synod, William Fittall, declined to comment this week, either about the delay or about the work of the revision committee, in which he is reported to play a significant part. In advance of a pre-Synod briefing on Monday, he considered it would be “discourteous to Synod” for anyone to expound on the committee’s work.

COMMENT: It sounds to me that somebody tried to bounce "an agenda" through this committee before they had the chance to settle down to their work. It must be infuriating for women clergy who should not be having to fight such battles in this day and age. But, on the other hand, we don't want to rush into a compromise like we did after the Ordination of Women Act, when we appeased the reactionaries too generously and created a rod for our own back that has screwed up every move towards fairness and justice ever since. We really should have taken a leaf out of the Scottish Church's book who did not compromise and have ended up with a far more healthy church that is not bogged down in expensive in-fighting all the while.

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