Church of England Votes to Consider Female Bishop Legislation

The Church of England voted on Monday to restart the legislative process to allow female bishops, aiming for the measure to be passed by November 2015.

The church's governing body, known as the General Synod, met in York July 5-9 and ultimately decided to consider new legislation, known as "Option One," which passed 319 to 84, with 22 abstentions.

The General Synod chose "Option One" as there were four other options, and draft legislation is to be produced by November 2013.

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According to the Episcopal News Service, Option One was amended to call for a "mandatory grievance procedure for parishes in which diocesan bishops are required to participate," and to urge that the "process of facilitated conversations continue to be used at significant points in the formulation and consideration of the draft legislation."

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who became head of the Anglican Church earlier this year, said in a statement that he hopes the vote to allow women bishops will echo an "inclusive approach" on behalf of the church.

"The approach before us is a radical way forward," Welby, who has reportedly sought to modernize the Anglican church, said during Synod debates on Monday.

"It provides the possibility of building trust, it gives us space for imagination, and it affirms an inclusive approach that is consistent with our previous resolutions – as I have said, the commitment to ordaining women as bishops on exactly the same basis as men, and the flourishing together of all parts of the church."

As The Christian Post previously reported, the debate regarding female bishops has been a divisive one for the past 20 years in the General Synod, with traditionalists in the church opposing the ordination of females.

The Rev. Rod Thomas of the evangelical group Reform said he did not support Option One, as it would give those opposed to female bishops a sense of "gnawing anxiety."

"If we go ahead with it, then we will not have achieved that objective of mutual flourishing, because instead of allowing people of my integrity to flourish within the Church there will be a sense of gnawing anxiety on our part if we go down the route as it stands," the Rev. Thomas said, as reported by The Huffington Post.

Monday's decision to move forward with draft legislation comes after a narrow defeat of previous legislation last November, when the church's House of Laity failed to approve women bishop legislation by six votes.

According to The Guardian, although Archbishop Welby remains optimistic of the upcoming legislation, a final vote on the legislation requires a two-thirds majority vote in each of the General Synod's three houses: bishops, clergy, and laity.

Due to the fact that the House of Laity turned down previous legislation by a narrow vote, the odds of legislation passing again could prove difficult.

Welby told The Guardian that he does not believe there is a two-thirds majority vote in each house for the legislation, but he also sees the determination of those pushing the ordination of female bishops.

"There's not two-thirds in each house," Welby told the British news source. "That's absolutely correct. [But] there's a strong desire to get it done. We aren't at the stage of saying: 'Should we ordain women as bishops?' We're at the stage of saying: 'We're going to ordain women as bishops. How do we go about that?'"

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