Vicar voices joy at step closer to women bishops

Ilkley Gazette: The Rev Ruth Yeoman The Rev Ruth Yeoman

Women are moving a step closer to becoming bishops.

The Church of England’s ruling body, the General Synod, has backed new proposals which could see women bishops being given final approval by July next year.

Members voted 378 in favour and eight against with 25 abstentions to endorse the introduction of women bishops alongside a ‘declaration’ by the Church of England bishops setting out guidance for those parishes which reject female ministry.

The new package received widespread support across the General Synod from both opponents and supporters of women bishops - in contrast to last year when the Church of England was left in turmoil after the General Synod failed to give a final approval to the legislation.

But the Rev Ruth Yeoman, vicar of Menston Parish Church and a member of the General Synod for eight years, said last time they were only able to look at part of the package whereas this time they viewed it in its entirety resulting in some ‘real changes’ being made.

The Rev Yeoman, a keen supporter of women bishops, said: “It has really built confidence in people who were uncertain about the way forward, so being able to look at all of it has built a much bigger confidence in moving things forward.”

She said they also focused on the work of the steering group giving them a whole spectrum of views including those who weren’t as positive about it.

“They found being able to look at it all really helpful and that is why we had an overwhelming majority in Synod which was terrific. There were only eight votes against and 25 abstentions out of just over 400 votes.

“We are certainly going strongly forward. I think we do have one or two hurdles to cover but it does look good and there is a possibility we may be ready for the July Synod in 2014 to make a final decision.”

Rev Yeoman says it is a positive step forward and one which will enable women to flourish in their work within the Church.

“It is very positive, really positive and it is exciting really that there has been such a turn around in the last 12 months. It has been incredible really and I think that is partly due to the new process and developing the way the Synod is working using smaller groups and clearly it has made a big difference.

“We have agreed for women to be bishops in the church for a long time and I think it will mean the gifts women bring will be available to the church at all levels of Ministry both lay and ordained and I think it models something really important about what we believe – men and women are made equal in sight of God and that they are able to be encouraged to flourish in the same way and their gifts to be used in the church fully.”

The move came as the Prime Minister, David Cameron – who last year said the Church of England needed a “sharp prod” over the issue – suggested the first women bishops could be fast-tracked into the House of Lords.

The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Rev Nick Baines, says: “The General Synod has voted to progress the package that might eventually allow for the appointment of women as bishops. This is only a first stage of the new approach and sets the framework for what might follow. There is much still to do.

“The important thing to remember is that this is about how to get there. The Church of England has agreed to have women bishops; the debate is about how to do so in a way that allows those opposed to remain in the church and flourish.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, says the vote ‘demonstrates the widespread desire of the Church of England to move ahead with ordaining women as bishops, and at the same time enabling those who disagree to flourish.

“There is some way to go, but we can be cautiously hopeful of good progress.”

And the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, says: “We should not open the champagne bottles or whatever drink we regard as celebratory because we need to agree to work together until the end.”

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