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The Revd Janet Appleby Saves the Day (DV)

Time for a little rapture, I think. Calm, cool and collected Anglican rapture, of course.

Oh, in case you haven’t heard this morning’s news, the Reverend Janet Appleby, a member of General Synod, has come up with a means of extricating the Church from the pit it had dug itself into over women bishops. The Church of England issued a press release yesterday:

The House of Bishops has today by an overwhelming majority settled the text of the legislation to enable women to become bishops in the Church of England. The House of Bishops made clear its desire for the draft legislation to be passed into law when it goes forward for final approval to the Church of England’s General Synod in November.

Archbishop Rowan Williams spoke as follows (you can hear him here)

“…the Bishops have discussed the measure again and are now bringing forward a new text that expresses both our conviction of the need to see this legislation passed and our desire to honour the conscience and contribution of those in the Church of England whose reservations remain.

“It is particularly significant and welcome that the new text emerged not from the House of Bishops itself but rather from a serving woman priest. [my bolding]…

“I am convinced that the time has come for the Church of England to be blessed by the ministry of women as bishops and it is my deep hope that the legislation will pass in November.”

The press release continues:

‘At its meeting in July the General Synod asked the House of Bishops to reconsider a provision in the legislation – Clause 5(1)(c) of the draft measure. The new amendment submitted by the Rev. Janet Appleby during the consultation process received overwhelming support from the House of Bishops in both their discussions and in the final vote. In discussion the Bishops welcomed the simplicity of the new text, its emphasis on respect and the process of dialogue with parishes that it will promote.

The final text proposed by the House of Bishops is:

Substitute for the words in clause 5(1)(c):” the selection of male bishops and male priests in a manner which respects the grounds on which parochial church councils issue Letters of Request under section 3″ ‘


This is extraordinary on at least two counts. First, and of course very important, it should enable us to have ‘women bishops’. This is the first step, of course, in having simply ‘bishops’, but that will have to develop from the first crucial step.

But secondly, looking at it from a lay perspective, the House of Bishops has just handed an area of decision-making over to PCCs, in other words, the laity. In the long run, if I have understood correctly what has happened (and maybe I haven’t?), the hierarchy of the Church of England has agreed to be influenced by what Lord Baden-Powell called ‘the boy’, inverting the normal decision-making pyramid.

Has a chink of light broken through?

So who is the Reverend Janet Appleby? Well, she is delightful. She seemed a little surprised when I telephoned her this morning but agreed that it was indeed her in the above photograph (the one with the dog collar, in case you were wondering!).

Here is Crockford’s:

* APPLEBY, Janet Elizabeth. b 58. Bris Univ BSc80 MSc81 Newc Poly BA90. Cranmer Hall Dur 01. d 03 p 04. C Newc H Cross 03-06; TV Willington from 06; Dioc Ecum Officer from 12. 

Her degrees are in Mathematics and English, two equal loves, apart from her theological degree from Cranmer Hall, Durham. Now in her early fifties, she became a deacon in 2003 and was priested in 2004, only eight years ago.

She is a member of General Synod. After the meeting in July, GS members were  asked for input for the meeting of the House of Bishops which has just been held: seven different options were suggested. Here I think she was helped by her logical brain (the mathematics), her experience as Diocesan Ecumenical Officer, and the fact that she had not been priested for long enough to fail to see the wood for the trees. For whatever reason, she could see that the key was involving the PCCs concerned, on a case by case basis.

Janet, if I may, we hereby award you one of our ‘Lay Anglicana Lollipops from the Laity’ , and our eternal thanks.

Now, General Synod, the House of Bishops have played their part, please please agree the Appleby Amendment in November!

As Bugsy Malone said, You give a little love, you get a little love and it all comes back to you: a vision of November General Synod:

14 comments on this post:

Erika Baker said...

I must be the only woman on the planet who doesn’t understand the Amendment.

What does it actually mean?
Will people get a bishop who shares their theology, because that’s what they will write into the Letter of Request? Or will they just get any apostolically ordained male bishop? In that case, why not say it?

How is this different from “we might give you what you want but we might not, who knows?”

How does this answer anything?

Lay Anglicana said...

Dear Erika, not only are you not the only woman on the planet who doesn’t understand the Amendment, I think only a tiny handful of people have any idea of how it will work in reality. What I think it will mean is that if a particular parish/benefice wishes to have a male priest, they will be able to ask for a male priest. It may mean that if they want to come under a ‘flying’ bishop as well, that will also be arranged. So, distasteful to the likes of us. On the other hand, it does not spell out any problems of ‘taint’, it will, with any luck, allow for ‘women bishops’ – I do not think that, with all the back-history, we could have got a better deal at the moment. And it will allow for us to proceed – no doubt with all due Anglican speed – to simply having ‘bishops’. Perhaps only modified rapture, but still rapture so far as I am concerned.

13 September 2012 10:39
13 September 2012 10:03

I´m cloudy (but I trust your opinion) on this…does this also mean a parish or diocese could simply request a female (and/or have one flown in)?

Finally, I think this is the most cheerful declaration of the ABC´s throughout the entire term of his Lambethship…almost seems happy.

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you Leonardo. I am not sure about how the flying in works but yes, it means that it all comes down to what the people in the pews want. Naturally, I am rather thrilled about this part! My neighbour already has a plan to demand that the next priest be a woman, and we will see if that works (no reason why it shouldn’t). Why should we not also demand a woman bishop? In our case, unfortunately, it is only a few months since ours was appointed and – as you may have noticed! – ten years here seems to be regarded as a short appointment!

Of course, to come down to earth for a moment, it is not exactly what we wanted. It still means, you are right, that people can ask for male priests, and probably still have a flying bishop. But it is the thin end of the wedge, as we say here. There will be women bishops. It will be as it was with the introduction of women priests 20 years ago, they will prove themselves in the course of their ministry and in ten years time everyone will wonder what all the fuss was about. I hope and pray.

13 September 2012 15:47
13 September 2012 10:55
Pam Smith said...

This is how the Bishop of Oxford explains it in his very positive letter this morning:

“This amendment found overwhelming support in the House of Bishops. Its virtue is that it occupies middle ground with everyone having to ‘give something away.’ Importantly, it removes the term ‘theological convictions’ with all its problematic associations. This amendment ensures that bishops get into conversation with parishes about their request and it uses the important word ‘respects’ in relation to the grounds on which a request for delegated pastoral care may be made. ‘Respects’ is stronger than ‘take account of’ but not as strong as ‘is consistent with.’ The amendment also has the virtue of having come from outside the House of Bishops so it’s not a late intervention by the House!”

Bishop John has been a fairly outspoken advocate of the need to celebrate the ministry of ordained women rather than treat it as a problem.

Whole letter is here:

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you Pam for the link to +John’s -very heartwarming – letter. Now we just need it to get through General Synod (not, of course, a foregone conclusion, but we live in hope)

Erika Baker said...

I think my problem is that I don’t see what those opposing women priests and bishops are getting. The sentiment of the bishops is clear, but the thing will eventually stand and fall by its wording alone. And all that does is promise to “respect” people’s request. It is quite possible that in the future, every single request will nevertheless be turned down.

Or am I misreading this?

Pam Smith said...

I don’t think ‘those opposed’ are going to vote in favour of any measure for women to become bishops, so in a way whether this is what they want is irrelevant. We know it isn’t. As I understand it, gen synod members who don’t want women to be bishops voted for the inclusion of Clause 5(1)(c) because that would have meant some supporters voted against the whole measuere, as they themselves would have done, so it would have fallen.

So what they think of this clause in terms of delivering what they want is irrelevant – no clause in a measure to allow women to be bishops is going to do that.

The trick was to create a clause which takes no more away from opponents in practical terms while allowing people who don’t want any clause to vote for the measure despite the inclusion of a clause.

Or something.

The interesting bit to me isn’t so much the wording of the clause as the statements surrounding it that the HoB is keen to see women becoming bishops and wants people to vote for this. There seems to be a more positive and assertive tone and I suspect there may be a lot of behind the scenes conversations going on at the moment to make that as likely as possible.

Erika Baker said...

I agree, the statement around it is encouraging and very important.
But I know a number of liberals who want women bishops yet who are most concerned that appropriate accommodation should be made for those who want to stay in the CoE but feel they need a “safe” space.

I am not sure this amendment provides them sufficient guarantee of “safety” and I worry that some of those who would otherwise support the Measure will struggle now.

13 September 2012 20:56
Pam Smith said...

Regardless of who wants firmer guarantees on the statute books – whether they are liberal, conservative, catholic or evangelical – that isn’t going to happen.

If a draft measure with legally binding guarantees gets as far as Parliament it will definitely not get onto the statute books in that format.

Obviously everyone must vote as their conscience dictates, but there’s no point voting against this in the hope that something better will come along, because it can’t – not until the next General Synod is elected anyway.

13 September 2012 22:05
Erika Baker said...

Pam, is it then theoretically possible that after the Measure has been voted through a subsequent Code of Practice will provide firmer guarantees?

14 September 2012 07:06
Erika Baker said...

I posted a similar query on Bishop Nick’s blog last night because he had been one of the ones discussing the Amendment, and he answered that the legal meaning of the word “respect” had sufficient to convince the doubters that this was more than “maybe, maybe not”.

14 September 2012 07:13
Pam Smith said...

I think the intention has always been for a very robust Code of Practice, the issue has really been that those who need a Code of Practice haven’t believed that would happen once the substantive motion was passed and there is no way of showing people that a future action will definitely happen.

14 September 2012 10:43
13 September 2012 19:45
13 September 2012 16:39
13 September 2012 15:54
13 September 2012 12:26

[…] an alternate (male) bishop instead. The contentious clause, now tweaked, is courtesy of the Rev Janet Appleby and says the male bishop (standing in for a woman bishop) should be chosen in a way that […]

12 November 2012 15:02

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