Friday, 21 September 2012

Will WATCH do a ‘Clegg’?

When the July General Synod referred the Measure to introduce women bishops back to the House of Bishops to look again at the wording they had suggested, the group Women And The CHurch — WATCH — quickly put out a statement demanding the removal of the offending Clause 5(1)c. They also raised a petition to that effect, which is still online, and in the run up to the Spetember meeting of theHouse of Bishops they were still urging people to sign it.
Subsequent to their meeting, however, the House of Bishops has not withdrawn 5(1)c. Whether it has watered it down or not, we will have to wait and see. After all, the clause itself does not say much about the practices that will follow — it only specifies what the Code of Practice, yet to be written, must achieve.
Nevertheless, it certainly goes some way to still accommodating specifically the views of Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals who would not wish to receive the ministry of a woman bishop.
The point is, the Clause is still there, whereas WATCH took the position that it should not be there.
This puts WATCH on the horns of something like a dilemma, giving them, I think, two options:
1.         They stick to their guns, as set out in their petition. Their demand was the removal of Clause 5(1)c. This has not happened. They therefore vote against the Measure.
2.         They do a ‘Clegg’, taking the view that achieving their ends is worth a compromise on a declared position. If they vote against in November we won’t see women bishops for several more years and they will have helped bring that situation about. If they vote for, women bishops may well be a reality in the next couple of years (and if the Measure still fails, the ‘antis’ get the blame.)
Now it seems to me that the sensible line is the second. After all, it could be argued that what the bishops now propose has so watered down Clause 5(1)c (it was never going to beef it up) that it isn’t really ‘there’ in any sense that would now cause problems. Had WATCH been less shrill and more canny they would have gone for this sort of approach in the first place.
However, if WATCH do now vote for 5(1)c it sends three messages. First, their initial objection was intemperate. Secondly, the Clause must now not be seen as a threat (and therefore opponents of women bishops should beware!). Thirdly, WATCH are politicians, not just theologians. Of course, in the end, politics is a necessary thing in the Church as elsewhere. It is just good, occasionally, to be reminded of the fact.
Please give a full name and location when posting. Comments without this information may be deleted. Recommend:


  1. I think it would be interesting to find out about the relationship between WATCH and the Bishops' new clause. I strongly suspect that there is a close connection. In which case you are right that 5(1)c should be seen as a threat - Respect, or bear the consequences.

  2. What I would like to hear is why "A code of practice will not do" has become "A code of practice will do very nicely" Can somebody explain why we should be listening anymore to the leaderships? Sounds like a promise which is going to be broken. How sad!

  3. I suspect JT is right.

    I remember being in a Diocesen synod discussion (not a debate, no votes) a few years ago about the options. They were then 1. Yes, with no provision. 2. No never, 3. yes, but not yet & 4. TEA.

    Over tea & coffee, TEA was OVERWHELMINGLY the flavour the day, among just about all Evangelicals, a fair number of Anglo-Catholics & was adored by the centrals. Only the most agressive fundamentalist liberals raised any concern.

    Then there was a meeting between House of Bishops & some senior women clergy, & TEA was sunk. Now the same people who thought TEA had saved the day have forgotten about it. It made me ask, why are the HoB so scared of WATCH? Do they have some compromising photos? So, I'm guessing the amendment is a stitch up.

    Darren Moore

  4. Darren, I think I can guess, but to avoid any uncertainty please could you spell out what TEA stands for?



  5. Transfered Episcopal Arrangements
    I think it was Michael Nazir Ali's idea, which he described as an Evangelical solution to an Anglo-Catholic problem.

    I can't remember the detail, but everyone I spoke to seemed happy with it until "that meeting". Then hardly anyone was. What I remember about it was that it had flexibility for moving in & out of arrangements, managerially still being within a Diocese, gets round the delegation issues.


  6. WATCH comprise a variety of views, like any other group within the Church. Most of those I have spoken to would have valued the removal of the clause, but recognise that has not been achieved.

    The idea that women bishops should be treated any differently to men bishops is, of course, frankly ridiculous and needs to go as soon as possible.