Bishop of Dover says: ‘Door open for women bishops’

Following the vote about women bishops at General Synod on Tuesday 20 November, the Bishop of Dover, the Right Reverend Trevor Willmott has stated: “The door to women being bishops is open and cannot now be shut’.Speaking in a letter written to the clergy and lay people of the Diocese of Canterbury, the Bishop, a public supporter of women bishops also stated: “The vote yesterday was not a ‘no’ to women bishops, but it was a ‘no’ to the proposed legislation as it stands.”

“I believe that the door to women being bishops is open and cannot now be shut. The clear majority of the Church of England demands it, the people of this country expect it, and I believe that the Holy Spirit yearns for it. There will be women bishops in the Church of England and I hope and pray that the wait will not be a long one.”

In his letter, Bishop Trevor affirms the place of women priests in the Diocese saying they are ‘valued and appreciated widely’. He also reassures those people and priests with opposing views saying: “As Bishop, I have consistently assured those who find the episcopal or priestly ministry of women difficult that there will be a place for them, which respects their convictions.”

The House of Bishops meets in two weeks’ time to consider the consequences of the vote.

Ends

Further information from:

Emily Shepherd, Director of Communications, Diocese of Canterbury: 01227 459 401, 07876 210 446, eshepherd@diocant.org

The full text of the letter:

To clergy and lay people of the Diocese of Canterbury,

The open door…

You will no doubt have heard that the General Synod of the Church of England voted yesterday against the Measure to allow women to be ordained as bishops. Although the Measure was passed in the House of Bishops (44 for, 3 against, 2 abstentions) and the House of Clergy (148 for and 45 against), the vote in the House of Laity (132 for and 74 against) narrowly missed the required 2/3 majority required in each House. In essence, another 6 votes in the House of Laity and the headlines this morning would have been very different.

Many of my fellow bishops have already expressed their deep disappointment at this decision, and many more people across the church and beyond are saddened and confused at the rejection of what seemed to so many to be a reasonable, if imperfect, way forward. Many are doubting their vocation, and even their faith, within a church whose decision making body could now appear so out of touch with both the majority of its members and the wider society it seeks to serve. My heart goes out to all those who are saddened by yesterday’s events and particularly those women whose ministry is such an important, a fundamental part of the life of the church, and who had hoped so dearly to be affirmed in their vocation.

One of the readings set for Holy Communion today, from the Revelation to John, begins…

‘I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open!’

I believe that the door to women being bishops is open and cannot now be shut. The clear majority of the Church of England demands it, the people of this country expect it, and I believe that the Holy Spirit yearns for it. There will be women bishops in the Church of England and I hope and pray that the wait will not be a long one.

The vote yesterday was not a ‘no’ to women bishops, but it was a ‘no’ to the proposed Measure as it stands. The House of Bishops meets in two weeks’ time and will be considering the way forward; I ask for your prayers for me and my colleagues in this work.

In the Diocese of Canterbury, women in ministry are valued and appreciated widely. As Bishop, I have consistently assured those who find the episcopal or priestly ministry of women difficult that there will be a place for them, which respects their convictions.

My door is open to those who wish to talk to me about this. My thoughts and prayers are with all those across the Diocese who feel the effects of this decision deeply.

And I would echo Archbishop Rowan’s words: ‘It is still your church. Not mine, not Synod’s, but yours. Your voice matters and will be heard. It’s important not to give up.’

The door is open. We will, and we must, go through it together.

With my prayers and best wishes,

+Trevor

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