The Admission of Women to the Episcopate – A Statement by the Bench of Bishops

In September it will be 10  years since the Governing Body agreed a Bill to enable women to be ordained to  the priesthood in Wales. The first women priests in the Church in Wales were  ordained in January 1997, and since then the Church has benefited from the  significant contribution that women have made to this form of ordained  ministry.

During the same period other  provinces of the Anglican Communion have been considering the question of women  and the episcopate. Some of us will have experienced the ministry of women  bishops in other Anglican provinces and perhaps also in some of the churches of  the Porvoo Communion. This question has been decided by the Church of Ireland  and the Scottish Episcopal Church, and is currently being considered by the  Church of England.

The Bench of Bishops has come  to the conclusion that it would now be appropriate to ask this question of the  Church in Wales.  As with the debate 10  years ago, we recognise that the change being contemplated would hold  difficulties for some, and that it will be necessary for the Church to prepare  itself thoroughly for a debate on the subject.

In December 2005 the Bench  informed the Standing Committee of its intention to initiate a period of  discussion within the Church to help it prepare a Bill to enable women to be  ordained to the episcopate in Wales.  Further consideration was given to this process in January and March,  and we are writing to Governing Body members and clergy now to let  you know what the process will be.  The Bench has commissioned a  special edition of Theology Wales on the subject of women and the episcopate,  copies of which will be circulated to all Governing Body members, clergy and  Parochial Church Council secretaries in early August. The purpose of this  publication will be to inform a period of discussion within each diocese  between September 2006 and April 2007. Other provinces that have already  undergone this process will be consulted so that we might gain the benefit of  their experience.

In April 2007 there will be an  initial discussion at the Governing Body on the issues raised during this  period, following which the Bench of Bishops will prepare a Bill for discussion  with the Standing Committee and for consideration and decision by the Governing  Body in April 2008.

We would encourage your  participation in this process: to read and think about the special edition of  Theology Wales this summer, to engage with the period of discussion in your  diocese, and (if you are a member of the Governing Body) to contribute to the  initial debate next April. We would urge you to discuss and pray about these  matters within your parishes and deaneries.