House of Commons
Thursday 20 July 2023
The House met at half-past Nine o’clock
The hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked:
Dame Diana Johnson MP (Lab, Kingston upon Hull North): If the Church of England will make an assessment of the potential merits of refusing to ordain clergy who do not personally recognise the ordination of women as diocesan bishops.
Andrew Selous: The Church of England is fully committed to all orders of ministry being open equally to all without reference to gender. The Church is also committed to ensuring that those who cannot in good conscience receive the ministry of women priests or bishops are able to flourish; the five guiding principles of the House of Bishops are the basis for this mutual flourishing and all candidates for ordination have to assent to them.
Dame Diana Johnson: It is now 29 years since we had the first woman priest and nine years since the first female bishop was appointed in our established Church of England. It therefore seems to me that there have been many years to adapt to treating women as equals in the sight of God. Given that, is it really appropriate for the Church of England to continue appointing clergy, as happened recently in Blackburn, who have not accepted and who will never personally accept the ordination of women?
Andrew Selous: I can tell the right hon. Lady that a new body was established last year to review how the five guiding principles are being understood, implemented and received in the Church and that it has a balanced membership of bishops, clergy and laity who reflect all views on these matters.
Sir Peter Bottomley MP (Con, Worthing West): I speak as a supporter of WATCH, the Women and the Church group. The Church Commissioners should understand that either the Church of England gets rid of what ought to have been temporary exemptions from the Equality Act 2010 or Parliament will do that for it. Does my hon. Friend understand that other MPs who are interested in full equality for women would like to meet the Church Commissioners before we consider what other action we might take?
Andrew Selous: I have very clearly heard what my hon. Friend the Father of the House and indeed the very respected Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson) have just said. The Church will have heard that as well and we are of course available for meetings at any time.