Providing assurance


38. This declaration has been prepared in connection with legislation to admit women to the episcopate, pro posals for which have been the subject of extensive debate in the Church of England over a number of years. It flows from the House’s desire to establish a climate of trust within which there can be mutual flourishing, notwithstanding the differences of conviction which will continue to exist on this issue.


39. The present members of the House, like the members of the General Synod, cannot give binding commitments which would prevent their successors from considering matters afresh in the light of experience and new developments. Nevertheless, the House accepts its responsibility for creating and sustaining the necessary confidence that the arrangements set out in this declaration can be relied on and will prove durable.


40. Adjustments may prove necessary in the light of experience and be uncontentious. But the House undertakes that, should it be minded to propose changes to this declaration, it will consult the General Synod and will not proceed with its proposals unless they command two-thirds majorities in all three Houses.


Here the House of Bishops implicitly recognizes that traditional catholics and conservative evangelicals have found it difficult to trust those in authority in many dioceses (not least because, for much of the last decade, many of them supported legislation that was designed to breach the promises made in 1993). The House admits that there is a need ‘to establish a climate of trust’. It recognizes its responsibility for first creating confidence and then sustaining it.


Neither the Synod nor the House can bind their successors, and there may in future be general agreement that the Declaration needs adjustment. But the House of Bishops has adopted a Standing Order which says that neither the Declaration nor that Standing Order can be changed without the support of two-thirds majorities in each House of the General Synod.


Unlike the Act of Synod, the Declaration cannot be amended or rescinded by the Synod, but only by the House of Bishops. The Act of Synod could be amended or rescinded by a simple majority, but the Declaration can be changed or revoked only if two-thirds of each House of the Synod agrees. This dual key makes the Declaration much more secure – and indeed, as secure as anything can be in the Church of England.