From Robert Nowell, York
By the overwhelming majority of 390 votes to 29 the General Synod of the Church of England has endorsed the proposals for the appointment of bishops put forward by the Prime Minister in a written Commons reply on June 8.
Under these proposals a small Church committee would submit two names in order of preference to the Prime Minister, and the assumption is that normally he would advise the Sovereign to appoint the first of these to the vacant diocese concerned without exercising his right either to advise her to appoint the second or to call for a further name or names.
• But detailed proposals on how the Church will play its part in the new procedure will only come before the Synod at its next meeting in Acceptance of the proposals was forcefully advocated by Sir Norman Anderson, Chairman of the House of Laity, as implementing the Synod's affirmation two years ago of the principle that the Church should have the decisive voice in the appointment of diocesan bishops.
There had been tough negotiations with the Prime Minister: "There was hard bargaining, and I believe we came out of it in a very favourable way," said Sir Norman, who with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Donald Coggan, had represented the Church of England in the discussions from which the propsals emerged.
One element in the Synod's acceptance of what might seem a little less than what it had originally asked for — a decisive voice rather than the decisive voice, as some speakers pointed out — was the importance attached to the links with the Crown and with the State.
The appointment of bishops by the Crown remained of "great symbolic significance," said the Bishop of Durham, Dr John Habgood. "It reminds people that bishops have a national role as well as an ecclesiastical rdle," he added. "It focuses on the national role of the Church as a whole."
Dr Coggan quoted with approval the recent warning by
Daniel Jenkins in his book 'The British: Their Identity and Their Religion' that if the Church of England were to forget its role as the Church of the nation, if it were to retreat into denominational status, that would indeed be a tragedy of a major order.
And in replying to the debate Sir Norman said that there had to be some discussion with the state about the appointment of bishops because they did not want bishops to be mere denominational figures but national figures.
But there was a minority which would have preferred the Synod to give only a qualified welcome to the Prime Minister's proposals. An amendment to welcome them "as a step in the right direction" was defeated by a small majority, and other amendments putting even greater stress on the provisional nature of what had been agreed were even more soundly defeated.
An advocate of total rejec lion of the proposals, Mr T. L. Dye from Hull, pointed out that the present situation was ridiculous to those outside the Church of England: "They cannot understand why the Prime Minister should appoint bishops," The Rev Paul Oestreicher of Blackheath, London, warned that the retention of a state veto over the appointment of bishops could represent "something very, very dangerous indeed." We were not living in safe or stable times, he said, and already the National Front was getting more votes than Hitler had the second time he had tried to get into power.
On Monday evening, at the start of the Synod's five day meeting, the Archbishop of Canterbury said in answer to a question that he hoped that a further consultation between Anglicans and Roman Catholics might take place in the course of the next few months over the situation created by the Synod's affirmation last year that there are no fundamental objections to the ordination of women and by the Continued on P7