Dean of Norwich rules herself out of running to become first woman bishop

PUBLISHED: 18:37 17 November 2014 | UPDATED: 18:37 17 November 2014

The Very Revd Jane Hedges, Dean of Norwich.  Photo: Bill Smith

The Very Revd Jane Hedges, Dean of Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant ý 2014

The Dean of Norwich has welcomed the “good and exciting news” that the Church of England has formally adopted legislation which means its first female bishops could be ordained next year - although has ruled herself out of the running.

The amendment, which was passed with a show of hands at the general synod in London, comes 20 years after the ordination of the first women priests in the Church of England. It is thought that the first woman could be appointed as a bishop next year.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said the move meant the start of “a new way of being the church”.

The Very Reverend Jane Hedges, Dean of Norwich, who had been among the favourites to become the first woman bishop, said: “It is good and exciting news for the Church of England that from today vacancies for Diocesan and Suffragen bishops can be filled either by men or women.

“Since women were admitted to the priesthood 20 years ago the number of ordained women has steadily grown with an increasing proportion of them serving in senior posts such as archdeacons and deans, thereby equipping them with the kind of experience they need in order to serve as bishops.

“Inevitably there has been a great deal of speculation about who will be the first woman to be ordained bishop and today Ladbrokes has even named several women including myself together with the odds being offered.

“Having arrived in Norwich just five months ago I would like people to know that I will definitely not be amongst the first women to be made a bishop.

“I feel privileged to be Dean of Norwich and believe that God has called me to be here. I am incredibly happy in this post – I love the Cathedral, the city, the diocese and the county and I am fortunate to be working with wonderful colleagues both at the Cathedral and in the Bishop’s senior staff team.” Archbishop Welby told reporters: “It has taken a very, very long time and the way is now open to select people for the episcopacy, to nominate them on the basis simply of our sense that they are called by God to be in that position without qualification as to their gender.”

He added: “We are working very, very hard on training and development of people, men and women, for senior posts in the church.

“The aim is ... that you end up with a big pool of people where gender is irrelevant and that that pool is pretty evenly mixed.

“There is a very conscious effort to make it easy for Crown Nomination Commissions to be able to have a fair choice between men and women. And we are going to take this very very seriously.”

The change passed today saw the simple addition of a sentence to Canon 33, which reads: “A man or a woman may be consecrated to the office of bishop.”

Only a few Synod members voted against it, including several women.

The Dean of Norwich had been the bookies’ favourite to become the first woman bishop. Ladbrokes has offered 3/1 for the former canon steward of Westminster Abbey and archdeacon of Westminster.

She lead the Ven Rachel Treweek, archdeacon of Hackney (6/1), and the Very Rev Dr June Osborne, dean of Salisbury Cathedral (8/1).

Other leading candidates include the Very Rev Vivienne Faull, dean of York Minster.

The first diocese vacancy to come up after the “canon” law is changed will be Southwell and Nottingham, after the Rt Rev Paul Butler was appointed as Bishop of Durham.

It will be followed by Gloucester, Oxford and Newcastle.

The General Synod overwhelmingly backed legislation introducing the first women bishops in the Church of England in July and today’s vote rubber-stamped the move.

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