An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Conscience Clause

” This clause, otherwise known as “A Statement of Conscience,” was a response by the House of Bishops to the 1976 General Convention approval of a canonical change that allowed for the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate. It was initiated by Presiding Bishop John Allin's opening remarks to the Oct. 1977, meeting of the House of Bishops at Port St. Lucie, Florida. Bishop Allin stated that he did not think “that women can be priests any more than they can become fathers or husbands,” and he offered to resign as Presiding Bishop. The House of Bishops passed a resolution affirming Allin's leadership. The bishops also responded by adopting a “conscience clause” designed to appease the episcopal opponents of the ordination of women. This clause affirmed that “No Bishop, Priest, or Lay Person should be coerced or penalized in any manner, nor suffer any canonical disabilities as a result of his or her conscientious objection to or support of the sixty-fifth General Convention's actions with regard to the ordination of women to the priesthood or episcopate.” Since the clause was adopted by the House of Bishops only, and not also by the House of Deputies, it had no canonical authority. The clause insured that no bishop could be punished for opposing the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church. The Lambeth Conference of 1978 also adopted a similar resolution. It stated that the conference accepts those member churches which ordain women, and declared “its acceptance of those member churches which do not ordain women.”

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.