Thinking Anglicans

Bishops give a clear lead

The report to General Synod (GS 1685A) from the House of Bishops on the legislation for women bishops was clear. A majority of that house wished to avoid the creation of any new structures, and considered that a national code of practice was both necessary and sufficient to protect the consciences of those unable to accept the ministry of women as bishops.

We knew before the 11 July debate that “a significant minority within the House” was opposed to the approach embodied in the draft resolution submitted. But we did not know the size and composition of the majority or the minority. Now we do. The results of the electronic voting in the House of Bishops are available, either here, or over here.

The final outcome saw 68% of the bishops present, and 72% of the House of Clergy voting in favour of a motion that had been amended only slightly from the text the House of Bishops had originally put forward. The laity were less enthusiastic with a majority of only 61%. (Overall, exactly a two-thirds majority.) So the Synod accepted the view of the episcopal majority, and rejected all attempts to adopt any of the other options that the Manchester Report had proposed.

Episcopal opposition turned out to be almost entirely limited to a core group of only twelve bishops. These included five who later signed the 15 August letter (see below) and who also have votes in Synod, i.e. the Bishops of Blackburn, Chichester, Europe, Burnley and Beverley. There were also seven others: the Bishops of Birmingham, Exeter, London, Rochester, Winchester, Dover and, significantly, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

At the end of the debate, the Archbishop abstained, and the other eleven all voted against the substantive motion. The only other bishop who voted “No” was the Bishop of Durham, whose earlier motion to adjourn the debate had support from only 46% of the synod. He had consistently opposed every amendment throughout the debate.

The group of twelve also supported several amendments that would have moved the outcome in a conservative direction.

First, all twelve voted in favour of an amendment proposed by the Bishop of Winchester. Only two other bishops joined in this action: Bradford and Southwell & Nottingham. This amendment sought to do two things:

  • commit the synod to a restatement “that those who dissent from, as well as those who assent to the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate are both loyal Anglicans,” (Resolution III.2 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference)
  • remove the limitation on the drafting group to work “within the existing structures of the Church of England”.
    The amendment was rejected in all three houses: by 69% of the bishops, 66% of clergy, and 59% of laity.

Next, a small wording change, proposed by Prebendary David Houlding, to change “wish” to “wish of the majority” [for women to be admitted to the episcopate] was narrowly approved, by 62% of Bishops and 51% of Laity but by only by a single vote in the House of Clergy. Curiously, the Bishop of Rochester voted against this.

Ten of the twelve then voted in favour of Fr Simon Killwick’s amendment that sought to allow new dioceses to be considered. London opposed this and Canterbury abstained. No other bishop voted for it. The amendment was defeated by 71%, 68.5%, and 61% margins in the three houses.

Eleven then voted for the Bishop of Exeter’s amendment, which aimed to allow a structural solution based on existing rather than new dioceses. Again London voted against, but two others (Bradford and St Edmundsbury) added support. It also was defeated by margins of 64%, 64% and 59%.

Finally, ten of them voted for the Bishop of Ripon & Leeds’s amendment to keep open the possibility of “statutory transfer of specified responsibilities”. Altogether 21 bishops supported this, but amazingly both Chichester and Birmingham opposed it, leading to a 21-21 tie in that House. (The chair of the drafting group, the Bishop of Manchester, abstained on many though not all votes.)

The amendment did obtain a 53% majority in the House of Laity, but failed in the House of Clergy where it obtained only 47% support. Had the vote not been by houses, the amendment would have passed by the slim margin of 203-200, with 3 abstentions.

For completeness, I should also note that two other amendments were both voted down by huge margins. The Reverend Steven Trott’s amendment, to keep open all the options of the Manchester report, was voted down by huge margins in all houses: 89% of bishops, 82% of clergy, and 78% of laity. Among all the bishops, only Chichester, Rochester and Beverley voted “yes”.

To match this, the Reverend Miranda Threlfall-Holmes’ amendment to adopt the “simplest statutory approach”, and exclude even a national code of practice, was also voted down by large margins, though smaller than in the previous case. The figures against were 82%, 59%, and 62%. Seven bishops were in favour of this, namely Southwark, Bristol, Liverpool, Bath & Wells, Hereford, Derby and Portsmouth. The Bishop of Ripon & Leeds abstained.

The net effect of all this is that the view of the overwhelming majority of the House of Bishops was accepted by the whole synod. The recent letter from fourteen traditionalist Anglo-Catholic bishops, only five of whom have votes in General Synod, highlighted that the House of Laity vote was below the two-thirds level that will be needed for final approval of the women bishops legislation. It also pointed to close voting on the amendment offered by the Bishop of Ripon & Leeds as another indicator of less than overwhelming support for legislation without “new structures”.

However, the final approval vote will not occur in the life of this Synod, but only after new elections have been held in 2010. This issue may well dominate those elections. The House of Bishops, to whom the letter writers are explicitly appealing, does not meet again until October. By that time, the Legislative Drafting Group should be halfway through its task of preparing a draft for the General Synod to consider in February. General Synod has clearly instructed the group to do so only on the basis of a statutory code of practice. The strength of support for that in the House of Bishops is now clearly on the record.

Note: Sheffield and Truro were vacant sees at the time of the vote, and there were six bishops who were either not present or who never voted at all (Coventry, Chester, Sodor & Man, Ely, Salisbury and Leicester).

22
Leave a Reply

avatar
3000
22 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
18 Comment authors
Ren AguilaTerence DearMark BennetRose Gaudetedrdanfee Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Simon
Just for my own understanding, could you please explain the difference between bishops who “abstained” in your report, and the final six who were either absent or “never voted” at all?

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Sure.
The reported abstentions were those recorded by the electronic voting system, that is the bishop in question pressed a button to record an abstention. To do this he (sic) had to be present.

The six I listed at the end have no votes recorded on this at all. Some discussion as to where some of them were occurred in the comments at http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/003260.html

If you look at the voting record itself (in that same page), you will also see some blank entries. Not every bishop voted on every amendment.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Thanks, Simon

JCF
Guest
JCF

“However, the final approval vote will not occur in the life of this Synod, but only after new elections have been held in 2010. This issue may well dominate those elections.”

I’d love somebody who understands all this, to look into their crystal balls (so to speak *g*) on THIS one!

Mark Wharton
Guest
Mark Wharton

I recently watched a programme about car clamping and found out that the legalisation that is designed to protect motorists is enshrined in a statutory code of practice. The statutory code of practice has no ground in law and consequently it is regularly abused, ignored and disobeyed. Car clampers are only required to have “regard” for the regulations set out and the legalisation has been re-written 3 times to attempt to stop those who abuse it from doing so. Now some members of the Anglican Church have approved a statutory code of practice, which the top Anglican lawyers say is… Read more »

Andrew Carey
Guest
Andrew Carey

Given that the Bishops were divided 21/21 on the key Packer amendment I think it’s difficult to sustain the view that they provided clear leadership. A vast majority are clearly in favour of the ordination of women as bishops including some of the hardcore 12 you identify. Therefore it’s not surprising that the overall result for the final motion was overwhelming. However there were key differences among the bishops about how to get there. They admitted this themselves. Furthermore, they were at odds with one of the co-chairs of the House of Bishops (the Archbishop of Canterbury) I have to… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

I’m sorry, but looking at this as a Yank, I keep imagining what it would have been like, if some 80 years or so ago, we would have had to “make accommodations” for those who could not accept women as voters.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

Mark: would you also, then, support a separate liberal diocese where gay partnerships were acknowledged and accepted?

If so, then I would support your case. It makes more sense to reflect the genuinely different views.

But if not, then you are simply asking for special treatment.

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

Car clamping? Translate for Americans, please?

David Malloch
Guest
David Malloch

I suspect things are going to get much more complicated, messy & uncertain in the coming few years. As Mark Wharton notes, a statutory code of practice does not mean it is binding, simply that there is a statutory requirement to produce the code. This may, in fact, create a hurdle far bigger than at first imagined. It is clear from the voting figures in the July synod that the majority of members supported some kind of provision for oponents and the “Ripon & Leeds” amendment got a majority in synod. That will be a significant factor as things develop.… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

car clamp:

comment image

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

Thanks for car-clamping. In the U.S. it’s called ‘booting’ a car illegally parked. The device looks different. Towing, of course, clears a space, but costs a lot. The booted car owner has to face a cop and, often, outstanding unpaid parking fines that must be paid to free the car. Two peoples divided by a common language indeed! I guess so far I’ve not had a characterin an English murder mystery mention car-clamping!

Graeme Buttery
Guest
Graeme Buttery

Simon, just a couple of things if I may. First, this information has been out for a while, why post it now? Secondly, I am one of those that is not convinced that the bishops gave a clear lead. Given the complicated way it was all debated, I suspect that there are many shades of opinion whithin the “for” camp. Lastly, I too sadly, think that we are in for division and disagreement. Synod decided to puish ahead with little regard to any other point of view – the Manchester report, like Rochester before it was scarcely debated at all,… Read more »

jnwall
Guest
jnwall

A car clamp is called a “boot” in the USA. Does the same thing — immobilizes the car until a fine is paid. Strange how UK English and USA English often come up with different but related terms for the same thing. At the doctor’s in the UK you get a jab; in the USA, a shot. The word “boot” relating to automobiles is already taken in the UK for the part of the car we in the USA call a “trunk.” On the analogy presumably with an item of luggage, not an appendage to an elephant. Another case of… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Graeme
Why now?
I was not present at the synod in July.
What sent me back to look at the voting detail was the letter of 14 bishops dated 15 August.
http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/003380.html
This was what caused me to then write this piece.
I had not realised at all that the Abp of Canterbury was among those consistently voting for the conservative amendments until I started writing.

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

As for two continents separated by a common language, the nouns that vary in railroad/railway operations is abysmal. It took a dozen trips to the UK and befuddlement at the Cambridge train station (which has only one ‘platformed through passenger track, but many platforms-go figure) to learn that subjects of the queen use “platform numbers” and citizens of the states use “track numbers” (It’s PLATFORM 9 3/4’s at King’s Cross in the Harry Potter novels/movies, not ‘track’). I won’t even go into such terms as signal boxes (towers), carriages (cars) or locomotive footplates (operating cabs). Or crotchets (quarter notes) semi-breves… Read more »

Andrew Carey
Guest
Andrew Carey

It might have been more interesting, and I daresay truer, to headline your analysis, ‘Archbishop outvoted by house’. As you have noted, this is one of the most significant things about these figures.

However, after exercising much clearer leadership at the Lambeth Conference, I think it is possible that from now on Dr Williams will steer the measure more deliberately and persuasively in his favoured direction than he has done up till now.

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

The problems of structural provision do not lie in the accommodation as such, nor the fuzzy typical Anglican generousness and forebearance which widely grounds any of those accommodations. The problems consist of two aspects which are quite difficult to resolve. Firstly, for the last two or so decades at least, we have seen an increasing conservative use of any and all means to resist modern notions of human rights, equality, fair play, openness, change, inquiry – indeed nearly anything at all which promises to disturb or qualify an Anglican church life that is loudly preached as a final, settled conservative… Read more »

Rose Gaudete
Guest
Rose Gaudete

drdanfee:
“It is not as if putting up serious, settled barriers against women priests or bishops is going to protect exactly these believers from having to deal with gifted, talented, and leading women in the rest of daily life.”

But a large number of those against women bishops are …….”gifted, talented, and leading women in the rest of daily life”. They don’t need to avoid themselves – just an ecclesial structure which meets their spiritual needs in order to continue to bear witness as faithful women in their daily lives.

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

I struggle with the ecclesiology here. How is a ‘new diocese’ part of the same church if those who are in it do not recognise the orders of my colleagues (and I would say mine too), the authority of my bishops or the efficacy of the sacraments I celebrate as a priest? I want to have a constructive account of how those in this “new Diocese” will see me, how they will receive the sacramental ministry entrusted to me as a male priest ordained within the disciplines of the Church. Because I’m struggling to find any kind of coherent ecclesiology… Read more »

Terence Dear
Guest
Terence Dear

The answer to all these problems is obvious – every diocese should have a Trinity of bishops, one a woman, one a straight man and one a gay man. Each bishop would exercise equal and separate spiritual authority within the diocese, owing allegiance to the Crown and individually in communion with Canterbury. Each parish within the diocese would be free to recognise and to seek spiritual oversight from the bishop of its choice. The diocese itself would be administered and represented in all non-spiritual matters by the vicar-general. On second thoughts, I suppose that means each province would have to… Read more »

Ren Aguila
Guest
Ren Aguila

No Terence, Just have one Lambeth Conference with three Presidents.

You actually raised an idea that was shot down in the Rochester report on women bishops, that there should be a college of bishops within each diocese, but, unlike your proposal, required that one of them be primus inter pares.