Wednesday, 27 August 2008

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).

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 27 August 2008 at 3:43pm BST | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod
Comments

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?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 27 August 2008 at 6:25pm BST

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.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 27 August 2008 at 6:54pm BST

Thanks, Simon

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 27 August 2008 at 8:11pm BST

"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!

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 27 August 2008 at 10:36pm BST

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 unenforceable, for those who cannot, out of faithfulness to the Gospel, accept Women as Bishops.
How many times are we going to have to come back to synod because some Bishops refuse to honour such a code? Some Bishops have had enough trouble in following the act of synod!
I cannot accept the code of practice because it is sexist; I would not be so condescending to insist on a male Bishop to confirm or ordain, but then accept the woman Bishop to deal with my drains! She either has the authority to do everything or to do nothing; the code limits her authority, a new diocese however would mean that in Southwark say, she was Bishop in every way and those who could not accept her orders would be served in every aspect by Bishops whom they regard as such.
The Act of Synod was a very late addition to the Women Priests measure and if the attitude of those true liberals throughout the country is anything like it is where I work, than I think it is doubtful as to whether it will gain final consents and then where will we be? Surely it is better to generously provide something now, than for the whole bill to fall at a later stage because we have been so short sighted.
Why not provide new diocese and see of we grow? If we grow it is because we taught the truth that comes from God, is this what the synod is afraid of??

My heartfelt thanks to all those Bishops, in favour of women Bishops, who had the courage to vote against the measure through a real desire to include all people in the church. Perhaps they teach us something about true liberalism.

Posted by: Mark Wharton on Thursday, 28 August 2008 at 9:29am BST

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 question whether this is leadership by the bishops or a shambles.

Posted by: Andrew Carey on Thursday, 28 August 2008 at 10:44am BST

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.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 28 August 2008 at 11:51am BST

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.

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 28 August 2008 at 12:22pm BST

Car clamping? Translate for Americans, please?

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Thursday, 28 August 2008 at 12:32pm BST

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.

Andrew Carey's point that many voted for the final motion because it endorsed the concept of women bishops is almost certainly correct and there is evidence that a number of those who so voted have serious reservations about the code of practice. Since the vote, at least 20 synod members have told me that they had not realised that jurisdiction cannot be transfered by a code of practice and that they would now be looking to ensure that jurisdictional transfer was in the measure, albeit with the pracical working out to be contained in a code of practice.

My guess is that there will be little consensus on the content of a code - some advocates have said it must be at least as generous as the Act of Synod, others have spent years trying to rescing the Act of Synod and will not support its continuation under another guise.

It may be, therefore, that on any specific proposal there will be a large "anti" vote comprising those against women's ordination, those in favour who believe in structural provision for oponents, and those committed to a code but opposed to the specific details of the one proposed.

And, remember, the code is statutory - they have to have one to proceed with the measure!!

It may yet emerge that synod is unable to proceed on this basis and that it will have to choose between indefinite delay or structural provision.

It would be a high risk strategy to wait to see what happens in the 2010 elections because neither side can be confident of being in a stronger position. My guess is that there will be a liberal swing in the house of clergy but a conservative swing in the house of laity. Any such conservative move in the house of laity could sink the whole project until after 2015, at which point the process would need to start at the beginning.

So, if the bishops have given a clear steer, they have steered to a strange place, possibly a cul-de-sac, and may be well advised to get out the manual and find "reverse".

Posted by: David Malloch on Thursday, 28 August 2008 at 1:14pm BST

car clamp:

http://img.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2007/05_02/carclampREX_468x550.jpg

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 28 August 2008 at 1:39pm BST

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!

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Thursday, 28 August 2008 at 1:59pm BST

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, and not in the wider church.
Whether or not we have women bishops, the means od discernment and decision making should have us worried.

Graeme Buttery

Posted by: Graeme Buttery on Thursday, 28 August 2008 at 2:31pm BST

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 the USA and England being linked by an ocean and divided by a common language, I guess. Or is it a common religious tradition?

Posted by: jnwall on Thursday, 28 August 2008 at 2:42pm BST

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.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 28 August 2008 at 3:25pm BST

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 (whole notes), quavers (eighth notes). Don't go there!

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Thursday, 28 August 2008 at 3:36pm BST

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.

Posted by: Andrew Carey on Thursday, 28 August 2008 at 4:18pm BST

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 Status Quo.

Thus, trying to extend an accommodation to strict conservative believers that is not readily vulnerable to being immediately weaponized in forceful realignment campaigning against all the rest of us by its very application or implementation - well this is turning out to be more difficult than simple notions of accommodation suggest.

Almost any space boundaried for strict conservatives on the womens leadership controversies can (and will?) later be used, probably very meanly, against any women priests or bishops or supportive non-strict-conservatives who manage to exist and perhaps thrive, outside its nicely boundaried purities.

It is this strong warmongering and weaponizing of leeway which presents huge difficulties in Anglcan life for those of us who are pledged to an Anglican big tent.

If only some strategy of accommodation automatically involved the conservatives pledging the same generosity towards women that they are so quick, so loud, and so persistent to preach in very high language - as their self-assertion of a unique safety?

Secondly, any accommodation which seems proper and fit for the strict conservative believers who so say they dearly need it – is a scam of sorts. 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. Thus, one easily anticipates two sorts of scenarios. Either daily life gets trashed in this or that preachment – much as we see modernity and human rights being trash talked by leading male conservative figures in church life (some fellow blogged that perhaps slavery was, after all, a godly and happy thing which provided social security for the slaves owned?) Or we replay equality struggles, winking an eye to gospel news about God's utter fairness?

Posted by: drdanfee on Thursday, 28 August 2008 at 6:25pm BST

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.

Posted by: Rose Gaudete on Thursday, 28 August 2008 at 8:01pm BST

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 which makes us one Church. And I think that General Synod is feeling its way, in unfamiliar territory, to finding a means of generous provision within the confines of a single church.

I'm further convinced that the manner in which the Act of Synod has been operated - notwithstanding the Blackburn Report - has taught the Church of England a lesson about how solutions of an inflexible structural nature are likely to create and ossify unbridgeable divisions. Of course the Act of Synod was not meant as an inflexible instrument, but that is how it has appeared to most of us - and those living within its protected space have been almost entirely shielded from the pain and problems it has caused. There has been insufficient mutuality in it - with some notable exceptions amongst a few who have truly seen it as a potential instrument of unity.

As for the Archbishop of Canterbury, who can blame the person who, as Primate of All England, is the focus of unity for us all, for being more patient and more diligent in seeking the most generous and unifying approach possible than most of the rest of us. For all his hope that an approach might be found, and for all his own intellectual power devoted to the matter, no-one has produced the ecclesiology which works with a single church and a structural division.

Synod moves on, slowly and deliberately. If a radical unitive ecclesiology emerges, that will be exciting. If not (and I don't see it) then the fact of women in ordained ministry and positions of leadership is a non-negotiable reality. Within that real context, provision will be made, of course, for those who in conscience dissent. But denial will be simply dishonest.

Andrew Carey - I'd suggest that considering the whole debate as a (perhaps unfortunately public) process of discernment on the part of the General Synod would be a possible positive construction of recent events, in contrast to the negative dichotomy you seem to be working with.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Thursday, 28 August 2008 at 9:08pm BST

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 have three archbishops. Three Archbishops of Canterbury would mean three Lambeth Conferences. God forbid! "I think I'd better think it out again!"

Posted by: Terence Dear on Friday, 29 August 2008 at 5:06pm BST

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.

Posted by: Ren Aguila on Saturday, 30 August 2008 at 3:15am BST
Post a comment









Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.