Saturday, 1 December 2012

Bristol Diocesan Synod passes vote of no confidence in General Synod

Updated Saturday evening

Here is the motion passed today by the Diocese of Bristol:

In the light of the recent failure of the General Synod to pass the Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) measure at its sessions of November 2012, despite overwhelming support for this legislation by this and other diocesan synods of the Church of England, Bristol Diocesan Synod:

1. Reaffirms our strong conviction that it is God’s will that women be ordained as bishops in the Church of England.

2. Has no confidence in the General Synod’s ability to transact the clear will of the majority of the Church with the urgency required to further the mission and witness of the Church.

3. Calls on the House of Bishops to explore, as a matter of great urgency, every possible avenue to effect the will of the Church on this issue.

Read more about the synod meeting: Diocesan Synod tells Bishops to effect the will of the Church, and read Bishop Mike Hill’s address to the synod over here (PDF).

This motion is by no means the strongest one that might have been passed. Paul Roberts has written about this in two blog articles:

The Bristol synod motion

…However, if other diocesan synods pass similar motions, where does that leave us? Essentially, the message given to Synod is, ‘we don’t think you lot are capable of passing satisfactory legislation and we’re upset about this.’ But, it doesn’t take any further action which would amend this situation. Essentially, this will not do anything other than register a protest.

The stronger, original version of the motion goes further – by expressing a total lack of confidence in the Synod to act as the present General Synod of the Church of England, it’s essentially saying it needs to go, and go as soon as possible. So why is this necessary? I think it’s so, for the following reasons…

And earlier in the week he had written: A possible way out of the Women Bishops bind.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 1 December 2012 at 3:18pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

Following the Bristol vote of No Confidence in the General Synod - let's start a campaign to abolish this overgrown cuckoo in the nest of the Established Church - away with this talking shop which seems to exist simply to water down the faith once given by Christ to the apostles of old .

Posted by: Father David on Saturday, 1 December 2012 at 3:35pm GMT

How refreshing!

Posted by: Dr Venetia Nye on Saturday, 1 December 2012 at 4:49pm GMT

Wonderful as this news is, let's be very careful about anything that gives more power to the episcopacy. Anglican Covenant .

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Saturday, 1 December 2012 at 5:03pm GMT

Good for Bristol. to be a former member of the diocese, ordained in Bristol cathedral.
Let other dioceses now take action.

Posted by: Fr John E. Harris-White on Saturday, 1 December 2012 at 5:09pm GMT

I note that the Bishop of Bristol is shortly to go to Uganda; naturally, today's address was about the ordination of women bishops, but one hopes he will be able to at least have conversation about the oppression of gay people in that country in the light of present proposed legislation; it will be interesting to hear what happens on this visit in this regard.

Posted by: peter kettle on Saturday, 1 December 2012 at 6:18pm GMT

" let's start a campaign to abolish this overgrown cuckoo in the nest of the Established Church - away with this talking shop which seems to exist simply to water down the faith once given by Christ to the apostles of old."

Agreed Father David, lets get rid of it and just appoint one single senior priest to tell us all what to do, because after all that priest must be inspired by God and therefore infallible. Such a system must surely work.

"It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." Winston Churchill.


Posted by: Simon Dawson on Saturday, 1 December 2012 at 6:31pm GMT

Bravo, and TBTG!

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 1 December 2012 at 8:48pm GMT

"The role of the Diocesan as Ordinary must not be undermined in any way."
Thus saith the Bishop of Bristol - so, it would seem, Simon, that we have 44 little popes within the Church of England already.

Posted by: Father David on Saturday, 1 December 2012 at 8:59pm GMT

I am a determined supporter of the ordination of women to the episcopate. Indeed, I am on the WATCH committee. The outcome of the women bishops vote was disastrous, and has done nothing for the CofE's credibility. I am extremely disappointed that the House of Laity chose to disregard the overwhelming support in diocesan synods, and in the church and society more widely, for the legislation.

However, were I a member of Bristol diocesan synod, I would have spoken and voted against this today. We cannot decide a system doesn't work because it does not yield the response we wanted. If the vote had been six votes the other way we would not be declaring we had no confidence in GS.

There is a real debate to be had about how Synod is elected, and about transparency in election addresses. There is a question to be addressed about the purpose of referring business to dioceses if the results can then be fairly well disregarded. I share Bristol's lack of confidence in the inability of the current Synod to transact the clear will of the majority on this issue; I do not think that equates to a complete declaration of no confidence in GS and all its activities.

Posted by: Hannah on Saturday, 1 December 2012 at 10:26pm GMT

I would also add, by way of postscript to my comments above, that had the House of Bishops followed the mandate of the diocesan synods and not tried to override the synodical systems, we might not be where we are. I am not at all confident that we need the bishops to swoop in and fix it because Synod didn't do it 'properly'.

Posted by: Hannah on Saturday, 1 December 2012 at 10:32pm GMT

I agree Hannah. I'm very ambivalent about trying to override Synodical processes on one particular issue.

However frustrating it is to feel that the House of Laity elections resulted in a HoL that was, to an extent, unrepresentative of the views of the majority of the laity on this particular issue, FiF and Reform couldn't have flagged up their intentions much more clearly. I think it's because the numbers were potentially so tight that the House of Bishops decided (ironically, I gather, by a fine majority) to insert a clause which they hoped would placate enough members of the HoL to give the necessary 2/3 majority.

The change the HoB instigated was so near to being a substantive change to the draft measure that the Dioceses had discussed that they had to take legal advice as to whether it was permissible. It is at least arguable that this was 'undemocratic'. The measure introduced in November was a refinement on that amendment, and so still a long way from what the Dioceses discussed and voted on. So I'm not sure the HoB is really in a position to critique anyone else for being undemocratic without looking at their own role in relation to what the Dioceses had asked for and what was eventually voted on.

My view is that we could really do to look at how it runs, not least because so many people who have something to offer are currently unable to consider it because of the need to go on 2 residentials a year. This applies not only to lay people but also to ordained people with family and /or working commitments.

However there's a saying that 'hard cases make bad law' and any change should be reflected on and consulted on.

Of course on a personal level I am quite frustrated that we seem to have got into a position where those who - let's be honest - would be quite happy if we never ordained any women as bishops have somehow acquired a perpetual veto because any measure has to offer them 'an honoured place' - a condition which is so nebulous as to be impossible to meet.

I would therefore hope that ways can be found of finding a more equitable basis for future discussions where both sides have something to lose by not reaching a workable solution. I really don't think changing the voting system in Synod is going to help much with that.

Posted by: Pam Smith on Sunday, 2 December 2012 at 1:15am GMT

Bristol is the first to give the thumbs down to the General Synod - does that mean we can now expect another 41 dioceses to pass a similar motion of "No Confidence" in the governing body of the Church of England? For I have lost count of the number of times I have heard the M.P. for Banbury spout his mantra that 42 out of the 44 dioceses voted for this (then unamended amended amendment) Measure.

Posted by: Father David on Sunday, 2 December 2012 at 4:14am GMT

Bravo/a to the Bristol Diocese - in stepping out on this important issue. This does call into question the ungainly process that requires such a high threshold in General Synod - to simply confirm the 'mind of The Church' in the diocesan Synods. Let's hope the other assenting dioceses get on board, but with stronger urging for meaningful reform in the voting threshold for important legislation.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 2 December 2012 at 5:03am GMT

Bishop Mike Hill's message to the Bristol diocesan Synod affirms the reality of the situation for most in the Church who want both Women and men to share in the Episcopate - without prejudice. In his message, the Bishop says this:

"My own position is very clear. I don’t want anyone to feel pushed out of the Church of
England. I certainly do want women bishops, but I don’t want women bishops whose
ministry and jurisdiction is undermined from day one by provision that I judge to be overly
robust. The role of the Diocesan as Ordinary must not be undermined in any way".

However, precisely how this could happen while giving dissidents the possibility to opt out of the jurisdiction of a Woman Diocesan Bishop is difficult to understand. If a Woman Bishop is the 'Ordinary', she must have jurisdiction over all ministry undertaken in her diocese - even is that ministry is carried out by a male surrogate.

What the opponents are asking for is something different. How possibly can both of these options be accommodated - without surrendering what Bishop Hill has asked for - Ordinary jurisdiction, which is the truly 'catholic' ecclesiology.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 2 December 2012 at 10:37am GMT

Yes, the Church of England continues to make a complete ass of itself, thanks to Bristol diocese. Bishop Hill should know better.

Let's blame someone else (anyone) and that will absolve us of the responsibility of sorting this out!

This is nothing more than a vote against the democratic process itself.

Presumably all the other decisions taken by this synod, regarding the Living Wage and help for the young unemployed, are also worthless.

Posted by: Jonathan Edwards II on Sunday, 2 December 2012 at 11:02am GMT

To coin a word recently made popular by the Prime Minister, no less - Does this "Bonkers" vote by the Bristol Diocesan Synod mean that it has no confidence in its own Diocesan Bishop - who is himself a member of that self important and overblown body - the General Synod?
I think we should be told!

Posted by: Father David on Sunday, 2 December 2012 at 1:27pm GMT

With the lighting of the Advent wreath in honour of the Patriarchs today, the new yearly cycle may herald the beginning of the end of the patriarchal system of Church governance.

The checks and balances built into the synodical system have actually gone two to one in favour of those seeking equality in ministry this year, so we should perhaps put things into perspective. On no fewer than three occasions, the synodical structures have thrown out what the House of Bishops have proposed: the Anglican Covenant in diocesan synods back in the spring; the amended women bishops Measure last July and now its watered-down version. Legislation which allows for women as second-class bishops would be unacceptable, so proceeding in haste with a new Measure would be unwise, especially as this hands power back to the all-male House of Bishops.

And why should diocesan bishops have unbridled power as 'ordinaries' anyway? One of the benefits of the Church's established status is that the House of Commons can take a more intrusive stance in its affairs; they are lay members after all, many of them communicant Anglicans and, it could be argued, a lot more representative of the CofE at large than our own elected representatives in Synod!

So how about an Episcopal Reform Bill? Remove the CofE's exemptions from equalities legislation, provide opt-outs for parishes wishing to dissent from episcopal oversight, whilst at the same time beefing up the lay governance of dioceses - giving them oversight of appointments, finance and other regulatory matters. Schemes for sharing episcopal ministry - as happens in London - could occur elsewhere.

The tussle for episcopal power between the genders might be solved by ceding a lot of it.

Posted by: Andrew on Sunday, 2 December 2012 at 2:45pm GMT

Oh dear Bristol: those of us who do not agree that the provision for Catholics is adequate, but know that GS will, of course, eventually admit women to the Episcopate, and also think "Better Together" will sigh deeply at this move. How does this help us to live together in love as we are called?

Posted by: Frank Nichols on Sunday, 2 December 2012 at 4:02pm GMT

But was Glynn Harrison present at this meeting? Did they demand his resignation?

On an earlier thread I gave him as an example of those who had said they would vote FOR while doing the opposite.

Surely Bristol Diocese must first put its own self in order and be more careful whom they elect to General Synod.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Sunday, 2 December 2012 at 4:25pm GMT

There is an online petition designed to promote the outcome apparently favoured by Bristol Diocesan Synod: new elections for General Synod next year rather than waiting for 2015:

Please consider signing - and pass it on if you wish.

Posted by: William Raines on Sunday, 2 December 2012 at 4:36pm GMT

Frank Nichols - do you understand how destructive the General Synod vote was to the kind of unity you espouse? How does that vote help us to live "better together"? There is no interim provision of any kind for those of us who would have women as bishops - perhaps you have some constructive suggestion as to how our position can be accommodated in the meantime? Deep sighs are inadequate to the case.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Sunday, 2 December 2012 at 8:05pm GMT

'the faith once given by Christ to the apostles of

What on earth are you talking about ? Did you not study Church History and the Development of Christian Doctrine during your theological education ?

The quaint use of the phrase 'of old' gives it away - or should that be 'of olde' ? !

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Sunday, 2 December 2012 at 9:32pm GMT

Well done Bristol for registering a protest, but I agree with someone who posted on another thread last week that passing a vote of no confidence against GS as a whole was rather illogical, given that all 3 houses had very substantial majorities in favour. (I couldn't find the post in question when I looked back - there are now so many parallel threads on this one general subject that life's too short to keep up with them all!)
The suggestion was that it would be more logical for those dioceses, where the DS had a large majority in favour but the GS reps voted against, to summon their GS reps, ask them to explain themselves, and invite them to resign, thus triggering a by-election in which they could stand again if they dared.
This would I think be a more logical approach, closely targetting the problem area rather than tarring the whole synod with the same brush. It may not achieve anything of course - the GS reps could refuse to resign, arguing that they were delegated to use their own judgement, or any resulting by-election might be treated with equal or greater apathy by deanery synod members, giving the same result as before. But I still think that it might be worth a try as a possible way of getting a more representative HoL before 2015

Posted by: Malcolm Dixon on Sunday, 2 December 2012 at 9:59pm GMT

"[P]assing a vote of no confidence against GS as a whole was rather illogical."

There is a logic; you are simply missing it.

The House of Laity cannot be dissolved by itself. Hence the motion directed at Synod as a whole.

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 12:59am GMT

Go Bristol!!! Though I am a Yank, we live in Bristol in the summers and worship at the Cathedral. Wonderful people, clergy, and bishops. It is inspiring to see the laity take a stand. I keep Bristol and the CoE in my prayers.

From the experience of TEC, I can say that liberation will breath new life into the church. Don't believe the people who denigrate TEC, we are robust and growing again, most especially in the places that have amazing women clergy and are affirming of LGBT persons.

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 4:16am GMT

+Mike Hill and Bristol "affirming of LGBT persons" including SS marriage?

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 5:01pm GMT

I am grateful to Bristol for passingthis resolution which as a retired woman priest I felt very affirming.

Posted by: Jean Mayland on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 6:27pm GMT

Unfortunately not everything in the Bristol garden is rosy, though I doubt whether many of those who passed this are actually members of the CofE.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 9:37pm GMT

Didn't the Bishop of Bristol used to practice pugilism? If so - it would seem that Wycliffe Hall has just appointed another "holy thug" as its Chairman!

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 14 December 2012 at 6:26pm GMT

I have only just discovered this thread but thought it worth pointing out that several dioceses, including my own, do seem to have had lay members standing who shamefully disguised their true intentions. This seems to have been the problem in Bristol as well.
The problem is that lay people do not now know the each other as clergy do and only have the written electoral address to go on. Do any diocese still have hustings? In York diocese we abandoned ours several years as they were so poorly attended. There is now a Private Members' Motion proposing that we use electronic means to enfranchise everyone on the electoral rolls. We could also run online hustings with questions and answers on view to everyone.
It does seem a great shame though that this abuse of the system has caused such damage and led to such a breakdown of trust.

Posted by: Jenny Reid on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 at 6:31pm GMT
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