Sunday, 2 December 2012

House of Laity meeting called

Jonathan Petre of the Mail Online is reporting today that sufficient signatures have been obtained to force a meeting of the House of Laity of the General Synod to discuss a vote of no confidence in its chair, Dr Philip Giddings: Synod ‘may oust chairman’ after defeat of legislation to allow women bishops.

The standing orders of the House of Laity state that in these circumstances the chair of the house shall convene the House, and give at least 21 days’ notice. I cannot see anything to specify the longest he can wait before calling the meeting, but I have heard that the meeting will probably be in January.

Although the Mail calls the meeting “secret”, meetings of the House of Laity are open to the press and public on the same terms as meetings of the General Synod. The House can vote to exclude the public, or the press and public, whilst it is sitting, but I see nothing to allow such a decision to be made in advance.

Posted by Peter Owen on Sunday, 2 December 2012 at 2:02pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod
Comments

I do hope that this threatened meeting of the General Synod's House of Laity begins with a reading of Romans 12: 19
"Est enim mihi vindictam ego retribuam dicit Dominus."
Can we possibly sink any lower as a Church than this threatening vindictive retribution and malicious revenge?
Is that the sharpening of knives that I hear?

Posted by: Father David on Sunday, 2 December 2012 at 5:48pm GMT

And just how much is this going to cost? The US version of church - litigation and harassment etc, - has arrived Not very Christian!

Posted by: joseph Golightly on Sunday, 2 December 2012 at 6:33pm GMT

Excuse me but the "US version of church" has nothing to do with litigation and harassment. Yes we have some conservative breakaway types who try to seize the property of the church. You had them too during the reformation and during the time of the non-jurors. That they have been stopped in the courts (a fiduciary responsibility of the church leaders) has no more to do with day to day life than the prosecution of common criminals who might try to make off with copper and lead from a church roof would impact day to day life in a parish. At least in the Episcopal Church the US version of church is rather healthy. Having no gender based bar to leadership is a significant reason for that health.

Posted by: Dennis on Sunday, 2 December 2012 at 11:05pm GMT

Speaking as a Yank, perhaps such measures are warranted when the legitimacy of a decision is in question, even a democratic decision.

From across the Big Water in the former colonies, it looks to me that the C of E is a very dysfunctional institution that is in no position to judge what we do over here.

Posted by: Counterlight on Sunday, 2 December 2012 at 11:13pm GMT

There may come a time when the Episcopal Church, using the precedence of its own experience with break-away bishops and incursions by other foreign bishops, may accept into its fold a renegade English bishop who wishes to leave the C of E, and to take the diocese and all of its property with him/her.
I would like to see if there are any calls for Christian forbearance ("Christians should not litigate against other Christians!") if the Episcopal Church acquired an ancient diocese with a Medieval English cathedral by such means.

Posted by: Counterlight on Sunday, 2 December 2012 at 11:22pm GMT

"The US version of church - litigation and harassment."

Someone hasn't read his Tudor history.

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 12:51am GMT

"And just how much is this going to cost? The US version of church - litigation and harassment etc, - has arrived Not very Christian!"

TEC USA is not about litigation and harassment. And our commitment and passion for mission, i.e. doing the work of the Gospel, feeding the hungry, etc., far exceeds anything CoE has done in recent DECADES.

Liberation, i.e. the realization that all people are created in the image of God and the resulting inclusion, will bring new life to CoE. That is the experience of TEC. I wish I could say that there is a way to hold the church together, the intolerant with those yearning for the radical love and liberation of Jesus Christ. But alas, it is not our experience. I wish you better luck, but the nature of intolerance and hate leaves so little room for God's love extended to all.

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 4:06am GMT

I understand that one of the difficulties some are having with women bishops is that it violates their belief in the "biblical headship of men.

A propos of that, I read a piece that I found interesting, and others may too. It's by Rachel Evans, author of the book "A year of biblical womanhood."

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/11/17/my-take-the-danger-of-calling-behavior-biblical/

Posted by: Randal Oulton on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 4:48am GMT

Liking the Queen generally, I still have no idea how she could have any competence to rule on any church matter. I have even less conviction as to how a Prime Minister could have such competence. American law has always leaned in favor of whatever a given denomination's rules allowed, and has seldom or never intruded beyond that. Father David: There isn't any knife in sight.

Posted by: Dn. Keith McKenna on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 5:27am GMT

Where now lies "respect"?
In dust and ashes - that's where!

Posted by: Father David on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 5:37am GMT

Synod knew very very well the personal opinions of this chairman when he was elected; and the business of the House of Laity has been procedurally correct.

If these reports are true, and if such a meeting takes place, much further damage will be done to the Church of England in the eyes of Parliament and the people; and the trust between the minority and the majority will be yet further diminished whether the chairman survives the vote of confidence, or not.

Posted by: Labarum on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 7:01am GMT

So Dennis the Episcopal Church is in a healthy position. Judging by the statistics for the last 20 years I fear you are wrong. It has become a sect as people have voted with their feet. If I am wrong perhaps you would like to come up with concrete proof to show you are right.

Posted by: joseph Golightly on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 7:32am GMT

Fr David has it exactly. But would a vote of no-confidence require a two-thirds majority to be effectual? If so, that should see off this distasteful attempt at intimidation. The worst of it is that such aggrieved liberal huffing and puffing will make reaching a conciliatory settlement before summer 2013 even harder.

Posted by: Nigel Aston on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 8:18am GMT

Jeremy. I do know my Tudor history but we ain't in the 16th century. The artificial Church of England came about as a result of politics. It is now dying because it is artificial and not God created. But then yanks always know best!

Posted by: joseph Golightly on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 8:28am GMT

"Where now lies "respect"?
In dust and ashes - that's where!"

Posted by: Father David

Where also lies the 'respect' that is given to women's ministry in the 'Mother' Church of England

Justice will out, Fr. David. That's the gospel!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 8:39am GMT

"sharpening of knives"? "dust and ashes"?

Tell that to the LGBTs of Uganda. Everyone else: perspective, not hyperbole.

Posted by: JCF on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 9:23am GMT

Personally, I am no fan of Philip Giddings especially over his part in the downfall of Jeffrey John in the prospective Bishop of Reading affair. However I do take a rather dim view of this proposed Witch Hunt by the House of Laity. However, as Labarum correctly points out - "Synod knew very very well the personal opinion of this chairman when he was elected; and the business of the House of Laity has been procedurally correct." One specious commentator suggested that his "crime" was that as Chairman - he was not sufficiently neutral in this matter and spoke against the motion. I seem to recall that for this fractious vote - the Archbishop of York was chairing the debate and he behaved in a fair and exemplary manner.

Posted by: Father David on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 9:42am GMT

"such aggrieved liberal huffing and puffing will make reaching a conciliatory settlement before summer 2013 even harder."

Motes and beams, Nigel Aston, motes and beams.

The language used by some of those opposed to women bishops is inflammatory to say the least.

We have heard a great deal about the pain of being in the minority in this debate over many years and I have never once seen this dismissed as, for example, 'aggrieved traditionalist whingeing and whining'.

As for a conciliatory settlement - the measure just voted on, whatever its faults, was it. Most of those in favour of women bishops - pace the eight who wrote to the Times - voted for it. It represented a considerable compromise and was also a huge risk, given that no other church has got involved in such a legalistic solution.

That compromise solution has now gone. We are back at the table with a blank piece of paper as requested. I'll be interested to see what happens next but I'm not holding my breath.

Meanwhile, it's starting to look as if the no vote has started a reaction which is shaking up the decision making structures of the C of E. Good. This long process has helped nobody and seems to have resulted in a less conciliatory position on both sides. That can't really be what anyone wanted. If the system is unable to deliver a solution (rather than a stand off, which is in effect what we've had since 1992) then maybe the system does need changing.

Posted by: Pam Smith on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 9:44am GMT

One wonders how such a celebrated 'sola scriptura' enthusiast got elected to Chair the Church of England House of Laity? But then, you also have another radical conservative in the General Synod. How on earth did Dr.Chris Sugden get back into G.S., and on what basis?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 9:51am GMT

Thank God, This is the future of The Church England we are talking about and it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit of Christ that we will be enabled to be led into all truth.We need to be thinking provisional Godly truth concerning the life and mission of The Church of England and a holy, resonable relationship to the wider Anglican Communion and all other Catholic churches. First things first as at present we are in no position to unify anything, as many are humbly confessing.

Posted by: Rosie Bates on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 9:58am GMT

Is this really what we want?

Our legacy to the future church - women bishops at any cost!

The knowledge that future generations will look back and see that women bishops only came about through the bullying of bishops, through the side-stepping of the democratic process of Synod, through the interference of Parliament, and through a vote of no confidence in the House of Laity?

There's no surer way to have second class bishops!

Posted by: Jonathan Edwards II on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 11:12am GMT

I understand and share the general frustration that we have not been able to conclude this business and welcome an episcopate without gender restriction, and I recognise the hurt which has been caused by the vote.

However, I can not imagine what anyone thinks will be achieved by these maneouvres. While I don't share Dr Giddings's position on this matter, I have seen no evidence that he has behaved improperly. Likewise, the Bristol motion seems awry to me; we may not like what Synod has done, we may well think its structure and processes need to be addressed, but it was a decision made (so far as everyone can tell) lawfully and in accordance with due process.

All this kind of thing does is add fuel to the media firestorm and raise temperatures within the Church, neither of which will be conducive to the essential, painstaking, and complex work of seeking together a prayerful, hopeful, faithful way forward.

Posted by: Philip Hobday on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 2:03pm GMT

Joseph: "So Dennis the Episcopal Church is in a healthy position. Judging by the statistics for the last 20 years I fear you are wrong. It has become a sect as people have voted with their feet. If I am wrong perhaps you would like to come up with concrete proof to show you are right."

OK Joseph, here's your concrete evidence. In TEC, 33 of our 100 dioceses have posted growth in the last 2 years. This after the schisms, and in light of the overall demographic that all mainstream Protestant denominations have lost membership. I am in a diocese and parish that is growing. We are characterized by amazing women clergy and open and affirming on LGBT issues. Believe me, we believe this liberation is in fact a conservative response to Jesus radical love, so don't say we're going with culture.

Further evidence, our mission work in volunteer hours and cold hard cash is pretty amazing. Work on behalf of the homeless and hungry, work in the world, especially via Episcopal Relief & Development, are robust far beyond our size.

When it was clear that things weren't going to work with the intolerant, and people started voting their conscience, TEC received a gift of new life. I don't know what the future holds, all mainline churches are in decline. But we are on the rise for now, and that is a blessing. CoE might want to imagine what the CoE can be when it can stop looking inward and start the real work of Christianity.

Posted by: Cynthia on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 4:26pm GMT

'begins with a reading of Romans 12: 19
"Est enim mihi vindictam ego retribuam dicit Dominus."' ('David')

I always prefer reading Romans in Latin too !

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 5:24pm GMT

Cynthia, thank you for your excellent post. I'd like to add that the charity we host at our church just passed the 3 millionth mark in meals given out. TEC is alive and very well in Seattle, and our congregation is growing.

Posted by: Nat on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 5:25pm GMT

For anyone who may think that the breakaway Anglican groups in the U.S. are living without conflict (supposedly unlike TEC), you may want to read about the fight at St. Mary of the Angels in Los Angeles, which is the Los Angeles Times said is "notable for its viciousness." It involves padlocks, lock-breaking, security guards, police, and the courts. http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jul/16/local/la-me-church-fight-20120716

A major problem with schism is that it often doesn't resolve the underlying disputes but merely leads to further splintering.

Posted by: dr.primrose on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 6:11pm GMT

"here's your concrete evidence. In TEC, 33 of our 100 dioceses have posted growth in the last 2 years" Cynthia

I don't want to sound picky but doesn't that also mean that 67 dioceses either didn't grow or declined? Now it may be that the growth in that one third of dioceses more than cancelled out losses in the other two thirds - or then again, it may not, and there could be overall decline.

Posted by: Laurence C. on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 6:16pm GMT

From North America, I think I see many signs in the English press that this issue of opening the episcopate in the Church of England has reached a tipping point and that the majority of people, both in and outside the church, want clergy who are women to have the same opportunity to advance their careers. The glass ceiling has got to go.

Waiting five years would do more damage to the image of the institution. It sounds encouraging that people are trying to find creative ways to address this injustice sooner.


Gary Paul Gilbert


Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 7:32pm GMT

Joseph may want to exercise a bit of caution in his cackling about declining numbers in the Episcopal Church. Various data points about the Church of England suggest all is not well there either.

(I note that membership numbers between the two are barely comparable due to the implications of establishment.)

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 8:03pm GMT

"Judging by the statistics for the last 20 years I fear you are wrong. It has become a sect as people have voted with their feet."

Maybe, but much of the very large quick march out of Holy Mother Rome is stopping at our parish. And considering all the crime and scandal, a lot of them are backing out puking. I'd say about two thirds of our regular congregation is made of people who jumped the Vatican wall. A sizable portion of the remaining third is ex-Evangelicals. The "State Church of the South," the Southern Baptist Church, is also having serious retention problems, especially among younger members.

And for the record,the fastest growing single religious category in the USA is "none." Soon we'll be as secular as the Brits and Swedes, especially if conservative Romans and right wing Evangelicals continue to dominate religious discussion and try to legislate for everyone else.

Posted by: Counterlight on Monday, 3 December 2012 at 8:59pm GMT

Cynthia and others. I thought I would do my own research on Episcopalian numbers because I thought you were being economical with the truth. You can find them here
http://archive.episcopalchurch.org/documents/ASA_by_ProvinceDiocese2000-2010.pdf

A 23.2% decline with 657,831 attending in 2010 compared with 856,759 in 2000 - now that's some growth.
These are not my statistics but the official church ones

Posted by: Joseph Golightly on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 3:40pm GMT

"here's your concrete evidence. In TEC, 33 of our 100 dioceses have posted growth in the last 2 years" Cynthia

I think the numbers are shakey at best. Below is an example of one of the ones listed by TEC as a growing diocese for two years in a row:

http://pr.dfms.org/study/exports/9520-1331_20121204_01322075.pdf

Posted by: Josh L. on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 6:33pm GMT

"A 23.2% decline with 657,831 attending in 2010 compared with 856,759 in 2000 - now that's some growth.
These are not my statistics but the official church ones"


Oh! You got me!

After thirty years as an Episcopalian, I suppose it's time to quit. We all want to be in the winner's circle after all.

Call Joel Olsteen and tell him I'm ready to buy his book and sign up for Prosperity Gospel.

As Our Lord said* "Nothing $ucceeds Like $uccess!" and "God helps those who help themselves!"

(*the authenticity of these verses is disputed)

Posted by: Counterlight on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 9:25pm GMT

Re: TEC statistics. Isn't the basic idea that we keep facts in front of us? Why call it 'got ya' when people concern themselves with truth?

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 4 December 2012 at 11:59pm GMT

I'm sorry, my link did not work beforehand.

http://pr.dfms.org/study/exports/9520-1331_20121205_01272366.pdf

Posted by: Josh L. on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 6:33am GMT

Josh L. - as I understand it, San Joaquin is a diocese that split when a large number of parishes left ECUSA in 2007, so there's a huge drop in size then. Since then it's started growing again, though from a much smaller base. Of course a church that splits will lose large numbers in the short term - the point is that the more liberal portion of ECUSA that remains is (in some areas at least, like San Joaquin) growing again. Individual liberal congregations can grow in the US and they can grow in the UK (as our parish church is doing). So can more conservative parishes/denominations. The idea that no-one can possibly want liberal Christianity, because it "isn't the real thing", which some conservatives seem to believe, just isn't true.

Posted by: magistra on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 8:32am GMT

"Individual liberal congregations can grow in the US and they can grow in the UK (as our parish church is doing). So can more conservative parishes/denominations. The idea that no-one can possibly want liberal Christianity, because it "isn't the real thing", which some conservatives seem to believe, just isn't true."

Indeed.

Our shamelessly liberal parish here in godless New York has been growing steadily for many years. Contrary to the usual right wing bromides about graying liberals and empty pews, the congregation is mostly young and professional (certainly younger than me), and the pews are usually filled every Sunday, even in the summer months.

If Dr. Seitz and Josh L. don't believe me, then I invite them both to come to New York to see for themselves, and to stay for coffee hour and brunch.

I know of other such congregations around the country, including a few in rural areas.

We also have a number of (non-Anglican, non-Episcopalian) evangelical house churches in New York whose theology and politics could be described as far left (Liberation theology is not dead despite determined efforts to kill it off). One of those congregations meets on Sundays in the back of a bar in Brooklyn. Others meet in private homes. These congregations have ties to the Occupy movement and are made up mostly of young people from the Midwest and South disillusioned with the very rightward drift of their native churches in lockstep with the rightward drift of the Republican party.

There is a lot that happens under the radar in this country that is outside the conventional perimeters of discussion about Christianity. Not everyone here kowtows to Roman hierarchs, or to wealthy and politically connected evangelical autocrats who look like bankers. These liberal and underground congregations may not pack people into huge mega-churches, but that they exist at all and continue to expand despite the domination of public religious discussion by the right (and the corresponding growth of a hostile secularism) is remarkable.

Posted by: Counterlight on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 12:51pm GMT

"If Dr. Seitz and Josh L. don't believe me, then I invite them both to come to New York to see for themselves, and to stay for coffee hour and brunch."

Why in the world would you say I wouldn't believe you? We were just posting factual information. I am a part of a liberal Episcopal Church and we are a growing parish! But our diocese is losing people each year. It's just a reality that we have to face.

Posted by: Josh L. on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 3:58pm GMT

"Why in the world would you say I wouldn't believe you? We were just posting factual information. I am a part of a liberal Episcopal Church and we are a growing parish! But our diocese is losing people each year. It's just a reality that we have to face."

Because the whole "dying church" rhetoric from the right is so wildly at variance with what many of us in the Episcopal Church actually experience in our parishes. And I am especially tired of implicit (and frequently explicit) glee at the possibility of the church's demise.

Those controversial stands that the Episcopal Church has taken since 2003 (or as far back as 1976) are the very things that keep me with it. I am very proud of the Episcopal Church for taking on so much scorn and loss for the sake of a much broader, more humane, and generous understanding of the Gospel than the legalism of so much conventional interpretation these days. I am grateful to the church that it not only actively reached out to pariahs like me, but voluntarily joined me and those like me in a place of scorn and exile. In doing so, it shows the world that the Gospel is indeed Good News ("Peace, good will, toward all people", and not just another court order.

Posted by: Counterlight on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 4:56pm GMT

So . . . where are they going, these "leaving the liberal churches" folks? Most I know who've left have done so because so-called liberal churches are too touchy-feely-nicey-nice to tell subversive, exclusive, divisive "traditionalist" cells to take a hike. They recognize that this "traditionalism" is nothing to do with religious conviction but with a political position for which God is merely a sort of poster-boy. These, disgusted by our religion's lack of a spine, simply leave religion behind.

The others go because they prefer to be among other political conservatives and join those conservative churches and "anglican" breakaways that are the Republican Party pretending to pray. God means nothing to them, money and politics everything.

Christianity and devotion to the Living Christ were never, ever that widespread, just official membership in the club.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Thursday, 6 December 2012 at 6:43am GMT

When I was growing up, it was unthinkable not to belong to a church. When my agnostic roommate began medical practice in a small town, his first act was to join a Presbyterian church -- otherwise he'd have had no identity there. Human beings are herd animals, and much of the Southern Baptist drive to "win souls" serves to reinforce the faithful -- if you can convince others, you must be right yourself, n'est pas?

Fewer and fewer people live in communities that bounce the truisms of faith back and forth amongst themselves. Tenets of the tradition are facing the test of evidence, and failing. "None" is the fastest growing religious affiliation.

In "Opinion on the Eve of Advent," this blog links to an article by James D. Tabor in which he summarizes the traditional Gospel handily: "Christ is God 'born in the flesh,' that his sacrificial death atones for the sins of humankind, and that his resurrection from the dead guarantees eternal life to all who believe." Calls to counter the decline in church membership by preaching this Gospel seem unlikely to succeed. Where church groups are growing, it is not by selling salvation. They are growing as local communities, enriched in various degrees by the history and art of tradition. Invisible friends and remnants of empire speak to fewer and fewer.

It's probably true that liberal Christianity serves to ease people out of an untenable tradition gradually. The decline of the religious organization seems inevitable. But people need community, now more than ever, as financial and political institutions collapse all around. For the future, look to the church groups that support their members and serve their communities, with or without seasonings of metaphysics.

Posted by: Murdoch on Thursday, 6 December 2012 at 8:19pm GMT
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