Tuesday, 15 January 2013

House of Laity meeting


As Friday’s meeting of the House of Laity of the General Synod approaches with its motion of no confidence in Dr Philip Giddings as Chair of the House, James Townsend looks ahead to the meeting with Philip Giddings – the mood of the House is yet to settle.

Townsend is a lay member of Synod from the diocese of Manchester. He predicts “a reasonably high turnout of between 75% and 79%”, and his soundings suggest that the voting on the no confidence motion will be close.


Anglican Mainstream has published House of Laity Meeting on Friday January 18 with views from Bishop Jonathan Baker, Canon Stephen Barney, Peter Ould, Tom Sutcliffe and Stephen Trott.

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 at 4:03pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod

"The role of Chair will be vital in finding that solution – bringing people around the table, supplying the imagination to find a new way forward, and then galvanising the whole house to support whatever comes out.

The question now must be: “Does Philip Giddings have our confidence to do that job?”"

That makes sense. It's not about looking backward and apportioning blame but trying to be constructive about the future.
If that really becomes the question, the Motion will be valid.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 at 6:59pm GMT

"the draft Measure was driven 'over the cliff' by those unwilling to agree proper provision for those of us who have conscientious difficulties concerning the ordination of women." - Bp. Jonathan Baker -

"Conscientious difficulties" should not necessarily be allowed to over-ride the fact that the Church wants women bishops. If the Church of England accepts women bishops (as it has accepted women clergy) then the memberships of the Church ought to accept that as a fact - or move to a jurisdiction of the Church where women are not acceptable as bishops. This, surely, was the whole reason for the setting up of the Ordinariate.

The Church ought not have two different standards for ordination of clergy or bishops - based on gender discrimination: "In Christ, there is neither male nor female" - The Apostle Paul.

Separate jurisdiction on account of gender in the one Church is surely both unjust and irrational.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 at 1:41am GMT

Let us say that by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Roman Catholic Church discerns that married men are generally acceptable as priests, not just Anglicans that have crossed the Tiber. One could imagine this might happen, at least in part, because there is a huge shortage of well-educated native English speaking Roman Catholic priests in the United States and other countries.

Now assume also that some RC laity and clergy find that they have "conscientious difficulties" with married priests, and further that there are some passages in the Bible or the writings of the church fathers that they construe to support this notion.

What would the Roman curia advise the Pope to do? Would they "agree proper provision" for people with "conscientious difficulties"?

Not bloody likely!

Posted by: Andrew on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 at 10:12am GMT

What are clergy doing commenting in public on a House of Laity matter?

Posted by: Charles Read on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 at 10:44am GMT

It's about time 'those of us who have conscientious difficulties concerning the ordination of women' spelt out exactly what would constitute a proper provision in their eyes, instead of involving everyone in another long and fruitless guessing game.

Incidentally I find +Jonathan's terminology interesting - 'having conscientious difficulties' sounds so much gentler and less threatening than objecting or opposing, which is what their stance looks like to me.

On the other hand he *has* come right out with it and said this is about the ordination of women and not just about women becoming bishops, which is what many of us heard in the debate which was supposedly just about provision.

Posted by: Pam Smith on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 at 11:39am GMT

Dr. Giddings might ignore a successful motion.

But then the rest of the Church, not to mention the larger society, would regard his WB opposition as all the more corrupt and illegitimate.

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 at 11:45am GMT

“It’s not about looking backward and apportioning blame but trying to be constructive about the future.”

That’s true but somewhat disingenuous. If the question is whether Dr. Philip Giddings can carry out his duties evenhandedly in the future, then one must necessarily consider whether he has seemed to have done so in the past. That may not be the only consideration, but it is necessarily an important factor.

Posted by: Lionel Deimel on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 at 1:35pm GMT

Opponents of the Measure assume that "proper provision" is the same as "the provision we want". Hence, when the provision they want is rejected, they say they have not been given "proper provision".

This completely begs the question. The provision they wanted was considered and was unacceptable - the opponents did not win the arguments for their "proper provision". It was found to be not "proper provision", but, rather, offensively discriminatory and dangerously schismatic.

Posted by: badman on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 at 1:48pm GMT

I have been discussing this question with Jeremy extensively on another thread. And my main point is that it has been completely legitimate for anyone to be against women priests, to believe that the provisions were inadequate and to vote accordingly. Mr Giddings became Chair of the House of Laity while everyone knew his views.
He did not chair the meeting, he only spoke for about 5 minutes and he trotted out well known views that had not been remarkable at all.

The only thing that happened is that the vote was lost and that people are now looking to apportion easy blame.

The only argument for the motion I can accept is to say that what has been unremarkable up to now has clearly shown no longer to be fit for purpose and it must therefore be changed.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 at 2:28pm GMT

Can I ask one question of most of the contributors to this thread: Why were you not calling for the resignation of the Venerable Christine Hardman as Chair, when she expressed her personal views on the matter? It is sheer hypocrisy to suggest that Dr Giddings should stand down.

Posted by: Benedict on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 at 4:40pm GMT

Charles - because we can and because we have a view. And because the whole of the Synod listens to the whole of a debate. Lay folk are entirely free to ignore it/reject it/belittle it/ lionise it or patronise it.

Badman - excellent and understressed point. As is, also, though, the fact that the measure was defeated because too many supporters of women bishops who might have supported it chose not to.

If the 'provision they want' was rejected, so also the provision they were eventually going to be offered was found to be wanting and, moreover, found so by those who do want women bishops ...

Posted by: Jonathan Jennings on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 at 6:44pm GMT

Dear Benedict:

The Chair of the House of Clergy was expressing the view of the majority of her House. She had no need to explain that this was a personal view. Nor did she need to resign her office to gain exception from the need to express the view of the House of Clergy.

Hypocrisy is not the charge to be made against the contributors on this site.

Posted by: commentator on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 at 9:06pm GMT

I don't understand Benedict's question in the context of this particular argument. Unless: The Venerable Christine Hardman was Chairperson of the House of Laity. Was she a Lay Archdeacon, perhaps?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 at 10:03pm GMT

For those who want to read exactly what was said during the debate in November, the verbatim Report of Proceedings became available a few days ago.


The speech by Dr Giddings starts on page 110, and that by Archdeacon Hardman immediately follows.

Posted by: Peter Owen on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 at 11:13pm GMT

Erika said, "And my main point is that it has been completely legitimate for anyone to be against women priests, to believe that the provisions were inadequate and to vote accordingly."

And my main point is that the ground has just shifted tectonically.

It took the November vote, and the reaction in the Parliament, press, and wider culture, to make the Church of England realise that opposing women's ordination is no longer a legitimate position for anyone in any leadership role to take.

That realisation is correct. Proponents of discrimination have no claim to any honoured place at all.

Posted by: Jeremy on Thursday, 17 January 2013 at 4:32am GMT

I have been convinced by Pam Smith's argument on the other thread that the system of a Motion exists and that it can therefore be used and that many of the arguments I have been making are really better suited to the debate for or against the Motion than to deciding whether there should be a Motion.

And I agree with you that the situation has changed dramatically, and I have been even more convinced by the argument made by James Townsend that it is a case of deciding whether, in the light of that change, Philip Giddings is the right person to move the house forward or whether one cannot have the confidence that he will do so.

I will never agree with the idea of retrospective retribution and of laying the blame for the outcome of this vote entirely at the feet of one single person who didn't even chair the meeting and who only said what he'd said many many times before - even before he was elevated to the position of Chair. That, I still maintain, is nothing more than scapegoating.

I hope the debate will not focus on easy blame but on what is needed to find a way towards the CoE having women bishops as soon as possible.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 17 January 2013 at 8:02am GMT

Until a single clause measure is presented and wins General Synod approval, there will remain some sort of legislative accommodation for those in the CofE who hold the minority view on women bishops.

Those GS members supporting an accommodation of that minority view have a right to have their position articulated at the highest levels of our leadership.

Unless the church resorts to a single clause measure, the removal of any leader holding a minority position on this issue from leadership is a blatant effort to 'throw the fight'. It may actually engender resentment and back-fire.

Unless any proposed accommodation of the minority view in the revised Measure is a mere pretence, I don't see any reason why we should exclude a leader who holds such a position. They may have an important role in helping to shape a fair Code of Practice, once the required majority is achieved.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Thursday, 17 January 2013 at 8:03am GMT

I haven't had a strong or settled view on the rights or wrongs of this vote of no confidence; it seems to me legitimate for the House of Laity to debate whatever they decide to debate, though I had also appreciated the argument that all members of Synod had a right to speak as they wished. However having read Philip Giddings' contribution to the Women Bishops debate, my sympathy for thise who are questioning his position has considerably strengthened. He says (p110 of the pdf file - link provided by Peter Owen, thanks) "As Chair of the House of Laity, it is part of my role to ensure that the views of the
whole House are heard, particularly on final approval business. Synod already knows
that a substantial majority of the House and of laypeople generally are in favour of
women bishops and of this draft Measure. Many speeches today are making that
point. Therefore, I want to focus on a significant minority of laypeople who are
opposed in principle to women bishops and to the content of the Measure before us."

He very clearly states then, that he is speaking as Chair, (Christine Hardman does not in her speech which follows). He then goes on to say that he feels the need to speak for the minority view because he feels that it is his duty as Chair to make sure they have a fair hearing. The Archbishop of York had been scrupulous in calling opponents and supporters equally (which in fact gave a greater voice to those opposed than their numbers as a proportion of Synod and the C of E generally warranted). If Mr Giddings wanted to ensure a fair and representative hearing for both sides it would have been more logical for him to have weighed in on the side of those who were speaking for the Measure...

He is, as all members of Synod are, entitled to his views on this matter as on all others, and to speak those views, but to claim to be speaking as Chair, and to be fulfilling his role as Chair by saying what he did seems to me to be something the House of Laity are entirely justfied in wishing to question.

Posted by: Anne on Thursday, 17 January 2013 at 8:24am GMT

I agree with Anne, and think that a Chair should speak as little as possible, and never to one side or the other of any matter before the House. If a particular point of view is not expressed by the members, it is not the chair's responsibility act as their spokesperson.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Thursday, 17 January 2013 at 9:30pm GMT

"Those GS members supporting an accommodation of that minority view have a right to have their position articulated at the highest levels of our leadership."

Certainly not. There should be no honoured place for anyone who supports misogyny and bigotry.

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 18 January 2013 at 3:45am GMT

I agree that this would be a very good principle. But it is not one that is generally observed at Synod and that was not observed by the Chairs of the other Houses either.
That said - maybe it ought to become a formal requirement.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 18 January 2013 at 8:28am GMT


If there is an accommodation in the future similar to the last proposed Measure, do you just want the Code of Practice (which you seem to think in any form will enshrine misogyny) prescribed by a fiat dictated by those who find anything other than a single-clause measure unconscionable?

Your idea is unworkable, should a single-clause measure fail to muster majority support.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Friday, 18 January 2013 at 8:55am GMT

It isn't the job of any chair to emphasise the opinion of any particular group, other than by ensuring it's expressed.

As Dr Giddings wasn't chairing the meeting, he was at liberty to express his own view - it's common practice for the chair to be handed to someone else in a discussion in which the chair wishes to put a particular point of view.

Saying the minority view was in danger of not being heard is disingenuous in the extreme, it seemed to me the debate was skewed in favour of representing the minority view, making it appear that General Synod was split 50:50 on the matter when the vote clearly showed that it isn't.

Posted by: Pam Smith on Friday, 18 January 2013 at 9:44am GMT

I was speaking of the general principle that Chairs, if they wish to express an opinion on a matter of debate, cede the chair to another for a time in order so to do.

If, as Pam Smith says, this is what Dr Giddings did, then I don't see that as a breach. It is speaking pro or con from the chair -- not _by_ the "Chair" _not in_ the chair -- that I think is a recognized violation of decorum in parliamentary debate. At least it is in the parliamentary societies I'm familiar with. Other than casting a vote to make or break a tie, the Chair does not express an opinion on a matter before the assembly, other than those involving order or rules.

Are the rules of GS different in this regard? (And I regard this as moot if Dr. G was not in the chair when he spoke, at least for the present issue.)

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Friday, 18 January 2013 at 3:10pm GMT

I still think the crucial thing here is that Philip Giddings said EXPLICITLY that he was commenting in his capacity as Chair of the House of Laity, and felt that his position as Chair meant that he ought to give voice to a minority position (which happened to be his own...) He was evidently taking some of the "weight" which attached to him as Chair, and using it to strengthen the impact of his contribution. As I said earlier, since that minority view had not been underrepresented, that appears to be a questionable use of his position.
It doesn't make any difference whether he was actually chairing the discussion or not - he was throwing his weight as Chair behind what was actualy his personal opinion.

Posted by: Anne on Friday, 18 January 2013 at 3:48pm GMT

Yes, any code of practice will enshrine misogyny.

Every other Communion province that has ordained women bishops--and five have thus far--has done so without legislating any code that could perpetuate discrimination.

If a single-clause measure cannot pass this Synod, so be it. The Church of England just needs a new Synod.

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 23 January 2013 at 12:05am GMT
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