Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Debate on the Bishops' report - take note motion defeated

Updated Thursday
Scroll down for press reports.

This afternoon General Synod debated Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations: a report from the House of Bishops (GS 2055).

The motion “That the Synod do take note of this report” was defeated.

Voting was by houses, and the motion was lost in the House of Clergy.

 for  against  abstentions
bishops  4310
clergy931002
laity106834

Official press release following the vote:

Result of the vote on the House of Bishops’ Report
15 February 2017

The General Synod of the Church of England has voted “not to take note” of a Report by the House of Bishops following a debate on the report earlier today on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships.

A take note debate is a neutral motion which allows Synod to discuss the content and recommendations contained in a report without committing the Synod to the formal acceptance of any matter.

The vote required simple majorities in each of the three Synodical Houses. A total of 242 people voted in favour of the report 184 against and 6 abstentions - with a majority of Synod members voting to “take note” of the report. However the report failed to obtain a simple majority in the House of Clergy.

The House of Bishops voted 43 in favour and 1 against.

The House of Clergy voted 93 in favour and 100 against with 2 abstentions.

The House of Laity voted 106 in favour and 83 against with 4 abstentions.

With the take note motion now rejected, the Bishops of the Church of England will reflect on the views expressed at the General Synod. The diversity of opinion and strong views expressed, will need to be taken account by the Bishops in their consideration of the discussion going forward.

Responding to the vote, the Rt. Revd. Graham James, the Bishop of Norwich said:

“I can guarantee that the House of Bishops will consider carefully and prayerfully all the contributions made in the debate today.

“When reports come to the General Synod they often come at the end of a process and contain recommendations. This wasn’t that sort of report. The Bishops came to this debate committed to listen. Our report did not bring proposals, it brought a framework and a request for Synod to tell us what they thought. We have listened to those who have spoken, and those others who have made contributions to us directly. Our ongoing discussions will be informed by what members of Synod and the wider church have said as a result of this report.”

Introducing the debate on behalf of the House of Bishops, the Bishop of Norwich said that the report did not make formal proposals but was rather suggesting frameworks where areas needed attention: “The point of a take note debate is that it enables other voices to be heard, including those who believe the framework for further consideration is mistaken or wrongly constructed and needs modification. It is not a vote for approval but an invitation to comment and engage, and the House is listening.”

Setting out the difficulties facing both the House of Bishops and the wider Church in considering the report the Bishop of Norwich said: “There is no simple and easy answer to this issue beyond committing ourselves to engagement with each other when the views on what we should do are profoundly contested.”

The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt. Revd. Pete Broadbent said:

“As I said at the launch of the Report such a debate is on a neutral motion. It allows Synod to discuss the content and recommendations contained in the report. The Synod has declined to take note and so the report in its present form cannot come back to Synod for discussion, though we will still have to find a way forward for the wider discussion.

“We will find this debate a continuing source of disagreement because we haven’t coalesced around an end point. When we legislated for women to be bishops, even those opposed came to the view that the Church of England had to make it possible for women to be bishops in the Church of God according to our canons and formularies. In this debate, we haven’t even begun to find a place where we can coalesce. The Bishops’ Report acknowledges a place of starting. More conversation is needed. We don’t yet know the next stage - nor yet when and whether we can bring any further report to Synod.”

Voting and The House of Bishops Report by a Church of England spokesperson

Press reports

Tim Wyatt Church Times Synod rebuff for Bishops’ report on sexuality

Olivia Rudgard The Telegraph Anglicans come a step closer to gay marriages in church after vote rejects controversial report
[originally headlined “Church of England votes to reject controversial gay marriage report which said union should be between a man and a woman”]
Church of England gay marriage vote thrown into chaos after members ‘get confused and press wrong button’
[This article has been rewritten; the original was published under the headline “Church of England votes for gay marriage after bishop presses wrong button”.]

Harriet Sherwood The Guardian Church of England in turmoil as synod rejects report on same sex relationships
Bishop apologises for accidentally pressing wrong button in vote

Zachary Guiliano The Living Church No Winners

Anglican Communion News Service Church of England’s report on marriage and sexuality suffers setback at Synod

Antony Bushfield Premier General Synod rejects bishops’ sexuality report

BBC News Church of England votes against gay marriage report
Church of England’s rejection of gay marriage report welcomed

Harry Farley Christian Today Church Of England’s Clergy Issue Shock Rebuke To Bishops’ Conservative View On Sexuality

ITV News Church of England votes against same-sex marriage report

Steve Doughty Mail Online Church of England one step closer to gay marriages in church: Vote against bishops’ report that supported ban is hailed as a victory by liberal clergy

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 at 7:07pm GMT | TrackBack
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Comments

I know that bishops have got rid of their palaces - ivory or otherwise - these days but by this vote they have shown how utterly out of touch they are with their clergy and laity. Lions led by donkeys again.

Posted by: Chris A on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 at 7:47pm GMT

I was at the launch of OneBody/OneFaith in Westminster last night. It was an inspiring evening, full of hope, resilience and good, honest prophetic grit. Many spoke first hand of their pain, and the alienation and rejection they have received from the church. But this was tempered by their hope, faith and charity. And love. The sense of hope was palpable. Many today will have been relieved and cheered that the 'take note' motion at Synod was defeated. The church, quite rightly, does not want to take note of a report that won't take real note of others. We need to begin again, and really listen this time.

Posted by: Martyn Percy on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 at 7:53pm GMT

"[T]he Rt. Revd. Graham James, the Bishop of Norwich said:

“When reports come to the General Synod they often come at the end of a process and contain recommendations. This wasn’t that sort of report. The Bishops came to this debate committed to listen. Our report did not bring proposals, it brought a framework and a request for Synod to tell us what they thought. . . .

“The point of a take note debate is that it enables other voices to be heard, including those who believe the framework for further consideration is mistaken or wrongly constructed and needs modification. It is not a vote for approval but an invitation to comment and engage, and the House is listening.”

This is pure spin.

If the vote had carried, would Justin Welby have portrayed it as an endorsement of the report's position? Of course he would have--that's what he did when the ACC "received" his report about the Primates' meeting. (Remember his statement that "Given that my report, referred to in the resolution, incorporated the Communiqué and was very explicit on consequences; the resolution clearly supports and accepts all the Primates’ Meeting conclusions.")

Which was inaccurate, in terms of a description of what the ACC actually did.

In other words, the Archbishop of Canterbury has previously made far too much of a neutrally phrased motion. That is why this time, the "neutral motion" was stoutly (and successfully) resisted.

Well done, Synod!

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 at 8:35pm GMT

And so the turnaround begins.

Fantastic news. Patience with the bishops has, at long last, run out. Now for the long task of overturning decades of homophobic policies that've done such harm done to LGBT people, Anglicans or not. If the majority of bishops stand in the way, that'll have to include measures to remove them from the office they've so long disgraced.

Equality is a-coming, even in England.

Posted by: James Byron on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 at 8:37pm GMT

So the clergy are some use after all...

Alleluia!

Posted by: Fr Andrew on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 at 8:52pm GMT

So although the bishops brought a whole fleet of buses to throw LGBT+ people under, the clergy refused to buy tickets. Well done to them.

Do we know who the brave bishop who voted "No" was?

Posted by: Interested Observer on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 at 9:08pm GMT

Will a vote analysis be available?

Posted by: Daniel Hill on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 at 9:31pm GMT

The only solution to avoid schism is unity in diversity. Allow for pluralism in parish to parish practice. Recognition - at last - that the Church has diverse views; and respect for conscience, accommodating those who endorse gay and lesbian marriage, and those who don't.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 at 10:03pm GMT

Please note that some conservative evangelicals voted "no"

"But Andrea Williams said the result should not be seen as a victory for LGBT activists. She was one of a handful of conservative members who voted against the report over concerns the report would lead to blessings for gay couples.

'What was clear from the debate was that the report tries to straddle positions that cannot be reconciled,' she said.

'Now what we need is clarity.

'We request the Church make clear the teaching on true marriage that is good for all and in line with the Church's apostolic teaching.'

Another synod member Susie Leafe, who leads the conservative grouping Reform, also voted against the report over concerns allowed for 'maximum freedom' for gay couples. She said it was time for the bishops to make a decision.

'We didn't get the clarification from the bishops that we asked for so therefore we voted against,' she told Christian Today."

Posted by: Me on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 at 10:46pm GMT

Looking at the numbers again, I have to wonder: What Kool-Aid did the Archbishops serve to the House of Bishops?

Why did the bishops pretend unanimity on an issue that obviously splits the other Houses down the middle?

And in apparently agreeing to present a united front, did the House of Bishops actually model *bad* disagreement?

If so, why?

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 at 10:58pm GMT

For clarification: What I have heard is that the one bishop who voted against the rest (Coventry?) did so by mistake! The perils of electronic voting machines...

Posted by: Neil Patterson on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 at 11:08pm GMT

One of the things about this that continues to fascinate me is the CorE's willingness totally to ignore the experience of the American church, where two same-sex priests may marry at a nuptial mass celebrated by their bishop. Meanwhile, in absurd old England,a room full of 60-ish men in purple shirts are sitting with their fingers in their ears while screaming "NANANANANANA!"

Posted by: Daniel Berry, NYC on Wednesday, 15 February 2017 at 11:29pm GMT

I take it that the bishops were not given a 'Free Vote' then? Welby might be able to control the House of Bishops, but I hope he is beginning to realise that he cannot control the Synod, let alone the C of E. He might benefit from stepping back and taking some time to reflect on the nature of episcopal authority in the Church of England. Too much time cozying-up to his mate, Pope Francis, is giving him ideas above his station.

Posted by: Michael Mulhern on Thursday, 16 February 2017 at 7:41am GMT

Does anyone know if detailed voting lists will be published following this vote? I would like to know who voted which way and who did not vote (which, of course, could be for one of a number of reasons).

Posted by: RPNewark on Thursday, 16 February 2017 at 9:02am GMT

The Bishop of Coventry continues to pretend that there was complete unity within the house of Bishops in the report when we know that some were passionately arguing for change. Who is he trying to kid?

The first thing the bishops must do is to acknowledge their divisions, and we must hear from all what they honestly think unconstrained by the spurious 'unity' which they seem to prize more highly than their commitment to truth.

Secondly they must also acknowledge that the church is irrevocably split on the is issue. This isn't like the ordination of women where the Conservative Evangelicals eventually agreed. It's well known that this is their red line. No amount of talking is going to alter the fact that for some this is a defining issue. Until this is acknowledged there can be no movement, and the con/evos hold the whole church to ransom.

Unbelievable I agreed with both Jayne Ozanne and Susie Leafe. There is a deep divide and it has to be acknowledged. The defeated report was a last ditch attempt to paper over the cracks. In that as in other things, it was deeply dishonest, and is best consigned to the dustbin of history.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Thursday, 16 February 2017 at 9:58am GMT

Did the Bishop of Coventry really press the wrong button?

Or is he cleverly trying to cast doubt on Synod's decision?

Or did he wish to be in the position to move to reconsider, in the future? Thus requiring him to vote with the result?

Posted by: Jeremy on Thursday, 16 February 2017 at 11:19am GMT

*Please note that some conservative evangelicals voted "no"*

And please note that a number of clergy and lay people who support progress voted 'yes' as they wanted to look at what 'maximum flexibility' might look like...
The injury caused all these years by Evangelicals trying to use this issue to cleanse the CofE of liberals post Tony Higton is finally beginning to ease. They haven't got the numbers and will fade and wither like grass. All those bishops in their 50s and 60s are part of a generation that cannot understand the full scandal of homophobia.

Posted by: Neil on Thursday, 16 February 2017 at 11:25am GMT

Detailed voting lists for electronic votes are published a week or two after the vote. We will link to them when they become available.

Posted by: Peter Owen on Thursday, 16 February 2017 at 11:27am GMT

"All those bishops in their 50s and 60s are part of a generation that cannot understand the full scandal of homophobia." -- Neil.

Well, thank you a lot for that insight, says he pulling on his bedsocks.

But I think that a better analysis of the problem will ignore their age -- after all exactly the same generation is in charge of most large public and private enterprises -- and concentrate on the narrowness of their experience, and the way that C of E structures operate/are manipulated.

Posted by: american piskie on Thursday, 16 February 2017 at 3:07pm GMT

At least +Coventry doesn't have the same button to press as President Trump!

Let us hope that one good thing to come out of this is that bishops will realise that there is nothing wrong with expressing a dissenting opinion on this or any other topic. This Stalinist approach to solidarity has done no good.

Posted by: Turbulent Priest on Thursday, 16 February 2017 at 4:44pm GMT

american p - actually I think there IS quite a huge generational gap between the under and over 50s - not only for straight people but also how gay people self-identify and what expectations we have/had. We might be pleased with huge progress in society at large and yet uncomfortable with the possibilities this new world throws up. Still getting used to things that younger people have no issue with. My (simple) point is that this cohort of bishops will gradually die out and wither like grass.

Posted by: Neil on Thursday, 16 February 2017 at 7:08pm GMT

Jeremy: "Looking at the numbers again, I have to wonder: What Kool-Aid did the Archbishops serve to the House of Bishops? Why did the bishops pretend unanimity on an issue that obviously splits the other Houses down the middle?"

Richard: "The first thing the bishops must do is to acknowledge their divisions, and we must hear from all what they honestly think."

Turbulent Priest: "Let us hope that one good thing to come out of this is that bishops will realise that there is nothing wrong with expressing a dissenting opinion on this or any other topic. This Stalinist approach to solidarity has done no good."

These comments reflect my own thoughts on the 'collegiality' / bloc vote thing. As Turbulent Priest says, this kind of unanimous semblance of agreement is reminiscent of those old photos where entire audiences are raising their hands to vote in support of a politburo decision. Or election results like the recent one in Turkmenistan where the President was returned with 98% of the vote. No-one, ever, gets that kind of vote in the real world.

When the Houses of Laity and Clergy are split down the middle, it is Alice in Wonderland (or Turkmenistan, or the Supreme Soviet) to suggest 100% of the bishops agreed with the report.

And I find that disingenuous a bit disappointing, because I think it disrespects synodical process, openness and transparency.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Thursday, 16 February 2017 at 9:24pm GMT

So, perhaps something that we can all agree on: electronic voting sacrifices accuracy for convenience, and should be abolished. ;-)

Beyond that, the fallout from this vote points to compromise of any kind being impossible. The roadblock isn't the much-maligned "conservative evangelicals," who are, indeed, small in number. The roadblock's the much larger number of open evangelicals, a majority of whom are also opposed to any compromise on the issue of sexuality, a majority that becomes overwhelming among those in leadership positions.

Nor is this an age issue. The bishops aren't *that* old. All grew up as acceptance of homosexuality was increasing. Pete Broadbent fought for secular gay rights in the '80s, when it was a marginalized position, despised among the general population (who, even today, are mostly indifferent to gay rights, and would switch back in a heartbeat if it became fashionable).

No, this is an issue of incompatible theologies, with sexuality, unfortunately, being the presenting issue. Whether an evangelical's 16 or 60, biblical authority's non-negotiable, and most are convinced that the Bible condemns homosexuality in all circumstances (a position that, despite being passionately in favor of equality, I reluctantly share: I simply believe that, on this and much else, the Bible's wrong). More ingenious minds than mine many be able to divine a compromise that won't cause evangelicals to leave over this, but right now, I got nothing.

Posted by: James Byron on Friday, 17 February 2017 at 12:19am GMT

I think, Neil, that you are too optimistic. In order to understand how the C of E has got itself into this mess, and perhaps find a way out of it, one has to understand how it is that (almost uniquely) the group of over 50s "managing" the C of E have not been able to "manage" this enormous change. The over 50s in academia, politics, industry, the civil service, the armed forces, the teaching profession, medics seem to have succeeded by and large: so what is going on? If we don't get this clear then even as the current bench wither and perish, they will be replaced by clones, albeit drawn from an even smaller pool of "talent".

Posted by: american piskie on Friday, 17 February 2017 at 7:51am GMT

"the fallout from this vote points to compromise of any kind being impossible..."

James, for once I think I have a different opinion to yours. I concede you may be right, but personally I think that a two integrities approach, allowing conscientious diversity of practice within the Church, would only result with the most dogma-driven people leaving, and probably only a few in the end.

Everyone else would carry on going to their local churches, and life would carry on. Because most church members are not so deeply political as the ideologues on either side. They just want to be a community where they live, to help the elderly, to be friends, to serve the sick, to be human beings. They would not opt to leave their own local churches.

As no-one seems to offer any other solution apart from schism, I strongly suggest that we finally turn our focus to 'carrying' the ordinary church membership and allowing diversity of practice, and unity (as communities) in diversity.

The logic and imperative of this solution grows stronger and stronger, because all other routes seemed focussed on our differences, and on one 'side' dominating the other side's conscience. There's no solution to that standoff and impasse.

What's needed isn't emphasis on sides, but emphasis on love and grace, on communities, on service.

If Unity in Diversity was introduced and some priests chose to leave, then sadly that would be the cost, but most people wouldn't leave their churches because it's where they live, and decades of friendship and involvement.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Friday, 17 February 2017 at 12:01pm GMT

Are there any figures on bishops abstaining on this vote? The official press release doesn't list abstentions for bishops, yet apparently the Bp of Southwark had sent out a pastoral letter saying he abstained. How many bishops sit on synod and have the number of abstentions been published, and if not, why not?

Posted by: Fr Andrew on Friday, 17 February 2017 at 6:06pm GMT

Not a problem Susannah, sure it'll be good disagreement! :-)

I could certainly go with a two integrities model (as already exists in TEC and, soon, the SEC), but evangelical leaders have repeatedly said that, since sexual relationships outside male-female marriage are a "salvation issue," and so not "adiaphora," this is unacceptable to them. And that's not con-evos, but open evangelicals who enthusiastically support equal ordination, take a nuanced approach to the Bible, and seek to engage fully with the church, not hole themselves off with the self-styled remnant.

Now, it may be possible to persuade a significant number from evangelical congregations to go with unity in diversity, but we'd be up against their leaders pushing the opposite position with all their strength. Much as I don't want a schism (I wish everyone could agree to live and let live), I fear one's inevitable.

Posted by: James Byron on Friday, 17 February 2017 at 6:16pm GMT

"two integrities model (as already exists in TEC...".

How do you mean this? The main "integrity" is pretty much TEC tout court bringing in ss marriage and the theology that supports that.

What exactly is the "other integrity"? The Diocese of TN has made it clear, for example, that they will count on local episcopal discretion being buried in 2018. Most liberals are counting on that.

If the other "integrity" is individual priestly discretion, then that will also time out as clergy age and the new hires will need to conform to the TEC stance. No Bishop will be able to hold that back.

I didn't think anyone doubted this.

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 20 February 2017 at 10:56am GMT
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