Comments: House of Laity meeting agenda

I think there is a stronger basis for supporting the motion of no confidence than the one put forward by its proponent.

The Chairman of the House of Laity should not be out of step with the large majority of the House of Laity on women bishops, which is one of the main issues for its legislative business in the near future. The Chair has a wider representative role than simply chairing meetings of the whole House - for example, he is an ex officio member of the Archbishops' Council.

Therefore, Dr Giddings is not well suited to his role. This does not mean that he cannot continue to speak and vote freely as a full Member of the House of Laity. It means that he should considering resigning as Chair and that it is fair for the majority to vote no confidence in him if he does not.

Posted by badman at Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 3:22pm GMT

The House of Laity to choose another chair so that a certain group gets its own way?

The word 'scapegoat' comes to mind.

This is not democracy, it's positive discrimination!

Posted by Jonathan Edwards II at Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 7:16pm GMT

"That this House have no confidence in Dr. Philip Giddings as Chair of this House."
Gracious - who can have confidence in the House of Laity when they can't even present the Vote of No Confidence using correct grammar?
There is only one House of Laity - therefore - should it not read:-
"That this House HAS no confidence in Dr. Philip Giddings as Chair of this House."?
Truly appalling.

Posted by Father David at Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 7:18pm GMT

Badman - under your argument, the chair of the House of Laity would have to take the majority position on every major issue before the Synod. Should that position change during the course of a debate, he or she would have to adjust the position accordingly. The inherent dishonesty of this would make far more of a mockery of both Synod and chair than any damage done by someone speaking honestly about their principled views, however out of step they might be.

The members of the House of Laity do not need people to tell them what to think; nor do they really need a chair who will tell them what they have just said. The House of Laity needs a chair - one of two - who will give them the best of their honest opinions and who has the honesty and courage to tell the Synod that they are all holy fools if that's what he or she truly thinks.

And, come to that, no self-respecting Synod member ought to come into the chamber with any other intent.

Posted by Jonathan Jeninngs at Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 8:11pm GMT

Father David, the grammar is correct. It's called the 'subjunctive mood' and is used because we don't yet know whether they will have no confidence or not. Take a look at other synod motions and you'll see they are similarly phrased

Posted by Jane Charman at Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 11:29pm GMT

Father David, have you never heard of the subjunctive mood?

Posted by Jeremy at Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 3:43am GMT

No, Father David, the wording of the resolution is grammatically correct---the subjunctive is used after "Be it resolved that....".

Posted by Copyhold at Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 4:15am GMT

Well that's me well and truly told and put in me place well below the salt!
However, it seems that "Free Speech" is a right in our nation everywhere except on the floor of the General Synod. Poor Dr. Giddings - he gives a speech as his conscience dictates and is pilloried and vilified for his pains. Those who disagree with his words retaliate with a vindictive motion of No Confidence. I don't know about the "subjunctive mood" but the mood of the General Synod from where I stand looks pretty nasty and revengeful to me.

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 8:23am GMT

Whether it is grammatically correct or not it is just a disgraceful, un-Christian witch-hunt.

Posted by Peter Abbey at Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 8:38am GMT

I have just read the transcript of Dr Giddings' speech. What a tragedy that a transparently decent speech by a transparently decent man should now be the subject of a no confidence motion.

Posted by Fr Mark at Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 8:44am GMT

I agree the Chair should not be expected to endorse the majority view, and I agree that the Chair should be able to tell the House they are wrong if that's what they feel. I'm not sure if it was Giddings' fault he spoke straight after Welby. So the motion should, I think, probably fail on its narrow merits. But the fundamental problem is that it's unhealthy for such a high-profile, influential role to be in the hands of someone so identified with a partisan view, one that, following the groundswell of opinion after the vote, is so widely seen as out of step and damaging to the church. Could Giddings ponder on North's decision and decide for himself that he's not able to fulfil the wider role satisfactorily?

Posted by John at Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 8:50am GMT

I do hope that the title of the chair of this meeting does mean that the Dean of the Arches is full of (rightly-directed) worship.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 5:10pm GMT

But the fundamental problem is that it's unhealthy for such a high-profile, influential role to be in the hands of someone so identified with a partisan view

I believe I'm right in saying that Philip Giddings is in favour of the ordination of women, yes? That he spoke and voted as he did because he believed that provision for dissenters is inadequate, not because he is against women as bishops? That's how I read his speech, anyway.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 5:24pm GMT

The grammar is fine. The no confidence motion is a piece of illiberal vindictiveness simply unworthy of even being considered by the House of Laity. Philip Giddings is the Chair of the House; he is entitled to have his own views on the propriety of ordaining women to the episcopate and on whether or not the legislation before the Synod was fit for purpose. He is also charged with representing the views of those who are members of the House of Laity. His speech, if you read it, is measured and thoughtful. (I happen to think he's wrong in the conclusion that he reaches, but that's neither here nor there).

We have had over the years in Synod, Prolocutors (Clergy) and Chairs/Vice Chairs of the House of Laity whose positions on the ordination of women have variously been for and against. They have spoken from that particular viewpoint (David Silk and Norman Russell spring to mind as principled opponents/doubters).

By contrast, the argument in the proposer's paper is politically illiterate, incoherent, naive, and reeks of the sort of liberal intolerance that we have seen all too frequently in recent years within the Anglican Communion. I hope that the House will see sense and send this no confidence motion into the oblivion it deserves.

Posted by Pete Broadbent at Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 5:28pm GMT

Fr. Mark may I suggest that you read more of Dr Giddings writing. If you are expert with the Internet you might even be able to recover his sermons that fortuitously disappeared from the website of the church where he serves as a Reader. I think the transparency would reveal other aspects of the man.
Merely a suggestion . . .

Posted by Commentator at Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 5:42pm GMT

Well said, Bishop Broadbent in identifying the No Confidence (waste of time) Motion as "a piece of illiberal vindictiveness".
The grammar of this "illiberal vindictiveness" still bothers me. House is singular. "Have" in this context is plural (it would only be singular if the subject were the pronoun "I" or the singular pronoun "you"). It is nothing to do with the subjunctive. The argument could be that we have a collective noun, "House", and that current usage permits a plural form of the verb with a collective noun (it is commonplace on the BBC, for example, to hear, "The Government have decided....") but this is ugly, and suggests a lazy disinclination to accept that a singular collective noun is still singular, even though it refers to a group.
In agreeing with Bishop Broadbent - I too hope that the House of Laity will see sense and send this intolerant no confidence motion to deepest Sheol.

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 6:40pm GMT

My concern is wider than just Giddings' stance on women bishops. I understand he is Convenor of Anglican Mainstream. That means he is identified with actively promoting a stance on a number of issues that I feel has always been unrepresentative of truly mainstream Anglicanism. But since the vote on women bishops, my sense is that there's a bit of a groundswell of opinion, and the CofE as a whole is less willing to have itself identified by such opinions. That's why, although I personally don't think this motion is the right way forward, I wonder if Giddings (along with quite a few Synod members who must be pondering how out of kilter with Diocesan views they are) might consider for himself whether this situation best serves the church.

Posted by John at Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 8:35pm GMT

Couldn't one reasonably conclude from this manoeuvring - which seems on the face of it rather vindictive - that there is not sufficient trust or 'respect' between differing groups to make anything short of statutory arrangements enough to convince those with reservations about the consecration of women that they will have room to flourish? And indeed to convince some of those who, while longing to see women consecrated, are anxious that there should be a sustainable and generous settlement? I write this as someone who supports women bishops and longs to see them consecrated in a flourishing and generous Church of England.

Posted by Philip Hobday at Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 9:32pm GMT

As a mere member of a diocesan synod that supported the Measure on the article 8 reference (and whose 7 diocesan GS members—bishop, 3 clergy and 3 laity—all voted in favour), I would make the following comments, having read both Mr Barney's note and the transcript of Dr Giddings's speech:
1. I abhor a witch hunt, which I think this is.
2. I assume there is an error in Mr Barney's second bullet point and that he meant to say that Dr Giddings's speech "did not support the views of the House of Laity as a whole."
3. On that assumption, Dr Giddings (i) expressly recognised that a "substantial majority of the House [of Laity] and of laypeople generally" were in favour of the Measure, and (ii) stated that he was voicing the concerns of the "significant minority of laypeople" ("the dissenting minority" as he later called them) opposed in principle to women bishops and and the content of the Measure before GS. Like +Pete Broadbent, I disagree with Dr Giddings's conclusion, but he was surely entitled to express his opinion, while making clear that it was a minority view.
4. Where Dr Giddings can be justifiably criticised, in my view, is in arguing that there was "a better way," without suggesting what that better way could or should be. But this was a lacuna in the speeches of virtually all those who spoke against giving final approval to the Measure.
5. Where is the evidence that Dr Giddings's speech was "instrumental in convincing some of the undecided members of the House to vote against", as claimed by Mr Barney? Indeed, how do we know how many lay members (if any) were still undecided how to vote before hearing the debate?
6. The 'reputational damage' to the C of E was in the outcome of the vote, not in any individual speeches. If any motions of no confidence are to be proposed, they should surely be directed against the lay GS representatives of those dioceses who voted against the Measure (rather than abstaining) when their own diocesan synods had voted by large majorities to support the draft Measure on the article 8 reference. It would be for the Houses of Laity of those diocesan synods to propose any such motions.

Posted by David Lamming at Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 9:48pm GMT

Though Dr Giddings is entitled to have and express his view, the House of Laity is also entitled to express itself on his qualities as chair according to its own procedures. Those of us who are ordained (or consecrated) may have views on the matter, but he is not our chair.

Though I disagree profoundly with Dr Giddings on the substance of the matter in question, I think it is greatly to his credit that he has so far saved his own account for the forum (House of Laity) in which it is most properly given. Many would be tempted to do otherwise, especially under the kind of pressure which must be on him at the moment.

The Bishops found they could amend the motion which was sent to the dioceses - and they did - that was procedurally allowed - who knows whether it was wise? I guess many of the people who approved that use of procedure will count this one as unwise, and vice-versa: people are using these procedures in contentious circumstances for the first time (I almost added "in anger"). If the procedures are good and robust the outcomes will serve the church - I think the procedures are being tested to the absolute limit.

But this is now in the hands of the laity - it is their decision which counts, and the only worthwhile interventions from the rest of us are ones which will help them to make a better informed decision. We in the church need a strong lay voice - Jesus was not born in a palace or a temple: his first visitors were not Emperors or Priests. [Herod tried to send a message, and failed].

Posted by Mark Bennet at Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 10:25pm GMT

"But this is now in the hands of the laity. It is their decision which counts" - Mark Bennet.

So why does this hold good for the eviction of Dr Giddings and yet not for rejection of the faulty measure?

Posted by Benedict at Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 11:25pm GMT

Sorry to be pernickety, but please accept that in this case 'have' is not plural; it is the correct singular subjunctive form. Now we should move on to more substantial matters.

Posted by Flora Alexander at Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 11:26pm GMT

If the House of Laity wants itself to be led by someone else, someone who reflects the view of a substantial majority on women bishops, surely that is the House's right.

Some might call it a witch hunt. I would rather describe it as an attempt to ensure that the chair of the House of Laity represent its members on a major issue before that House.

Why are some so troubled that a leader of the House of Laity should be accountable to its members?

Transparency and accountability in General Synod. Such novelties!

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 21 December 2012 at 1:47am GMT

When the Women priests motion was passed 20 years ago by a mere 2 votes - it was hailed as the work of the Holy Spirit. After praying for the guidance of the Paraclete - the Women bishops motion failed by 6 votes - now the Comforter is regarded as having not "got with the programme"!
I presume, in stirring up much adverse reaction with this ill advised no confidence motion, the House of Laity will begin their gathering on January 18th MMXIII with an invocation of the Holy Ghost? Personally, I'm at a loss to identify any connection with the peace and unity which the Spirit brings in the purpose of the proposed New Year Westminster Lay assembly - in fact the opposite is surely true.

Posted by Father David at Friday, 21 December 2012 at 5:15am GMT

David, Pete,

Philip Giddings's free speech is not in doubt. He can say what he likes, as his conscience dictates, and our consciences may then tell us to oppose with every fibre of our being his deeply unpleasant views. He is a principal backer of Anglican Mainstream, which delights in disseminating some of the most unpleasant, biased, unrepresentative and tendentious anti-gay reporting on any website in the UK. They promote the whole deeply damaging and irrelevant ex-gay nonsense. Their material on women's rights is hardly any better. He is an opponent of women in episcopal ministry without "proper provision" - he wants "quadruple locks" locks "protecting" people from the ministry of women. All this he and his colleagues are free to argue for.

But were I a lay person on the General Synod I would be exercising my freedom to express through this motion, as clearly as he does his opinions through all sorts of channels, my disgust at the views he and his colleagues propound. He has no right to be protected from criticism, either for his published views, or for his behaviour as Chairman of the House of Laity. I know that what I write or say in public may offend others and be challenged. That is all that is happening to him. It is not a witch-hunt. It is democracy. And you may not like democracy, but it is the way we have decided to give the members of our church a say in the running of its life.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Friday, 21 December 2012 at 6:11am GMT

Well said Jeremy! I was going to say you had 'touched the matter with a needle' but judging by the above should steer clear of quotations and grammar! If Anglican Mainstream were a trading company they could be had under the Trade Descriptions Act, being neither anglican or mainstream. Some of the items on their website are truly eye-popping: 'Eleven Gay Myths' etc. As you rightly say, they and Philip Giddings are entirely entitled to their views, and it is entirely right that the rest of the laity should be aware of just what he and his ilk stand for.

Posted by Stephen Morgan at Friday, 21 December 2012 at 12:00pm GMT

I do not like where we are. I use the influence I have to try to get us to a better place - not a them-and-us place but a "we" place - where women can be consecrated bishops. I was not as unhappy as some at the General Synod vote, because it might just give us a chance to get better legislation - by which I mean freedom to flourish in the Holy Spirit, rather than the right to exist by law.

The house of laity voted as it did. That does not make the use of established and extant procedures in response invalid - rather, it is why such procedures exist in the first place - to test views held in conflict. It is true that they bring people to a vote rather than a common mind - but all of us like the common mind when it is our mind and the votes which go in our favour.

We need a new paradigm for the church, if we are to survive together. Partisan points scoring will not actually last very long. I was not trying to score points in my comments, but to bring is back to realities. Know the truth and the truth will set you free, anyone?

Posted by Mark Bennet at Friday, 21 December 2012 at 6:14pm GMT


Thanks for your very interesting and thought provoking comments, some think this is a witch hunt, please be assured it is not. I will explain myself fully in proposing the motion on 18th Jan.

Posted by Stephen Barney at Monday, 31 December 2012 at 8:42am GMT

Mr. Barney, you need public-relations advice, and fast.

With all respect, to say that "some might think x is y, but this is not so and I'll tell you why in two weeks" is about as unpersuasive a post as I've ever seen.

You've taken an importance public stand--one with which I agree. If you can't defend it now, then don't post here, but work on your speech, with assistance from a communications specialist.

Posted by Jeremy at Tuesday, 1 January 2013 at 4:04pm GMT

Perhaps the solution to all of this is that the members of the House of Laity bear in mind the political and spiritual character of whomever they vote to elect as Chairperson - next time.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 11 January 2013 at 9:59pm GMT
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