Source:  International Update

The following first appeared in the January 15, 2013 edition of the AAC’s weekly, International Update. Sign up for this free email here.


By the Rev. Canon Chris Sugden

House of Laity Meeting on Friday, January 18

On Friday there will be an unprecedented and “extraordinary” meeting of the House of Laity of General Synod. This meeting has been called to vote on a no-confidence motion in its chairman, Dr Philip Giddings. It is estimated that the gathering will cost 38,000. (GBP)

This is part of the fallout of the result of the vote on Women Bishops on November 20th.

Bishop Jonathan Baker wrote the following on this in New Directions for January:

“We need to challenge some errors and misunderstandings which have been widespread since the vote was taken. First, it has been suggested that the draft Measure represented the fruits of work done over many years by representatives of all traditions in the Church of England, and that it was a compromise and the best possible way forward. This is simply not the case, as anyone – myself included – involved in the various processes of preparing the legislation for Final Approval (the legislative drafting group, the revision committee stage, and so on) would have to admit. At every step of the way, provision for the traditionalist minority was withdrawn altogether or significantly watered down.

“Looking back, we can see a number of decisive forks in the road: when delegation (rather than a transfer of jurisdiction) was adopted as the basis for the legislation; when the Archbishops’ amendment for co-ordinate jurisdiction was defeated – by just five votes in the House of Clergy – in 2010; when the amendment to Clause 5(1) c of the Measure, proposed by the House of Bishops, was withdrawn in the face of pressure from members of Watch in July of this year.

“In the light of all this, it seems to me that there is only one analysis of the vote on 20 November which rings true: that 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.”

Canon Stephen Barney secured the ten percent of the membership needed to trigger such a debate. He wrote:

“My reason for asking members of the House to debate this motion is that I do not have confidence in our Chair since:

– His speech against the measure followed directly after Justin Welby’s and therefore I believe directly undermined what the Archbishop elect had said

– Since it was against it did not support the views of the House of Bishops as a whole

– Speaking as the Chair of our House his speech was instrumental in convincing some of the undecided members of the House to vote against

– I believe the speech was therefore a significant contributor to the reputational damage the Church of England is already suffering at the hands of the press, which is also manifest in the comments of the Prime Minister, the emerging reports of withdrawal of financial support, the angry reaction of church members and the disbelief and ridicule expressed by many of our secular friends, all of which I believe will damage the mission of our church

– The failure of the Measure is already giving momentum to the idea that the only likely solution now is a single clause Measure, which would result in a worse outcome for the minority groups than was on offer on Tuesday

I have always been one of the first to say that individuals must vote according to their consciences; however leaders have other responsibilities and accountabilities. I feel that if I am to support the leader of a group of which I am a member then that leader must show wise and good judgment and I do not believe that this has happened. “

Peter Ould has addressed these arguments as follows:

1. Philip Giddings disagreed with Justin Welby – How is this possibly a reason to have no confidence in someone?

2. Philip Giddings disagreed with the majority of Bishops – How is this possibly a reason to have no confidence in someone?

3. Philip Giddings convinced some people to vote no – How is this possibly a reason to have no confidence in someone?
Philip Giddings spoke as “Chair of the House” – This is possibly the only point of merit, but in his speech Giddings specifically referred to his role as Chair for two purposes only. First, to congratulate Justin Welby on his appointment and second, to reflect a minority view which he may or may not hold to. Is it Canon Stephen’s position that the Chair of the House should not try to represent minority positions?

4. Some people in the wider public didn’t like the decision of the Church – So what? How is this possibly a reason to have no confidence in someone unless he and he alone made the decision?

5. There might now be a vote on a Single Clause which will provide poorer provision then Philip Giddings wants – So what? There might not be. One cannot blame Giddings for something that “might happen”.

The only point of any merit is that Giddings used his role of Chair of the House inappropriately, but given the content of his speech, it is very clear that he felt he was representing a minority position. Indeed, Giddings’ speech is interesting in that he at no point mentions his own theological position on the issue (he does mention he voted yes in 1992) but rather his concern for others’.

Lay members of General Synod should reject this motion outright. I think it also behoves supporters of introducing Women Bishops (like I have become this year) to publicly point out how ridiculous and damaging these kind of procedural actions actually are. ENDS

A member of the House of Laity, Tom Sutcliffe, has written to Stephen Barney as follows (quoted with permission):

“Do we as a Church really believe that obedience to the majority at any given time is an important part of our faith? Do we not on the contrary believe profoundly that the duty to say what we think to be true is much more important than conformism, that Bishop George Bell for example was correct and saintly in his bold and notorious criticism of the wartime Churchill administration’s commitment to saturation bombing of German civilians – even though speaking his mind made both him personally and the Church (in the view of some at the time) appear unworldly and foolish. . . … Will it be good for the Church to be seen to be muzzling freedom of speech in one of its leaders? Is that the sort of example we want to set?”

Tom Sutcliffe, who is a well known liberal Anglican layman, further argues that:

“The basis of the no confidence motion is that Giddings spoke against the Measure and voted against it . Stephen Barney seems to believe Philip should have tugged his forelock at the about-to-be Archbishop Welby whose speech supporting the Measure his immediately followed. Barney’s motion (which amounts to a demand for self-censorship by the chair of the laity, and will destroy the value of having a chair of laity if it succeeds since all future chairs would have constantly to look over their shoulders and curtail their independence of thought and action) is also fired by his objection that Giddings making a good speech may have influenced how people voted. Would Barney have minded less if the speech had been bad? What nonsense! The basis of his intended censure of Giddings (and all of us who voted like him) is that we should have been happy to be rubber stamps – since any alternative to rubber-stamping the house of bishops’ near unanimity in favour of the Measure was bound to damage the church in the eyes of the British electorate.

“Barney is veering, I think, towards fascism.

“The chairs in my time have always spoken in their capacity as themselves – which Philip’s predecessor Christina constantly did. People in a debate express their personal views. And that is what our debates are for. What other purpose do you think they serve?

“Philip is held to have breached the Nolan principles for those engaging in public life. It is held that commitment to a church party such as the evangelical society Reform, and accepting their biblical views, amounts to being subject to improper outside influence. ” ENDS

Stephen Trott, a canon lawyer, writes:

“There is no provision for formal motions of “no confidence” in any officer of the House. Friday’s debate will therefore simply be an expression of opinion, taken by a simple majority of those present to vote.

“Even if the motion is passed, Dr Giddings can choose to take no notice of it. He could, if he wanted to do so, resign and stand for re-election immediately. As he won the vote in 2012, and is likely to gain a great deal of support in sympathy for his position, having been exposed to this unprecedented challenge, the chances are that he would be elected with a greater majority than before. “

Landmark rulings on Religious Freedom from European Court of Human Rights

Following the rulings at the European Court of Human Rights today, the Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Dr John Sentamu, has released the following statement:

“Christians and those of other faiths should be free to wear the symbols of their own religion without discrimination. Christians are not obliged to wear a cross but should be free to show their love for and trust in Jesus Christ in this way if they so wish.

“In July 2012, the General Synod stated that it is the calling of Christians to order and govern their lives in accordance with the teaching of Holy Scripture and to manifest their faith in public life as well as in private. This means giving expression to their beliefs in the written and spoken word, and in practical acts of service to the local community and to the nation.

“The Equality Act 2010 encourages employers to embrace diversity – including people of faith. Whether people can wear a cross or pray with someone should not be something about which courts and tribunals have to rule.”

Christian wins right to wear cross at work

A Christian airline check-in clerk has won the right to wear a cross at work in a landmark case set to define religious freedom in Britain and across Europe. Read the article on this in today’s Telegraph.

Your correspondent notes that the Synod statement referred to by Archbishop Sentamu was a Private Members’ Motion passed by synod and presented by the Rev Stephen Trott in July, 2012

I have yet to see the actual judgements. However, human rights, if delinked from a transcendental definition that to be human is to be part of a created community responsible to God and to each other, have degenerated to a power struggle of individual rights which will inevitably conflict.

Human rights were intended to protect minorities but not to give them rights which trumped all others.

Gay rights have now become a separate privileged and specially protected group of rights which trump all others, including freedom of conscientious objection and to hold religious convictions without fear of discrimination.

It is good that the right to wear a symbol of Christian faith has been upheld. What is still at risk is the right to practice that faith in the workplace. It should be noted that two of the three cases that were not upheld involved black Christians. Doctors have a right to opt out of conducting abortions if they have conscientious objections. They have significant political clout. The black Christian community does not.

A spokesman for the Christian Institute, which backed the case of the registrar who wished not to conduct civil partnership ceremonies, said:

“We are encouraged that two judges thought we should have won.

“What this case shows is that Christians with traditional beliefs about marriage are at risk of being left out in the cold.

“If the Government steamrollers ahead with its plans to redefine marriage, then hundreds of thousands of people could be thrown out of their jobs unless they agree to endorse gay marriage.”

Share this post