General Synod November 20 2012

November 20, 2012 § 1 Comment

Morning all. We’ve just had a Eucharist on the theme of the Guidance of the Holy Spirit, and a brief but profound homily by the Archbishop of Canterbury about the Spirit renewing our hearts – our ‘centre’. It is a superb feature of what we do that we break bread together and share the Peace with those with whom we will be disagreeing later. My prayer is that this renewing of our centre will happen today, whatever way the vote goes.

The Archbishop of York is in the chair, and has outlined the process. We vote on the main motion – the Measure – at around 5.30, if all goes to plan.

We began things by congratulating Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on their 65th Wedding Anniversary. There was then a certain deliciousness, on this day of all days, that we sang the National Anthem, praying for the life and reign of our female Supreme Governor.

The Bishop of Manchester is opening the debate. He has outlined a little of how we got here, and said that the legislation is not necessarilly what he would have designed, but it expresses a continued commitment to our mixed economy. Even flawed legislation can be made to work. We are not where we were 20 years ago, where a ‘no’ vote on women priests would not have been a great surprise. 20 years on a no vote would be devastating, and would not be understood.

Simon Killwick, Chair of the Catholic Group is now speaking against. The vote is not about Women Bishops in principle, but about whether the legislation is fit for purpose. You could be for women bishops and still vote against. He rehearses the familiar concerns that having an as yet unwritten Code of Practice will allow campaigning bodies to continue to chip away at the mixed economy. And the concept of  ‘respect’ (for the reasons for asking for another Bishop or a male priest) is vague.

He believes that the ‘missional disaster’ if we vote it down is ‘hype’, and that significant numbers of people will not mind if we wait. I’ve heard this quite a lot, and am not sure that if I go back to Beverley with a ‘no’ vote people will be roundly congratulating me. He has said that his constituency has tried its best with all sorts of options, but these have ben voted down, even though they commanded significant support. He’s reasoned, but I’m not sure it will carry the day with waverers (if there are any waverers left).  Reasonable applause.

Now into the general debate. 72 people have asked to speak, so we won’t get them all, even with a five minute speech limit. I would guess we’re going to hear a lot of  ‘let’s got on with it’ and a lot of  ‘it’s not good enough’. I’ll report if there is anything which goes beyond that.

Two speeches – there are some brilliant women out there about to be released into further ministry; and there are parishes which we are in danger of losing if we vote yes. I don’t get that threat: the legislation provides all sorts of ways of keeping us together.

The Archdeacon of Hackney, Rachel Treweek, cites the Olympics as an example of threatened disaster turning into triumph. She’s married to a Vicar who ministers in a ‘Resolutions’ parish. We are faithful anglicans who need to work together, not to be protected from each other. Excellent. Some decent fences allow us to be better together and to respect each other. No one is diminished by this measure.

Bishop of Chichester says he agrees with much of what Rachel Treweek says, but comes to a different conclusion about the Measure. He wants more time for us to travel together to come to concensus.

The Bishop of Liverpool speaks of the biblical leadership of women, and notes that we will recognise the authority of the Queen when she gives Royal Assent to the Measure. It is time to enable the leadership of women in all the orders of ministry. Profound speech, and serious and long applause. Perhaps a ‘waverer changer’.

David Houlding says that the legislation purports to be helpful to a minority not one member of which has said it remotely helps. How can you then vote for it? Some ‘hear hears’.

We have been pretty respectful so far, and some contributions have been beyond the ‘tactical’ and into the principle of the thing.

Janet Appleby (who worded the famous clause 5 1 c) says that this is the best compromise we can have. We should trust our Bishops to work this out well for us. To say ‘no’ would be to declare a lack of trust in ourselves and in our Bishops.

Hannah Bate from the Church of England Youth Council. ‘With a God as amazing as ours we do not need to be frightened. We have been discussing this issue for my entire life. Please don’t let me wait until I’m thirty to decide this.’

Next speech is against – perhaps the first of the speeches which says ‘I would have voted for one of the previous things we discussed (how do we know?) but I can’t vote for this’.

It’s hard to gauge things by applause, but there is decent applause for the ‘no’ speeches.

11.50 A lovely interlude now, with a story about God and an otter. Remarkably, it works (for me). We are reminded that Jesus told stories…and that human beings try to cut God down to size.

I’m always humbled and impressed by people who have spent long hours preparing speeches which add to the debate rather than simply replicate the points made by others.

Rosie Harper: a no vote won’t improve the legislation, but will harm our mission and impair the ministry of our new Archbishop before it starts. Please abstain or vote yes. Not sure that a direct appeal to do this will be well received, but perhaps it needed to be said.

Rod Thomas (Reform) has a different take on headshipthan the Bishop of Liverpool. We do not believe that we have to accept the authority of a woman, and in this Measure there is only ‘delegation’ by a woman. It would be unanglican to require us to do so.

Bishop in Europe now. He works with all sorts of denominations…but given the order in which he’s been called he would seem to be speaking in favour….not so. His issue of principle is that the C of E can’t do this alone. If we do this then we must make proper provision, and he does not believe that this provision is enough. He will vote against.

Yet another speech against the Measure. The minority are not adequately catered for. Interesting piece of Chairmanship having three speeches in a row against!

Martin Gorick speaks – quoting Shakespeare who is buried in his church. ‘There is a tide in the affairs of men…’. Now is the time, he says, and he’s excited. Let’s lead the catholic church. We can do this today if we want to.

April Alexander: the talking must stop, and the decision must be taken. ‘There is no better solution round the corner. ‘ We have said ‘no’ to all the other solutions offered by those who are against. We now have an iPad – a square object with rounded corners expensively fought for by the electronic world.  +Justin would like this. Who are we to disagree?

Mary Judkins is unhappy about voting yes – it’s a second best. This is not ‘gold’, and this compromise is ‘bronze’. Women deserve better, those who object deserve better, and we need to get the theology right, with regard to roles. I’m listening to this in the coffee room, and there is some incredulity around me. And I had dinner with her last night, and I didn’t know she was going to do this!

12.20. More ‘yes’ and ‘no’ ping pong. +Southwell and Nottingham says that our apostolic mission needs complementarity of ministries. Strikes me that this is another argument you could take both ways: conservative evangelicals argue for a different kind of complementarity. But he goes on to say that ‘no’ could be far more damaging for our mission and ministry…and there will be chaos if we say no.  That chaos adds volume to the specific point that voting ‘yes’ is a good thing to do.

12.30. Now got to the stage where I’m looking for smaller matters of interest. The olympics have been cited both for and against. It might not be gold, but bronze will be fine says our latest speaker.

Now wondering whom the Archbishop of York is holding back for this afternoon. Bigger guns should fire – and the Archdeacon of Cleveland wonders whether it will be people speaking specifically about the House of Bishops amandment. It would be good to hear from Bishops speaking about how they would see things working in their patch, and what ‘respect’  means.

Further speech against says that mission will not flourish if the minority is not enabled to flourish under this ‘flawed’ legislation.

Big guns about to speak: BIshop Justin, followed by Philip Giddings, Chair of the House of Laity. Immense hush and attention for +Justin. The church is above all those who are drawn into being a new people by the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit. This is God’s choice, not ours.  For this to be convincing we must demonstrate it in lived reality.  What is before us today is ‘as good as we can get’ – but our will and attention will be more important than the rules. I am deeply committed to ensuring as far as I am able that what we agree will be carried out in spirit and in letter…that we ‘more than’ respect but love each other. This is not a zero sum decision. One person’s gain need not be another’s loss. We Christians are those who carry peace and grace as a treasure for the world. ‘I urge the General Synod to vote for this motion’. Massive applause.

Philip Giddings: I agree with everything Bishop Justin has said, but I cannot come to the same conclusion. There is some gravity to his delivery, but the arguments are similar to others. He wants the legislation to be agreed by all, and it’s not. Quite a lot of applause.

Ven Christine Hardman, Archdeacon of Lewisham and Greenwich. She has found it hard to know how to vote. Clause 5 1 c is not all that different to what we had in May. She is not against for provision, and is instinctively for inclusion, but does not want that that provision to change the nature of the church. All now depends on the Code of Practice – and it must not cast doubt on the status of our orders, nor create two churches. She has gone as far as she can – and perhaps beyond – with the legislation, and will therefore vote for. To be reconciled is for both parties to go beyond where they feel safe – to ‘betray’ themselves in Fr Ken Leech’s words. That’s where she is. Let’s get off the treadmill, and get going.


2.30. Lunchbreak over. In order to test the voting machines at 1.00 we had a vote on whether to have lunch. A good number of people abstained…
Hard to say what the atmosphere is, though many were heartened by Bishop Justin’s speech.

Archbishop Sentamu has reminded us that an abstention means that, though it is recorded, the vote is not part of the total. In simple terms twice as many people (+1) need to vote for than against. Abstentions are not part of the equation.

Tom Sutcliffe explains why, though in favour of Women Bishops, we should vote against the Measure. The majority for Women Bishops might just be wrong. He has regard for what it is to be a minority. We need to see that women bishops will always be different until we come to one mind. Better to wait.

Pete Broadbent speaks. Apologises for the absence of the Bishop of London – he’s ill. A pity, as the Diocese of London exemplifies how provision can work. The Measure is not as strong as it might be, but now is the time to decide. We have not hurried…more time will not help. We will need to walk alongside each other. The legislation contains enough to help us to do so. Remember that the legislation uses the word ‘respect’ which has a legal opinion behind it, and Clause 8 which clarifies the nature of Bishops. We can use this to walk together – and each Diocesan Scheme will be well poured over. He would like to see Bishops with oversight of those opposed, with the power to sponsor to ordination, make appointments etc, as in London.

There is no monopoly on pain. It will be hard for all of us. But we don’t need to damage the church on the way. Let’s make the legislation work.

Christina Rees. We have the authority to take this decision. Let’s make the journey together. We are in this together, and we can put things in perspective, to get the church doing what the church should.

Stand by your beds. ++Rowan about to speak, after Fr Thomas Seville. Fr TS making the ‘I agree with everything that’s been said but I come to different conclusions’ speech. Not only is he not convinced that women’s priesthood and episcopacy is not witnessed to by scripture or tradition, but also this legislation does not enable trust. ‘Good law makes for trust and makes for relationship’. A Code of Practice will not do.

++Rowan. The debate is addressed to the small number of people who might change their minds. So what are the questions? He has not asked people with serious convictions against to abstain. But there must be some who are genuinely uncertain, about timing and means. So he offers brief considerations. There is a direction discernible in the church’s mind – can there be any reason to stop the church denying certain priests the discernment of episcopal ordination. ‘There is a good Anglican tradition of acting on distinct probabilities’ (do check the quote!).

Is this the right means of doing it? Well, though the Measure is not perfect it states as clearly as possible that the minorities which count have anough pof a presence in law to make a difference. It took him some time to get here, and he says this to encourage others. A thrid question is the effect on our wider society, and for some that may also help them move from ‘no’ to abstain. How much energy do we want to expend on this in the next decade, and how much do we want to bind a new Archbishop. Agreeing this Measure will give a sense of liberation.

‘If you don’t remain completely convinced that the answer is no, then consider voting yes, or abstaining, in a potentially liberating moment for us all’. Sustained applause.

Carol Wolstenhome: remember the majority! They will be debilitated if we say no. Consider the effect on the majority who have asked us to say yes.

Next speaker: the Measure does not provide enough for conservative Evangelicals who want different patterns of ministry. Said graciously. She has come, with a broken ankle, to vote ‘no’.

Rosemary Ryan – still needs to hear conclusively from people who are ‘for’ the Measure. respects those who have come to that conclusion, but she needs to hear properly that she has a legitimate place still in the C of E. We can wait – 20 years is nothing. There is a better way.

Tim Hind (Vice Chair of House of Laity – and contradicting his Chairmon I predict). Time to concentrate on the parochia – those outside, rather than the ekklesia – the gathered. We can’t improve on this legislation. Time to get on with it. Reduction in attendance correlates to the reduction in stipendiary clergy. Not passing this will cause numbers coming forward for ordination to dwindle. Don’t delay.

Ven Jan MacFarlane: is there really anything new to say? It’s a bit of an insult to say there is more thinking to be done. Quite possible that if we rethink the Measure those who are currently in favour my find themselves against it. We can model a way of living together with disagreement, if we are determined to do it.

Charles Razzall. Legislation should not be predicated on a presumption of goodwill. It should protect the vulnerable. Is this legislation as strong as it could be? Regretably it is not. And the legislation reveals ‘an ecclesial half life’ with regard to orders. Vote against, and we’ll start talking tonight.

Bishop of Chelmsford now, making a different speech to the one he intended. +Chichester had said that he was determined to make whatever happens work. So is +Chelmsford – we will make it work!! It is a provision which can work. He believes that this provision is better than the Act of Synod – esp for conservative evangelicals. There is an elegant simplicity to this. You write. We have to respect your reasons and do something. It can work.

Sam Margrave (sounding a lot like Ed Milliband) quotes the Bible on waiting and doing good. The legislation doesn’t meet the needs of the whole church. Wait, be courageous, vote no.

John Shand: is 70, worships in the catholic tradition, and longs to see women bishops. Quotes the story of woman who anointed Jesus. Remember her, put aside the last decade of magaphone diplomacy, forget factionalism. If the measure falls many hearts will be broken. Before you vote, take time, seek the will of the Holy Spirit.  Lovely feel to his speech.

Ann Turner understands the drive to do this, but her conscience says that for her, at this moment, women’s ministry is wrong. Respects the decision to have women Bishops, but not at any price. This is not to denigrate the hard work which has got us this far. But we can have the courage of convictions and say no for now. A day will come when yes means yes…it is not now.

Lindsay Newcombe: hopes that her daughter will grow up loving being an anglo catholic, and not have to fight for her place all the time. Take further time to get this right. We want to love each other more. If we say no we can have a loving future.

Suzy Leaf. Bishops today have said they will make this work, but what about their successors? The legislation needs to be stronger than this.

Speaker from the Armed Forces (female Lt Commander) writes policies to keep disparate communities, and says that the words themselves don’t really matter – it’s the carrying out which matters. And there is enough here.

Judith Maltby. All sorts of anglicans come to college chapel, and there is hope. The future is good and bright – and women make up a huge number of ordinands.

John Cook worried about taking stuff to secular courts (1 Cor 6). Taking it that way means we are already defeated says Paul. Paul used Roman courts but not in spiritual matters. We look to the wrong place if we use secular courts to sort out these matters. So he will reject the motion.

Colin Fletcher (Bp Dorchester) beautifully follows on. Used to teach John Cook at Wycliffe. Changed mind on headship. Don’t just read 1 Corinthians, but look to Rome. ‘Rome is our model’. (Read Romans). Only all male group he is in is the House of Bishops, and it needs women in it.

3.55 At this stage I’m not sure if further debate will assist the waverers, or solidify their thinking. Might need a coffee.

4.25. Had a coffee – but picked up on the Bishop of Chester’s speech. He’s my predecessor but one at Beverley. He’s v pro Women Bishops, but not pro this legislation. Of all the positions on the matter I think that this – which he shares with Tom Sutcliffe – is the least helpful, though I do understand it. There will be a great responsibility on those who vote in this way, as they could swing it, and I wish they would simply abstain.

Back to reporting…as long as there is something new said.

4.40. ++Sentamu (in the Chair) reminding us that he’d like us to vote by around 5.30. Hoping to hear lots of people, but has imposed a one minute speech limit. That’s almost a Tweet…

Speaker asks us to vote no because of the provision of the Incumbent to veto a PCC decision to write a Letter of Request.

Bishop of Bradford reminds us that ecumenically our orders are not recognised by Rome anyway. If we didn’t have the authority to make this decision he wouldn’t be an anglican.

Mark Ireland: Acts 15 was a compromise. Peter and Paul probably wanted it nuanced in a different way, but they agreed for the sake of unity.

Gerry O’Brien: if this decision causes one person to leave the ministry of the C of E then that’s a heavy responsibility.

Speaker says the legislation is like a door with one hinge. We are close, but not there yet. Let’s do it differently.

Jane Charman: ‘The spin doctor of divinity does not exist who can make excluding women from leadership sound like good news.’

But it’s all getting a bit fraught and shouty now. Loud applause for Gavin Ashenden who passionately asks us to vote no.

Tim Allen says we will lose more than we gain if we vote no.

5.00. Paul Benfield: we have heard lots about trust, but we also regulate things by canon and statute. With regard to women bishops we are asked to do it simply by trust. (JF interpolation…wrong, wrong, wrong. All but one clause in the Measure is about the regulation of how this will work).

Andrew Nunn: unleash what God is giving to his church. Vote ‘yes’.

Emma Forward. Anglo Catholics are told that they are being ‘heard’. No they are not. Not one person opposed has come close to saying that this will do.

Chris Sugden: we do not make ourselves taller by making other people kneel. Please vote against.

It’s a bit of a slogan-fest now – waiting for the last 4 speeches, where we’ll get a five minute speech limit.

++Sentamu says we have had 100 speeches. He stood all the time in 1992 and was not called. If there is something new to say then do continue to stand. Has called a few people, to have 30 seconds each.

We’ve had a few of the 30 second speeches. He’d like people to stop now. 4 more people standing. Not much really new being said.

Anna Thomas-Betts reminds us that the legislative drafting group, containing all sorts of traditionalists, tried absolutely everything and we’ve got to where we are. Let’s do it.

Last 4 speeches. Philip North (Bishop of Whitby designate). Would rather be having root canal treatment. Can’t see any joy at the end of this. If we vote no then women in ministry whom he values will be massively hurt. Abstaining is not possible – that died with coordinate jurisdiction. Because he values the unity of the C of E he’s voting ‘no’, with great sadness. But…God will be in whatever we decide, and there is work to be done together.

Elaine Storkey. Been listening to everyone. If people believe it is fundamentally wrong then there is perhaps no choice. But be careful with inflammatory language. The future predicted by some will not come to pass. We can love doctrine without being doctrinaire. There are insights to be gained from those different to us. We must share together the vulnerability of Christ on the Cross. Serious applause.

Bishop of Burnley: accepts that women will be Bishops though he does not agree. But holds on to the promise of an honoured place for those like him. He feels not listened to, as each of the possibilities held out were then taken away. The amendment of 5 1 c is not enough. He feels marginalised. There is a danger that we will not listen to each other in future. This is a rush. Where is consensus? We can fix this. He will work with others to move forward with a twin track – but needs proper provision.

Bishop of Leicester. What voice have we not heard? Those who are marginalised in our society…the unemployed, the displaced etc. What would they have made about a debate about things they might not understand and might not really matter to them. Our place in society is very different to 1992. Our 12 year debate has also seen the financial crash as well. We should make our voice heard about issues which wider society really cares about.
A ‘no’ vote will diminish us further in parliament and in wider society. IT always feels worse when the moment of decision comes. Can we let go of our tribalisms? A ‘yes’ vote is for millions of people beyond the church too.

5.44: Sorry…two final speeches. Angus McCleay speaking against. Then +Manchester to sum up.

Angus McCleay says conservative evangelicals have not been appointed to the episcopate in the last 15 years. No hope that this legislation will change that. Cites the Episcopal Church in the US as what can happen. Lots of other points saying why all conservative evangelicals must vote against – but then immediately work towards a better solution.

Bishop of Manchester: last speech. Strongly urges us to vote for the legislation. It was impossible to have legislation to create places in a diocese where the writ of the diocesan Bishop does not run. This has not been a rush, and all available means have been tried and tested. All other ways would store up worse trouble in the future – including the kind of litigation some people fear will result from this. The legislation is comprehensive, and there will be consultation with regard to episcopal ministry for requesting parishes. The legislation can, and will, be made to work. No one is being made to sign a blank cheque on the Code either – see Clause 5. The time is now to say yes. Loud applause….

Nervous now.

When it comes: the vote!

Bishops:  For:  44       Against:         Abst: 2

Clergy: For:     148       Against:   45       Abst: 0

Laity: For:    132         Against:    74       Abst: 0

Lost in the house of laity. Therefore lost. Can’t be considered for a while…we start again.


§ One Response to General Synod November 20 2012

  • Jeremy Clines says:

    Thanks Jeremy, this is a very helpful summary of proceedings and much less awkward to use to keep track of progress then having the live-audio-feed distracting with it’s bathroom-like sound environment!

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