General Synod – Monday

July 8, 2013 § 4 Comments

Welcome all. This is Monday morning’s blog. Look here for Monday afternoon!!

As promised, my take on what happens through Monday. It’s Women Bishops this morning, after worship. There are some 9 amendments tabled to the Bishops’ motion. The Bishops have said, in short, that we should get going on this without delay, and that legislation based on the simplest pattern – their Otion One – should be what’s drawn up. A quick look at the amendments reveals that they all want to add further legislative weight to provision for people unable to receive the ministry of a woman Bishop.

The key will be whether the impetus towards trust and grace which was in evidence on Saturday will be carried forward. We will need an ‘opponent’ to say they can live with this, I think.

To prayers. See you later.

Here we go. Not even started before Andrea Williams (Chichester) has moved to adjourn the debate until tomorrow. She wants Bishops who are in the Lords to be in the Lords today for the marriage bill. So not a wrecking thing, but another point all together. She is told that there are Bishops in the Lords today, and the marriage bill is at the report stage, so numbers of Bishops not vital there today.

And off we properly go. Our chairman, Geoffrey Tattersall, invites us to listen to each other and not talk at each other. He reminds us that this is a beginning, and we are giving a new Steering Committee a ‘steer’ – there will be ample chance to revise legislation as the process unfolds.

Bishop of Eds and Ips gets us started. He thanks the working group which produced most of the report we’re debating. He affirms the process of ‘facilitated conversations’ which they went through, and which we did on Saturday. He recognises that, after November, we are more polarised than we were. But the argument now is about ‘means, not ends’. All are agreed that women will be bishops. It is the ‘how’ which is key. Hence their 5 principles (fully equal ministry; everybody to acknowledge the decision; only part of the wider schurch approach to this; opponents to be able to flourish; provision for opponents not to be time limited so as to enable mutual flourishing).

He indicates that two amendments have his blessing: to continue to use the ‘facilitated discussion’ process, and to have a mandatory grievance procedure in which all bishops will have to participate. He moves Option 1, with these intentions.

10.15. Bishop of Lincoln: Option 1 is not ‘fluffy’. It will enable grace, and with a Bishops’ declaration and mandatory procedures will give the C of E all the stucture and protection it needs.

Rod Thomas (from Reform) says he speaks for the majority of evangelicals who voted against. He says he and they don’t want to block the way to women bishops. He valued the facilitated discussions. He understood and was able to communicate the different sensitivities involved, and was happy to contemplate simpler legislation, and understood that there would be different instruments to offer protection for sensitivities. But none of those instruments are there in the House of Bishops paper. There is too little for people like him. He asks for one of the other options.

Karen Hutchinson, a former matrimonial lawyer, talks about pre-nuptual agreements, which are really planning for failure. She is uncomfortable with an over reliance on protective legislation. We should put our energy into building relationships strong enough for the journey ahead.

Wealands Bell (Lichfield). He worries about trust. It is as if the proposal says ‘I’m going to take away the promise I made to you yesterday so that you can trust me more tomorrow.’ We find law a help in all sorts of areas of our life. Much of the passion about opposition to women priests is about grief about the schism of the church – our relationships with Rome etc – and here law would safeguard grief, not enshrine misogyny. We need more law. Passionately said – especially as he is not of that mind himself.

Pete Broadbent has a ‘cunning plan’ (which he tried out on people last night). Have an enlarged Steering Committee – made up of pressure groups and those of no allegiance. It should have a ‘facilitated discussion’ and come up with something which the whole group can put its name to. No provision for a minority report. All or nothing.  Forgo the use of a Revision Committee – that’s where it failed last time. Come straight to a Revision Stage in full Synod. That would make the moral authority of what comes to Synod much more powerful – all groupings would have had their say already. Warm and prolonged applause.

Following speeches something of a lull. Importance of trust, and positive language. And a desire to have an option 4.

Various speakers – on different ‘sides’ – keen to say ‘I agree with Pete’. So the method – get an enlarged Steering Committee and get it to agree without dissension, then enact what it says – is getting good support. We’re now going to have speeches on each of the 9 amendments.

Paul Benfield speaking to his amendment: that provision for ‘opponents’ should be made by Measure or regulations made under canon. Not quite Option 4. He runs out of time but we get the point.

Philip Giddings (Chair of the House of Laity) speaking carefully about listening to each other. He likes the facilitated discussions, and the mandatory grievance procedure.

Tom Sutcliffe speaking about his amendment to continue the deployment of alternative episcopal oversight, administered by the two Archbishops. I don’t think this will get anywhere, but he is also inclined to agree with Pete.

Rebecca Swinson – the youngest member of Archbishops’ Council – likes this motion because she won’t have to keep explaining what we’re up to in the pub. Option One can be talked about ‘out there’. Women priests have been part of her reality for all her life. She doesn’t want her children to have to hear the phrase ‘women bishops’.

Peter Collard wants to keep the bulk of the arrangements we already have – the 1993 Measure, covering priestly ministry in parishes. He does not want parishes to ask for alternative episcopal oversight (Resolution C) – and will ask the Archbishops to think further on this. Lukewarm applause, and general sense around me that they’d not quite understood what he was on about.

Clive Mansell has two amendments. He feels option 2 (having an Act of Synod with proviion for ‘opponents’ already written before we approve the matter of women Bishops), and wants the Synod to have a go at it. His further amenment asks that protection against legal challenge under the equality act should be built in to any legislation. Sounds sensible to me.

11.15 Bishop of Dover speaks to his amendment, which has already been commended by many. There should be a monitoring body, and a requirement that Bishops abide by any agreed process. There would be an independent body, not a code of practice, with agreed membership, and with robust powers (so that if a Bishop ignored provision (s)he would be subject to discipline). This would be more robust than legislation.

Simon Cawdell speaking to his amendment, which inserts a phrase about enabling those unable on theological grounds to accept their ministry to flourish within the C of E.

11.30. We start on dealing with the emandments. Bishop Nigel (who was Paul Benfield’s training incumbent) resists his amendment, which he describes as ‘Option 4 with bells on’. But it needs to be tested, so we debate it. Adrian Vincent says that if there is robust legislation, then opponents will guarantee to let the whole thing pass. Groans in Synod indicate that few are convinced.

Rose Harper is opposed to this. Anything other than Option One is discrimination, and lets down oppressed women around the world. Others want robust legal provision so that there is something clear to measure a grievance process against. Rachel Treweek says Option One opens up trust. To vote for it is not to say no to provision – it just puts provision in its proper place.

About to vote on the amendment. We are to vote by houses.

Bshops: Yes   7  No 34

Clergy Yes  48     No 137 (4 abs)

Laity Yes  75       No 115 (4 abs)

Amendment lost.

There is a fear that we’ll be asked to vote by houses on each amendment. But standing orders can’t prevent that.

Tom Sutcliffe’s amendment is also resisted by Bishop Nigel, especially as it talks about ‘alternative’ episcopal oversight rather than extended oversight. Bishop of Ely says it takes us back rather than forward. I predict it will fall…and it does, overwhelmingly.

Now to Peter Collard’s – which Bishop Nigel calls Option 3 with additions. The old 1993 Measure is causing increasing pain and won’t help the new ways in which we want to work. Not a lot of people want to speak – I predict it will fall. Stephen Trott invokes the Good Friday Agreement process – there needs to be more on the table to help people go forward inconfidence together. Overwhelmingly lost.

Now to Clive Mansell’s, asking for Option 2, which enforces an Act of Synod, and a Synodical process (with 2/3 majorities required) to change it. This will be close, I think. Interesting speech by Philip Plyming, who voted against last November, but who is in principle in favour of women Bishops. Option 2 would allow him to vote yes this time. Chris Sugden says that you patronise a minority if you say ‘is this enough for you’, and you care for them when you say ‘what do you want’? Give the Steering Committee maximum steer by supporting Option 2.

This is tricky, as there are good reasons to support Option 2…which is only marginally more ‘legislative’ than the now strengthened Option 1. Janet Appleby (who had a key and honoured part in the attempts last November) now speaking. She’ll have weight, as she was part of the facilitated discussions.  She asks for a strengthened Option One, with room for trust and walking together.

About to vote. Again we’re voting by houses…I predict it will go through in one house – almost certainly the laity.


Bishops Yes  10  No 28  (1 abs)

Clergy Yes  55  No 128 (8 abs)

Laity Yes 93  No 100 (4 abs)

I was wrong (just!!)

On to Simon Simon Cawdell’s amendment, which Bishop Nigel is unsure about, because it’s not entirely clear. Simon Butler says this is the amendment which enables the process Pete Broadbent invited us to take part in. Robert Cotton says it’s not! You can vote against this and still agree with Pete.

Sarah Goddard draws our attention to the voting in the House of Laity – well over a third are voting against Option 1 – don’t just send Option 1, because ultimately it will fail. Bishop of Dover points out that his amendment would drop if we passed this. To the vote: clearly lost.

Bishop of Dover’s amendment: David Ison wants clarity about ‘grievance’ and ‘mediation’, and asks for advocates rather than individuals to make complaints, and for a compulsory mediation process. Bishop of Dover agrees. My own opinion is that this is a really vital point if we are to trust this process. One speech is worried – could tie Option 1 in legal knots. ++Sentamu, who had been unsure, is persuaded – especially if it is about monitoring, mediation and reconciliation.  I’m sure we’ll pass it. And we do!

That’s it for the moment…we’ll come back after lunch.

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