General Synod Monday Afternoon

July 8, 2013 § 2 Comments

Afternoon all. New blog for the afternoon, but it’s as if we have not had lunch and are just carrying on from 1.05.

Clive Mansell has moved his amendment about ‘preventing legal challenge’ under equalities legislation. Bishop Nigel is not sure that there is an easy answer to the problem, and puts himself in Synod’s hands. Clive Scowen agrees that you can’t prevent legal challenge, but you can provide good safeguards. We should at least ask to try. Mark Steadman is happy to trust the current working of the law under the Equalities act. Tony Baldry (MP) is not happy to go back for fresh laws, amending equalities legislation. Parliament would not wear it.

He also says that he can hold the line in Parliament for a couple more years, but no more. We vote on it electronically…For 200, against 210, 15 abstentions. Amendment lost.

Now to Keith Malcouronne, whose amendment is about using the ‘facilitated conversations’  process thoughout what comes. Bishop Nigel is happy to accept it. Chris Sugden very happy to support it too. ‘We’ve set our hands to the plough. Let’s not look back’. Dagmar Winter cautions about expecting too much – it does have limitations. ‘I agree with Pete, kind of’. (Pete Broadbent has invited the steering committee which will take this forward to engage in the process using the ‘facilitated conversations process). We agree to do this.

We now debate the motion as a whole, as amended by Dover and Malcouronne (Option 1, with a monitoring process and using ‘facilitated discussion’).

Archbishop of Canterbury speaking. Too much detail invites complicated litigation. If his speech gets blogged then read it – demolishes a legislative solution in two sentences. He supports Pete Broadbent’s proposed process. Please set a clear general direction, while leaving space for development. Discuss the 5 principles the Bishops established, agree them and make them a kind of ring fence. The resolution, the principles and Peter Broadbent’s scheme are the best way forward.

Tim Allen recognises that getting the amended Option One through, especially through the laity, will not be easy. If we couldn’t do that in November, with legislation, how can we do it now? Peter Broadbent’s process might just do it. If we don’t do it by July 2015 it will have a significant effect on elections to the new Synod. Best to do this now. We will guarantee a broadly based new Synod in 2015 if we do our work quickly and well now.

The Bishop in Europe raises the ecumenical dimension, and asks from, eg WATCH, a statement of its ecclesiology in relation to the other denominations (I reflect that it would be good to have one of those from Rome about us…)

Jane Charman hopes that we will unite around Option 1. But ‘what if we can’t?’ If we fail we will have to recognise that we have gone as far as we can. Best to be dissolved as a Synod. She is confident that people trust the House of Bishops – though some of the people around me find that amusing.

Rebecca Swire (a deacon – the one woman minister who voted against last November) doesn’t find that any of the options or amendments are quite right. But we have the vision to find an outcome, and this is possible.

Paula Gooder speaks – she was pictured in the press in tears after the November debate. ‘We must never dothat to each other again’. This way of doing things is a new way forward. What we are doing is puting boxes in place, with nothing official yet to put in them. Let’s be good to each other.

BIshop of Rochester says we will be able to set up the Broadbent process by voting for Option one as amended.  Let’s vote with conviction.

And we’re about to vote…oops – no we’re not. Bishop Nigel to reply. He reminds us that Option One is not a single clause measure. It requires provision…just places that provision in a different form to the law. He has listened to all the amendments, especially the one about legal protection, which he will look at again. People also want to talk further about the five principles the Bishops established.

He was sorry to read predictions that we would fight even more. Let’s offer hope of reconciliation among ourselves and beyond ourselves. We vote…after some points of order. We’ll vote as a whole Synod – not in houses.

In favour: 319

Against: 84

Abstentions: 22

So – passed strongly. Over to the establishment of a steering committee to shape the next bit of the process.

We’ve been given 15 mins off. I’ll do the Dioceses stuff on a separate blog. Thanks for listening!

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.

July 2013 General Synod up to Monday

July 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

A look at the Synod Agenda this time reveals that today, Monday, has two major and contentious items: Women Bishops and a proposed reorganisation of dioceses in Yorkshire. I’ll be blogging them live , if you like that kind of thing.

But we’ve done quite a lot already. Most of Saturday was taken up with preparation for the Women Bishops debate. We had recognised that different groupings in the Church of England, and different views on women in ministry, were unlikely to agree on a way forward based on legislation and ‘parliamentary’ debating alone. So a ‘reconciliation’ process was set up, and ‘facilitated conversations’ took place earlier this year among the different groups and organisations, and reported to the House of Bishops.

Synod did the same kind of thing on Saturday. Small groups, each with an external facilitator, were helped to speak openly about the issues andtheir impact, and to comment on the possible ways forward the House of Bishops had proposed. Each group reported back to Canon David Porter (based at Coventry Cathedral’s Centre for Reconciliation), and he fed back to the Synod.

Part of this process involved drama, with professional actors playing out a scene in the ‘Synod Big Brother House’, trying to find a solution to the problem of women bishops. At any point members of the ‘audience’ could insert themselves into the scene and try to influence the action. The whole process has unlike anything I’ve experienced at Synod before. Reports from the groups were varied, but the general feel was that it had been hugely valuable. Lots of people said that the process (from 9 – 5) was not long enough, which was a testimony in itself.

What else have we done? Synod gets going with Questions, some of which flagged up people’s problems with a report issued by the Faith and Order Commission about Marriage. Many other questions are about detailed matters, some of which then emerge in later Synod debates.

On Saturday evening the Archbishops’ Council reported on the state of play on its three themes for the period 2010 – 2015: contibuting to the common good; growing the church; transforning ministry. Synod affirmed the progress made, but added a call to the House of Bishops to report in 2 years with a strategy for evangelism as well.

On Sunday afternoon we went into serious legislative detail. We approved changed to the way the Faculty system will work (the church’s ‘planning permission’) – essentially making the process less administratively complex and speeding it up where possible. And we tweaked a number of bits of law which wil help the church and PCC’s do their work. Some of that was legal housekeeping, but that’s what Synod does, and good laws help us all.

Later in the afternoon we considered Safeguarding, in the light of a recent investigation into the Diocese of Chichester. It was a sombre session, preceded by a statement from survivors of abuse. We agreed to redouble our efforts, systems and processes to ensure that churches were safe for all, and to review those processes and laws to enable dioceses and parishes to act openly, pastorally and justly for all. We’ll hear more oabout specific changes nationally to safeguarding requirements.

In the evening we considered what the church’s response should be to the huge changes made to welfare reform in this nation. Our final motion was strengthened in the debate to include a ‘bias to the poor’ and a reference to the difficulties in a system of universal benefit. We agreed to strengthen both the work of the grass roots and those wrking with politicians and the state to ensure fair treatement of the vulnerable. Our debate was not party political, and seemed to me to be an excellent example of how to reflect and act in a complex world.

So let’s see what we can do with women bishops now…

Women Bishops – After Tuesday

November 21, 2012 § 29 Comments

I’ll make this personal. I get pre-Synod depression. A day or so before a group of sessions I would rather I was not going. This is mainly because I’ve left it too late to sort out all the other stuff before leaving for London or York. It was no different on Sunday. In the middle of it I started to wonder what I would do if the vote went against women bishops this time. Resignation from the Synod and concentration on the day job seemed the best option.

It’s early on Wednesday morning as I type. After the vote last night I didn’t talk to too many people, and only looked at social media a bit. We will all need to help each other this morning. But here’s where I am.

I have an Associate Vicar and two curates. All women. I am Rural Dean of Beverley, which has a majority of female incumbents and retired clergy. It is only a tiny minority of clergy who will become a bishop…and they need their head examining if they aspire to be one. I’ve worked in a bishop’s office. You don’t want to be one. But this vote pats ordained women on the head and says ‘there there. You’re good for some stuff and not others. Leave it to the men.’ I will affirm, and help, and pray, and mentor and serve and everything else. But, for some years to come there are places I can go that my female colleagues can’t, and that is very bad, and I can’t say any more. Feelings are feelings, but God I feel awful.

Archbishop Rowan said in the debate that if conscience demanded a ‘no’ vote then so be it. The measure was about how different consciences might be accommodated in the same church. I tweeted during the afternoon yesterday that the vote might be swung by people who were for women bishops but who didn’t feel the Measure helped those against. At least two people made such speeches. Well, anyone who voted that way bears a heavy responsibility.

Time after time yesterday bishops said that even if the ‘provisions’ were flawed they would and could be made to work. It is hard to see how a ‘no’ vote works in any shape or form, and those who voted ‘no’ even though they wanted ‘yes’ better have a fabulous solution to hand. Our votes will be made public. I look forward to hearing people’s justification – especially the laity who did not declare their allegiances when they were elected, and especially from those who were ‘for’ yet voted ‘no’. Expect the laity elections in 2015 to be hotly contested. We sleepwalked into this.

I tweeted yesterday that the great majority in the chamber would vote yes – it turned out to be 72%. Yet the speech count was 50-50. That was a superb example of the majority caring for the minority (I called it ‘grace in action’), and Archbishop Sentamu’s chairmanship was exemplary. But I wonder whether it made the ‘no’ arguments weightier for the waverers. There’s probably no other way to do it, but can you have too much balance?

What now? I can’t see much beyond this morning, but…

I’m not going to go on about the procedures and the numbers. I was one of the clergy who voted down ‘coordinate jurisdiction’ two years ago even though a majority was in favour. That’s how it works, and we all knew that the house of laity would be the key.

Many ‘traditionalists’ will be as devastated as me. There is no pleasure in this. But now the ball is in their court. Synod has listened and said: ‘Go on then. You had a point. Give us a solution that will work for the 72% who wanted this’. In doing so they must remember that every option they offered before was tried and found wanting. They need to tell us loud and clear what will really work for us, and tell us that it starts with trust not law. They need to recognise this morning’s devastation, put themselves in our shoes, and talk about what we need, not just about what they need. Synod has ‘preferred’ them. They now need to ‘prefer’ us.

Those who were ‘for’ but voted ‘no’ need urgently to tell us how the church is better for this, and what solutions they will offer. Synod has given them a key platform. They should use it well.

Those for women bishops will be tempted to say: ‘Stuff this. We tried like stink to accommodate traditionalists and look what happened. Let’s just go for a ‘single clause measure’. It is so attractive now to make no provision for those who cannot accept women’s ministry. I’m tempted myself. But… I’m still convinced that provision needs to be made. We who are shattered this morning must not lash out, but take counsel, be restored, regroup, work to make it better. And the majority in the church want it to be better together. That’s what we voted for.

I said this was personal. Last night I agreed with my pre-Synod self. Resignation from the Synod was an overwhelming option. This morning it remains, but there are other considerations. Diocesan bishops can’t resign from Synod, and they need support. More deeply there is this. As a student many of my friends found the option of forming a brand new church attractive, because the established ones weren’t getting it right. I experienced a strong call then to stay, and to ‘renew the institution’. I’ll have to ponder, and see whether staying on Synod is a good way to do this.

It might be that just getting my parish and deanery ministry right is the best way to make the Church of England work, since Synod has so comprehensively fouled things up. But feeling this bad about what has happened is beginning to fuel a determination not to feel this bad again, and to do everything I can to make it right as quickly as possible. Some people need to commit themselves now to the hard yards of prayer and committee work to come up with something better. I’m not clever enough to make any real difference. But I feel so bad this morning that a lot of me wants to make the commitment to support the people who are cleverer than me and who can do it – and to do that from the inside.

After Tuesday comes Wednesday. Devastation. Solidarity. Hope. A better future. We need each other. I think I’m staying.

Sorry. Thank you for listening.

PS: I spent June in Israel. There is bigger stuff going on in the world I know.

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.


General Synod November 2012 – Monday

November 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

Hello to readers old and new. I don’t promise to report absolutely everything – there’s a comprehensive Twitter stream  – #synod – and an audio feed too. But I hope that what I do blog is of help…

Of course, it will be tomorrow which sees us in the spotlight. After Communion at 9.15 we will debate the Women Bishops Measure all day. You can feel that atmosphere already begin to cackle. It’s a bit like the quiet music played through a massive PA rig at a rock gig before the headline act comes on…you know where getting ready for something.

Every conversation I’ve had has been along the lines of ‘what do you think will happen?’ ‘I don’t know’. I’m not sure that the debate will change many minds…but if only three or four people do decide say to abstain, then that could swing it.

Today we have begun as usual by discussing our agenda, and we are now hearing about the meeting in New Zealand of the Anglican Consultative Council – one of the ways the Anglican Communion holds together. It’s always hard to convey the importance of a meeting which most of us haven’t been to, but ACC works pretty well and does affect what we do as anglicans across the world with environment, social policy, refugees and so on.

We’re about to move on to a debate on the Anglican Covenant – which most dioceses here voted against. I’m not sure I’ll be in for that debate…apologies. If  it lights your candle than other blogs are available. If there is news from the tea room I’ll let you know.



Before the House of Bishops

September 8, 2012 § 2 Comments

The House of Bishops meets this week to talk about the women bishops legislation. Last time they did this they made an amendment which was contentious when they thought it wouldn’t be, and the Synod invited them to think again.

This time there has been a huge degree of transparency, with options published in a paper, and responses invited from anyone who cared to write in.

I have a view, and contributed it as invited, but rather than publicly adding it to the overburdened and overloaded thoughts and prayers of the House of Bishops, I want to take a step back. I want to anticipate what I will do with what they decide, whatever it is.

It seems to me that the wording of clause 5 (which is what this debate has become focussed upon) cannot ever contain the different ways in which our practice will develop in the future.

So last night I asked myself a couple of questions. In November do I want to be part of a Church of England which fails to pass legislation enabling the consecration of women bishops? No, I do not.

Do I believe that the Church of England, if it does pass that legislation, can develop the means to enact it so that those with different views on the matter can work together in mission? Yes, I do.

That means that, as far as I can tell at the moment, I will accept what the Bishops bring to the Synod, and vote for the legislation as they present it – whatever option they give us. I will do this because I think it is within the capabilities of the Church of England to work out its practice with grace and generosity. I will do this because I think people of good will, on both sides of the debate, can and will determine to make it work. I will do this because I believe that there is nothing in what is or is likely to be proposed which can prevent that, if we are determined to make it happen.

The legislation has more than one clause. That is because there are people in the Church of England who cannot, in all conscience, accept the ministry of a woman as priest or bishop. I sat next to such a person for seven years in York Minster, and he is now to be Bishop of Beverley. The reason I am thrilled about Glyn’s appointment is that he holds those views with deep integrity and great grace, and aims to work for rather than against people. He is the embodiment of why I think that, with such grace, we can make this work.

The tweaking of clause 5 will not make views against the ordination of women disappear. What will mitigate the effect of our differences is not a perfect wording, because I don’t think that such a thing exists. What will save us is a determination to work this out with best practice, accepting each other’s differences even if we think they have no logical or theological validity. That, it seems to me, is the practice of the Church of England, and what makes us the denomination I love.

So, I’m determined – at the moment – to accept what the Bishops bring.  There are, of course, some options which I think will help us more than others. After all the consultation, they should be able to see that. They have hard work to do, and they will be prayed for. But, after votes in Synod and Parliament, the real hard work will begin. And I believe we have what it will take for that work to succeed.

Israel and Palestine

July 10, 2012 § 4 Comments

You might have seen reports of another debate at Synod yesterday. We talked about Israel and Palestine, using a motion which asked us to affirm the work of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel– EAPPI (and said other things too – the motion is at the end of this post).

Synod members received a lot of pressure from Jews in this country to remove the reference to EAPPI, which was regarded by many as anti-Israel. I received the first such email an hour after returning to Jerusalem from a visit to Hebron, where we had been shown round by EAPPI. EAPPI monitors and observes the treatment of Palestinians by the State of Israel, and Hebron is a key flashpoint.

Israeli Graffiti in Hebron

Because of the lobby the Bishop of Manchester asked us to remove the specific reference to EAPPI – he chairs the Council of Christians and Jews, and was concerned about Christian Jewish relations in this country. The Bishop of Durham and, after a fashion, the Archbishop of Canterbury said the same, but Synod voted to keep the motion as it was.

I spent June inIsrael. The wisest advice I received was not to blog, or give great pronouncements about things, because life is indeed complicated, so I kept quiet to allow thoughts to emerge. It seemed right to speak in the debate though, mainly because the Irsaeli Jews we met were desperate for their State to act justly, and because the Palestinians we met (Christian and Muslim) all asked for their story to be told.

In my speech I looked for balance – so I referred to the increased security which the separation barrier has offered, as well as the fractured land it contributes to. But in the end I was convinced that the naming of an organisation trained by Quakers and part of the World Council of Churches was no threat to relations between Christians and Jews, and no threat to the State of Israel. Where conduct is right, scrutiny is welcome. Here’s the speech:

 Mr Chairman, I hope that you, and members of the Synod, will have the chance one day to visit the Ecumenical Institute at Tantur, inJerusalem. If you do so in June, and sit at the time of the evening breeze, as the sun goes down from a cloudless sky, your thoughts might turn, as did ours, to the subject of Gin and Tonic.

 This is indeed available. Mr Awwad’s store has it, and from Tantur is about the same distance as is Tescos from my Vicarage in Beverley. The difference is that to get to Awwad’s you must go through the Separation Barrier. Three weeks ago I wondered whether it was  worth the bother of finding which turnstile was working, the experience of the caged walkway, whether it was worth the humiliation of waving my passport at an armed soldier just to get the Bombay Sapphire.

I confess now to how flippant and stupid a thought this was. For the people in theWest Bank life  is difficult, demeaning, and occasionally life threatening. We heard about and understood the Wall’s effectiveness in increasing security and reducing the killing and wounding of the innocent. But we were also affected by the treatment of those who have to use the checkpoints each day – some of them in front of us in the queue. And we looked each day at olive groves whose owners could not tend them because the Wall divided them. Security? – may be. Land grabbing? Well, it’s perceived that way too.

In our month in Israel we heard from many people. Here are three observations, one from a Palestinian, two from Israelis committed to their State. Machsom Watch is made up of Israeli women  many of grandmotherly age. ‘Machsom’ means checkpoint, and there they observe the conduct of the Israeli army and border forces. Many soldiers are in their late teens, and you’d be careful if  you knew your granny was watching. Our lady said that she says to the soldiers  ‘you should be pleased I’m here. It’s a sign that I know you will do your job right.’ She reminds them of the boast that the Israeli Defence Force is the most humane army in the world, and holds them to it. Scrutiny should be welcome where conduct is right.

 An academic who advises the Israeli military told us that the fact that the Palestinian Question seems to be off the world’s agenda is regarded as a foreign policy win byIsrael. That this motion has generated the response it has is perhaps a success in itself. There is manifest unfairness and injustice – maybe on both sides, though I think the Palestinians get off worse – and our concentration on it may lead to justice being done.

Father Ibrahim Mairouz is the Anglican priest in Nablus. As the holder of a Jordanian Passport and a Palestinian ID he is regularly prevented from travelling to Jerusalem to Diocesan meetings. It is he who convenes the monthly gathering of Nablus’s Imams. There is a mosque on land given by the church. He said to us: ‘we must build bridges, not walls’.

I support any motion which will keep the situation inIsrael and Palestine at the forefront of our thoughts and prayers. It may well be that we will do this best by using the Bishop of Manchester’s amendment, since undue attention to one organisation might deflect us from the wider goal.

But let me testify that the five hours we spent with the EAPPI team in Hebron were unforgettable. Of course the EAs are not impartial: their reason for being there is a request from one side, not both. But they simply record, and they do speak to settlers and soldiers as well as Palestinians. Their introduction of the situation in Hebronwas clear, calm and as far away from propaganda as you could imagine. I will invite returned EA’s to my church, and I will invite faithful Israelis to do the same. The situation demands bridges, not walls.

On the day I left Israel 2 Israeli solders were filmed hitting a nine year old boy on the streets in Hebronwhere we had been ten days before. You can see it on the B’Tselem website. And on the very same day an opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post said this: “there should be a common awareness that [each nationality has] been destined to coexist side by side in the same country. And since that is the reality, there should be a concerted attempt by everyone involved or affected to transform this situation into one that is truly beneficial to both peoples – Jews and Arabs”

I’ll go with the Jerusalem Post, and I will vote with all my heart for a motion that encourages us, and the wider world, to ensure that in the land we call Holy there is justice, security, honour, and, for all Shalom/Salaam. 22. ‘That this Synod affirm its support for:

(a) the vital work of the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme inPalestine and Israel(EAPPI), encouraging parishioners to volunteer for the programme and asking churches and synods to make use of the experience of returning participants;

(b) mission and other aid agencies working amongst Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and elsewhere in the region;

(c) Israelis and Palestinians in all organisations working for justice and peace in the area, such as the Parents Circle– Families Forum;


(d) Palestinian Christians and organisations that work to ensure their continuing presence in the Holy Land.’

Women Bishops – After the Adjournment

July 10, 2012 § 9 Comments

So…we adjourned. I voted to do so, because the antis would vote against final approval anyway, and many of those for women bishops would have done so as well. There were some powerful speeches about how the Bishops’ amendment was perceived, and about its unintended consequences.

I’ve said before that I don’t think the amendment in itself deserved all the opprobrium it received (because the ‘theological convictions’ it speaks of are referred to elsewhere in the measure – Paras 2 (4) and 3 (1) and (3), and are there on the ground – that’s why there’s a second clause at all); but the wording, and the manner of its communication (remember the press release?) unleashed all sorts of pent up anger. Best then to release the steam, and, after it’s gone, see how the landscape has changed.

So, what now? The House of Bishops will meet again in September. Anyone with an interest will be letting their Bishop know what they think. Some Bishops will be convening groups to get their views. The key players in the process should be the Steering Committee – the General Synod appointed group who have been doing the ‘hard yards’ with the detail of the legislation. All the way along the Steering Committee has subjected the wording of the legislation to a kind of ‘destruction testing’ – like those machines in IKEA which mimic someone sitting on a chair 50,000 times. If a wording was not tested successfully it didn’t get in.

This is crucial. The things which have caused bother are those proposals which haven’t been properly tested. ‘Coordinate Jurisdiction’ was suggested by the Archbishops, and (just) failed. I’m glad it did – if the ‘theological objections’ clause caused such a bother, what would people have done with a law which allowed a women bishop to be by-passed all together? The Steering Committee could not recommend it, and that convinced me to vote against in 2010. Similarly the ‘theological convictions’ wording came at a late stage (four days before the House of Bishops Meeting, I think), without time for it to be tested out. The Steering Committee could not recommend it, but the House (we gather narrowly) passed it.

[The same was true, of course, about the other amendment made by the Bishops, the one about ‘delegation’. But this had been aired pretty well in February, and was not found wanting.  There is a view that if the Bishops had voted on this one before the amendment about ‘theological conviction’ then many would have felt that enough had been done to help opponents. But ‘delegation’ was in Clause 8, and ‘theological conviction’ in clause 5. Numeracy is our enemy.]

Lots of people will now be suggesting wordings which might work. Simple withdrawal probably won’t do. The antis saw the wording as a help to them, and would regard its complete removal as a snub. Those who hated the inclusion of ‘theological objections’ were gracious in saying that they could see what the Bishops were trying to do, and will presumably want to help the Bishops to offer enough to the antis without enshrining what is perceived as a kind of theological misogyny in the law of the land.

There is no statutory process for how to do this. The Archbishop of York referred to ‘the usual channels’. I’m not one for prescribing – but here goes. The Steering Committee must be allowed to be proactive in seeking and generating forms of words for a revised Clause 5 (1) (c). The Steering Committee must then be allowed to test these out with properly representative groupings. I, for one, was affected by the letter from ‘Senior Women’, and the views of this group, as well as the Catholic Group, FiF, WATCH and the others must be sought before the Bishops meet, not after. The Steering Committee will be there when the Bishops meet. With the widest range of evidence at its disposal it should be a key resource as the Bishops deliberate. We have had one experience of an unexpected reaction to a well meant form of words.  There is no time for another.

PS: the ‘variable’ in all this is how the antis will vote at Final Approval. If you cannot accept women bishops then even adequate provision for you to remain in the C of E could not enable you to vote for the Measure. But, with adequate provision generously offered, could you abstain?

Women Bishops – Live

July 9, 2012 § 3 Comments

Good morning all. We are just about to start our debate on Women Bishops.

You will know that the smart money is on the debate being adjourned so that the amendment made by the House of Bishops can be rethought, but it’s not a foregone conclusion.

The Bishop of Manchester is about to move the main motion. We will then immediately debate whether to adjourn, and the Chair (the Archbishop of York) has said we’ll debate the adjournment for a good half of this morning. If we don’t adjourn thn we debate the main motion (and the feel is that if we do it may well be lost).

Off we go… « Read the rest of this entry »

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