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 »

Women Bishops – to adjourn?

July 8, 2012 § 6 Comments

I’m away from Synod until Monday morning, so can’t indicate an intention to speak. Here’s a thought or two.

My first reaction to the House of Bishops’ amendments was that they seemed to have listened carefully to what was said in February. Those who are protesting that they made amendments at all forget that we spent three hours at the last Synod telling them that they could and might. We didn’t vote to tell them to leave absolutely alone, but invited some changes, as long as they weren’t ‘substantial’.

I didn’t respond badly to the inclusion of the phrase ‘theological convictions’ in the Measure, and didn’t think this was a ‘substantial’ change. Since 2009 we’ve been working on the second of the clauses in the Measure, which is there precisely because of these ‘convictions’. It seemed to me to be helpful to make it clear that the Code of Practice in each diocese would have to deal with this. After all, for eighteen years parishes have been asking, and for eighteen years Diocesan Bishops have had to make arrangements for them. I didn’t think that this amendment changed anything.

I still think the same. « Read the rest of this entry »

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