General Synod – *That* Debate

July 14, 2014 § 8 Comments

Hello all. I’ve blogged Synod for some time now, and some of you have been nice about it, so here’s my take on our business today. I hope it’s the last time I have to report on a debate about Women Bishops.

We have been meeting since Friday actually. It has been very hot, and we’ve slogged through some very detailed housekeeping, tidying up how we are elected and how we are organised. We’ve looked outwards too, engaging in a variety of ways about how we serve the Common Good, and how we welcome people for Baptism in a way which will assist in their continuing discipleship.

At the moment we are debating the Armed Forces Covenant – how we support those who are in, or used to be in, the forces, with all that they face. There have been some powerful speeches about how churches have served such people well, or badly. We will commit ourselves to detailed support – whether we support the principle of war or not.

And soon we will start the debate on Women Bishops. The vote will be later this afternoon.

11.06. For what it’s worth…there is a cautious belief that the numbers will be positive and the legislation will pass. But you just never know. I can’t imagine that there are any who are still vacillating on the principle (as there still were in 1992 when it was about priesthood). But there may be some who need to be convinced that those for and against can be guaranteed that they will mutually flourish. That was the bother in November 2012: some people in favour didn’t think that provision for those against was adequate. The feeling is that those people are satisfied.

Much will depend on what those who are conscientiously opposed say in the debate. Perhaps some will say that they can abstain rather than vote against. But that will be for them to say, and not for us to ask.

11.30. The Bishop of Rochester has opened the debate, and spoken carefully and warmly. He, and the Archbishop of York who is chairing, have both said that there is little new to introduce, though Bishop James drew our attention to the promise of the House of Bishops to consider carefully how Bishops who are opposed to women bishops will be consecrated. (GS Misc 1079).

Paula Gooder, a member of the Steering Committee, says that she’s been involved in this since her daughter was in nappies, and that daughter is about to go to secondary school. She reminds us what law can and cannot do, and calls us to the reconciliation and trust which being part of the ‘new creation’ of 2 Corinthians 5 actually means. The challenge will be to live out the life of reconciliation.

The Chair of the House of Laity, Philip Giddings, has made a speech which is moving towards cautiously accepting the package, whilst leaving all the objections in place. He’s just said he will vote in favour. This is significant, as his speech in 2012 was against that legislation.

11.42. The Bishop of Ely recalls us to the 5 guiding principles which the House of Bishops has committed itself to, and has offered to the church. Though this measure might cause a ‘rent’ in the house of the church, we can still be one body as we commit ourselves to each other. ‘We can make this work, we must make this work, and we shall make this work’.

Tom Sutcliffe, a distinctive member of the House of Laity (and who sometimes appears at my 8.00 service…) reminds us that the two world cup finalists, and the hosts, are ruled by women. He was another who is pro women bishops but voted against in November 2012, and now believes that this package enables the church to move forward. He looks to the day when women in all forms of ministry will be an ‘unremarkable normality’.

The Bishop of Burnley is speaking, and looking for ‘unity in diversity’ (a phrase from John Macquarrie). He is conscientiously opposed. He fully accepts those who will vote yes, and wants to walk with them. He asks for the same generosity. He will vote ‘no’ in ‘obedience to God in conscience’ (a phrase from Archbishop Rowan) He confidently expects the measure to pass, and looks forward to making things work, building on trust. In a really powerful moment he apologises if he has ever diminished someone with whom he disagrees.

Jane Patterson says she is a conservative evangelical, taking the ‘complementarian’ view of headship. She says she will vote against, and notes that no ‘complementarian’ bishop has yet been appointed. She says that, had one been appointed, she might have been able to abstain. As a Member of the Crown Nominations Commission she knows what she’s talking about. Dioceses state what they want on this – and most say that though it would be good to have a complementarian bishop, it’s not for them. She believes though that she can contine in this church, and will do so.

Andrew Godsall, a cleric from Exeter, used to work for the BBC, and reflects that the BBC was more Christian than the church into which he was ordained. He learned a teamwork there which he didn’t find in the church, and sees in the processes in this package an opportunity to connect the Good Book with the Good Life. This will be a great witness to the nation.

12.10 Julian Henderson, the Bishop of Blackburn, was in the House of Clergy last time, and voted against, though he was in favour of the principle. He will vote enthusiastically in favour now, because of the 5 principles. He sites the passage in Joshua where 2 and a half tribes across the Jordan build an altar – to the anger of the other tribes – clarify that they did it to ensure that future generations on the other side of the Jordan will know that they are faithful Jews. The five principles are like that altar, and will enable our diversity to enable the Common Good within our church.

Emma Ineson, Principal of Trinity College Bristol, speaks of 10 women under 30, as 10 good reasons to pass this legislation. If we do so, we will tell them, and many others, that they have a complete place in this church. They might not become Bishops, but it is vital that they are not prevented from doing so.

David Banting now to speak – a conservative evangelical (and a difficult man to dislodge when he’s batting and you’re bowling). He speaks of ‘when’ final approval is given, and affirms the level of understanding in his own diocese. He asks that the conservative position be ‘understood’, and wants differences of gender to be made visible, not removed. To remove differences of gender is to make the ministry a job, not a calling, he says. (I don’t quite get that myself, but I’m listening carefully).

Prudence Dailey, a lay woman from Oxford, says that she voted against in 2012 – in principle – and now intends to abstain, as she has no desire to block a settlement which she thinks will now work, even if she is in principle opposed. (This is big news – Prudence is very visible, a Prayer Book anglican, and I like her greatly). She recalls the vitriol directed at those who voted against in 2012, and suggests that those who voted against in 2012 have enabled a better thing to happen. But all this should mean that we move forward together. Warm applause. I’d love to give her a hug, but she doesn’t know me from Adam!!

12.25 Annette Cooper, an Archdeacon in the Chelmsford Diocese (and an old chum from Southwell days) talks of this package enabling healing from the hurts of two years ago. ‘There is so much we can teach the world as we live out this commitment [to each other]’. She speaks of the ‘projections we have loaded onto those with whom we disagree’, and says that we are now listening to each other.

(Authorial interjection: two years ago we had speeches which alternated ‘for and against’, with no great evidence of listening and commitment to each other for the future. Practically every speech so far has assumed this will get through, and what we are about is living together well in the future. It feels a whole lot better).

Adrian Vincent, a lay person from Guildford, says he voted against last time. He represents a diocese many of whom are for women bishops, though is is not. He can just about support this package, but is against the principle in conscience. Nevertheless, he will now vote in favour, because it will benefit the church more to do so than to vote against, aware that in doing so he is going against his own beliefs, and the beliefs of the people who identified with him. (this is a profound thing – a person against in conscience who will now vote for. The 5 principles are what it’s now about).

Christina Rees, who has done so much for women in teh church, is nearly in tears as she speaks of her surprise at what Adrian Vincent said – that for the sake of the church he will make a sacrifical decision.

(And I am crying as I type. Something amazing is happening here).

David Houlding, who, from an opposite position from Christina, and with her, aslso done so much to get us here, speaks of his hopes for our future working and flourishing. He notes that this trust will need to extend to our ecumenical relationships, which will be affected and changed by this.

Rosie Harper has spoken of the effect this will have on the position of women around the world – by affirming women in our church we will speak eloquently to places where women are attacked and denigrated.

(The Archbishop of York began the debate by saying he would rule out of order anyone who indulged in ‘tedious repetition’ of their own or others speeches. It is a testament to this debate that he has not had to do so)

Elaine Storkey reflects that the vote in 2012 might have been a work of the Holy Spirit. The atmosphere and culture now is different – a greater sense of optimism, and the opportunity for the release of further gifts of the Spirit, especially love.

Keith Malcouronne, a lay member from Guildford, voted against in 2012, and will vote in favour now. He testifies to the effect of how our committed speaking together has led to a much better package.

It is now obvious that a good number of people intend to change their vote from 2012. The atmosphere is positive and forward looking. In 2012 I wrote that the ‘drift’ of the debate was moving towards the failure of the legislation. Sniffing the wind today leads me to suggest that it’s all very different.

We’re about to move to lunch, after a time of prayer. May the afternoon debate be as profound, and hopeful.

After Lunch…

We have resumed. The Archbishop of York says that, of the 85 people who have indicated a wish to speak, 24 have done so. He congratulates them for not repeating anything, and hopes this will continue. He asks people to stand if they still wish to speak, and a good number have done so.

Jane Charman, an ordained member of the Steering Committee, invites us to see our future like a ‘bring and share’ lunch, where people bring all sorts to the table, either great are small, and all share.

Cherry Vann, an Archdeacon in the Manchester Diocese and Prolocutor of the Convocation of York, talks about how this might work, including a commitment to having different traditions on the long list of senior posts, and the requirement to enable people in the dioceses the quality and quantity of time to think through these things as we have done. Let us show how we can do ‘good disagreement’ intentionally.

Rod Thomas is now speaking. He leads the conservative evangelical group ‘Reform’, and was on the Steering Committee. He won’t be able to vote in favour, but affirms the process thus far, and how it will play out. He will do his part in encouraging his kind of parishes to play their full part in diocesan life, and recognises that there may be difficulties to come – eg in people taking the oath of canonical obedience to a Bishop whom they cannot recognise.

Lorna Ashworth, a lay person from Chichester. She’s opposed to women bishops, and though there is hope in the tone of the debate there is still vulnerability for those who are opposed in some of the language and arguments used. She is not confident in the use of words like ‘flourishing’ and ‘trust’, and will vote against, though she trusts and hopes in God.

Philip Rice, a London layman, voted no in 2012, and said it felt like a funeral. It does not do so now. There is such hope in flourishing evangelical churches in London, which are now appointing female leaders, that he will change his vote and vote yes.

The Revd Janet Appleby, from Newcastle, played a key part in trying to make the last process work, but feels this is so much better. As an ecumenist she feels this model would be good to offer to other churches. The 5 principles will help us in our relationships with other churches, as well as internally. She also invites people to abstain if they are at all conflicted. The voting is very close, she feels.

Chik Kaw Tan has three reasons to vote against. 1: theological – he has not heard a convincing theological argument for. 2: the arguments for women bishops are based not on theology but cultural mores. 3: the same arguments for women bishops could be used for same sex marriage. We are above all a people of the book. He will stand by his faithfulness to that teaching, and will vote against.

Sam Margrave feels like he has been in a slick show, where people’s words in speeches don’t relate to the pressures they are under ‘out there’. He feels this is ‘the end of the church of we know it’. ‘Let the Spirit move and vote with your conscience’.

3.00 I can only see around 12 people standing…

Revd Jennifer Tomlinson says that we have got here because of scripture, not despite it, and recalls the key roles of women through the Bible breaking moulds and countering cultures (my words, not here!). She ends with the words that ‘in Christ there is neither male nor female’.

Canon Robert Cotton from Guildford is a member of Archbishops’ Council, and of the Steering Committee. He was struck by a facilitator who said that it was the ‘tone’ of an encounter which reveals ‘latent value’, and he felt there was a great tone. Recognising difference is an opportunity to dignify the other.

Sarah Finch, a London lay woman, will vote against, to continue to register that there are different theological understandings. She believes in complementarity. She thanks the Steering Committee and the House of Bishops – and looks forward to more than one Bishop being appointed who holds complementarian views. ‘We will do our best to cooperate, thankful that we have the opportunity to continue flourishing in the Church of England’.

Clare Herbert, a London clergywoman, speaks in support of the legislation. She was a Vicar in Soho for a while. There was much life, but she was surrounded by images of women as objects, to be desired, then abused. She worked closely with prostitutes, and understood that their self image was enabled by some philosophies and cultures. By what we do as church we send out signs which affect others. We need to loosen our ties to philosophies which enable the subservience of women.

3.20 Gerald O’Brien, a Rochester Layman, addresses the Bishops present, concerning the House of Bishops Regulations. He asks what evidence there is to believe that the House will act. He repeats the demand for a ‘headship’ evangelical, and the lack of one as an example of the House not acting on its words. Even if one were to be appointed it might be ‘too little too late’. Even if there were to be a dozen conservative evangelical bishops the constituency would be under represented.

Jane Bisson, from the Winchester Diocese (Channel Islands, I think), returns to Jesus not appointing female apostles. Women have a series of roles in ministry, but not a leadership one. She asks to be able to continue to thrive.

Philip North recalls a 1945 Labour election poster: ‘Now win the peace’, and this will be vital. The conflict has been profoundly and personally hurtful (he knows -he should have been Bishop of Whitby). He challenges Sam Margrave about his interpretation of the debate this morning, but acknowledges that it will be difficult to translate the quality of our interaction to the local level. We need to change the dialogue – away from ‘internal hermeneutic to external apologetic’. He asks us to ‘win the peace’ – though he does not tell us which way he will vote.

Sally Muggeridge, a Canterbury Lay woman recalls the great gatherings we have ‘together’ and looks for more. She brings a message from Archbishop Tutu, hoping that we will vote in favour. ‘You are in for a great surprise and a great treat…God be praised. Yippee’!

The Archbishop notes that new people are standing, and asks for people to restrain themselves.

Revd Angus Macleay asks how the culture of the 5 principles will act out, how people’s consciences will be acknowledge, how scripture will be applied…and something else which I didn’t catch! But can we join together to preach Christ crucified? He doesn’t say which way he will vote, but I don’t think it will be yes.

Susie Leafe, a Truro laywoman, is a member of Reform – anti women bishops, speaks of her experiences of the facilitated conversations. She was told she was wrong by one of the facilitators. When she joined a conversation the document had already been written and this was about editing. Now she is told not to complain. ‘Is this a taste of flourishing?’ We need a united passion to preach Christ. Again I don’t think she’ll be voting yes.

Judith Ayers, from Torquay, teaches in a Girls School. The one thing her girls can’t be is a bishop. There should be no place for inequality in the church. It is time to vote ‘yes’.

David Ashton a layman from Wakefield, has been on Synod since 1973, and says this is the best debate he has ever heard. Congratulations, and he will vote yes.

Fr Thomas Seville, from the Religious Communities says that trust will mean us doing things we can’t just imagine. A female Archdeacon will appoint a headship evangelical. A ‘headship’ Bishop will appoint a woman vicar. Let us not slide back into a situation where ‘trust me’ means ‘agree with me’. In ecumenical terms it will mean Methodists rejoice. It will mean orthodox and roman catholics will be sad.

Revd Hugh Lee (Oxford) thanks the Steering Committee, and hopes that something like it can continue – to complement the work of the Independent Reviewer.

Richard Burridge talks about labels – ‘complementarian’ and ‘headship evangelical’ He notes that ‘multiple meaning holds the key’. And labels don’t help.

Graham Parr, a layman from Chichester, proposed the motion at Chichester Diocesan Synod, which had voted against. What changed was the tone – it was less bad temepered. Trust in our clergy leaders has been transformed. And the majority has a real responsibility to the minority. He will vote in favour, and hopes we will be surprised how this can liberate us all.

Hannah Cleugh, Chaplain of my old college in Durham, notes that in Scotland there was not a Movement for the Ordination of Women, but a campaign for a whole ministry, and this is a good model to follow. Let’s seek healing and enable wholeness, to bring the medicine of the gospel to a wounded world. Support this measure.

Mary Durlacher, a lay woman from Chelmsford, says that today is the first day to put the 5 principles to the test. She will vote against so that people know that there are those who can’t accept this and who will remain in the church. Please, Bishops, give us a sign by appointing a conservative evangelical bishop, or rethink episcopacy.

Revd Gavin Collins from Porstmouth asks whether the provision is enough for evangelicals. There is a theology of taint – in that not one of us is untainted. The college of Bishops needs to reflect breadth and variety. And evangelicals need to listen to Scripture that all may be one. He will vote in favour.

Jacon Vince worries bout those future clergy who might have been able to offer themselves to the ministry under the Act of Synod, but will not be able to now. He will vote against.

Three last speeches, I think.

The Bishop of Chichester remembers the celebration of 20 years of women priests in St Pauls, and a gathering at the Sepulchre in Jerusalem between the Pope and Patriarch Bartholomew – where in front of the empty tomb all our differences fade away (my words). Within the traditionalist catholic wing we need to commit ourselves to the Jerusalem vision. We should offer our own riches to a tradition which we hope will now be enriched. (though he doesn’t say how he will vote).

Archbishop of Canterbury: to pass this legislation will be to commit ourselves to an adventure of faith and hope. ‘It will be hard work’, and we need a fresh embrace of one another in love. This legislation allows us all to move forwards together…we must mean it, in how we now live and work together. The House of Bishops mean what we say. We must not understate the significance of what we can do now. The world needs to know that we love one another as Christ has loved us.

John Spence, an appointed member of the Archbishops Council, speaks about his blindness. When it struck he was consigned to a hopelessness about work. With faith, and support, and being adaptable, he became Managing Director of Lloyds. He discovered a new world, where disabled people are part of a rich diversity, not abandoned. This took trust. Such trust can be a feature of what we do. He speaks to people who may be opposed, and says that trust can lead to wonderful things. Today is a celebration of a ‘coalition of consciences around the risen Christ’. Fabulous. And now I am crying again.

The Bishop of Rochester is now summing up.  Then we will vote.

We normally receive votes in silence and with restraint, and we are to do so again until all the business is done.

Bishops Yes:   37          No:      2       Abs 1

Clergy Yes:   162            No:     25         Abs 4

Laity Yes:    152             No   45            Abs 5

It has passed. Crying again.

And, if you’ll forgive me, I’ll stop now. The rest is consequent legislation.

I am as thrilled as can be – especially for those who what laboured so ard and so long.

Thank you for reading. You’ve all been very nice.


Synod Feb 2014

February 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

Morning all.

Synod started yesterday. We had a moving debate yesterday about Gender Based Violence, and committed ourselves to work in every way possible against it, and a presentation about Ethical Investment. We have lots of investments, and lead the way in ensuring these are used ethically – it’s a fast changing world, and the presentation was an inspiring mix of finance and theology.

Questions included lots about where the Bishop of Bath and Wells will live. Normally it’s good for the church to divest itself of grand palaces, but the Church Commissioners’ decision to move the Bishop’s accommadation elsewhere has been very controversial. Sometimes inhabiting a prominent and grand place can be an act of mission.

Anyway, we’re now spending a day on the legislation to enable women to be bishops. It’s really complicated, and probably not very interesting…but there is the odd banana skin, and we’ll need to be careful. Here we go.

We’re debating the Declaration from the House of Bishops – how the provision for those for and against Women Bishops will work in practice. So far even those who can’t recognise a woman as a bishop are saying that this package can work.

Conservative Evangelicals have problems with women in authority, and the Bishops wrote a paragraph separating legal and sacramental authority – but didn’t include it in the Declaration. One or two speeches have asked for it to be included – or at least made available.

Otherwise no banana skins.

We’re about to vote on the Declaration, and have approved it overwhelmingly.

That was the ‘code of practice’ if you like. Now we do the legislation, clause by clause. We are revising it rather than finally approving…so it’s detail.

First clause enables women to be bishops. Lindsey Newcombe, lay chair of Forward in Faith, speaks movingly to affirm the process and to commit herself to the future of the church – and to say that, of course, she has to vote against this clause. Not to derail anything, but in all conscience.

We approve it overwhelmingly.

Now to Clause 2 – which removes the office of bishop from the Equalities Act. Simon Taylor was going to ask to amend this ‘blunt instrument’ and sharpen it, but being advised it would delay things he has withdrawn it.

We approve Clause 2 overwhelmingly.

And we’ve approved all the others, after a quick further skirmish about the Equalities Act.

Now we are looking at the Amending Canon, which makes the required changes to our Canons. We’ve also approved them overwhelmingly.
For 304, against 33, abstained 45.

Now we debate rescinding the Act of Synod (which provided the legal framework for provision for the opponents of women priests). Our new package should make it redundant.

We are reminded that the Act of Synod sounds like the law, but isn’t! Rescinding it will not make the Bishoprics of Beverley, Ebbsfleet and Richborough redundant – though it does remove the office of Provincial Episcopal Visitor.

Interestingly we have to pass an Act of Synod in order to rescind ‘The’ Act of Synod.

This is an important moment – some would say The Act of Synod kept people in the C of E. Others found it discriminatory and hurtful. Most seem to feel that the new arrangements do it better.

We have approved to rescind it…and it will be referred to the Dioceses.


General Synod Wednesday – what you’ve been waiting for.

November 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

Good morning all. We have, of course, discussed all sorts of things so far – intentional evangelism, church buildings, church schools, poverty. how we do our business better, and so on. But this is the debate people will be looking at.

I’m cheered by a few things – the irrelevant one being that Hull got the ‘City of Culture 2017’ nod this morning. If Hull can be a City of Culture, then all sorts can happen. Specifically, it looks like the stuff being offered to us today can ‘fly’ – a ‘single clause’ measure – women and men can be bishops – and a good set of provisions ‘for the whole church’, as the Bishop of Rochester told us on Monday. Our work in groups yesterday bore this out. It looks like many those who cannot conscientiously vote for this legislation will be able to abstain with honour.

You can follow the debate online – check out the C of E website, and on Twitter, so look at @CofEGenSyn.

We’re off. Most people want to speak in favour (woo hoo!), and we’ve been urged not to be repetitious. And there are no amendments proposed…even better news.

The Bishop of Rochester outlines the matter – much of what we will talk about will be about process, and he invites us to think of the ‘ombudsman’ as a model, but not to use that language. We will talk of an ‘independent reviewer’ who will be used to settle disputes between parishes and dioceses and their Bishops. He mentions one of the substantive issues: the oath of canonical obedience made by clergy and others to the diocesan bishop, and he says that the questions have been heard.

Richard Mantle speaks first – a maiden speech. He’s a Lay Guardian of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, and is a ‘catholic anglican. He intends to support the proposals (I wasn’t expecting that!) – whilst being wary of any document which promises ‘peace in our time. He speaks of the essential nature of trust, and a commitment for traditionalists to thrive. Women who are bishops must hold their office with the same jurisdication as men, and so must those male bishops who don’t ordain women. There must be commitments that such men will hold office in the House of Bishops. I’m really cheered by that – a traditionalist saying ‘we can do this’ (my words).

Simon Killwick, Chair of the Catholic Group, says how much better these proposals are – more preferable than a Code of Practice and individual diocesan arrangements. He likes the Independent Reviewer. ‘Significant improvements’, based on the clearly laid out principles which guide the process. ‘For us trust will be greatly helped if arrangements can be published for the future consecration of traditionalist bishops’. Again – a positive feel.

Rod Thomas, a conservative evangelical and leader of Reform now. He again speaks of some encouragements, but as a member of the Steering Committee he still has some problems. He’s worried about jurisdiction – it still bothers him that a delegated bishop for his constituency might be delegated by a woman (the ‘male headship’ problem), and some clarification about spiritual and temporal authority would be welcome. He will vote in favour today, even if he won’t vote in favour at final approval. He confidently expects it to go through. Warm applause.

These three speeches are a massively big deal. Three people who would be figurehead opponents who have all spoken positively. The world outside should be cheering like stink.

Christina Rees (WATCH) also positive, and pays tribute to the process. David Houlding (a traditionalist) is massively enthusiastic. We are all provided for. The ecumenical avenues are left open with the wider part of catholic christendom – part of our polity will be recognisable to the great catholic and orthodox communions, and the sacraments are preserved. ‘The battle is over. Let’s get on with the mission’. Massive applause.

Anne Martin is positive, but is worried that our consensus might be fragile. Let’s strengthen it. Bishop of Southwark: ‘if Christina Rees and David Houlding are happy, then I am happy’. In a lovely slip of the tongue he talks about ‘concentrated bishops’ rather than consecrated ones. His diocese is ‘happily fractious’ and emphasises the essence of trust. ‘Bishops will have to demonstrate that they are totally committed to this way of doing business’. In using the five principles the House of Bishops has already made its position clear.

Amanda Fairclough from Liverpool  would have preferred an even simpler Measure. but urges us not to tinker. This is fine – let’s do it. Now David Banting – a conservative evangelical, who will vote no, as he will vote no at final approval. He is confident that this measure will allow his integrity to flourish, and our new ways of working will mean this position is honoured. He had dreamed a dream of a new way of bishops being bishops. He thanks God for a new atmosphere, but stands where he stands, and feels, charitably that this is ‘inappropriate’. He worries that there will never be a ‘conservative evangelical’ bishop. He will seek to work within the church whatever the outcome will be, and hopes that a proposal to have suffragan sees shared by a number of dioceses will go forward.

Another speaker says that we should all be bound by what we do, and not chip away at it later. Paul Benfield, who abstained in the Steering Committee vote, says that he might have voted no, but did not. This package can work, and he urges us to continue with it. He will now vote for.

Anne Foreman committed herself to worship with different traditions, and found welcome and challenge in all. It convinced her that we can move forward together. Charles Read is nervous about ‘ring fencing’ a place in the College of Bishops just for someone of a conservative evangelical position (and he comes from an evangelical background). We don’t appoint bishops on the basis of one position alone. And such a bishop could change his mind!

Susie Leafe (conservative evangelical, and works for Reform) cannot support this, and cannot accept a woman as chief pastor. Even acceptable provision of another bishop would be directed by a woman. This will alienate many churches which are growing and are sending many young men into the ministry.  Jurisdiction remains a problem – it’s all about who is the ‘ordinary’ – the lead authority – for parishes who cannot accept a woman’s leadership. This question has not been on the table, and should be.  She was on the Steering Committee, and didn’t vote against, and cannot support it. She didn’t say whether she would vote against now. (JF comment: most people would vote against if this provision of different ‘ordinaries’ was offered!!)

Rachel Treweek, Archdeacon of Hackney, is strongly in favour, and is reluctant to turn up the volume on one particular aspect. But…further converstaions about the role of PCCs and Bishops and their facilitatd conversations on this issue. Keep the principles of transparency and reciprocity at the forefront of these conversations on the ground. Make sure that the whole worshipping community knows, not just the PCC – some kind of public notification would be good. And PCCs would be helped by some simple and non partisan informative material, perhaps on the C of E website. Vote Yes!!

Christine Hardman, Prolocutor of Canterbury, didn’t think the process would work. It has. It was not comfortable, but there was ‘sincere, courageous and dangerous engagement’, and this will need to continue through the church. ‘Isn’t God good?’

JF: It almost feels like we should vote now, unless there are some substantive points on the process.

Jamie Harrison (also on the Steering Committee) talks about the Independent Reviewer, reflecting his medical experience.   He guards agains the process being a fully legal one – it can be too time consuming and too expensive.  Trust the ‘joined up’ process. ‘Trust me, I know it’s going to work, I’m a Doctor’.

Elaine Storkey talks about law and grace, and her experience of the World Council of Churches discussions last month on gender and leadership. The underlying theology is of men and women together in Christ. She values the grace which has been heard so far this morning. We can ‘walk together’.

Tim Hind invites the House of Bishops to be proactive with the Independent Reviewer, rather than waiting for a conflict to arise.  Hannah Cleugh, Chaplain of Castle (Univ College Durham – huzzah), welcomes the package, which works together. It ‘holds together in tension’, in the best anglican tradition.

The Archbishop of York says that that he and ++Justin agree that there should be a conservative evangelical representation in the House of Bishops. This is difficult to quantify – as con evos disagree on headship (my words not his!). He will get him and Justin also to declare their hand on the nature of consecrations, and will work further on the nature of the Independent Reviewer. He commends a person of the stature of a very senior judge.

Deborah McIsaac guards against the Independent Reviewer being an advisor – they are a safeguard and a backstop.

Gavin Collins stresses that we can’t pick and choose our bishops. All parishes will need to work together their Dicoesan bishop, and model mutual relationship.

The debate is now helpfully on how the process will work, how it relates to the Equalities Act and how the Independent Reviewer will act. This healthy, and shows that the substantive point is won. I think.

Rosie Harper looks at this from the outside in, and the sheer wierdness of a group arguing about discrimination in the C21st. ‘We need to stop being wierd’. Stop describing ourselves by what we don’t do.

Moving speech by Mary Nagel (Forward in Faith), whose daughter declared a vocation to the ordained ministry. They are walking together, and we can too. Wow.

We are going to vote soon – a good news story for the 1.00 News.

The Bishop of Rochester warns against complacency, and says his champagne is on the journey from rack to fridge. We will go forward when we ‘outdo one another in showing honour’.

The vote was

Yes:  378

No: 8

Abs: 25

Jolly dee. That is really quite remarkable.

General Synod July 2013 – Jeremy’s Report

July 10, 2013 § Leave a comment

This is the Report I’ve done for the York Diocese. The simplest way to find out the ‘bare bones’ of what General Synod did is to look at the summaries of business done on the Church of England website: – look for ‘News’ and ‘Top News Releases’, and each day’s decisions are there.

The great feature of this group of sessions was the way we prepared for the Women Bishops debate by working in small groups. 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. Small groups, each with an external facilitator, were helped to speak openly about the issues and their impact, and to comment on the possible ways forward the House of Bishops had proposed. The whole process (including a drama which we could all join in) was 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.

That prepared us for Monday’s debate. The House of Bishops had offered us a way forward based on minimum legislation and maximum trust. It was clear in the debate that a significant minority still wanted security through legal provisions, but we voted to set up a Steering Committee with a steer on the side of a small amount of law and a large amount of agreed processes and codes. What was fascinating was the proposal that the Steering Committee should be larger than normal, and that it should use the ‘facilitated conversation’ process to come up with a unanimous proposal which would be revised not by a further committee but by the whole Synod. The committee, of 15, is being appointed as I type. The next Synod in November will take the process on.

What else did we do? 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. On Saturday evening the Archbishops’ Council reported on the state of play on its three themes for the period 2010 – 2015: contributing 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 will 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 about 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 working with politicians and the state to ensure fair treatment 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.

After Women Bishops, on Monday afternoon we created a new Diocese. The Diocese of Leeds – West Yorkshire and the Dales will replace the dioceses of Bradford, Wakefield, and Ripon and Leeds. There was overwhelming support for the work of the Dioceses Commission, reshaping structures to relate to the contemporary world. This was despite the opposition of the Diocese of Wakefield. The legalities of all this will be complex, but in February the old dioceses will disappear, and a new diocese, with a Bishop of Leeds and area bishops of Bradford, Huddersfield, Ripon and Wakefield will be formed, with three cathedrals and possibly a pro-Cathedral.

Later on Monday we approved the Archbishop’s Council’s Budget, and received the Church Commissioners Annual Report. On Tuesday we were addressed by Bishop Angaelos, who is an ecumenical observer at the Synod and a Bishop in this country for the Coptic Church in Egypt. He talked of the difficulties in his nation, and his hope in the Gospel for the country which was blessed by the presence of the Holy Family. That rather put into context our ‘internal’ discussions arising from the Elections Review Group about who can vote for Synod members and how they do it.

Having discussed matters around the representation of university staff, the imbalance of representation from the Province of York and the Province of Canterbury, the number of Bishops on the Synod and how we enable more young people and more people from Black and Minority Ethnic communities to be on Synod, more work will be done and brought back to us. The debate about how the House of Laity is elected (by Deanery Synod reps? By a special ‘Electoral College’? By all lay members of PCCs?), and how electronic methods can be used … was adjourned.

We said farewell to the Bishops of Exeter, Liverpool, Hereford and Gibraltar in Europe, noting that Bishop James Jones is not retiring to the York Diocese so much as being re-tired. We rejoiced in the vitality of the Archbishop of York, and welcomed the active presence of the new Archbishop of Canterbury, who always seemed to be smiling, occasionally tweeted, and seemed to be everywhere.

It was a hot weekend! The use of facilitated discussions was a great feature, and may well affect the way we do our work in future. York was welcoming as ever, despite the sad incident at the Minster. After the gloom of November 2012, there were seeds of hope in July 2013.

Jeremy Fletcher
York 239

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.


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.

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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