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UK >

Lay rebel explains his Giddings challenge

Madeleine Davies

by Madeleine Davies

Posted: 11 Jan 2013 @ 12:19

THE mover of a motion of no confidence in the chairman of the House of Laity ( News, 7 December) has outlined his reasons in a note circulated to all members in advance of the vote next Friday.

The note concentrates on the speech given by the chairman, Dr Philip Giddings, during the debate on women bishops at the November Synod meeting ( News, 23 November), in which he opposed the Measure as "unwise", given that a "significant minority of our Church [are] unable to accept its provisions".

The mover of the motion, Stephen Barney, argues that the speech was delivered immediately after that of the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Justin Welby, and thus "directly undermined" what Bishop Welby had said. It was "instrumental in convincing some of the undecided members of the House to vote against", and was a "significant contributor to the reputational damage the Church of England is already suffering".

Mr Barney wrote: "I have always been one of the first to say that individuals must vote according to their consciences; however, leaders have other responsibilities and accountabilities. I feel that if I am to support the leader of a group of which I am a member, then that leader must show wise and good judgement, and I do not believe that this has happened."

On Tuesday, Dr Giddings said that "the time for debate is when we have the debate."

Also speaking on Tuesday, Christina Rees, a member of the Archbishops' Council, suggested that concern among members of the House was rooted in the fact that Dr Giddings "made it absolutely explicit that he was speaking as the chair" rather than in a personal capacity. He had gone on to "speak up for the views of the minority of lay people in the House of Laity", which was already "not representative of the wider membership of the Church of England. . . Questions have to be asked: who does he represent?"

Dr Giddings had "misused his position" on other occasions, she suggested. For example, he had written a letter about homosexuality to The Times on 17 December 2011 signed as "Chair of the House of Laity".

On Wednesday, Keith Malcouronne, of Guildford diocese, said that he did not believe there were valid reasons for calling for a motion of no confidence. He defended Dr Giddings, and suggested that Mr Barney had acted in an "unchristian" manner.

"All members are there to do their best in terms of scrutinising potential legislation, and to speak freely in terms of not just their own personal view, but their view as representatives and potential legislators," he said. "Dr Giddings's speech was very gracious, and he was quite clear in recognising the general desire and not wishing to stand in the way of having women bishops."

He envisaged that there would be "quite a lot of support" for the motion, but that a "significant proportion of people, while in favour of women bishops, will feel that trying to punish Dr Giddings for speaking out against it is completely unreasonable and undemocratic. . . This is a vote on a personalised attack . . . and just unjustified."

At least 43 members of the House of Laity will need to attend the meeting to form a quorum. The motion requires a simple majority to pass, but, if it is passed, Dr Giddings is not obliged to act.

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