A MOTION of no confidence in the chairman of the House of Laity,
Dr Philip Giddings, was voted down in the House on Friday
afternoon. The motion, proposed by Stephen Barney after Dr Giddings
spoke against the draft women-bishops Measure in November (
News, 7 December,
23 November), was lost by 80 votes to 47. There were 13
Speaking to the House of Laity after the vote, Dr Giddings said:
"I am grateful for the vote of confidence, but need in a sense take
my own medicine. Clearly there is a substantial minority of the
House who do not have confidence. I intend to continue in office,
but will take careful advice from colleagues about how we proceed
from here." Dr Giddings said that there needed to be "some kind of
debate" about what the expectations were of the chair and the
vice-chair of the Synod "on matters of this kind".
"I hope we can now put this behind us and the temperature can be
lowered, and we seek to work together for the sake of God's mission
to this country. That is why we are here, that is why our Church is
here, and that's what we need to work for," he said.
The House of Laity debated the motion for about two hours.
Moving the motion, Mr Barney said that Dr Giddings's speech against
the draft women-bishops Measure had been "partisan and narrow when
it should have been strategic and statesmanlike". It had "killed
the momentum Justin Welby's speech [in favour of the Measure] had
just created". Mr Barney also took issue with Dr Giddings for
failing to support the views of the House of Bishops and both
Some members of the House of Laity expressed a lack of
confidence in the ability of Dr Giddings to represent fairly the
views of the majority of the House. Some said that his position as
convener of Anglican Mainstream - described by Tim Allen (St
Edmundsbury & Ipswich) as holding "extreme views on gender and
sexuality" - conflicted with his chairmanship of the House.
Christina Rees (St Albans), a member of the Archbishops'
Council, cited a letter that Dr Giddings had written to The
Times, which, she said, was signed as the Chair without the
authority of the House; his speech in the November debate; and, she
suggested, his lack of frankness about his views on the theology of
women during the 2010 elections for the chair. She questioned
whether he would have been elected to this position "if some of us
had known the full extent of his concerns about providing
protection for those against having women as bishops".
But many members of the House of Laity spoke strongly in defence
of Dr Giddings. The First Church Estates Commissioner, Andreas
Whittam Smith, said that the motion misunderstood the role of the
chair of the House of Laity in debates held by the Synod as a
whole. In meetings of the House of Laity, Dr Giddings was obliged
to be even-handed; in meetings of the Synod as a whole, he was
permitted to say whatever he wished, just like any other member of
Mr Whittam Smith said that the motion was "punitive", and seemed
prepared to humiliate Dr Giddings, who had devoted much time to
serving the Church.
Joanna Monckton (Lichfield) expressed "disbelief at the
unchristian behaviour . . . in calling this meeting . . . a most
cruel way of treating anyone, let alone a sincere Christian who has
every legal right to vote in the way he did". Dr Chik Kaw Tan
(Lichfield) said that Dr Giddings was "a very eminent servant of
the Church, of the highest personal integrity and Christian
virtue". The motion could "only be seen as an act against freedom
Responding to the debate, Dr Giddings said that he had "no
choice" about when he spoke in the women-bishops debate. His words
had not been intended to undermine or personally criticise Bishop
Welby, but, in any case, he had offered "an apology for any offence
my words may have caused him".
Bishop Welby's reply was quoted to the Synod, with permission:
"It never crossed my mind that you were in the slightest being
offensive, discourteous, impolite, [or disrespectful]. . . I did
think you were wrong! You thought I was, but we really need to be
able to disagree, as I am sure you do agree."
See next week's Church Times for full coverage of
the House of Laity's debate.