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UK >

House of Laity bid to oust Giddings fails

by Madeleine Davies and Ed Thornton

Posted: 18 Jan 2013 @ 16:52

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 recorded abstentions.

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 Archbishops.

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 the Synod.

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 of speech".

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.


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