From Mr Christopher
Sir, - The facts that you
report on the proposed vote of no confidence in the Chair of the
General Synod's House of Laity (News, 7 December)
"It is not a personal
issue," Stephen Barney says. To my knowledge, since 1975, every
Chair has been a living and thinking person with feelings. The
Chair should "uphold view of the dioceses", says Penny Allen. The
General Synod's Standing Orders gives no such duty. "Chairs are
meant to be impartial," says Sally Barnes. But this is only when
they are chairing a debate.
The debate to bring forward
legislation to ordain women in 1984 was opposed, by invitation of
the Standing Committee, by the Chairman of the House of Laity at
that time, Oswald Clark. This was after some 74 per cent of votes
cast in diocesan synods had been in favour. Mr Clark's speech
started: "It gives me no pleasure, speaking in a personal capacity,
to find myself in opposition to my diocesan bishop and diocesan
synod [Southwark]. My only comfort is that, whatever its outcome,
he and I and our colleagues will be walking together and staying
together as friends."
The present House of Laity
would better serve the cause for women bishops by considering a
Gravamen and Reformandum under House of Laity Standing Order 13
asking the House of Bishops to ensure that the Episcopal Ministry
Act of Synod 1993 (flying bishops) is retained by the next Measure
for women bishops.
I also hope that the House
of Laity's Standing Committee, when considering the agenda for the
meeting, will take legal advice to ensure that a vote of no
confidence in the Chair is in order. Such a motion, if passed, has
no legal consequences whatsoever - especially when the Chair has
done no wrong save exercise his right to freedom of thought and
Oldstone Furlong, Fownhope
Hereford HR1 4PJ
Sir, - You rightly drew
attention to the fact that there has been a request for a meeting
of the House of Laity to express a vote of no confidence in our
Chair, Dr Philip Giddings.
When I was invited to
support this move, which I considered unhelpful, I wrote to the
General Synod Office asking if it would be possible for the House
of Laity to meet for a day in February, not to challenge
Dr Giddings, but to try to create the opportunity for lay people to
talk meaningfully to each other. Too often, I only hear statements
the meaning of which is not always clear.
I suggested a "café-style"
gathering that could be helped by having some theological input
and, maybe, mediators present, to help us to explore issues such as
how personal positions are more important than the wishes of our
I was subsequently informed
that it would not be possible to organise such a meeting before
February, and it would be more appropriate for such discussions to
take place in York when the full Synod is in session.
The Synod Office is now
trying to set up a meeting that will, I fear, lead to further
entrenchment of personal positions rather than find a way for the
House of Laity to move forward together.
(Synod member for Bath & Wells)
Flat 3, Old School Place
Wells BA5 2TD
From Mr Alan
Sir, - If we are to move
forward with regard to the recently defeated draft women-bishops
legislation, may I make two brief points, one ecumenical, the other
Little thought seems to have
been given to the implications of our being seen to renege on the
promises of 20 years ago to our minorities, even when enacted in an
Act of Synod. Methodists and others seeking union will need
undertakings to respect their ethos and traditions. They may also
need assurances to be given to bring on board some of their
minorities, such as those not convinced of episcopacy.
Second, according to the
well-researched tract The Grand Question by scholarly
Bishop Edward Stillingfleet (1635-99), since the Conquest in 1066,
our bishops have sat in the Lords because they are civil rulers
having the status as barons. Having lost this status, their
continuance is an anomaly, and must be merited anew.
Thus, if Parliament now
wants an equal number of senior Anglican women in the Lords, why
should they need be bishops at all? Why not also include deans? The
two Archbishops aside, why not a rule that the next vacant seat in
the Lords should go alternately to the most senior woman and then
man, whether dean or bishop, a new Archbishop counting as the next
male appointee, so that after him a woman must be appointed?
Parliament would have the
senior Anglican women whom it wants, without imposing its will on
the Church as we continue our pilgrimage of discernment.
17 Francis Road