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Laity rebels challenge Dr Giddings

07 December 2012

THE chairman of the House of Laity, Dr Philip Giddings, is facing a vote of no confidence as a result of his speech in the women-bishops debate ( Synod, 30 November News, 23 November)

A no-confidence motion is the only item of business scheduled for a meeting of the House, which has been requisitioned under standing orders. It is understood that 15-20 per cent of members of the House voted in favour of calling a meeting, more than the required ten per cent. No date for it has yet been set.

Many in the House of Laity are said to be unhappy with Dr Giddings's decision to vote against the Measure to ordain women bishops at the November Synod meeting, although the wwmajority of the House supported it.

Stephen Barney, who proposed the motion of no confidence, said on Monday: "I intend to try to keep this on the issue of conduct appropriate to a chair of the House of Laity. It is not a personal issue, as I have told Philip."

In the Synod debate, Dr Giddings spoke directly after the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Justin Welby, Archbishop-designate of Canterbury. He said that he could not agree with the Bishop's support for the Measure. As chairman of the House, Dr Giddings said, it was his role to "ensure that the views of the whole House are heard". He estimated that "at least a quarter and perhaps a third" of lay people were opposed to the principle of women bishops or to the Measure, and asserted the "unwisdom" of pressing ahead with the legislation.

He had voted in favour of the legislation ordaining women as priests in 1992 "because it was designed to ensure that those who could not in conscience accept it could remain with us".

On Tuesday, Penny Allen, a member of the House of Laity, said of Dr Giddings: "The position he is occupying is very influential. He used his position during the women- bishops legislation debate from the platform, therefore as chair of the House of Laity, to oppose the Measure rather than uphold the views of the dioceses."

Sally Barnes of the campaign group WATCH said on Tuesday: "The Church of England has suffered an enormous blow to its credibility, and it is right that the chair of the House of Laity should be made accountable for his part in this because he has continuously spoken against the Measure and chairs are usually meant to be impartial."

Dr Giddings could not be reached for comment.

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