DESCRIBED variously as
"unchristian", "punitive", and a blow against a "culture of
niceness" that led to "falseness and dishonesty", a motion of no
confidence in the chairman of the House of Laity, Dr Philip
Giddings, was voted down in the House on Friday of last week.
Proposed by Stephen Barney
after Dr Giddings spoke against the draft women-bishops Measure in
News, 7 December,
23 November), the motion 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 to 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
On Tuesday, Tom Sutcliffe
(Southwark) said that he was "extremely gratified that the figures
were as conclusive as they were". It was "possible" that the debate
had "reduced, at least to some extent, some of the poison
circulating as a result of the misunderstandings and
misrepresentations associated with the debate and vote in
November", the response to which had been "wildly
Mr Sutcliffe suggested that
the tide had begun to turn during Friday's debate when supporters
of the motion had begun to complain about Dr Giddings's membership
of certain groups.
During the debate, Tim Allen
(St Edmundsbury & Ipswich) said that there was a "major
conflict of interest" between Dr Giddings's positions as chair of
the House of Laity and convener of Anglican Mainstream, which Mr
Allan described as "a pressure group which represents a small
minority in the C of E who subscribe to extreme views on gender and
sexuality issues". The Church's ability to move forward on gender
and sexuality issues would be "delayed" with Dr Giddings as chair
of the House of Laity.
In her speech, Christina
Rees, a member of the Archbishops' Council, also expressed concerns
about Dr Giddings's involvement with groups that "actively
undermine the Anglican ethos of being a truly broad Church, and
which specifically undermine and subvert the episcopal leadership
of the Church of England". She questioned whether he would have
been elected to the chair "if some of us had known the full extent
of his concerns about providing protection for those against having
women as bishops". Mrs Rees also suggested that a "culture of
niceness" in the Church could "lead to a type of falseness and
dishonesty if we don't feel we can ever challenge or confront one
On Tuesday, Mrs Rees said
that the debate was "the type of event that none of us would have
wanted to have happen" and that Dr Giddings had been "gracious" in
his response. Looking ahead to the next elections to Synod, Mrs
Rees said that she hoped that candidates for the chair would be
"absolutely transparent about their affiliations", and that the
electorate would "ask specific questions".
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.
Philip French (Rochester)
referred to a "prominent theology that all too often seems to
regard women as inconsequential and necessarily subservient", which
was "well-represented and perhaps overly so in the House" by those
who were "well-organised and media-savvy". Dr Giddings's decision
to speak on their behalf was a "grievous misjudgement".
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 that it 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
Deborah McIsaac (Salisbury)
said that passing the Motion would not undo the "reputational
damage" suffered by the General Synod in November, but deepen it.
It would also "destroy any vestige of trust" the minority felt
towards those who voted in favour of the Measure in November.
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 criticise Bishop Welby personally, but, in any case, he had
offered "an apology for any offence my words may have caused
Bishop Welby's reply was
quoted to the House, 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."
After the vote, Dr Giddings
said: "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."
On Tuesday, Mrs Rees said that she hoped "very much that we can
now get on as the House of Laity and carry on our business", but
that, with regard to the fall of the Measure in November, "the
temperature is still quite high. . . it still remains a very
upsetting day and time."