From Miss Sally Muggeridge
Sir, - I refer to your report "Our future turns on a single
vote" (News, 27 June).
On 28 March 1979, a vote of no confidence in the Labour
Government of James Callaghan, brought by the Opposition leader
Margaret Thatcher, was lost by a single vote, forcing a General
Election, which she won. It was described by the BBC as "one ofthe
most dramatic nights in Westminster history". The losswas publicly
damaging: Labour did not return to government for a further 18
years. Yet, in the retrospective analysis that followed, it became
clear that there had been several available options wherebythe vote
on the night could have been won by Labour, perhaps changing the
course of history.
A Whip's responsibility in Parliament is to count the voting
intentions and to make sure the maximum number of his or her party
members are present, and voting the way the party wants. That
process involves careful calculation, identifying, persuading,
trading, bargaining, and sometimes some unsavoury dealing.
Scruples, it was learnt, do not maintain governments.
Prayer rather than arm-twisting appears to be the preferred
method to rescue our Church of England's damaged reputation and
avoid yet more public disbelief in our arcane processes.
The General Synod needs to take a historical lesson from
Parliament. We must, on this one occasion, forsake reliance on hope
and our Christian reluctance to be challenging. There is still, at
this late hour, much groundwork that needs to be covered to secure
the vote safely, because, for many, nothing has changed.
In November 2012, one of our dissident House of Laity members
advised me that there could never be a yes vote for women in the
episcopate, save "over his dead body". Whether political or
religious, deep-seated attitudes do not readily change. In the
words of Dr Colin Podmore (New Directions, June 2014), "It
is not we who have changed our opinion or indeed changed our
teaching but the Church of England."
General Synod member
The Old Farm House
Pike Road, Eythorne
Kent CT15 4DJ
From Canon Colin Craston
Sir, - You report (News,
27 June) that the Archbishops are considering how a bishop with
"conservative Evangelical" views on headship may be appointed. Does
it not need to be considered how this would affect the Anglican
understanding of ecclesiology inherited from centuries of Catholic
That order assumes that a diocese is a group of parishes in full
communion with the diocesan bishop. That bishop alone, not a
suffragan or flying bishop, issues licences and authority to
minister; and to that person every priest is ultimately
responsible. Can a person who does not accept women priests, or
fully serve a parish with women priests, be a diocesan bishop?
Very many, indeed a majority, of Evangelicals who are
conservative in doctrine accept women priests. Are those who do not
really fundamentalist in use of scripture, unable to see that
headship in scripture does not exclude women in ministry? Should
Anglican ecclesiology be permanently altered to suit them?
We already have conservative Evangelicals who are bishops,
diocesan and suffragan.
12 Lever Park Avenue
Bolton BL6 7LE
From the Revd Paul Williamson
Sir, - Her Majesty the Queen swore the Coronation Oath, and, at
her Coronation, signed it on the high altar of Westminster
So what did she promise on the oath to do? She swore to the
utmost of her power: "The true profession of the Gospel" - which
cannot allow a counter-profession or understanding or action. The
bishop (masculine) is described as "the husband of one wife" in
holy scripture. This does not allow of female bishops, and the
Queen has no power - because of the oath - to allow such a change
in the Church of England. To the utmost of her power she must
defend holy scripture as written, not as set aside because
modernists require female bishops.
The Queen further swore: "I will maintain and preserve
inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the
doctrine, worship, discipline, and government" of the Church of
The Queen must not be forced to sign such legislation as breaks
PAUL S. WILLIAMSON
The Rectory, 7 Blakewood Close
Middlesex TW13 7NL