A GENERAL SYNOD motion expressing concern about the implications for mutual flourishing of the withdrawal of Bishop Philip North from his nomination to the see of Sheffield has been withdrawn by David Lamming, a lay representative of the diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich (News, 2 July).
The private member’s motion, proposed in March 2017, had been scheduled for debate on Monday during the July group of sessions, which began online on Friday.
In an online article for the Church Times last month, Bishop North said that the motion “risks undoing all the good work of healing that has taken place in the diocese of Sheffield since 2017 by unnecessarily reopening wounds” (Online Comment, 28 June). He called for it to be replaced on the agenda by proposals tabled by the Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Pete Wilcox, on mutuality in finances between dioceses (News, 28 May).
During a debate on the report by the Business Committee on Friday afternoon, Mr Lamming said: “Since the agenda was published, representations have been made to me personally asking me to consider withdrawing the motion — one saying that ‘a motion that takes us back to those very dark days of 2017 will be bad for the diocese of Sheffield’.”
Mr Lamming had also been petitioned by Dr Wilcox to withdraw the motion. The Bishop said that, while he had no argument with any clause in the motion, time had moved on, “and withdrawal would be in the best interests of the diocese”.
Dr Wilcox said that the Synod “urgently need the debate” on the Five Guiding Principles and mutual flourishing, which is on the agenda immediately before Mr Lamming’s motion, “but we really don’t need the trauma of the early months of 2017 to be revisited”.
Having taken time to reflect on representations made to him, Mr Lamming said, he had decided to withdraw the motion.
This was welcomed by Bishop North, who said: “I’m grateful to him for tabling a motion which was well-intentioned and intended to build up the unity of the Church. But, as he said, it’s been bypassed by events, and I’m very relieved that it’s been withdrawn.”
Bishop North suggested that the Business Committee “plug the gap” in the agenda by restoring Dr Wilcox’s item on mutuality in finances.
“I’d really love to know why the Business Committee felt that an item which seeks to address hardcore and chronic inequalities between dioceses should be such a low priority,” Bishop North said. “Every time we name and condemn inequality in our nation, our moral case is undermined by the gross inequalities that exist within our common life.”
The chair of the Business Committee, Robert Hammond, said it would be decided on Monday how the gap left on the agenda would be filled. But the mutuality in finance item would not be on the agenda at this group of sessions, he said. Rather it would be included when the Synod meets face-to-face in November, when “a more substantive document will be used as the material for the debate”.