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Monday, 11 August 2008

Big Issues in the Anglican Communion

This blog is usually seasonal, and tied to the dates & times of General Synod.

However, as the Lambeth Conference draws to a close, hot on the heels of the General Synod in July, and GAFCon in June, it has been a summer for hot debates - even if the British Summer has yet to get going - allowing for some additional inter-synodical posting.

Lambeth had many ‘Big Issue’ debates, or ‘indabas’ as apparently we now call them (though reputedly some debates were not properly had) - covering a number of Communion-splitting issues. They have been well covered elsewhere (for example here, and here and their subsequent links).

At least one of the reasons given by some not attending the Lambeth conference was because ‘the fabric [of the Anglican Communion] had been torn’ by the consecration of Gene Robinson in 2004. This got me thinking about some of the Big Issue debates that the church has had throughout it’s history.

What have some of the church-tearing issues of the past been? Well, before the writings New Testament were even complete, there was the questions about food offered to idols - still a current issue in some parts of the world, such as India, where I grew up as a child; or whether to become a Christian one had to first become a Jew - leading to what became known as the most un-fun sounding ‘Circumcision Party’.

Later, the even more significant church-ripping events were the filioque creedal clause that created the separation of the Eastern church from the West; or the Reformation that caused the separation of Protestant from Roman Catholic denominations, and the later sub-divisions based on infant or adult baptism (the CofE supports both); or even the abolition of slavery debates that John Newton and William Wilberforce were involved in

It is traditional, of course, for any remaining group to belittle the ‘reasons’ that a secessionist group had for splintering, (which is what Anglicans generally do with Methodists, and is one reason why the CofE still has to put up with Henry VIII wives jokes from RC comedians, even though there are Orthodox jokes at the expense of the RCs as well... ). It is easier to jest, rather than trying to understand the often well established thought processes and theological arguments that are the fundamental causes for the divisions, whichever group the secessionists may be:

Lambeth Report video on the Colbert Report

So what might some of the next (God forbid...) Big Communion-Tearing Issues be? Well, I suspect:
  • Lay Presidency
  • the Centrality or Uniqueness of Christ;
and perhaps
  • ‘is the CofE/Anglican Communion “Catholic and Reformed” or “Protestant”?’

It is possible the last of those, Catholic & Reformed or Protestant, has already been answered for us in recent comments by Cardinal Bertone (for the Roman Catholic church) and the Orthodox church, comments summed up by ‘you can never really be one with us if you have women bishops’ - like we had ever even got close before, when we had women priests, or women deacons, or married male priests - or in fact any priests/bishops at all that were not and are not recognised by them, which the CofE never has been. But frankly, even if the Anglican church is not Protestant, it still clearly Reformed, because it saw a need for Reformation from where it had previously been allied; so that distance should not have come as a sudden surprise to Orthodox or Roman Catholics, even if it apparently has this time to Anglo-catholics shocked at Synod’s decision...

Eucharistic Presidency - presiding at Holy Communion is normally a rôle reserved exclusively to priests and bishops. The discussion of whether others not ordained priest could preside at communion services, ie Lay Presidency, was dismissed by the CofE house of bishops back in 1997; however, it is an area that as been raised by the Diocese of Sydney, and has also been spoken of in other CofE circles in the past. For the more catholic elements of both the CofE and the Anglican communion at large however, lay presidency is an anathema.

A contrasting anathema for evangelicals is the idea that the Centrality/Uniqueness of Christ to the Christian faith could be watered down. That was perhaps partly what was behind Paul Eddy’s mysteriously evaporating and controversial (as apparently a majority of bishops were against it) Private Members Motion* that was first on, and then off the agenda for last July’s Synod. Some commentators saw it as a short-sighted and potentially damaging motion that would be detrimental to interfaith relations in the UK and abroad. Others see it as a vital drawing of a line in the sand to make sure that orthodox Christianity is not lost. It is understood that the motion will return to the Synod's agenda in future.

* The original text of Paul Eddy's Motion:
That this Synod request the House of Bishops to report to the Synod on their understanding of the uniqueness of Christ in Britain's multi-faith society, and offer examples and commendations of good practice in sharing the gospel of salvation through Christ alone with people of other faiths and of none.

Alastair Cutting GS101

Post Script
This blog normally fluctuates in it's appearing according to Synod dates, and consequently so do it's viewing figures. However this July, with assistance from other posters, and especially Justin's magnificent tour-de-force on the Women Bishop's debate (where I am reliably informed, vote results were going up within 35 seconds of being announced - the fastest on the net!) there was a huge surge in interest. For those interested, the graph below comes courtesy of SiteMeter's tracking:


Friday, 11 July 2008

John Hartley's take on Women Bishops Debate

With his permission, I am adding John Hartley's commentary on the women bishops debate, first posted on a list at www.coin.org.uk:


Here's my take on what happened in the debate on women bishops.

The debate got off to a bad start when the bishop proposing the motion explained that the wording was agreed by the House of Bishops, but the question of who would propose it was harder, and eventually he had been dumped on.  Therefore during the debate he would merely try to clarify what the various amendments said rather than speak against them.  I immediately wondered why there wasn't a bishop who was prepared to stand up, say that the House had definitely made the right choice, and persuade us all to follow its leadership?

Fortunately we were rescued from floundering by the chairman's wise decision, on each of the amendments, to invite two people to speak in favour and two against, rather than simply calling people and taking pot luck about which way they would speak.  If he hadn't done this it would have been terrible, with there being no clear lead from the platform.

The motion said the Synod agrees with women bishops, and that we should have a code of practice which everyone should "have regard to", to make provision for those who can't accept women bishops. It asked the Drafting Group to prepare the legislation and code, so Synod could consider them in detail, consult the dioceses, and finally approve them.

The dissenters had already said they would not be satisfied with a mere code of practice: for in saying that a woman bishop should/must delegate powers, it would implicitly admit that a woman bishop has powers to delegate and therefore that she is a bishop.  And 900 women priests had already said they
would rather not have women bishops than have anything more than a code of practice.  So both sides had already declared there would be no compromise. Which there wasn't.

In successive amendments, we then voted:
 - not to abandon the statement that we are in favour of women bishops,
 - but to modify it so as to say "a majority of us are in favour" instead of "this synod is in favour",
 - not to ask for all options in the Manchester Report to be kept open,
 - not to ditch the code and rely on local provision only,
 - not to allow separate dioceses,
 - not to allow any other form of separate arrangements in the law, and
 - not to explore Transferred Episcopal  Arrangements in parallel with the draft law and code.

This last amendment was the closest vote: by a simple majority it would have passed by 3 votes, but because it was only passed in one house (the clergy) and lost in the other two, it was lost overall.  But I voted against it, because it basically just postpones the pain.

Then we broke for dinner, and afterwards the hurt emerged.  A proposal to create "flying women bishops by the back door" was defeated.  A "rescue package" for the objectors, to bolster the code with legal provisions so that it couldn't be changed except by a two-thirds majority, was defeated.
A proposal to reduce the content of the code was defeated.  A proposal to make the code statutory was accepted.  And a proposal to make the code mandatory (instead of just the "have regard to" line) was defeated.

And the result was a proposal to make women bishops with a statutory code of practice for dealing with those who dissent.  It won't satisfy those who dissent.  It probably won't satisfy the 900 women priests either, since the code is now to be written into the law and will have the same kind of weight
as the resolutions A and B and the Act of Synod did.

So finally, there was a move to adjourn the whole debate, which would give time for reflection - and I was in favour of that.  But it was defeated, and we voted for the main motion.  It passed in the House of Bishops, but not clearly enough to show that two-thirds of them will vote for it at final approval.  It passed in the laity but by definitely less than the two-thirds figure.  The only house it passed comfortably in was the clergy - where I voted against.

I'm a supporter of women bishops, and I basically agree with the 900 women clergy.  So why did I vote against?  For two reasons: first, I don't want the code to be statutory, because I don't want the discrimination enshrined in law the way the present anti-women-priests regulations are.  And second,
I have no gift of prophecy, but I think these proposals are doomed to an unhappy end.

Here's what I think might happen: the proposals will come back as draft law plus code in February, where they may fail to be accepted.  But if they are accepted, then they'll then go through the revision committee stage, and out to the dioceses.  In the mean time the 2010 General Election will turn into a single-issue matter.  Unless the make-up of the Houses of Bishops and Laity changes significantly by 2011, the law and code will fail to get its two-thirds majority and will be lost.  And then we won't be able to restart the process until 2016.  And if that's the choice, then I'd rather lose the whole thing now and have a chance of restarting it all again in 2011.

To me it is very sad that the debate had little in it about trying to persuade thinking people that they might have got their theology wrong.  As an evangelical I have still not given up hope of helping my evangelical opponents to see that 1 Tim 2:12 does not say "I do not permit a woman to teach a man", but rather that it says "I do not permit a woman to teach at all".  Because all evangelicals agree that some women nowadays do have teaching ministries - and therefore none of us live by the stricture of what it actually says - that women should keep silent.  Instead the verse is a statement of one particular person's take ("I do not permit" - not "It should never be permitted") in a particular place - which that same person did not take in other places (e.g. 1 Cor 11:5 which permits a woman to prophesy).  That same person had already admitted that there is a difference between his advice and the Lord's word (1 Cor 7:10 & 12).  I don't understand the Anglo-Catholic people so well, but presumably others have not yet given up hope of persuading them that their ecclesiology is wrong?

Anyhow, that's my take on what happened.  I'm sorry it's taken me a little while to get my thoughts onto paper, and I'd welcome readers taking the trouble to explain the way of God to me more adequately (Acts 18:26).

Yours in Christ - JOHN HARTLEY. GS76 posted by Alastair Cutting, GS101

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

On Being A Loyal Anglican, a post by Kevin Carey - 9July2008

Not long ago - and perhaps we should be warned - people counted the number of times Gordon Brown used the word "prudent" in his budget speeches; we might look back with equal wonder to the use of the term "loyal Anglican" during the debate on the terms under which women will be Consecrated to the Episcopate.

"Loyal", in this context, means the ability to do as you please, regardless of authority. The Act of Synod institutionalised this genteel anarchism by allowing congregations led by conservative clergy to shun women priests and the bishops who ordained them. That same supposed "right" was re-asserted in the context of women bishops. In fairness, many women clergy said they would oppose any legislation which enshrined division in the form of special dioceses; the conservative 'loyal' response was that they would split the church to protect themselves from women and, if they did not get their way, they would leave it.

Bishop John Hind and I agree that the Church should not be Synodically governed. I would be content to leave theology in the hands of the Bishops, subject to an obligation on their part to consult widely; but this does not mean that we can leave it in the hands of conservatives nor brand it is illegitimate. If the Holy Spirit can be supposed to have worked through King Henry VIII in establishing our Church, she can surely work through a Synod of dedicated and well meaning, elected volunteers. My objection to this form of government is that it politicises people and forces them into factions. It also turns issues into problems and so the Consecration of women has been seen as a problem to be solved rather than a gift to be celebrated. All power structures reward bad behaviour and ignore good behaviour and this issue has been no exception; we have been fixated by supposed grievance instead of honouring sacrifice.

At York Synod followed the maxim that our Church is episcopally led and symbolically governed: Synod passed the motion agreed by a majority of the House of Bishops only making two minor amendments. The first redundantly acknowledges that the proceeding has not been unanimous; the second makes a code of practice statutory which is a distinction without a difference. Both these minor changes were slightly in favour of conservatives. Nonetheless, as the final vote approached we, being 'good' (if not "loyal") Anglicans, were not allowed even to smile. The Bishop of Dover said we should be ashamed for following the House of Bishops; the Bishop of Durham said we should not have discussed the issue before Lambeth as our affirmation would be divisive; and throughout the debate there was an under current of discontent from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York; but if they were unable to persuade their own fellow bishops, what were we supposed to do? We were surely not supposed to heed the protests of those in the gallery, ordained only last week, who wanted us to reverse all our decisions on women bishops going back to 1975 and even women priests. They were ordained knowing full well all the decisions already taken and the likelihood of further progress which shows you how really 'loyal' they are.

Which leads me to the second part of the concept, being "Anglican". Now I have to confess I'm not an Anglican. Having left the Roman Catholic church I have an inexpressible love for our Church of England founded on the principle of Elizabeth I that it does not do to look into the souls of others. Having detached itself from Rome and resisted Geneva, it must also resist Lagos, Sydney and the Jerusalem Declaration. In countries where it is either a minority Christian church or where Christianity is itself a minority religion, Anglicanism might take many forms but in England our commitment is that the Church is particularly for those who are not its members. I am prepared to live in peace and tolerance with those who think women should not be priests and to be patient with those who differ with me on the causes, nature and meaning of homosexuality but many of them, it seems, being "orthodox Anglicans" are not prepared to live with me. They want to destroy the Elizabethan settlement and turn us into a sect. In a typically generous contribution to the debate, Archbishop Rowan said that conservative Catholics and Evangelicals were a welcome presence because they sharpen up his theology; he clearly didn't go through the traumas of the Labour Party of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Just as Labour stopped existing to win power, we are being invited to stop existing to win souls. The women of the world - and even England - who struggle to hold fractured families and societies together in the face of male fecklessness, violence and despair in the slums of London and Lima are not likely to be converted by men who tell them about the immutability of male headship and the unsuitability of women to preside at the Lord's table.

Conservatives of both sorts face a difficult choice between mission and sectarian ecclesiology but the difference lies in this: whereas the Catholic conservatives are, by and large, so bound up in their sacramental pedigree that they have very little time for the mission to the unchurched, Evangelicals have a deep commitment to them which is being horribly impeded by their failure to see that whatever the Bible says about male headship, this is surely less important than what Jesus said about brining the Good News to the poor.

As for me, I shall go on being my own, strange kind of loyal Anglican: I will respect the authority of my Bishops, even if they cannot accept the decision of Synod; I will share the solidarity of the Eucharist with anyone who affirms the Creeds and the Dominical Sacraments; I will let my "yea be yea" and my "nay be nay", refusing to grandstand or blackmail; and, finally, I will always rank the teachings of Jesus above all other teachings whether in the Bible or in the changing theologies of the Church.

posted on behalf of Kevin Carey, GS297, by Alastair Cutting, GS101

General (Synod) Reflections... from Katie - (a) 9July2008


Katie's latest post:

The alarm goes off on this Wednesday morning - the morning after the morning after the day before. It is too early, but needs must...

I am almost recovered physically from the gruelling experience of Monday (I have slept enough, eaten enough, drunk enough) and my body is nearly ready for the work in the diary.

I sit on the edge of the bed staring into the mirror (not a good place to have a mirror it occurs to me - must move it...). And now I cry for the emotional and spiritual recovery that has not caught up since Monday. We were called to be the Body of Christ, one Body with many parts working together for the glory of God (see Paul's letter to the church in Corinth), but it felt more like the very thing Paul warned them to avoid - that is, the eye saying to the hand, "I don't need you", one part saying to the other, "I don't value you". What we became was the Body of Christ, but broken. And so I wept the tears today that I held back (just) at the end of Monday's 8 hours... I was back in the debating chamber, looking around at 400 people all exhausted but for different reasons - the broken Body of Christ, wounded and scarred. Each group huddled together, separate from neighbour, some anticipating the 'adventure' of events, some frightened by the uncertainty. Where was God in all of this? What had happened to His beautiful Body, the Church?

I glance again at the mirror, and my eye drifts upwards.

I have a simple wooden cross hanging on the corner - and now I am somewhere else. I am standing in Palestine on Good Friday, looking at the body of Jesus Christ, broken, wounded and scarred... the disciples are huddled together in broken groups, no longer a band of male and females, broken and healed, faithful and questioning. But fearful and wounded themselves by events. They had no concept that Jesus' body had to be broken and go through the events of Good Friday in order for Easter Sunday to have the impact that it would.

So now I sit experiencing Holy Saturday, knowing what happened was right, but wishing it didn't hurt so much...the tears are drying on my face, and I wait in stillness for the gentle whisper of hope.

He asks, 'what happened on that Easter Sunday?'.

I think hard, trying to concentrate on what I have been asked. I re-read the end of John's Gospel in my mind's eye. A small group came to the place of endings. They found hope and life and a complete turnaround in their expectations and fears. They were sent to be messengers of that discovery. They were called to bring together those disparate, desperate, scattered people into a place of promise and healing. The Body of Christ transformed!

Jesus - your Kingdom come, your will be done here on earth exactly as you do things in heaven.

(on behalf of Katie...) Alastair Cutting, GS101

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

More from Katie in the General Synod House - (b) 8July2008

Katie has updated her notes on her Facebook page -

With her permission, I have add her latest General Synod House Diary Room commentary, and completed all of the posts under the previous entry:

Day 4 in the GS House - 2.15pm

all of the housemates are in the living room.

the majority of the housemates suggest that all of them had a right to be in charge of the others, and that they would write the rules of the household in chalk on the blackboard...

some of the housemates feel that only those who had been part of the household since the start could fully understand the workings of the house and therefore have the necessary qualifications to be in charge...

other housemates are concerned that the rules could just be rubbed out and re-written by anybody, and could they not be written in permanent marker on the walls 10ft above the floor, making them more tamper proof...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Day 4 - 10.15pm

after nearly 8 hours in the living room (and 1 hour scattered for dinner) the house mates have voted 3:1 for the original suggestion...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Day 5 in the GS House -

and all of the housemates have gone home, leaving behind an empty living room and some evidence of tear-stained tissues, party hats and streamers stuffed under the coffee table, and tumbleweed behind the sofa...

(on behalf of Katie...) Alastair Cutting, GS101

Anglican Governance (and Grumblings...) 8th July 2008

On behalf of Guidford Diocesan Synod, Canon Robert Cotton has just successfully moved a motion to ask the House of Bishops for an account of exactly how the various institutions of the Church of England in particular and the Anglican Communion as a whole relate to each other. I wish them luck - not least because some of the various Bishops' contributions made it quite clear that they were not exactly of one mind. ++York, for example, was very keen to impress upon us the Synod was not a parliament, and that it did not govern, although it did legislate. I don't know if it's what he intended, but the impression he gave me, at least, was that we really ought to do what we were told by our bishops without making so much fuss. In this, he was echoing +Durham, who in a speech of great oratorical style, made it quite plain to us that he thought we were in a mess right now, and that we needed strong guidance from the Bishops in order for us to get out of it.

Now, I'm enough of a Catholic to be entirely happy with a Church structure that presupposes obedience to my Bishop, and through him my Metropolitan, but the Church of England as it stands is not quite like that. The very existence of some of its institutions implies that in the Church of England the word of the Bishops in Synod is not law. What is more, in implying that this is - or should be - the situation, the bishops are being more than a little inconsistent. There was a definite undercurrent to this morning's debate that reflected on the position we found ourselves in last night, and +Durham in particular was clear in his view that the Synod as a whole had caused a difficult situation to become worse by behaving like a Parliament. The clear implication was that if we had been guided firmly by the bishops it would have been far better. I would have far more sympathy with this view if it were not for the fact that we actually did follow the bishops' lead - the motion we passed was substantially the motion they put in front of us.

No doubt there will be much more chewing over all of this in due course - both on this blog and elsewhere - and I am sure that as we all head off home I will not be the only one wondering exactly how we ought to be relating to our fellow members of the Church of England, and the Communion as a whole.

Any episcopal volunteers to blog from Lambeth?

Justin GS373

Reflecting on the Women Bishops debate - (a) 8July2008

(Updated* with electronic voting data)

So, the vote was finally taken at well after 10pm on Monday night, after more than 6 hours solid debate, and within a hair's breadth of being adjourned, moments before the final vote, finally, substantially the original motion presented by the House of Bishops was passed. The final and amended motion was:

‘That this Synod:
(a) affirm that the wish of its majority is for women to be admitted to the episcopate;

(b) affirm its view that special arrangements be available, within the existing structures of the Church of England, for those who as a matter of theological conviction will not be able to receive the ministry of women as bishops or priests;

(c) affirm that these should be contained in a statutory national code of practice to which all concerned would be required to have regard; and

(d) instruct the legislative drafting group, in consultation with the House of Bishops, to complete its work accordingly, including preparing the first draft of a code of practice, so that the Business Committee can include first consideration of the draft legislation in the agenda for the February 2009 group of sessions.’
The voting was:
Bishops: 28 for 12 against 1 abs
Clergy: 124 for 44 against 4 abs
Laity: 111 for 68 against 2 abs
meaning that there was a simple majority in each house (allowing it to pass), but the house of laity vote was only 61%, not the 66% that a final legislation vote that would require.

It was a very difficult debate, and apart from Justin's masterful and swift postings on this blog (some results of votes online within 35 seconds some readers later observed!), Peter Owen and particularly Ruth Gledhill were also putting votes, and some background to the speeches. You can listen for yourselves from the podcasts (actually .wax files) already online - each of these is about 2 hours long: Afternoon session 1, Afternoon session 2, Evening session & final vote.

It was moving - many speeches seeking to make the progress needed towards having women bishops that the Manchester Report unanimously recommends; many speeches seeking to allow particularly the conservative catholic wing to feel that they are not being excluded.

I will probably further blog on the benefits and pitfalls of voting by houses, as I think that was one of the issues that muddied the waters, obfuscating some of the key principles of the debate.

For me, one of the most powerful things was the emotion within the debate. Both for and against the principle of ordaining women as bishops. Ruth Gledhill noted that a bishop was in tears - I suspect more than one, having heard impassioned interventions from both the bishops of Dover and Burnley, but I suspect others, too. But tears also from those seeking not to have women bishops overruled again as well. And tears from those seeking a way to balance both.

At the end of the debate, the Archbishop of York, conscious that the (conservative) Bishop of Beverley was due to be celebrating the Holy Communion on Tuesday morning, and here would be an opportunity for Synod to gather in communion around the Lord's Table. The morning communion service is at the eyewatering time of 7.30am, and usually has 100-120 members at it. Tuesday  mornings service had the significantly enlarged numbers of about 200.

Whatever the next stages may be, I trust we will still be at, and in, communion.

Alastair Cutting, GS101

* Updated by Alastair 16 July 2008
The electronic voting data has now been published online, and Peter Owen has put up a grid of how the bishops voted at Thinking Anglicans.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Katie is in the General Synod House - (f) 7July2008

Katie has been keeping notes on her Facebook page - which are receiving acclaim.

With her permission, I add her General Synod House Diary Room comments, in my best Geordie accent:

[and updated 8July2008 with her latest posts...]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Day 1 in the GS House -

& this house mate is usin her mobile to connect wiv the outside world via Facebook! We hav been given our next task - to discuss Women Bishops and play nicely. We r not allowed 2discuss evictin anybody... Either way, rumours abound of some housemates plannin on jumpin over the fence... Kt is stayin in the Diary Room 4safety ;-0

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Day 2 in the GS House -

The housemates spent the mornin in the chamber discussin Women Bishops... Some housemates r threatenin 2leave the GS house unless they r allocated their own room in the house and the right 2restrict entry...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Day 3 in the GS House -

Most of the housemates have been in the lounge discussing legislation, auditors, and the importance of tourism in the life of the national and local church.

Two of the housemates have been in the luxury bedroom (drapes, candelabras and a copy of Debrets on every bed). They have been discussing the possibility of their eviction...

Four housemates have been in the kitchen, discussing the possibility that there might be a lock fitted on the inside of the luxury bedroom door...

Big Father is watching with interest, and is hoping the housemates are ready for the task set for tomorrow...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Day 4 in the GS House -

...and the housemates are part way through deciding the future of the house (stopping for food before continuing...).

The debate so far - By majority votes, they will not allow an extension on the side of the house with a connecting door; they will not allow a parallel house in the garden; and they will not insist that only the tall people may use the higher cupboards where the food is kept but transfer down some of the food for dinner each day...

Most of the housemates are in the dining room where the atmosphere is generally lively...

some of the housemates have gone into the garden and are sat staring into the pool forlornly, as they now feel like climbing over the wall, and can barely stand the sounds of happy conversation from the dining room...

others of the housemates are scattered around the site, (one is currently in the diary room) knowing that although this is the right direction, it is still painful....

the living room is currently empty, and awaits the return of the housemates for the remainder of the debate...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Day 4 in the GS House - 2.15pm

all of the housemates are in the living room.

the majority of the housemates suggest that all of them had a right to be in charge of the others, and that they would write the rules of the household in chalk on the blackboard...

some of the housemates feel that only those who had been part of the household since the start could fully understand the workings of the house and therefore have the necessary qualifications to be in charge...

other housemates are concerned that the rules could just be rubbed out and re-written by anybody, and could they not be written in permanent marker on the walls 10ft above the floor, making them more tamper proof...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Day 4 - 10.15pm

after nearly 8 hours in the living room (and 1 hour scattered for dinner) the house mates have voted 3:1 for the original suggestion...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Day 5 in the GS House -

and all of the housemates have gone home, leaving behind an empty living room and some evidence of tear-stained tissues, party hats and streamers stuffed under the coffee table, and tumbleweed behind the sofa...

(on behalf of Katie GS110...) Alastair Cutting, GS101

The Women Bishops Debate... as it happened!

(Updated* with information on electronic voting data)

So - it begins. We are about to vote on the first of the amendments - figures here when they are announced!

My friend Adrian has been doing a voting analysis here. It's quite interesting - nobody really likes radical options, but the Bishops hate them!

Item 66
Motion Lost

Bishops for: 14
Bishops Against: 31
Bishops Abstained: 0

Clergy For: 62
Clergy Against: 120
Clergy Abstained: 0

Laity For: 78
Laity Against: 114
Laity Abstained: 0

Item 67
Motion Carried

Bishops for: 28
Bishops Against: 17
Bishops Abstained:

Clergy For: 90
Clergy Against: 89
Clergy Abstained: 4

Laity For: 97
Laity Against: 85
Laity Abstained: 7

Interesting votes so far. The first one suggests that so far, at least, people are not interested in ruling out the 'Code of Practice' option. The second one will make it easier for traditionalists to vote in favour of whatever motion we end up with, but it does water down the level of enthusiasm in the motion a little.

Item 68
Motion Lost

Bishops For: 3
Bishops Against: 40
Bishops Abstained: 2

Clergy For: 28
Clergy Against: 149
Clergy Abstained: 4

Laity For: 36
Laity Against: 147
Laity Abstained: 5

This is surprising - I had expected this one to have a bit more support. Stephen Trott's amendment was essentially an opportunity for Synod not to have to make up its mind yet. The fact that it was defeated so clearly suggests that almost everyone does want a more concrete answer than that. (And the Manchester Group probably just breathed a collective sigh of relief.)

The next motion - the simplest possible legislation option - will almost certainly fall, but it will be interesting to compare the figures with the vote above.

Item 69
Motion Defeated

Bishops For: 7
Bishops Against: 37
Bishops Abstained: 1

Clergy For: 66
Clergy Against: 107
Clergy Abstained: 9

Laity For: 68
Laity Against: 118
Laity Abstained: 4

And so we go on...

Not surprising that this one fell, but it gives some indication of those who are - shall we say - unequivocably in favour.

We are now on to the 'New Structures' bit. The Chairman has asked for a general debate on Items 70 and 71 together, so the next two results should come quite closely together.

Item 70
Motion Defeated

Bishops For: 10
Bishops Against: 32
Bishops Abstained: 3

Clergy For: 53
Clergy Against: 124
Clergy Abstained: 4

Laity For: 71
Laity Against: 116
Laity Abstained: 2

It's looking clearer. +Exeter's amendment follows now and will almost certainly fall too. It is essentially the same, but it does not force the creation of new dioceses in the way that Item 70 did.

Looking at the figures it is clear now that we are going to end up with some sort of variation on Manchester's option 2 - in other words a Code of Practice.

Item 71
Motion Defeated

Bishops For: 14
Bishops Against: 29
Bishops Abstained: 2

Clergy For: 65
Clergy Against: 116
Clergy Abstained: 1

Laity For: 77
Laity Against: 112
Laity Abstained: 0

No surprise there, then. The Chairman has just got consent to extend this sitting to 6.30pm so that we can deal with +Ripon's amendment.

Someone has just said to me, 'So the Establishment is winning, then.' In some ways he might be right, but that's possibly rather too cynical a way of looking at it. OK, the bishops' view probably can be taken to be the establishment view, but it also seems to reflect what looks at the moment to be the majority view - namely some sort of Code of Practice.

Interesting. ++York has just got up to support the Ripon amendment. This is the first of the amendments that provides a real compromise view - the result of it would be a choice in February between a fully worked up Code of Practice, and a fully worked-up set of transferred episcopal authority arrangements. The second of those is as about as far as you can go along the road of special provisions without creating new dioceses. ++Sentamu is a very good speaker, and he might just get his way.

Item 72
Motion Defeated (but passed in the House of Laity...)

Bishops For: 21
Bishops Against: 21
Bishops Abstained: 1

Clergy For: 84
Clergy Against: 92
Clergy Abstained: 2

Laity For: 98
Laity Against: 87
Laity Abstained: 0

That was close...

My guess is that none of the rest of the major amendments - i.e. 74, 75 or 77 - will be passed. However, I would guess that 76 and 78 almost certainly will go through.

As to 73 - anybody's guess!

Well. Back from dinner, and we begin with Emma Forward withdrawing Item 73. We're now on 74, therefore, and +Gloucester has suggested that we might not need a vote by houses this time. That might be wishful thinking on his part...

Item 74
Motion Defeated

Bishops For: 5
Bishops Against: 31
Bishops Abstained: 3

Clergy For: 68
Clergy Against: 85
Clergy Abstained: 20

Laity For: 82
Laity Against: 90
Laity Abstained: 7

No surprise there, then - it really is looking as though there is no appetite for anything in any way hard line, and although it might not have been intended in that spirit, the last amendment did sound rather militant.

So now we're on to 75. We've just had to have an electronic vote to see whether we want to vote on the amendment yet. Democracy, don't you love it! And what do you know - the vote to have a vote was lost, so we carry on...

We've hit a real sticking point, it seems. People for the first time are starting to talk about giving ground or not - Mark Russell has just made a tub-thumper of a speech about showing generosity of spirit.

Item 75
Motion Defeated

Bishops For: 15
Bishops Against: 19
Bishops Abstained: 5

Clergy For: 86
Clergy Against: 78
Clergy Abstained: 8

Laity For: 81
Laity Against: 88
Laity Abstained: 10

So - defeated but only just. On balance that may well be right - the rules issues about what does or does not require whatever sort of majority should probably not be decided by an emotional synod after a long session.

Still, I can't help wonder what sort of effect this will have upon Jacquie Humphreys' amendment. +Gloucester likes this one and thinks we ought to pass it - we'll have to see if people agree.

Item 76: Carried by show of hands.

This is a really encouraging development - not so much that it passed but that it passed without debate and clearly by show of hands.

Item 77
Motion Lost

Bishops For: 1
Bishops Against: 35
Bishops Abstained: 4

Clergy For: 38
Clergy Against: 129
Clergy Abstained: 5

Laity For: 44
Laity Against: 129
Laity Abstained: 7

Well. Home stretch. People didn't really like that last amendment - it was seen as closing down the options for a Code of Practice, and kicked out accordingly.

Given that 76 passed overwhelmingly, I reckon 78 will too, but +Gloucester's reply will make a great deal of difference.

++York and +Gloucester have both asked for it to be rejected, and it has been clearly lost by show of hands.

Item 78 - Motion Lost by show of hands.

Ooh. It's got interesting again. Tom Wright (+Durham) has just got up and tried to adjourn the debate, and +Gloucester has declined to give a steer.

Now +Ripon is extolling the virtues of such motions, saying that he was now glad that the same thing had happened to him over Parochial Fees in February, and +Southwark is about to speak against.

Lost 180 to 203. And that's it. +Liverpool is speaking to the main motion once again, and then +Gloucester sums up and it ends.

The vote will happen in a minute. Clive Mansell has just been given a huge round of applause for his chairing. +Gloucester needs a round of applause too for the way he has handled the amendments with great objectivity. He has also just acknowledged that +Ripon's motion got a majority of the whole synod, and has said that the drafting group must take account of that - although he doesn't yet know how.

Item 20
Motion Carried

Bishops For: 28
Bishops Against: 12
Bishops Abstained: 1

Clergy For: 124
Clergy Against: 44
Clergy Abstained: 4

Laity For: 111
Laity Against: 68
Laity Abstained: 2

++Sentamu has just told the media to make sure they report this properly. We have passed a motion about asking for legislation, we have not kicked out the traditionalists...

So, the motion passed was as follows:

20.‘That this Synod:
(a) affirm that the wish of its majority is for women to be admitted to the episcopate;
(b) affirm its view that special arrangements be available, within the existing structures of the Church of England, for those who as a matter of theological conviction will not be able to receive the ministry of women as bishops or priests;
(c)affirm that these should be contained in a statutory national code of practice to which all concerned would be required to have regard; and
(d)instruct the legislative drafting group, in consultation with the House of Bishops, to complete its work accordingly, including preparing the first draft of a code of practice, so that the Business Committee can include first consideration of the draft legislation in the agenda for the February 2009 group of sessions.’

And that's goodnight from me.

Justin GS373

* Updated  16 July 2008
The electronic voting data has now been published online, and Peter Owen has put up a grid of how the bishops voted at Thinking Anglicans.
Alastair Cutting GS101

Synod Churchwarden?

You know about churchwardens. Lots of people reading this probably are churchwardens. Churchwardens are the people supposed to keep order in church. We had traditional Evensong (or at least an edited version of it) as our form of worship after this afternoon's session, and it turned out that we needed a traditional churchwarden too, in order to evict a particularly noisy typist from the press gallery - the clicking of her fingernails on the keys was distracting the people singing the psalm...

On the 'One' Church of England - (e) 7July2008

t-shirt from Aquinas and More  *

One, holy, catholic, and apostolic... is what the Nicene Creed† says of the church, and - just as an one passing example - preached on here by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The CofE declared in 1975 that there were 'no theological objection to women being ordained priest', and then voted in 1992 for the to be ordained, and in 1994 the first women were ordained priest. Within this quinquennium of Synod there has been agreement that the CofE should move towards having women bishops, and in the Manchester Report, the diverse group who produced it unanimously agreed that the church should proceed towards consecrating women bishops - as long as there are 'safeguards' for those opposed.

The church has often been described since 1994 as 'One church, with two integrities' - that is to say it is perfectly possible for either position in regard to the ordination of women to be held with integrity.

I suspect that some thought that perhaps interest in keeping a church where women were not able to minister would wane. As time has gone on, that is clearly not the case, and indeed some churches from both the conservative catholic as well as the conservative evangelical wings of the church claim to be growing, with young people coming forward as leaders in just such a continuing church.

In the Anglican Communion as a whole, there are a variety of individual Provinces - some would say churches. The do not all share the same orders, or policies, but are still linked together under the umbrella of the Anglican Communion.

Some are wondering if what we have already in the CofE is not one, but actually two churches. Personally, I do not believe that - I think it is closer to 3 or 4... Let's stay with discussing two churches though. Some are horrified that the CofE might be split into more than one church - even though womens ministry has clearly vastly altered the way church is, from where it was, and it looks o most people as though that is what we currently have.

Some senior figures are talking about 'light touch' alternative dioceses. I think that is because it is perhaps being acknowledged that this is what the situation really is.

Will alternative dioceses be one of the ways in which the church could remain closer to being still 'One'?
* 'This t-shirt features a quote from 1 Timothy 3:15 "the Church of the Living God, the Pillar and Foundation of Truth." and the words "One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic" on the front. The back features the quote from St. Francis "Preach the Gospel at all times... When necessary, use words."
T-shirt comes in Cardinal Red'
† The original post mistakenly mentioned Apostles' rather than Nicene Creed, though the roots of even the 'holy catholic church' are there too.

Alastair Cutting, GS101

Bargain Clergy - (d) 7July2008

Just checking updates on the blog I noticed a fascinating advertisment on the page...

This could clearly solve a number of the CofE's financial problems, whilst at the same time apparently 'feeding your passion'.

Perhaps you may be able to get a 'bogof' whilst you are at it - though sometimes I am aware that is what visitors to our churches feel that is what might have been said to them as they arrive...

And with that, I'll blog-off...

Alastair Cutting, GS101

Meet the Press - (c) 7July2008

From the Church Times

I was talking over the supper table last night with some of the journalists from the press. Not all Synod members feel that what goes on in the chamber, and what gets reported, quite match. But even the Archbishop of Canterbury in his sermon in York Minster on Sunday reminded us that Jesus would also be with the (even!) members of the press gallery. No wonder one journalist felt Rowan might have just saved the church!

Here is a puzzle for Synod speech-makers though... Which media to aim at? The soundbite beloved of the broadcast media, or  the written press? The chamber likes to hear speeches that lighten the debate with jokes and anecdotes. There are many eloquent and humorous members of synod, and that is one of the delights of sitting listening in the chamber - even hour after hour. Some of these also make it on to the radio or even tv.

But the printed press find that jokes and anecdotes just don't work on paper. So here is the synod conundrum: to speak with the sort of substance and gravitas that gets quoted in the papers; or wow the crowd with a lighthearted and engaging speech.

Of course the truth is, that what is needed is both. And fortunately, many speakers manage to achieve this in their speeches.

Come and sit in the visitors gallery for Synod at some time, to hear for yourself. Synod meets at Church House Westminster from 9-13 February 2009, and future dates can be seen here.

Alastair Cutting, GS101

Women Bishops Debate (7th July 2008) - Motion and list of proposed amendments

Hot off the press - as it were - here are the amendments that have been proposed for this afternoon.

Monday 7th July 2007
2.30 p.m. to 6.15 p.m.
8.30 p.m. to 10.00 p.m.


The Bishop of Gloucester to move:
20.‘That this Synod:
(a)reaffirm its wish for women to be admitted to the episcopate;
(b)affirm its view that special arrangements be available, within the existing structures of the Church of England, for those who as a matter of theological conviction will not be able to receive the ministry of women as bishops or priests;
(c)affirm that these should be contained in a national code of practice to which all concerned would be required to have regard; and
(d)instruct the legislative drafting group, in consultation with the House of Bishops, to complete its work accordingly, including preparing the first draft of a code of practice, so that the Business Committee can include first consideration of the draft legislation in the agenda for the February 2009 group of sessions.’


The Bishop of Winchester to move as an amendment:
66. After “That this Synod” leave out paragraph (a) and insert:
“(a) anticipating the ordination of women to the episcopate in the Church of England, and noting the Manchester Group’s assertion in paragraph 22 of GS 1685 that “far and away the most important question that the Church of England now has to face is the extent to which it wishes to continue to accommodate the breadth of theological views on this issue that it currently encompasses”,
i)affirm the assurances included in paragraphs 67-69 of GS 1685;
ii)reaffirm (GS 1685 paragraph 74) Resolution III.2 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference “that those who dissent from, as well as those who assent to the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate are both loyal Anglicans”;
In paragraph (b) leave out “within the existing structures of the Church of England”; and
In paragraph (c) after “in” insert “legislation and in”.

If item 66 is lost the Revd Prebendary David Houlding (London) to move as an amendment:
67. Leave out paragraph (a) and insert:
“(a) affirm that the wish of its majority is for women to be admitted to the episcopate”.

If item 66 is lost the Revd Stephen Trott (Peterborough) to move as an amendment:
68. Leave out paragraphs (b) and (c) and in paragraph (d) leave out “, including preparing the first draft of a code of practice,”.

If items 66 and 68 are lost the Revd Miranda Threlfall-Holmes (Universities, York) to move as an amendment:
69. In paragraph (b) leave out all the words after “affirm its view that” and insert “this should be done with the simplest possible statutory approach, with local diocesan arrangements for pastoral provision and sacramental care;”;
Leave out paragraph (c); and
In paragraph (d) leave out “, including preparing the first draft of a code of practice,”.

If items 66, 68 and 69 are lost the Revd Canon Simon Killwick (Manchester) to move as an amendment:
70. In paragraph (b) leave out “the existing structures of”;
In paragraph (c) leave out “national code of practice to which all concerned would be required to have regard” and insert “Measure”; and
In paragraph (d) leave out “accordingly, including preparing the first draft of a code of practice,” and insert “by preparing a draft Measure and associated code of practice providing new dioceses for those who cannot in conscience receive the ministry of women as bishops or priests,” and after the words “so that” insert the words “, if possible,”.

If items 66, 68, 69 and 70 are lost the Bishop of Exeter to move as an amendment:
71. In paragraph (b) leave out “the existing structures of”;
In paragraph (c) leave out “national code of practice to which all concerned would be required to have regard” and insert “Measure”; and
In paragraph (d) leave out all the words after “accordingly” and insert “by preparing drafts of possible legislation in accordance with paragraph (c), to include further draft Measures, together with associated codes of practice, based on diocesan structures for those who cannot in conscience receive the ministry of women as bishops or priests, so that, if possible, the Business Committee can include consideration of these options in the agenda for the February 2009 group of sessions.”.

If items 66, 68, 69, 70 and 71 are lost the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds to move as an amendment:
72. In paragraph (c) after the words “affirm that these should be” insert “either by way of statutory transfer of specified responsibilities or”; and
In paragraph (d) leave out “complete” and insert “develop” and leave out the words “first consideration of the draft legislation” and insert “further consideration of both alternatives envisaged in paragraph (c)”.

If items 68 and 69 are lost Miss Emma Forward (Exeter) to move as an amendment:
73. In paragraph (b) leave out “special”.

The Revd Gillian Henwood (York) to move as an amendment:
74. Insert after paragraph (b):
“(..) affirm its view that special arrangements should be available, within the existing structures of the Church of England, for those who as a matter of theological conviction wish to exercise or receive the ministry of women as bishops or priests in episcopal areas where the bishop has stated that he is not able to ordain women;”.

If items 66, 68, 69, 70, 71 and 72 are lost Canon Dr Christina Baxter (Southwell and Nottingham) to move as an amendment:
75. After paragraph (c) insert as a new paragraph:
“(..) require that the Measure enabling women to be admitted to the episcopate should require:
i)that the Measure should only come into force once the code has been agreed;
ii)that in order for the code of practice to come into effect, it must receive the approval of the General Synod with a two-thirds majority in each House; and
iii)that any future changes to the code can only be made by the General Synod with a two-thirds majority in each House;”.

If items 66, 68, 69, 70, 71 and 75 are lost Ms Jacqueline Humphreys (Bristol) to move as an amendment:
76. In paragraph (c) insert “statutory” before the words “national code of practice”.

If items 66, 68, 69, 70, 71 and 72 are lost the Revd Canon Robert Cotton (Guildford) to move as an amendment:
77. Insert as a new paragraph after paragraph (c):
“(..) agree that the code of practice should relate only to the exercise of episcopal functions and describe a commitment to mutual support and cooperation between members of the House of Bishops to help with pastoral provision and sacramental care when situations arise affecting those with conscientious difficulties relating to ordination to the priesthood and the episcopate; and”.

If items 66, 68, 69, 70 and 71 are lost His Honour Thomas Coningsby QC (ex officio) to move as an amendment:
78. In paragraph (c) leave out all the words after “national code of practice” and insert “which all concerned would be required to follow”.

Note: The headings to the Parts of this Order Paper are included solely for ease of reference.

If you are one of the many praying about this, pray too for this afternoon's Chairman, Clive Mansell, the Archdeacon of Tonbridge, who has to try and find a way through all of this.

Numbers on voting for Women Bishops - (b) 7July2008

I have noticed an interesting phenomenon around synod. It is the "I'm in favour of Women Bishops, but..." syndrome.

This is a good and bad thing.

It is good, as clearly synod members are talking with one another, hearing and feeling each others' pain, not wanting to quickly put forward their own personal agenda[s] at the expense of others.

For example, in the background material within the Manchester Report, it is interesting to see the voting figures mentioned on pps 35-37. These demonstrate that on all the key votes in this current quinqenium of Synod, the house of Laity has not had a 2/3 majority - though as in these votes only a simple majority was required, and achieved.

The house of bishops also met before Synod at Market Bosworth, and although they came up with a formula for Synod, rumour has it that again only a simple majority and not a 2/3 majority was achieved in bringing forward Monday's propsal.

What is so important with the 2/3 majority. Because final votes on this legislation will need a majority of 2/3 in each House of Synod before it can be passed. Currently it does not seem to have it. That is why it is said that final approval will have to await the next Synod, due to be elected in 2010.

Why is it though, that so many are saying "I'm in favour of Women Bishops, but..." then? Yes, they want protection for collegues who cannot accept it. But the whole point of this process is that there should be protection for those both seeking, and those unable to accept women as bishops. If such protection is afforded,  should they not by now be saying yes??

Alastair Cutting, GS101

Muddling along on Monday Morning

Everyone is a bit on edge at the moment - not really surprising - so the odd little bits of 'normal' Synod Life seem curiously encouraging. Synod is in some ways a bit like any other big residential conference - it has the same sort of superficial look - people wander around with badges and bulging bags of papers, the bars are full of intense conversation, people eat large breakfasts that they wouldn't dream of cooking for themselves, and so on. I was coming out of the dining room after my breakfast (large, but I probably would have cooked it for myself), walked past the inevitable pile of bags, briefcases, umbrellas and raincoats, and had to smile as I saw an alb and a green stole dumped casually on the top of the pile. Then, when I made it over to the hall I was confronted by one of the youngest members of the Synod - certainly the youngest clergy member - wearing a cardboard box over his shoulders like a placard, urging people to sign his Private Members Motion.

Life goes on here in York. At the moment - as I type this, sitting up in the gallery - we are debating the Anglican/Methodist Covenant, and doing a pretty good job of carrying on as normal. Whatever normal is in this singular institution!

Justin GS373

On Timetabling Synod - (a) 7July2008

Synod works to quite tight sets of standing orders. Quite often through the day, people will call for a 'point of order', if they feel business is not running as it should, or if business needs to be kept moving to timetable, (or possibly, occasionally in slightly more maverick ways) to adjust how the business is being conducted in such a way as to gain an advantage.

However, just as in a[n] F1 Grand Prix race (kudos, Lewis...!), cutting a corner and gaining an advantage in a chicane is a shortlived thrill, and sometimes has a penalty to be paid...

There are times however when 'events, dear boy' overtake things. When some 14 amendments to the house of bishops' motion on Women Bishops this afternoon were submitted, it became clear that the 4 hours set aside for the debate probably would not be long enough. Consequently the Business Committee sought to change the order from that previously published, and move Monday evening's business, to allow the Women Bishop's debate and its many ammendments to at least all be debated on the same day. Once a revised proposal is put forward, Synod then has to agree. It did.

It achieved that by postponing some of the less time-sensative legislative business from the morning, and bring the St Albans Diocesan Synod motion (GS Misc 890 A and B : Faith, Work And Economic Life) forward to the late morning.

Alastair Cutting, GS101

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Where Would Jesus Be? (Archbishop Rowan's Sermon 6/7/08)

It is a remarkable thing for us to have a poet as our Archbishop - sometimes we forget that theological thought can be beautiful as well as challenging, and it is Rowan Williams' lyrical gifts as much as his theological insight that made his sermon this morning in York Minster so remarkable. It wasn't exactly cheerful - he can do a feel-good sermon with the best of them, but this wasn't it. Instead he talked about agonies and complexities - something that Anglicans seem to be doing only too well at the moment. Perhaps it was ever thus, and there never was a time when we weren't riven by some imminent crisis or other, but it does seem to particularly painful and complex just at the moment.

Sometimes, he said, at a synod or something similar, it is a good thing to look out of the window. You might see Jesus going by. Ouch. Then he went on to ask - where will Jesus be at Synod, in the middle of our discussions? This is some of what he said in answer to his own question.

'With those traditionalists feeling the Church is falling away from them, the landmarks have shifted. They do not know how what they have heard and taught and been taught can be life-giving for tomorrow.

'He will be with those in a very different part of the landscape who feel that things are closing in, that their position is under threat, that their liberties are being taken away by those anxious and eager to enforce their ideologies in the name of Christ.

'He will be with those who feel that their liberty to question is under threat.

'He will be with the gay clergy who wonder what their future is in a Church so anxious and threatened about this issue.

'He will be all over the place.

'He will be with the people we do not much want to sit with because that is the place he always occupies. He pipes for them and they will dance, because in their unprotectedness they are able to meet him at a level many of us cannot.

'Where would Jesus be? In whose company?

'In the company of those who feel less than, who are lost and who are just beginning to see that lostness is the beginning of wisdom.'

Perhaps that's not so much of a surprise - this is the Jesus who sought out the Tax Collectors and the Sinners, the Jesus who told the righteous who were consequently shocked that it's the sick who need a doctor - but it is a powerful set of images, astoundingly expressed.

I sometimes reflect on the remarkable absurdity of the Christian Gospel. The last shall be first. Those who try to save their lives will lose them, only by losing one's life can one gain eternal life. The King of Glory comes to us as a helpless baby, and dies on the cross what W H Auden described as 'a death reserved for slaves'. The greatest event in human history is revealed first to shepherds on a hillside. It is absurd, but it is a beautiful absurdity. The place we are in at the moment is for many of us dark, uncertain, frightening - and around those of us who are confused by this seem to be others who are certain that they know the truth. It is the very fact that I number myself with the uncertain and the frightened that has enabled me to gain such comfort from the Archbishop's words this morning. It is a facet, surely, of that beautiful absurdity of our faith that it is my very fear, my very distress, the fact that I cannot discern the way of Christ in the dark place that I am, it is all of these things that assure me that Christ is sitting beside me, and his light will shine in my darkness - if I am prepared to look.

Justin GS373

I am indebted to Ruth Gledhill's 'instant blogging' from York Minster here. (I was there too, but I wasn't wired up...)

Saturday, 5 July 2008

On Readers - (d) 5July2008

Saturday evening had a debate based on a report about the current state of Readers within the CofE.

Image courtesy of J&M

Readers is a funny medieval term; I am sure that most of our Readers can, and do - but so do now most of the rest of our congregations. The term comes partly from a specific role at a university; but in church terms mostly these days means 'preacher and teacher' and leading worship, though many Readers nowadays have many other vital roles in local church life.

The report that the debate was based around, was well over 100 pages long (beware if you try to download it!), and though much of it was good and worthy,  parts were unintelligible - and not just because of coloured boxes behind the text  photocopying badly.

There are a huge number of recommendations, many supported by Readers and those involved in their training and support in my diocese; and according to speeches in the debate, from other individuals and dioceses too.

Several of the members of Synod from our diocese are indeed Readers. On was in full flow of a speech, just getting to an illustrative story for his punchlne when the red light for the end of the speech came on, to a great saddened 'awwww' from the synod. (Many Synod speeches are limited to 3 minutes or less in length.) But the red light is the red light.

A blog, however, has the advantage of being able to additionally embroider around what Synod itself is not able to do and hear - and when I have his permission, I hope to add the end of mike's speech here...

Alastair, GS101

Common Tenure & other legislative business - (c) 5July2008

Synod often has exciting, godly, and even at times media attracting debates. But it also have to deal with dry legislation at times. Saturday afternoon contained mecessary progress on Pensions, Vacancies in Sees (when appoining a new bishop in a diocese), and other Miscellanious Provisions...

And there was Common Tenure again. This was to be the final Final Approval debate on what is properly termed the Draft Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Measure (GS 1637B), and Common Tenure is one of the key aspects of this.

In February's Synod, my report on the Common Tenure debate received a number of comments fearful of the future. The debate on Saturday afternoon was the final approval - no time to change any of the content of the Measure.

Prebendary David Houlding made a speech in contributing to the debate, commenting on the loss of freehold. My neighbour sitting in the chamber leaned over and said to me "David Houlding will be one of those who will hold on to his Freehold, rather than switch to Common Tenure when it comes in...".

No sooner had my neighbour said this, before Fr. Houlding said "I expect many of you suspect I will not be willing to hand over my freehold - but you will be wrong. Not only will I be handing in my freehold and coming under Common Tenure, but I will hope to get my letter in by return of post." He received a significant round of applause, as one from a part of the church which is sometimes suspicious of the rescinding of the freehold as part of some central plan to shift the power away from local parochial clergy, who was outspokenly pro Common Tenure.

In my deanery, with over 20 clergy, only some 6 or so have freehold. I am one of those 6, but as part of my concern for the protection provided by Common Tenure to my colleagues, I will be following Fr. Houlding's example, and handing in my freehold.

Alastair, GS101

The 18th Camel (or a Presidential Address)

So - we know about one camel and the eye of a needle, but what have eighteen of them to do with anything? It's like this, said the Archbishop of York to the Synod. Once upon a time a man died and left his estate - consisting entirely of camels - to his three sons as follows. To his first son, he left half his camels, to his second son a third of his camels, and to his third and youngest son a ninth of the camels. This would have been well enough, were it not for the fact that the old man left seventeen camels in total. Now, given that a fraction of a camel is useful only for a barbecue, the sons had a problem, and being unable to see the solution themselves, they went to see the local Wise Man. What you need, said the Wise Man, is another camel. I'll lend you one. So - now they had eighteen camels and they divided them up. The eldest son took half of the camels - nine in total. The middle son too his third - six in total. The youngest son took his ninth share - two camels. Then the Wise Man took his own camel back.
We, says Archbishop Sentamu, should be that eighteenth camel in our dealings with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We should be that extra part of the Body of Christ that enables the rest to function as they should. His remark at the end? "Thank you for listening, and let's go for it!" Amen, Archbishop.
(You can find the Archbishop of York's official Press Release on his address here, and an audio of his speech here.)
Justin GS373

Haere Mai: A personal note - (b) 5July2008

This is my third York, so I must be more than half-way through my quinquenium on Synod, and although I made a couple of comments at 'Questions', I have never made a speech in a debate before. Well I made my 'maiden' in Saturday morning's Take Note debate on the Women Bishop's legislation.
Some debates have literally hundreds of members of Synod wishing to speak. To have a higher chance of doing so, members may put in a 'request to speak' in advance of the debate. This paper, with some notes from the potential speaker, lets the chair of the debate have an idea of what the speaker wants to cover in their speech, to allow more of a flow to the way the whole debate is going.
One of the suggestions in the Manchester Report is the possible creation of (say) 3 new dioceses across England for those opposed to the ministry of women bishops.

This reminded me of my time in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa/New Zealand which I have visited on a number of occasions, and a few years back had the privilege of working in a Parish in suburban Auckland for three months. Interestingly, the Bishop of Auckland John Paterson, is also chair of the Anglican Consultative Council, and has significant experience in both Aotearoa/New Zealand, where he was presiding (arch) bishop for a number of years, and the rest of the Anglican communion. New Zealand was also the first province that elected a woman, Penny Jamison, as a diocesan bishop, and has recently elected Victoria Matthews as the bishop of Christchurch. But it was less for the the women bishops has that I was thinking the church in A/NZ has something to say, but rather it's organisational structures...
The Anglican church in New Zealand operates under what are known as 3 Tikangas, or Cultural streams. There is Tikanga Maori; Tikanga Pakeha, the white settlers of Ndew Zealand, and Tikanga Pasefika, of the Polynesian peoples. Tikanga Pakeha has seven dioceses across the whole of the country; Tikanga Maori has five 'Hui Amorangi' whose oundaries are not the same as the dioceses, but have a similar purpose; and the Tikanga Pasefika has a single diocese that encompasses Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands, and is known as the Diocese of Polynesia.
The Tikangas have their own bishops, and clergy, though most training is done with two or more together - as at St. John's College in Auckland, where on the same campus, there are the colleges
  • Te Whare Wananga o Te Rau Kahikatea (the theological college of Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa)
  • The College of the Southern Cross (for the Anglican Dioceses in New Zealand)
  • The College of the Diocese of Polynesia (the theological college of The Diocese of Polynesia in New Zealand)
  • and the unique on site ecumenical partnership with Trinity Methodist Theological College (the theological college of The Methodist Church of New Zealand).
So clergy often train together. More than that, the three Tikangas also meet together for the General Synod of the Church of Aotearoa/New Zealand, which meets biennially - imagine a General Synod that only meets evert 2 years! However, there might be some draw backs with this - as sometimes, not only do they vote as our synod does, by houses (that is by the house of bishops, clergy and laity); but in NZ they are sometimes called to vote by the three Tikangas as well. And on occasion, it is more than even that - they sometimes are asked to vote in houses and tikangas at the same vote - that is 9 separate votes going on at once!
On my first visit to churches in A/NZ, I was incredibly moved by the New Zealand Prayer Book. It has some services in English/Maori side by side. The English services have snippets of Maori in, and vice-versa. There are other services in Fijian, Tongan, and Samoan.

Here was a church that was trying to demonstrate unity and diversity at the same time. Could this help as a model for the all new CofE with women bishops too??
Well may be: but may be not. Once at a clergy chapter meeting with Pakeha clergy, I asked where the nearest Maori congregation was. No one seemed to know. I asked about local Maori clergy. Again, little effective response. And this was sadly not all one way - when asking for assistance amongst Maori educationalists for help with some study, I did not get much support (fortunately more than counterbalanced by the welcome of several Maori Clergy, especially my good friend Te Waaka M, in Rotorua later...!).
People really did not seem to know each other well across tikangas, particularly at parish church level - or possibly trust each other quite as I had hoped brothers and sisters in the church might. This sometimes also raised questions about financial issues between tikangas as well, which I did not have time to go into in a speech allowed less than 3 minutes in length. I suspect if we were to adopt the pattern in the CofE to deal with the issues of women bishops, we may run in to some of those issues as well.
Even having said that, what we have in the church in A/NZ is a possible pattern for dealing with diversity, and possibly well worth exploring further.
I started my speech with the Maori greeting Haere Mai (which caused the poor sign-language interpreters quite some problems!) - but as my speech was 27th out of 27, perhaps I should have ended it with a Haere Ra: farewell.
Audio of Alastair's speech: press to hear...

Alastair, GS101

Women Bishops Part 1

The Bishop of Manchester had a tough job today. Having produced the next report on Women Bishops - chairing a group that was as diverse as the opinions you find in this Synod - he then had to present it to Synod this morning, after we had done a session of Group Work.

A word about Group Work. This is something that happens at every York session - I have only been on Synod since 2005 so I don't know quite how far back it goes, nor what the original intention behind it was, but I have to say I look forward to it. We are split into groups of 15 or so, we have a bishop and an archdeacon or two to keep an eye on us, and we are given something to talk about. There seems to have been a deliberate effort to mix us up as much as possible, and that's actually the reason why I like it - my group has Traditional Catholics, Conservative Evangelicals and every variety of middle-of-the-road Anglican in between. Given that many of us are not shy of expressing an opinion, it can be lively. The previous two sessions were Bible Study, but this one today was specifically about the Manchester Report, and it gave a chance for a genuinely free and frank exchange of views.

Anyway, softened up or not by the Group Work, there we were in the Assembly Hall in York, waiting for the bishop's introduction. I didn't envy him. The report puts forward a number of alternatives, and it is an inevitable consequence of such an approach that in articulating the various ideas in the report, the poor man was going to say something that would annoy just about every one of his audience. So what did he say, and how was it received?

Well - he picked out the bits of the report that he felt were worthy of particular attention, but there were a couple of remarks that might be of interest. The first was his insistence that despite the difficulties, now was the right time to be carrying on the debate. Previous Synod motions had created an atmosphere of uncertainty, and that meant that issues had to be addressed one way or the other. The second was that we should take seriously the 'Single Clause Measure' option, while being quite clear about the consequences. The third was that what we are really talking about when we talk about these various options and their consequences is what sort of Church it is that we want to be.

So then it was open to the floor, and there were a total of (I think) 27 speeches. Anything I tell you about these is of course impressionistic - I can't do shorthand - but there was some interesting stuff. At some point in the debate I wrote 'everyone's being so polite' and indeed they were - but not everybody was cheerful or optimistic. There was a sense that for many people, although their hearts were telling them one thing about inclusiveness, about unity, and about the need to hold everyone together, nevertheless their heads were telling them something else about the implications of some of the paths proposed in the report. Will a Code of Practice be enough for those who conscientiously object? If not, will actual legislated provision be a bridge too far for those who feel that womens' ministry is compromised by what they see as discrimination? Could it be that provisions for those who dissent will actually serve to institutionalise a lack of trust between the various different parties?

And yet... Speaker after speaker made it clear that they felt that the obligation for permanent provisions to be made for those who could not accept womens' ordination continued to be binding upon the Church. It is quite clear - to me at least - that the mood of the Synod was inclined towards compromise of some kind or other. Perhaps the last word ought to go to the Bishop of Manchester. The most telling part of his summing-up was this - that it is far more compelling to ba able to say to someone, "I trust you" than to say to them, "Will you trust me?"

You can find the Bishop of Manchester's Report here

Justin GS373