Synod taskforce announced
Debate: Dr Warner speaking at the General Synod, in November
THE membership of a working group given the task of helping the House of Bishops to resolve the deadlock on women bishops was announced on Wednesday. Two of its ten members – the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, and the Chair of the House of Laity, Dr Philip Giddings – voted against the legislation at the Synod last month ( News, 23 November).
The group, which is drawn from all three Houses of the Synod, is expected to have two initial meetings in January, a Church House statement said. It will “arrange facilitated discussions in February with a wide range of people with a variety of views”, and will “assist the House [of Bishops] when it meets in February and in May to come to a decision on the new package of proposals it intends to bring to the Synod in July”.
The working group’s members are: the Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, the Rt Revd Nigel Stock (chair); the Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth; the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff; the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner; the Dean of York, the Very Revd Vivienne Faull; the Archdeacon of Lewisham & Greenwich, the Ven. Christine Hardman; the Revd Dr Rosemarie Mallett (Southwark); Dr Philip Giddings (Oxford); Dr Paula Gooder (Birmingham); and Margaret Swinson (Liverpool).
The House of Bishops met at Lambeth Palace on Monday and Tuesday of last week ( News, 14 December). After the meeting, the Bishops said that new legislative proposals would need to offer “greater simplicity”, but also a “clear embodiment of the principle articulated by the 1998 Lambeth Conference that those who dissent from, as well as those who assent to, the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate are both loyal Anglicans”.
The Catholic Group in the General Synod has said that it is “fully ready to assist in the process of agreeing fresh legislation to provide for the religious convictions of all loyal Anglicans”. It has asked that women “who do not support the consecration of women bishops” contribute to the discussions.
Laity meeting. Church House published the agenda, on Monday, for the meeting of the House of Laity, on 18 January, at which Stephen Barney (Leicester) will move: “That this House have no confidence in Dr Philip Giddings as Chair of this House.”
In an explanatory note accompanying the agenda, Mr Barney writes that Dr Giddings’s speech against the Measure had “followed directly” a speech in favour of the legislation by the Archbishop-designate, the Rt Revd Justin Welby, and therefore “directly undermined” Bishop Welby.
Dr Giddings’s intervention “did not support the views of the House of Bishops as a whole”, and “speaking as the Chair of our House, his speech was instrumental in convincing some of the undecided members of the House to vote against”. Mr Barney writes that Dr Giddings’s speech “was therefore a significant contributor to the reputational damage the Church of England is already suffering at the hands of the press”.
Mr Barney concludes: “I have always been one of the first to say that individuals must vote according to their consciences; however, leaders have other responsibilities and accountabilities. . . [The leader] must show wise and good judgement, and I do not believe that this has happened.”
Question of the week: Should those opposed to women bishops have more representation on the group?
This notice in the English ‘Church Times’, announcing the composition of the ‘Think Tank’ to advise the Church of England House of Bishops on their next move seems pretty widely-representative of all parties in dispute about the wisdom of ordaining women bishops in the Church of England.
Evidence of the willingness of the Church’s House of Bishops to accommodate the demands of the anti-Women’s Ordination minority shows up clearly in their selection of two of the leading contenders against Women’s Ministry in the C.of E. – Martin Warner, Bishop of Salisbury, and Philip Giddings, the outspoken Chair of the House of Laity.
Bishop Martin Warner, a member of ‘Forward in Faith’ and formerly Guardian of the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham, is known to have opposed the priestly ministry of women at the Shrine, a situation which still prevails, despite many Anglo-Catholic devotees who visit the Shrine being advocates of women clergy and bishops.
Dr.Philip Giddings spoke at the recent General Synod meeting in direct opposition to the urging of the Archbishop-designate of Canterbury, Dr. Justin Welby, in his plea to support the bid for women to be ordained bishops in the Church of England. As Chair of the House of Laity, it is thought by many that his opposition speech in General Synod, was not representative of the majority stance of Laity of the Church of England on the important matter of Women’s Ministry.
Considering their joint lack of any sympathy for Women’s ministry in the Church, it is difficult to see how these two members of the new commission task force could ever bring advice to the House of Bishops that would lead to the process of fulfilment of the overall desire of the majority of the diocesan synods that women be ordained bishops – without discrimination on account of their gender.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand