Giddings survives no-confidence vote
THE HOUSE of Laity has confirmed its confidence in their Chair, Dr Philip Giddings, during a controversial debate on the future of their leader.
The Chair will therefore stay in office, but he said debates are needed about what the role of the Chair is.
The result was clear, with 80 members voting against the motion that called for a vote of no confidence in Dr Giddings, who revealed even the Archbishopelect had written to tell him he believed he had conducted himself entirely properly.
Only 47 members voted for the motion, with 30 recorded abstentions.
Canon Stephen Barney asked two questions of the House when introducing the motion to the House.
In general, are you confident that Dr Giddings is fairly representing your views when he is representing the House of Laity and do you think the chair’s role in the debate on the Measure in November is something you want to support, he asked.
Deborah Mclsaac of Salisbury spoke first, arguing the motion tried to make Dr Giddings ‘the scapegoat’.
Church Commissioner Andreas Whittam Smith agreed with Ms McIsaac, supporting both Giddings’ position on women and his right to express his view.
“Free speech is extremely important in churches,” he said, arguing the motion relies on a misunderstanding of the role of the Chair.
Dr Chik Kaw Tan also agreed, saying later that this motion can be seen as nothing but an act against freedom of speech.
Glynn Harrison rebuked Synod, claiming never to have heard it suggested that someone in office should not express their view.
“Have we forgotten how we have relied upon him to take an opposing view at other times?” he asked.
Prudence Dailey asked if a ‘motion of no confidence isn’t an overreaction’.
Brigadier Ian Dobbie could not see how Dr Giddings, who spoke five hours before the vote was taken on women bishops, was directly responsible for the result.
He argued there was no scientific evidence for this, and wondered how members could claim this motion was ‘not personal’.
Joanna Monckton said the Laity should be ‘ ashamed’ of themselves.
Mrs Monckton said calling a meeting of this nature was ‘cruel’ and un-Christian.
She concluded: “We must support our Chair.”
Dr Giddings is “exactly the right person to draw people together in unity,” Clive Scowen then argued.
But Timothy Allen suggested Anglican Mainstream, of which Dr Giddings belongs, should be called Oxbow Lake, as it is a cut off, stagnant group that represents a small minority – and claimed the Chair’s views were similar.
He argued that while Dr Giddings remains, the Synod will be unable to move forward on issues such as women bishops and homosexuality, on which the rest of the Church wants to make progress.
Robert Key said one ‘forfeits the right of trust and respect of the House’ when one enters into the debate.
The former MP said the House should expect impartiality of their Chair, however Prudence Dailey stood to oppose this view, saying Dr Giddings does not represent a campaign group with one viewpoint.
“The House of Laity isn’t like that – it has never been like that.”
She said officers have always voted in ‘accordance to their consciences’, as the Chair of the House of Laity always did, and always has done.
However, Dr Elaine Storkey reminded members that it was about ‘confidence’ in their Chair and whether that confidence will grow and continue. “It’s almost a question of loyalty.”
Dr Storkey claimed this motion was not about anger, not about embarrassing the Chair and not about whether he had the right to express his view.
When Christina Rees stood to speak, she admitted this was outside the ‘collective comfort zone’ of the House, but warned a ‘culture of niceness often led to falseness’.
Ms Rees, a prominent women bishops campaigner, asked: “To whom is our Chair accountable, if not to this House?”
She noted Dr Gidding’s letter to The Times, expressing his ‘own strong views on a controversial issue’, and signing it ‘Chair of the House of Laity’.
Ms Rees complained of his use of ‘Chair’, as opposed to ‘member’, arguing it gave the impression of being the view of the whole House.
The former WATCH Chair noted that the word confidence means: with reliance, faith and tr ust.
Sister Anita Smith, representing the Religious Communities, said job of the Chair is to ‘build consensus’, something she did not think Dr Giddings had done.
When Frances Wood stood to say Dr Giddings undermined the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt Rev Justin Welby, Dr Giddings was seen to shake his head in disagreement.
Throughout the debate, the Chair of the House sat alone in his usual position at the front of the Chamber, facing the rest of the House.
There were 81 requests to speak during the debate.
In his reply to the comments made, Dr Giddings expressed his ‘regret’ that the meeting was held.
The Chair still argued that a ‘better way’ must be found before women bishops can be accepted.
He reflected on the ‘charges’ Canon Barney made.
The one Dr Giddings most objected to was the claim that he undermined Bishop Justin.
“I had no choice when I spoke,” he explained.
He said he ‘read and reread’ those words, ‘in an attempt to see whether they can be construed as undermining or personally criticising Bishop Justin’.
Quoting the Archbishop-designate, he said Bishop Welby had said: “It never crossed my mind that you were in the slightest bit offensive, discourteous, impolite, disrespectful, or anything other than engaging very appropriately in discussion of a serious issue. “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.”
He said the House had to decide what the appropriate role of the Chair or Vice Chair is.
Dr Giddings asserted his belief that his role should be one of articulating views of laity, ensuring that all views are heard so that General Synod can find ways to unite behind any policy and legislation being discussed.
Canon Barney stood to speak in reply, thanking the members for the ‘gracious’ debate.
He said this motion would issue a statement to interested parties ‘outside’, that not all the Laity were in agreement with the result, if it were passed.
Canon Barney said the Lay Chair spoke of no decision being taken without consensus, but argued this was not reasonable, saying it showed poor judgement.
“I am sure that our Chair’s speech had an impact,” saying he knew of people who were persuaded by Dr Giddings’ speech to vote against the ordination of women to the episcopate.
“It’s not about voting someone out because he said something you and me disagree with.” he went on.
“With Chairmanship comes responsibility.”
Canon Barney argued a new Chair would be a new beginning.
However, Fay Wilson-Rudd then called to ‘move to next business’, meaning the motion could not be voted on during this Quinquennium, in an attempt to avoid a vote of no confidence.
She argued the Laity ‘ kids themselves’ if they believe they will ever find a Chair who shares all their views’.
“We like strong leadership when it represents our views,” she continued.
Canon Barney opposed this ‘wrecking amendment’, saying it would make the Laity ‘look ridiculous’.
“There is a case to be answered and we must deliver a verdict,” he concluded.
While Dr Giddings expressed sympathy with the move, he bravely said there were questions to be answered and the motion should be put to the House.
The procedural motion was overwhelmingly lost.