Gid­dings sur­vives no-con­fi­dence vote

The Church of England - - NEWS - By Amaris Cole

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.

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