No Confidence

The text of Canon Stephen Barney’s reasons for the vote of no confidence in Philip Giddings is now public.

Philip GiddingsMy reason for asking members of the House to debate this motion is that I do not have confidence in our Chair since:

  • His speech against the measure followed directly after Justin Welby’s and therefore I believe directly undermined what the Archbishop elect had said
  • Since it was against it did not support the views of the House of Bishops as a whole
  • Speaking as the Chair of our House his speech was instrumental in convincing some of the undecided members of the House to vote against
  • I believe the speech was therefore a significant contributor to the reputational damage the Church of England is already suffering at the hands of the press, which is also manifest in the comments of the Prime Minister, the emerging reports of withdrawal of financial support, the angry reaction of church members and the disbelief and ridicule expressed by many of our secular friends, all of which I believe will damage the mission of our church
  • The failure of the Measure is already giving momentum to the idea that the only likely solution now is a single clause Measure, which would result in a worse outcome for the minority groups than was on offer on Tuesday

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. I feel that if I am to support the leader of a group of which I am a member then that leader must show wise and good judgement and I do not believe that this has happened.

I think this is very poor. Let’s get to the core of what Stephen’s complaints are, bullet by bullet. Each point below is directly related to the bullet in the text above.

  1. Philip Giddings disagreed with Justin Welby – How is this possibly a reason to have no confidence in someone?
  2. Philip Giddings disagreed with the majority if Bishops - How is this possibly a reason to have no confidence in someone?
  3. Philip Giddings convinced some people to vote no - How is this possibly a reason to have no confidence in someone?
    Philip Giddings spoke as “Chair of the House” – This is possibly the only point of merit, but in his speech Giddings specifically referred to his role as Chair for two purposes only. First, to congratulate Justin Welby on his appointment and second, to reflect a minority view which he may or may not hold to. Is it Canon Stephen’s position that the Chair of the House should not try to represent minority positions?
  4. Some people in the wider public didn’t like the decision of the Church – So what? How is this possibly a reason to have no confidence in someone unless he and he alone made the decision?
  5. There might now be a vote on a Single Clause which will provide poorer provision then Philip Giddings wants – So what? There might not be. One cannot blame Giddings for something that “might happen”.

The only point of any merit is that Giddings used his role of Chair of the House inappropriately, but given the content of his speech, it is very clear that he felt he was representing a minority position. Indeed, Giddings’ speech is interesting in that he at no point mentions his own theological position on the issue (he does mention he voted yes in 1992) but rather his concern for others’.

Lay members of General Synod should reject this motion outright. I think it also behoves supporters of introducing Women Bishops (like I have become this year) to publicly point out how ridiculous and damaging these kind of procedural actions actually are.

26 Comments on “No Confidence

  1. I have been given to understand that the chairman of the House of Clergy spoke in favour of the motion but nobody has complained about this. Point 3 would still apply very clearly.
    This is the very nature of debate, see point 2. A speaker is not only waving a flag and saying “this is my point of view” but also saying “I urge you to change to my point of view”. If everybody is completely entrenched in their positions, we could save a lot time at Synod, Parliament and every other debating chamber by simply skipping debate and going straight to the vote.
    I am also fascinated by the thought of a democratic process being lauded by all until it fails to come to the “right” decision. A writer to The Times just after the vote said that he cared little one way or the other about women bishops but cared passionately about democracy.
    Also, point 1, what does it matter when a member of one house is not in agreement with members of a different house. If the complaint said that he was out of line with the majority of laity, then it would have more credibility, though still very little.

  2. 1. “Canon” Barney is a lay canon. Use of the title is the onomastic equivalent of power dressing.
    2. OTOH, the theological opinions of The Most Reverend David Cameron PC (& bar) must be taken Very Seriously Indeed. As well as “many of our secular friends” (names supplied on request)
    3. Barney is really a misprint for ‘Borgy’. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

  3. An excellent letter from Alan Bartley in this week’s CEN in which he points out that the House of (unelected) Bishops is more worthy of a vote of no confidence. I agree with him.

    Letter here:


    “It is the duty of the clergy and people to do their utmost not only to avoid occasions of strife but also seek in penitence and brotherly charity to heal such divisions.” (Canon A8 “Of Schisms”). Given this, would it not be more becoming the House of Laity when it meets in January, if it were to pass a motion of no confidence in the House of Bishops rather than in their chairman Dr Philip Giddings (Front page,16 December)? Dr Giddings recognised the primacy of conscience and loyalty to Scripture and the historic teaching of the Church for those opposed to this innovation of consecrating women bishops, and that inadequate provision would harden and formalise our divisions.

    Thus he was acting canonically, the same can hardly be said for any who promoted this inequitable and ill-draftedMeasure. For let us never forget that the House ofBishops had and used their constitutional right to determine the final form that the ill-drafted legislation came before General Synod. In promoting the legislation, had their Measure passed, they would have failed to protect a loyal minority. They also failed as business managers to judge the mood of General Synod, and are responsible for this failure. What is more, they knew it was a knife-edge decision, but decided to go ahead and gamble with no plans as to how to manage the media frenzy should it, as it did, fail.

    Finally, having managed General Synod into disaster, rather than doing their utmost to explain why it was reasonable and honourable to hesitate to get the legislation right, many bishops did the exact opposite and promoted or seconded the media attacks on our Church. If this is not worthy of a vote of no confidence, what is? Is it not incipient clericalism that makes these General Synod sycophants pass over this major failing of the House of Bishops while criticising Dr Giddings acting canonically? But then they also were promoters of this divisive Measure!

    But who are these highly motivated and opinionated members of General Synod driving change? Can such people really represent the mainly apathetic and disinterested laity of the Church of England? Dean Stanley thought not, he called such teachers and leaders who might be expected to arise, clergy under another name. What about Ecumenism? We know this innovation will prevent the wider reunion with Rome and Orthodoxy, but what about reunion with Methodists and others? If General Synod reneges on legal assurances given to our minorities only 20 years ago, what weight will minorities in Methodism give to any assurance they are promised? Indeed, what assurance will Methodism have, as a minority in a united Church, that we will honour any assurances and safeguards to respect their ethos and heritage in a reunited Church? What of winning our country to Christ? If we promote a re-engineered Church that moves with the world, we are unlikely to be the Church Christ founded to challenge and move the world.

    Alan Bartley
    Well said, that man.

    • Jill, I agree it is a well-written letter but it contains an odd idea that canon law can supersede theology “Thus he was acting canonically”. That it seems is what is also wrong with Philip Giddings’s approach. That simple, but intellectually superior, nun Sister Wendy Becket gave a lesson in sacramental theology on Desert Islands Disks that the very powerful Eminence Grise Dr Philip Giddings could do well to contemplate – the EPISCOPACY is the FULLNESS of the PRIESTHOOD. For him the rat is out of the trap; his moment has gone; he is yesterday’s man as far as the CofE is concerned (along with his fellow Evos who want to limit women to Kirche, Küche, Kinder and the High-Church Fr Geoffrey Kirk and all the other Ordinariate-refuseniks). As for all the hopes of union with Rome without women bishops, our letter writer is not living in the same universe unless he can think of some way to get rid of all the thousands of already ordained women priests. But perhaps he has in mind that Rome will eventually give in and allow women at the altar? I think I heard it once said that if Rome were to do it it would happen overnight at a new Vatican III. Well, maybe, but I’m off down to Ladbrooks to put money on Hell freezing over first.

      • ” limit women to Kirche, Küche, Kinder and the High-Church Fr Geoffrey Kirk and all the other Ordinariate-refuseniks”

        Wonderful mixed metaphor. Think you got Stalin AND Hitler there.

      • I think the Hell-freezing-over notion of female ordination in the RC Church, so long after gender equality acts became UK law, is worth reemphasising to those anti-gay alarmists who genuinely think that conservative Christianity will be in a sense criminalised. Can I force a rabbi to marry non-Jewish me? Can a Catholic Priest be forced to marry two protestants? etc

      • Tom, it is apparent from your post that you do not understand – or at least pretend not to understand – the theology behind opposition to women’s ordination. The only way you can ‘win’ the argument is to misrepresent your opponents. That is your prerogative. I would, however, expect something better from those entrusted to guard the faith – the bishops. The way some of them have played upon public ignorance of theology to bolster their cause is disgraceful.

        If the bishops did their job properly, they would have slapped down this vote of no confidence and strongly backed Dr Giddings and all the others who spoke in the same terms as he did, and been at pains to inform and educate the public on just why so many people are opposed, instead of smugly sitting upon their thumbs waiting for the tide of uninformed public opinion to wash over the whole issue and drown out any opposition. If the bishops themselves do not understand the theology – well, they have no business being bishops.

        Whichever way you look at it, it’s a disgrace. I’m coming to regard bishops in the same
        light as I now regard many tory MPs – that is to say, I am sadly disappointed
        (or I could say what I really think, which is Pretty Disgusted!)

        • Jill, what do you think of the view that the C of E already having women priests (and so capitulated to the view that they are acceptable) makes it necessary/permissable that they also have women bishops? Don’t you think that many could wonder, legitimately, why opponents of women bishops didn’t cross the tiber back when any kind of female ordination was allowed in the C of E?

          • I thought we’d already gone over this 100 times, Ryan. May I just remind you that the original synod vote for women’s ordination was won by just 2 votes? Only
            in this case there were no outraged demands for the Holy Spirit to go away and think about it until He came up with the right answer! So an awful lot of people were not in favour, and indeed many did leave for Rome, including 600-odd clergy. This sadly diminished the theological base in the C of E. Many more have left since, which diminished it even further.

            The flying bishops scheme – without which WO would never have got off the ground – worked pretty well until now, and kept many anglo-catholics in the C of E.

            However, we now have women ‘priests’ in the C of E, and it is only right that they should allow themselves to pretend to be bishops too. Which is what the present furore is all about. What Dr Giddings and some others are attempting to do is to keep a place for dissenters. This is what the Bishops should have been doing.

        • Yes, Jill, Ryan makes the point precisely. But I think I do understand the theological objections in the first instance, the Alter Christus argument, the all-male discipleship, the fact that he did not ordain the BVM herself and so on. The theological point which those opponents like you and Dr Giddings don’t appear to appreciate is what Sister Wendy pointed out – and which I repeat, unapologetically, for the third time: the episcopacy is but the fullness of the priesthood.

          The bishops, the majority whom you denigrate as theological ignoramuses have a far stronger grasp on the catholic theology of Holy Orders than many of the laity of Synod, people like Alison Ruoff and sadly even the chairman himself. So, Jill, I don’t misunderstand the theology, nor do I pretend to as much as you like to refuse to see that initial objections to female priesthood OF ALL LEVELS has been theologically defeated with that vote several years ago. Making special provision for the nay-sayers in no way altered it.

          Now, how do you propose closing the stable door and getting rid of the approaching 50% of Anglican priests who are women? Neither Rome nor the Orthodox would consider union with the CofE while they are still around, whether they are bishops, priest or deacons.

          • Yes, Tom, the episcopacy is the fullness of the priesthood – but when one doesn’t believe that women can be priests, it follows that they cannot be bishops either. The Church of England, in its unwisdom, narrowly voted in favour of women’s ordination, and so has no choice but to implement women bishops. That has already been decided and agreed by the majority, and will happen. That is not the issue here, though.

            What you are really saying is that because Synod voted for women to be priests, it is an unassailable and unalterable position, and there is no room for admitting a mistake was made. Well, C S Lewis once said that the quickest way to correct an error was to go back to the point on the road was where the wrong turn was made (or words to that effect). We could simply stop ordaining women. This obviously is not going to happen, not in the short term anyhow, but I do believe that we see through a glass darkly, and that the truth of 2,000 years cannot always be correctly discerned by Synod votes.

            I am glad you posted that Telegraph link, because while we may not understand it right now, it will eventually become apparent that when the C of E is peopled by just women and gay men it will inevitably disappear altogether. Men do not like a feminized church, and when men stop going, it will die (and will deserve to die). Perhaps this is God’s way of reuniting Christians, under the aegis of St Peter.

            • It is not only in the CofE that men don’t go to church. The Catholic churches of Italy, Spain and France are all peopled by old ladies week in and week out. Men only go rarely and then for fiestas.

            • Jill, it’s ironic that you refer to women and gay men being the audience of a feminized church. Evangelical churches, supposedly ‘conservative’, are (in my experience) entirely feministised, fully of women preachers reducing scriptural stories to jolly analogies about how silly men are, homoerotic worship songs, and deification of emotionalism. No real man would tolerate that environment. Note also that one consequence of feminism is a decrease in “real” men’s interest in marriage. A world of genuinely feminine women and traditional marriage might be attractive. But, as Norman Mailer once pointed out, if he’s forced to have a mere genderless housemate (as opposed to a proper wife) he’d prefer a man. In today’s world a man who marries will know that his desire for a heir is subsumed by a Woman’s Right to Choose, that if he has a son, say, that son will go to school in female-dominated environments where he’ll be told that men are evil, start all the wars etc etc. At university, said son will encounter radical feminism as the institutionalised norm (I myself had a ‘tutor’ with a ”Boys Are Stupid” pen who spoke, in a supposed English Literature tutorial, of her admiration for Andrea ”all heterosexual sex is rape” Dworkin) If said son, being naturally heterosexual, wants a girlfriend or wife, he will have to capitulate to male-demonising feminism and accept (or pretend he accepts) that potential rapist, child-abuser etc etc male he is the inferior element of the partnership.

              Christians object to pornography. The majority of it is consumed by heterosexual men. If you want to know why so many men are opting out of dating and marriage in favour of porn’s ”satisfactions” then look to feminism, not gays, for the answer. A straight man, who has abandoned dating due to disgust at our male-demonising culture, would be better off at a high church liberal or Roman Catholic service (both ideologies having a high regard for aestecism and male singleness) than he would a Family Values supposedly ‘conservative’ evangelical church.

              • Well, I don’t know which evangelical churches you have been to, Ryan, and I have to admit that I haven’t actually been to any myself so cannot give an opinion, but I have been to the odd Reform meeting and it was the only time I can recall when there was a long queue for the Gents’ and none for the Ladies’ during the coffee break.
                As for feminism, I think it is a horrible culture. Some of the harridans who are clamouring for self-preferment in the church are a perfect example, and I think half of the bishops are afraid of them. I am! So why are we buying into this? I think these women are selling the pass. There is nothing wrong with being a woman, doing women’s things and taking pride in their femininity rather than trying to emulate men. You don’t see them clamouring to be dustmen or coal-miners, only the more prestigious roles, but in my view the God-given role of women is prestigious in itself.
                We are getting off topic here.

          • PS. I am not arguing FOR women priests or AGAINST, just pointing out the consequences of the fact that the Anglican Church has gone down that route. If it is heresy (as Rome would argue too) then why do you and Giddings stay in a heretical and schismatic church?

            • Where would you suggest we go, Tom? I am not a Roman Catholic, and I suspect Philip Giddings isn’t either, and besides why should I go? I wasn’t the one who started this schismatic movement.

              It will never, ever be resolved either, as ordaining women can never be proven from scripture, and there will always be those who prefer the wisdom of 2,000 years to the current secular notion of ‘equality’.

              • As an afterthought – on an earlier thread I bemoaned the fact that the bishops had missed a wonderful teaching opportunity following the result of the women bishops vote, explaining the reason why so many are opposed to WO and need proper provision – if we had any bishops brave enough to do such a thing, that is. Well, we obviously haven’t, because none did.

                So it might be a good opportunity to explain in a straightforward manner why we feel that women cannot be priests, and here is someone who can do just that – the gloriously named Fr Dwight Longnecker, former Anglican but now Roman Catholic priest. He has an excellent blog, and this is just one item:


                • Thanks Jill, I’ll read that! To be honest, I’m surprised that more anglicans havent’ swum the Tiber. I can understand the view that some elements of Catholicism seem unjustified, but surely it’s not a case of understanding and giving consent to every individual doctrine – rather, one consents to the Faith per se. Do most anglicans on the ground even agree with all of the 39 Articles these days, or do they rather view the C of E of the closest thing to the most true and appropriate church?

                  • I suspect, Ryan, that like Peter, Jill and Giddings can’t swallow (lit.) transubstantiation, and without it neither Catholicism nor Orthodoxy is an option for those who disdain the implication of *virtual* cannibalism. So where should they go, as Jill asks. This is the perennial problem of sola scripturists who have to make it up as they go along if they find the churches on offer don’t measure up to their particular foibles.

                    • Actually, for me t-substantiation isn’t an issue. Marian dogmas, purgatory, papal infallibility and the notion of ontological change upon ordination and the whole soteriology of Trent is (amongst others).

                    • When you say ‘sola scripturists’, I hope you don’t mean me! My beliefs are based not upon foibles but on the proverbial three-legged stool of scripture, tradition and reason. You cannot turn the wisdom of two millennia and the church fathers on the whim of a vote and expect everybody to fall in line. I blame in part the sidelining of the Book of Common Prayer and the 39 articles, of which so many clergy have little or no knowledge these days. It is not me who has foibles, Tom.

                      Like Peter there are several things I am uneasy about in Roman Catholic doctrine, but at the same time there are many that I find attractive, such as the theology around the non-interchangeability of the sexes.

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