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article imageChurch of England laity chair faces no confidence vote

By Greta McClain     Jan 21, 2013 in World
London - The debate over female bishops within the Church of England has become heated, with members of the House of Laity holding a "no confidence" vote of their chairman, Dr. Philip Giddings.
Giddings became the center of a controversy in November after the Church of England rejected a proposal which would have allowed women to become bishops. The measure needed to pass all three houses within the Church of England by a two-thirds majority. It passed in the House of Bishops with a 44 to 3 vote, and in the House of Clergy by a margin of 148 to 45. However, when it reached the House of Laity, which is lead by Giddings, it fell 6 votes shy of reaching the two-thirds majority required.
During the House of Laity meeting, Giddings acknowledges that the majority of the laity where in favor of the women bishops' proposal. Despite the majority of laity supporting passage of the measure, Giddings stated he was focusing on the minority that were opposed "in principle" to women bishops. He told the House:
"I wish to point up the unwisdom of going ahead with a Measure dealing with fundamental matters of ministry and doctrine with a significant minority of our church unable to accept its provisions. Legislation will not remove diversity of opinion. The diversity reflects not prejudice or simple refusal to change but solidly based theological judgement. I shall vote ‘no’."
Giddings statement immediately followed archbishop-elect of Canterbury Justin Welby's plea for passage of the measure. Many felt that Giddings statement and subsequent vote undermined Welby. Canon Stephen Barney of Leicester stated that Giddings killed the momentum of Welby's speech, and was a personal attack on the archbishop-elect. Barney pushed for a vote of "no confidence", saying:
"A number of new members of this house were very surprised and shocked that our chair spoke and voted as he did. From a private individual, this speech would have been just fine. From the chair, it was not. It was partisan and narrow when it should have been strategic and statesmanlike."
During the "no confidence" vote, which was held Friday, Archbishops' Council member Christina Rees pointed to a letter written to The Times and signed by Giddings. She says Giddings signed the letter as the House of Laity Chair without receiving permission from the House. She also says the letter shows that Giddings was not honest about his views on theology prior to being elected as House chair. She continued by saying he may not have been elected if "some of us had known the full extent of his concerns about providing protection for those against having women as bishops".
Barney said there was a “lack of trust” in Giddings leadership ability which he finds "very sad.”
Not everyone criticized Giddings. Joanna Monckton called the vote "unchristian behavior" and a "cruel way of treating anyone".
John Shand called the vote a “slippery road to self destruction” and asked that the House vote against the motion so the House doesn't "destroy itself".
Prior to the vote, Giddings told the House:
“I understand that many members of this house and outside were distressed by the decisions made in November, [but] it is our calling as an Anglican church to seek to be comprehensive. It is precisely because they are the minority that we should seek to find a way to encompass them.”
In the end, the vote failed by a vote of 80-47. After the motion failed, Giddings stated:
“I am grateful for that vote of confidence but I need to, in a sense, take my medicine. There are clearly a substantial minority of the House who do not have confidence in me. I intend to continue in office but I shall take careful advice from colleagues about how we proceed from here. And in particular I think we need to have some kind of debate about what are the expectations of chair and vice chair in matters of this kind.”
There is no word on whether a new measure on women bishops will be brought up again this year.
More about church of england, House of Laity, Philip Giddings, nonconfidence vote, London
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