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British parliament sends a warning to the Archbishops

British parliament sends a warning to the Archbishops

UPDATE and additional material:

Lay Anglicana and Thinking Anglicans have more comments on the motion by Parliament.

From Laura Sykes at Lay Anglicana:

“On February 2nd, the following Early Day Motion (EDM) was submitted for debate in the House of Commons. The point of EDMs is to allow Members of Parliament to draw attention to a particular subject (very few are actually debated).

“That this House welcomes the moves by the General Synod of the Church of England to pass legislation permitting women to be bishops; notes that the Synod has now concluded its consultation with the dioceses on the Women in the Episcopate: draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure; further welcomes the result of those consultations, with 42 out of 44 dioceses voting in favour; is encouraged by the overwhelming support shown by 85 per cent. of bishops, 76 per cent. of clergy and 77 per cent. of the laity voting in favour; encourages the House of Bishops to commend the Measure for final approval as currently drafted; and calls on Her Majesty’s Government to work with the governing authorities of the Church of England including the Archbishops’ Council, the House of Bishops and the General Synod to ensure that the express wishes of the overwhelming majority of those consulted across the Provinces of Canterbury and York are met by expeditiously tabling the Measure in Parliament for its approval. (EDM 2688)

This is a follow-on motion from EDM 1364 tabled 27 Jan 2011 , which urged ‘the House of Bishops to commend the Measure as currently drafted’, i.e. without the proposed amendment which would relegate women to a second tier of the episcopate. It also contained the barely veiled threat: “calls on Her Majesty’s Government to remove any exemptions pertaining to gender under existing equality legislation, in the event that the Measure has overwhelming support in the dioceses but fails through a technicality to receive final approval in General Synod. “ In other words, if General Synod failed to create an episcopate that gives an equal place to women, it would seek to re-draft the secular equality legislation in order to remove the exemption for the Church of England.

Although this threat is not repeated in the current EDM, the primary sponsor for both is Frank Field, former member of General Synod. He may speak softly, but members of Synod are unlikely to forget that he still wields a big stick which he could again bring into play if he thought it necessary.

Other sponsors for both motions were David Blunkett, Natascha Engel and Stephen Timms, all fellow members of the opposition Labour Party. The 2012 motion is also sponsored by John Mann, a Labour MP, and (the only Conservative Party member), Nicholas Soames.

It is of particular interest that Soames has joined as a sponsor as he is normally seen as an archetypal Tory grandee. A grandson of Winston Churchill and a cousin of the Duke of Marlborough, Soames is a close friend of Prince Charles and fellow-Etonian David Cameron, whom he backed for the leadership of the Conservative Party and accompanied on his campaign. It would seem that supporters of change in the Church of England may come from the libertarian wing of the Conservatives as well as the more traditional home of radicals, the Labour Party. “

From Thinking Anglicans

A group of MPs today begin a campaign to seek support for the consecration of women bishops. The MPs have tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons to coincide with the meeting of the General Synod which starts on Monday.

The EDM aims to prevent members of the General Synod employing delaying tactics to prevent the decision coming to Parliament for approval. Any such move will have little if any support from MPs who wish for the consecrations to proceed as quickly as possible.

Mr. CatOLick has this comment:

Transcript below:


Well hello ladies and gentlemen

Ah the joys of winter weather, it looks like synod in England on Monday will slip up on more than the snow. The inequality debate of synod about women bishops has, no doubt, divided Mr Williams and will undoubtedly cause Mr Sentamu to again debase synod with his words of anger and ire towards, what he sees as their ‘unbelievable arrogance’. Mr Sentimoo thinks Synod is arrogant because they have dared to stand against the will of the Archbishops who now want to evade the equality laws of England and divest any future woman Bishop from equality with male Bishops. Mr Sentamu bleats about English compromise, whilst wagging his irate finger from the podium of general synod towards the elected members of Synod shouting at them for going against the will of the Archbishops, and that was last year!.

But hello what’s this, the UK government is clearing a path through the snow to rescue the beleaguered and cut of ordinary synod member? Are these the same body of people who would want to disentangle themselves from the Church of England’s management? Yes, believe it or not the Palace of Westminster are sending out edicts to synod in the form of threats that if the archbishops try to evade their responsibilities over the equality act again, then they will be dumped on from a very high height meaning that they will no longer go along with the Archbishops game of pleading exemption and claiming to be a ‘special case’ the people of England won’t stand for it anymore even if the extremists of synod want it. The archbishops move to reinforce their old world attitude of inequality for all, women children and gays first, has provoked the Members of parliament to restate the unacceptability of such misogynistic homophobic and irresponsible poppycock that seems to feed the boilers of church house.

On an important side issue, the services of the church to the young are being cut and many a diocesan Bishop accepts this without any difficulty, throwing their hands in the air and saying spending cuts must be made, as they order their new mitres, tuck into their expenses paid meal and rest in their clubs of London. Aren’t they doing well?

Mr Sentimoo is like a pharaoh of old who has hardened his heart against the Godly notion of equality for women; Mr Blunket is as Moses begging him to let his women go.

The Rev’d Smallwood, a friend of MrC has done a good deal of research on this equality thing and discovered that the equality act of 2010 is clear, “no one should be discriminated against in employment or occupation because of any differences”.

His own work and case study make it plain also that “it is interesting that some clergy want an emasculated type of woman Bishop that they can opt out of, and get a male Bishop instead.” Such Alice in wonderland logic seems rife in some Anglo Catholic camps, catholic they aren’t, camp they often are. This divided logic is rife to in the conservative bastion that is known as the Anglican mainstream. A misleading title they adopt, for ‘mainstream’ they most certainly are not.

Mr. Smallwood predicts Parliaments recue bid by stating that “a legal challenge to the block on women bishops could possibly be launched with good chance of success”.

In the end the question is, are women able to be bishops or not, does a Bishop need to be a man? And once again Mr Smallwood is quite clear that General synod is saying that this is not a requirement whatsoever, it is the Archbishops who are making trouble for women.

So, here’s the rub. Does the synod govern, or is Sentamu going to get up and say that they are in fact irrelevant, a sham, a hoax, a load of tripe, as he has pretty much said in the past, and now that he is going, what has he to lose by saying it. If so and Synod bow to the bully then will it all become very messy as the parliamentarians wade in to give battle, whilst Rowan, who has no stomach for any of this, stands by and tries to capture the consensus in the room.

We shall see.

Bye bye for now.


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Laura Sykes

Apologies – quick correction:

Frank Field is no longer a member of General Synod (blame Wikipedia!), though he is a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament.

Thanks to Peter Owen for spotting this.

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