This post is my attempt at instant reportage of the Women Bishops debate on Wednesday 21 November. My reflections on the day are here
- It’s basically a re-ordered version of the stuff I posted as it happened and is slightly easier to follow. I hope.
- If you want a slightly less breathless account, Jeremy Fletcher’s more measured blog is here
Debate started at 1030.
Bishop James Langstaff’s opening remarks set out some of the key factors about where we now are:
- the House of Bishops will get on with developing the necessary material for the
- February Synod (including a text of their Declaration.)
- m’learned friends (i.e the church lawyers) are already thinking through the particular legal aspects that will need attention if we are to get final approval in the summer
- they are prepared for further detailed work on (for example) the processes a PCC will have to follow if they are to ask for alternative episcopal activity; how to recruit and support an ‘independent reviewer’ NOT an ‘ombudsman’ (has he been reading my blog?)
- he’ll welcome a vote of the whole synod (meaning we’ll have an electronic record – a straw poll to make us aware of how things stand) – but it won’t be a vote by houses.
- he believes those involved in the story so far will be invited to continue during the next phase (Steering Committee, etc).
And so into debate. If you want up to the minute reporting, go to the unofficial twitter feed – plenty of news and a lot of witty commenting from an eclectic bunch of people! I’ll just post my own mildly reflective comments during the debate and announce them on that feed.
So far, two big names have spoken – Simon Killwick from the Catholic Group and Rod Thomas from Reform. But 50 people have put in requests to speak. Nevertheless, it should all be over by lunchtime a there are no amendments tabled.
11.05 – grace abounding
We’re having a series of speeches from heavyweights Rod Thomas (Reform), Fr David Houlding (Catholic Group), Christina Rees (WATCH) All practically reading each other’s scripts in terms of welcome, not wishing to make major changes to what’s on offer. The Bishop of Southwark summed it up: “If Christina Rees and David Houlding are happy, then I am happy!” There have been some hints of wanting detail tweaked, and (in Rod’s case) reserving his position at the final vote stage – but welcoming what we’ve got, and wanting it to go ahead.
I suspect that we’ll soon hear from people setting out what details they want the House of Bishops and the Steering Committee to address before February. But overall the atmosphere is radically different to July or last November – grace abounds.
11.30 Nitty-gritty stuff
It’s a very attentive Synod, public gallery not full, but busy,and applause genuine but mooted. I have not had to fire up my Synod clapometer yet.
- Very good first speech from a new Synod member (Amanda Fairclough – priest from Liverpool) asking us to be careful about reserving seats in the College of Bishops for a ‘headship evangelical’ suffragan.
- David Banting, a senior Reform person saying he will have to vote no today, and wanting to offer a new way forward. His main point: we ought to have a conservative evangelical diocesan bishop, and Chelmsford would like to see the creation of some kind of shared suffragan see to make this possible.)
- Susie Leafe – a v prominent ‘headship evangelical’ speaker last time around saying she can’t accept a woman as a chief pastor.
- Bishop of Taunton sitting next to me in the gallery tweeting (find him here)
- various speakers exploring side issues like oaths of allegiance, necessity or sensibility of appointing a supposedly conservative evangelical bishop
11.45 – thoughtful observations
Fr Thomas Seville (Community of the Resurrection) showing us an OT lesson from the Books of Kings about how we care for one another after the event. Sadly, no answers yet in view – his remarks felt like something from last year, though he made it clear he was content with what’s on offer.
Archdeacon Rachel Treweek looking for a better way than the existing A,B and C Resolutions. Helpful to build in machinery so that PCC have ‘soft stuff’: simple discussion materials when they look at requesting alternative oversight; and ‘hard stuff’: proper notification of upcoming meetings and their purpose.
Christine Hardman (prolocutor of Canterbury) cheered us all up by telling a story against herself – needs to eat humble pie because she thought I agree with Pete (see my July blog) would never work. But it has and she apologised. We now need to change our behaviour and use professional support to deal with our differences. And we need to continue to care for those who will find moving forward in this way ‘incredibly difficult’.
Jamie Harrison bringing real-life experiences of dispute resolution; Elaine Storkey on how we learn to live with difference in Christ.
12.15 I cannot tell a lie…
I’ve just spent half an hour in the tea room, so missed much of the detail… Jeremy Fletcher’s blog didn’t miss it though, including a significant contribution from Archbishop Sentamu about conservative evangelical bishops.
1245 Summing up
Bishop James Langstaff now summing up the debate, in which 33 people have spoken. Remarking on the evident unity of purpose; and thanking those whose work made the Report and debate possible.
There is hard work ahead: he has not got the champagne off the rack yet. Observations made by the various speakers about points of detail have been noted, and will be worked on by the House of Bishops and as the work gets done between now and February.
And the bell has rung for a vote…
Delayed by a point of order about photography from the gallery while we vote
(*delete as applicable)
* Here I go again: cheerful Manchester pop from the Hollies, 1964