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The revenge of the liberal laity

Dr Philip GiddingsFrom Cranmer

On 20th November, the muddled legislation by which women would have been able to become bishops was narrowly defeated by the House of Laity. It was not a decisive vote against women, as much of the media reported (and many Anglicans perceive), but a rejection of the particular fudge proposed, which gave cause for doubt in the minds of both liberals and conservatives. As the Bishop of Durham and the next Archbishop of Canterbury said: “The Church has voted overwhelmingly in favour of the principle. It is a question of finding a way that…is the right way forward.”

For some of the traditionalists, the motion failed to offer adequate protection for their consciences; for the progressives, it sustained a distinct male-female disparity in the episcopacy, rendering women bishops inferior in authority to their male counterparts. But as a result of the Synod vote, a plot is afoot to oust the Chairman of the House of Laity Dr Philip Giddings. There is an unprecedented motion of ‘no confidence’ to be debated next week, and Mr Gavin Oldham sets out his reasons for supporting the move:

[...]  It is a shame and cause of great sorrow that someone purporting to represent the progressive liberal wing of the debate on women bishops should seek to smear a traditionalist (who voted in favour of women priests) with the same spirit of extremism which leads to torture, mass murder and war. Biblical literacy is not enhanced by hyperbole: Gavin Oldham is manifestly declaring that those who place obedience to Scripture and Church tradition above progressive reason are influenced by the same evil which leads to human atrocities and appalling maltreatment. What must his view be of the Roman Catholic Church itself if Anglo-Catholics and many Evangelicals are unable to discern such evil?

Mr Oldham desires that the laity should have more influence in the church. In fact, he makes the case for less. His support for the motion against Dr Giddings is based upon nothing more than his desire to lap up everything the heterodox bishops command. The orthodox view is thereby further marginalised, and great swathes of the Anglican family alienated. If this motion succeeds, it will establish beyond doubt that the General Synod is not for purpose.

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