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The Lay Mutiny?


The Caine Mutiny (1954) – Case of the missing strawberries

Humphrey Bogart as Captain Queeg uncovers the dastardly plot of the missing strawberries, in Edward Demytryk ‘s film of Herman Wouk‘s 1951 novel. If you have no personal experience of mutiny, this is a good place to start. Or, if you prefer an 18th century example, you are just in time to catch the screening on Channel 5 at 2.50 this afternoon of Mutiny on the Bounty. What do the two stories have in common? Unreasonable behaviour by the captain provokes rebellion by the crew, who depose the captain and take over the running of the ship.

Goings-on in the House of Laity

There are strange goings-on in the House of Laity, which even the Church of  England website fails to make boring. In case you have been preoccupied with other matters in the last month or so (like Christmas) and have failed to notice what is happening, I offer you a summary of what has been published.

There is to be a meeting of the House of Laity on 18 January with the sole purpose of discussing the motion  ‘That this House have no confidence in Dr Philip Giddings as Chair of this House’

My 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.

Canon Stephen Barney Leicester 325

Well, this sounds pretty much like mutiny to me – what do you think?

And who is the brave Canon Stephen Barney?


First of all, if you are wondering as was I  how a Canon is proposing a motion in the House of Laity, the simple explanation is that he must be a Lay Canon (Crockford’s has no record of him as a member of the clergy).  This is kindly confirmed by He is also a Reader.


Reactions in Cyberspace

As you might imagine, the motion has attracted strong opposition in the blogosphere from the usual quarters: TitusOneNine, Peter Ould, Cranmer and Anglican Mainstream, which re-posts Cranmer’s piece.  You may like to read the reactions to these events on Thinking Anglicans. Thinking Anglicans also summarised the position yesterday, 11 January.


The equally brave Gavin Oldham

Gavin Oldham, a self-described fellow Conservative Evangelical member of the House of Laity from Oxford diocese, writes:

On 18 January the House will be debating a ‘No Confidence’ motion in its Chair, a motion which has arisen directly from the General Synod debate on women bishops in November. I have given my support to the motion being debated, and it is my intention to support the motion on the day unless by the grace of God there is clear evidence of change.

I owe it to my friends in the House who voted against the women bishops’ legislation to explain why I have given my support, and how my views have changed since that day in November. Let me first explain that I have been a member of the General Synod since 1995 representing Oxford diocese: as does Philip Giddings, who I have been fortunate to regard as a friend over these last 17 years. I am also a member of EGGS, as he is and, although I have been a consistent supporter of women bishops, I regard myself very much as an Evangelical, albeit one who places a high importance on the place of reason alongside scripture and tradition.

This is not in any respect a personal issue.

Over the past years my position on women bishops has been to support the maximum provision for those who have found it difficult to accept the change, consistent with the solution being convergent for the Church as opposed to divergent. I explained this position in July 2012 at the meeting of the House which took place before General Synod. I have never been prepared to contemplate a solution which could evolve into a schism.

However my position has hardened considerably since the November debate, as I have come to realise that it is the destructive ideology of male headship which lies at the root of our problems.

Our deadlock over women bishops has, of course, resulted from a combination of Anglo-Catholic and conservative Evangelical opposition. The Anglo-Catholics naturally look to Rome for a lead, and while Rome might prefer to see a clear resolution of the matter within the Church of England, it is not about to give that lead.

However it is the concept of male headship, espoused by many of my Evangelical friends as theology, which presents the major problem: as was clear from speech after speech during our debate. For while valid questions may have been asked about the representative quality of the House of Laity in the General Synod, the Church should – and does – acknowledge the vibrancy and growth of Evangelical churches which have so much to offer. This vibrancy is not dependent on the adoption of male headship ideology by conservative Evangelicals, but on the working of the Holy Spirit through people of faith.

I have come to realise since the November debate that male headship is to be seen alongside a number of similar major historical issues where prejudice and discrimination have been justified by selected biblical references. These include slavery, national socialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Male headship has its roots in the same soil of prejudice and discrimination. It is another elitist creed which, in my view, has no place in the Church of England, nor indeed in the Christian faith.

It may be helpful to consider these selected biblical references through the filter of the two great commandments from which hang all the law and the prophets. For example, how can a man who is a male headship advocate claim to ‘love his neighbour as himself’ if he is not prepared to accept that she can carry the same roles within the church? Obviously it can’t be ‘as himself’, or perhaps he is denying that women are his neighbours by virtue of their gender? I don’t think Jesus was making that distinction.

The Bishop of Liverpool spoke clearly in the debate setting out how he had come to understand St. Paul’s teaching, and why it should not be used as a prop for male headship ideology. The bishops are the seat of theology within the Church, and I do feel that conservative Evangelicals should listen carefully to, and be prepared to accept, what they say.

The ideology of male headship has come to have assumed the status of doctrine, but even doctrine is shown as capable of change from a biblical perspective. St Peter was clearly of the doctrinal view that the Gospel was meant only for the Jews, and yet his vision at Cornelius’ house (Acts 10) made clear that he must change. And thank God that he did, because otherwise we would not have the opportunity to receive Christ’s salvation today.

So I have come to realise that male headship ideology must be confronted and not appeased, just in the same way that St. Peter confronted his erstwhile interpretation that the Christian faith was reserved for the Jews. Male headship is simply the latest in a long line of elitist creeds, and it is time to consign it to history, as with the others.

Finally, let me say again that the 18 January debate is not personal: it is about the integrity of the House of Laity. Nobody will be more delighted than me to see Philip being prepared to encourage Evangelicals to pursue their zeal for Christ unencumbered with elitist ideology.

If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind? 🙂

There is an interesting further assessment of the ‘mood of the House’ by John Townsend on his blog here. (Hat tip to Thinking Anglicans for pointing me in his direction).

The question now must be: “Does Philip Giddings have our confidence to do that job?”

Speaking to members of the House of Laity, there is a strong feeling that, rightly or wrongly, we are ‘standing in the way’ and that it is our responsibility to do something about it. There is no doubt that the strength of reaction in the dioceses against our vote in November has been powerful. We will not be able to fix everything on Friday, or indeed very much at all, but from what I have heard members are very keen to take the first steps towards making amends.


6 comments on this post:

Keith Jillings said...

I am bitterly disappointed by the whole “Women Bishops” General Synod episode, and all the fall-out that it has caused. The slanging match that has resulted, with insults being traded and metaphorical rocks lobbed, is a disgrace. One blog I read even started slandering the Archbishop of Wales over appointments made – what that had to do with Women Bishops I don’t know: more a local axe being ground by someone who didn’t get a job he/she wanted, I suspect.

Something clearly went wrong, but I wasn’t there and don’t know what it was. I have even read comments (which may or may not be true) that the Lay vote was “rigged” by a small group of “antis” from one Parish in one Deanery in one Diocese (all of them on Generay Synod). I’d be curious to know if that is so.

If the house of laity is to meet again, would it not be better for the agenda to be “reconsider the rejection of the legislation on women bishops”?

Lay Anglicana said...

Keith, I think this is one of those occasions when it is difficult to judge what happened unless you were at the debate (I did hear the podcast, but this is not the same as being in the room) and know the ins and outs of the, I was going to say, machinations of General Synod and the House of Laity. It is certainly the case that of the seven lay members from my own diocese (Winchester) six of them voted against women bishops. Only one lone man voted in favour. I think there are little pockets around the country, but they do not represent the members of the Church of England as a whole as we know from the diocesan synod votes . I suspect the vote against Philip Giddings’ chairmanship is partly personal, and a ‘last straw’ kind of motion after all the business of the Anglican Covenant etc etc. But it is also a procedural point – is it right that the House of Laity is chaired by someone who is against what 74% of General Synod believe (and was it 63% of the House of Laity?)

12 January 2013 13:22
12 January 2013 12:41
Kate Alvanley said...

A terrific post as always, Laura.tx. I find myself in complete agreement with the sentiments expressed by Gavin Oldham on the toxic issue of male headship – I do not see how anyone who espouses this position can possibly want to be a member of a religious institution which has always had no problem with female headship in the shape of the Supreme Governor! It’s rare that I would find myself concurring with a Conservative Evangelical but Mr Oldham’s clear and thoughtful analysis was spot both in terms of identifying the root cause and the biblical evidence. I applaud the courageous stance he and CanonI truly hope that the motion is passed on 18th and the House of Laity take the opportunity to elect a Chair who understands and demonstrates the responsibilities of leadership rather than seemingly use the position as a platform for their personal views.

Lay Anglicana said...

Thank-you so much Kate. – I hope they will be broadcasting the proceedings (I wish I could be a fly on the wall!)

12 January 2013 21:42
12 January 2013 20:16
minidvr said...

The issue will be whether they actually pass the motion. The Chair of the House of Laity has discredited his position by speaking against the measure and instead of taking a neutral position, cast his vote against it.

But I can’t see him resigning, because he is too entrenched in it. He will need to be given no option but to resign, and there is probably only one person who is capable of bringing that forward, Arch Bishop designate – Justin. Now, we might see if he actually has the backbone to sort it out.

Lay Anglicana said...

I expect Bishop Justin is hoping that the House of Laity might do this for him! I agree that Philip Giddings is probably thick-skinned enough to attempt to ride this out (though in his place, I must say I would prefer to go gracefully).

12 January 2013 22:20
12 January 2013 22:05

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