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Archbishop of Canterbury at General Synod in York

Saturday 7th July 2012

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, contributed to several debates in the July Group of Sessions of the General Synod of the Church of England held in York.

Archbishop Rowan spoke on World-shaped Mission, Women Bishops, and the Private Members Motion on Palestine and Israel

Private Members Motion: Palestine and Israel

Monday 9th July 2012

The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke in support of the Bishop of Manchester’s amendment to Dr John Dinnen’s Private Member's Motion: Palestine and Israel (GS 1874A).  Listen to an audio recording or read the transcript below:

I have to declare an interest which Dr Dinnen has already mentioned as one of the patrons of the Families Forum and also as a Co-President of CCJ [Council of Christians and Jews]. Before we turn down this amendment I want us to pause. I’m not personally at all disposed to be worried about the kind of campaign that we have seen and the kind of mailings we have received. There are some people who, in their uncritical assumption that the Israeli government can do no wrong, are clearly going to be very irritated by information being disseminated of the kind that EAPPI does. I am more concerned, with the Bishop of Manchester, about effects on local dialogue with Jewish communities and that, as a President of CCJ, is something that I feel personally bound to weigh. I want to understand exactly why it is that local Jewish communities are so worried by EAPPI. I want to engage and find out about that - and challenge it if necessary. I see the amendment as a possible holding option in that respect, a tactical solution which may help rather than hinder the kind of engagement we need in order to make some kind of difference. I want to make clear that I don’t think support of the amendment denies the support we already give to EAPPI. I certainly don’t think it involves us in accepting the very negative and, I think, very misleading characterisation of EAPPI that have been around. It shouldn’t in any way diminish our respect and gratitude for the immense courage and dedication of the volunteers, some of whom I have met on site in the Holy Land in the course of many regular visits over the last decade and more. And it certainly doesn’t mean that we agree with any characterisation of EAPPI as anti-Israel.

More importantly, it shouldn’t allow us to deny the urgency of the situation to which our attention is being drawn - the severity of the problems that face all the populations of the Holy Land.  It has to be said, I think, that it's because we want a secure Israel that we are concerned about behaviour that alienates and dehumanises Palestinians and digs the divisions deeper.  Those of us who want to see a secure Israel have to recognise that, as has been said, security purchased at the cost of fairness and respect is a very insecure thing. Half an hour at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial, will persuade you, if you need persuading, why the state of Israel needs to exist securely. Half an hour at a checkpoint will persuade you, if you need persuading, that there are forms of security which are indefensible and unsustainable.  And some of the most eloquent denunciations of some of what goes on at checkpoints are those that I have read in the Israeli press.

So there’s clearly a case to answer, and I think supporting the amendment with its implicit, and I hope we can now say explicit, inclusion of EAPPI doesn’t mean blunting our response to any of those things which would, I agree, be wholly irresponsible. And to say all that is the very opposite of what is sometimes thrown around in this debate: ‘delegitimising’ the state of Israel.  That is something we should resist absolutely, because we wish the state of Israel to be held accountable - like all other legitimate states - to constructive, just behaviour. I want us also to put heavy emphasis on the need for practical involvement on the part of our Church with the future of the peoples of the area. You’ve heard about the Families Forum, you’ve heard perhaps in other contexts about the One Voice movement drawing together (especially young) people from both sides of the divide. You will have heard last year at this Synod about the Friends of the Holy Land and you will have received the appeal then made re-launching Friends of the Holy Land as a fully ecumenical organisation. That appeal was not particularly successful last year but I unashamedly take the opportunity of underlining it again for you this year, whichever way you want to vote on the amendment or anything else.

We need to name the problems, we need to work with the creative grain of what is going on in the Holy Land, along the lines that the Motion says.  We need at least to reflect on the question of why it is that this motion in its original form has caused such a problem - not just for those whose opinions we may very well decide we can ignore, but for those of our neighbours who need our engagement and involvement - and see if we can find a way of robustly affirming what Dr Dinnen has quite rightly asked us to affirm, without breaking off the critical engagement we need with our neighbours.

The motion was passed unamended.  See further information about the motion and the proposed amendment at the Church of England website.


Debate on women bishops

Monday 9th July 2012

The Archbishop of Canterbury made a contribution to item 514 relating to a proposed adjournment of item 501 (GS 1708C): 'That the Measure entitled "Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure" be finally approved.'  In his speech, the Archbishop proposed that "adjournment might be good for us".  Listen to an audio recording here [23Mb, 10 mins], watch the video or read the transcript below.

In response to the motion for the adjournment, I felt obliged to say something about what was in the minds of those in the House of Bishops who voted for this controversial amendment 5(1)(c).  [See end note]  It comes from a very deep desire among the members of the House of Bishops, the overwhelming majority of members of the House, that this Measure to allow women to be bishops should pass and pass promptly.   And for my own part that rests on the conviction that (as I think I said at a meeting in Lambeth Palace last year) we need the deepening, enriching and, yes, humanizing presence of women in the House of Bishops and in the Church more widely in this ministry.   And we need it urgently.

And nothing has made me think again about that conviction, that theological conviction.  I hope and pray too, as do I believe all the members of the House of Bishops, that when this legislation is passed, it will feel like something that the Church of England can celebrate together, something which is (as the archdeacon just said) good news for all, a true witness to Jesus Christ in the world.

So why have the bishops done what they have done? Why have they (to use one phrase that has been around) ‘destabilised the process’? The bishops were persuaded (that is, the majority who voted for this amendment) that two particular problems remained.  And I want to suggest that the debate today is not just about the precise wording of the proposed amendment 5(1)(c) but about whether the bishops’ diagnosis is right, that there is some unfinished business here. 

Much of the reaction in recent weeks has apparently assumed that the Measure was as good as it could be and that it was pretty much assured of passage, prior to the amendments being proposed.  The majority of the bishops in the House were not convinced of this, despite the heroic efforts of the Revision Committee and the Steering Committee, to which I’d want to pay tribute.  And they were not convinced, not simply because they had been got at, because they had been intensively pressurised by one or another group, but in large part because of their reading of their own dioceses’ situations and indeed of the views of their diocesan representatives in Synod.

So what are the problems?  What was the diagnosis?  First of all, there was the sheer pragmatic uncertainty about the passage of the Measure, based on an analysis of patterns of Synod voting and what they knew of their diocesan situations.  Given that, it is not wholly surprising that if one adjustment would increase the chance of the Measure passing, it was going to be very attractive – especially given that ‘theological conviction’ is already mentioned in the Measure. [See end note] And what was proposed was seen as spelling out explicitly what was already there implicitly in a way that would give a required minimum of assurance to those with abiding reservations.  That was one bit of the diagnosis.

The second, though, is a little more complex:  and I do urge you to give some thought to this.  In the existing 2(1) of the Measure, there is no reference to the theological conviction or anything else about the ‘male bishop’ [clause 2(1)].   And the worry that some people have had is that the lack of any wording beyond that simple ‘male bishop’ phrase risks something quite serious.  It risks suggesting—because no other criteria than ‘maleness’ are mentioned here, suggesting that any criterion other than maleness is irrelevant—that what we are accommodating in this is sheer unwillingness to see a woman in episcopal ministry.  In other words, it risks accommodating precisely the kind of misogyny that I hope the Synod would have no time for.  It is accommodating what we ought not to accommodate.  The amendment proposed seeks to address that worry that, I have to say, is a real concern of my own.

I appreciate that this argument cuts no ice with those who don’t think there is anyway any legitimate theological ground for opposition to women as bishops.  But that is not quite where the Church is, or where it has been for the last few decades.  The question is:  do we want provision that is acceptable only to untheological prejudice or sheer unthinking conservatism?  That would be, I believe, offensive not only to those who resist the ordination of women as bishops and their integrity:  it would be offensive to women at least as profoundly as what has been suggested as an amendment.

So the bishops were trying to honour two principles, two rather basic practical principles:  (1) willing the end by willing the means, and trying to observe also that (2) the best can be the enemy of the good.  I hope they were also trying to honour the much more deeply grounded desire to find a resolution that was something which everyone could be grateful for.

We did not succeed in that.  Much of the hostile comment that has been around outside this Synod in the more general public seems to suggest that people have not actually read the text of the unamended Measure.  And I suspect that some of the anger and strong feeling around is, as it were, the expression of deep frustrations with the unamended Measure, even before the bishops got their hands on it.

However, to say that is not to close the discussion down, because it is quite clear that the reaction cannot be ignored.  When there is a reaction of real hurt and offence in the Church at large, Christians, and Christian pastors particularly, cannot afford to ignore it, because it means that—should the Measure go through with that in the background—it is not easily something that can be celebrated by the Church as a whole.   The bishops will be aware that they under-rated the depth of that sense of hurt and offence; and if other bishops feel as I do, they will need to examine themselves and feel appropriate penitence that they did not recognize just how difficult that was going to be.

So, we have a diagnosis of the situation, a possible solution which the bishops advanced, and now a deeply complex and rather conflicted situation.  The adjournment gives us at least a chance of lowering temperatures and explaining ourselves to each other.  The communication of the bishops’ decision was not ideal, I think it can be said, and some of the reaction has been based on flawed communication.   But not all – the questions are real enough.

And it’s in light of all that that I want to say that I do not at the moment feel I want to resist the adjournment.  I would like to hear a long debate on this, but that’s where I stand at the moment.  But—and it’s a large but—I would want to say to Synod that the adjournment is not a panacea, nor should it be seen as a squaring-off to the House of Bishops.   It should be seen as an opportunity.  And, although it may sound a little bit over-optimistic to say so, I hope we can say that an adjournment might be good for us, if that is what we decide;  that it might be an opportunity to do something better.   I don’t, myself, feel convinced that we were wrong in the wording we selected, but that is clearly a conviction that has now to be tested and discussed.

So if, if Synod is minded to go with the adjournment, it will need, I believe, to commit itself to helping the bishops in the task that is ahead of them.  There is no point in crafting an extremely complicated compromise that doesn’t work, or works best for those we are least eager to accommodate.

The bishops are not infallible – no news there!  But the bishops do have a responsibility, a responsibility for the oversight of the faith and discipline of the Church.  Synodical government means that bishops invite others to join them in exercising that responsibility as responsibly and effectively as they can.  If the adjournment passes, that is what we are committing ourselves to do –as bishops inviting others to join them in discharging the responsibility they hold.  Discerning, as a Synod generally, as carefully and prayerfully as possible, whether the bishops’ diagnosis of the unfinished business is correct.

As I say, I shall listen to the debate.  I am saying, as precisely as I can, I shall not resist the adjournment.  If, by some miracle, Synod feels corporately that it can confidently go forward to final approval today, well and good – and I for one should be very grateful.   But I put this before you as a way of understanding what the adjournment might entail, in the light of what I understand the bishops have been trying to do.  And I commend this very, very difficult question to more thoughtful and prayerful discussion this morning.

©  Rowan Williams 2012

A note about Clause 5(1)(c)

The House accepted an amendment to express in the Measure one of the three principles which the House had agreed in December.  This amendment adds to the list of matters on which guidance will need to be given in the Code of Practice that the House of Bishops will be required to draw up and promulgate under the Measure.  It will now need to include guidance on the selection by the diocesan bishop of the male bishops and priests who will minister in parishes whose parochial church council ('PCC') has issued a Letter of Request under the Measure. That guidance must be directed at ensuring that the “exercise of ministry” by those bishops and priests will be “consistent with the theological convictions as to the consecration or ordination of women” which gave rise to the issuing of the Letter of Request. Thus the draft Measure now addresses the fact that for some parishes a male bishop or male priest is necessary but not sufficient.  The phrase ‘theological conviction’ also appears at clauses 2(4), 3(1) and 3(3)(b).


Adjournment motion passed

Following the debate, General Synod passed a motion to adjourn the Final Approval debate on the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure to enable the amendment made in May to clause 5 to be reconsidered by the House of Bishops. The House will meet for that purpose in September. The Archbishops have confirmed that the General Synod will meet in November in London to resume the Final Approval debate in the light of the House of Bishop's consideration. See further information at the Church of England website.



World-shaped Mission

Saturday 7th July 2012

The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke (listen to audio here) in the debate on 'World-shaped Mission', a report prepared by the World Mission and Anglican Communion Panel and presented to the General Synod by the Rt Revd Mike Hill, Bishop of Bristol.  Archbishop Rowan expressed his appreciation of the document and the work of the Panel, saying:

I too welcome the report and support its recommendations wholeheartedly. And I want to use this opportunity also of expressing gratitude to Bishop Mike Hill for his contribution in chairing the World Mission and Anglican Communion Panel, and to all those who contributed to the report, especially Janice Price whose major work in pulling it together has made it an exceptionally coherent and powerful document.

I’d like to flag up just one or two points from the report, which I believe worth special reflection. One is to note paragraph 1.19, where our attention is drawn to the fact that the global church is actually on our own doorstep. We are encouraged to listen to 'the voices of the global and first generation of migrant residents in England'. The global church is here. And if we are to take this document seriously, we need – all of us – to reflect on how we best collaborate with and learn from the global church here on our doorstep. That entails interaction with the various communities and congregations that we call ‘diaspora communities’. It involves, I believe, ongoing liaison with the black-led and black-majority churches in this country which is already a serious priority for the CCU [Council for Christian Unity] and for Lambeth Palace at the moment. But every congregation, every parish, can ask this question and ask what it should be doing about it. And I think it is a necessary implication of the philosophy that is put before us in the document - a philosophy and a theology which takes as completely central the model of mutuality in the body of Christ – the fact that, as the Bishop reminded us earlier, this is about the identity of all of us.

A second point I’d like to lift out from the report is that, in the last years particularly, we’ve seen growing convergence between mission agencies and aid agencies here and worldwide. There are excellent stories now to be told of the liaison and relation between Christian Aid and the churches locally and indeed church-based mission agencies. I believe this is something of a step-change, and one to be very very warmly welcomed. We have, I think, begun to break down the sense that there are secular aid agencies, and there are mission aid agencies, which ought not really to be intruding on one another’s territory. And to move away from that territoriality and defensiveness is one of the major steps we’ve seen of late.

Connected with that is the fact that we have been able, partly because of this development in recent years, to work more and more closely with DFID [Department for International Development] in this country. To overcome the innate suspicion of a lot of administrators in Westminster of faith-based organisations in this context is no small task, but some ten days ago DFID launched at Lambeth Palace its new policy document on partnership with faith groups. This is the result of a lot of very hard work by many people within the churches and the churches’ aid-related agencies and Christian Aid, and I think it is to be very warmly welcomed indeed. It means that we have the kind of ‘open door’ that we have longed for for many years, and the auguries are very good about a future of sustained, sustainable, and intelligent cooperation there.

And that leads, finally, to the point that the Bishop underlined: we are not talking about clearly demarcated territories here, where development issues and mission issues fall on different sides of some imaginary line. One of the great privileges of the ministry I have, is to be able to see in my travels just how artificial that line is, in context after context. Just within the last 12 months, visits to Kenya, Malawi and Zambia – to name just three – have set before me, and those who have worked with me, models of holistic and integrated approaches to development and mission questions which are an example and inspiration to all of us. If some of that vision, that sense of integration, can find its way into our own approaches to these questions locally and nationally here in the UK, then we shall have been richly blessed.

So once again, let me underline my warm support and gratitude for this excellent document, and my hope that it will enable all of us to avail ourselves fully of that open door, the opportunities that are now being laid before us by other agencies and by governments in working together for societies here and internationally, which, in their according of full dignity and liberty to human beings, are honouring the image of God in humanity in the way that we are all called to do. 

© Rowan Williams 2012

Following debate and amendment, the motion proposed by Bishop Mike Hill was carried in the following form:

'That this Synod, recognizing the Church of England's historic and continuing participation in world mission as essential to our identity as members of the universal Church

(a)    welcome the report entitled World-shapedMissionand commend it to the dioceses, deaneries and parishes of the Church of England for further study;

(b)   affirm the ongoing role of the Mission Agencies in resourcing the mission of the Church of England at home and overseas;

(c)    affirm the continuing growth, whether through the Diocesan Companion Links initiatives by parishes or otherwise, in the relationships between the Church of England, the Provinces of the Anglican Communion and the world Church; and

(d)   encourage the building of continuing partnership between all involved in Church of England world mission and development relationships.'

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