Monday 10 July 2017

Speech for The Cost of Citizenship motion at General Synod

Mr Chairman

Thank you for calling me to make my maiden speech on this item.

I’d like to thank Ben for bringing this motion forward today and am happy to support him.

While it is right that there should be a charge to apply for Citizenship this should relate directly to the actual costs of the application rather than an arbitrary figure, so I think it is right that we should call for the government to look at the figures and make them reflect a more realistic level.

We should also be clear also that this debate is not about migration, people applying for Citizenship are already here integrated in their communities speaking English (or perhaps for some Welsh or Scots Gaelic) and now want to fully become part of their adopted country.
And why shouldn't they? Being British is great and we should support and welcome those people who wish to join us in being British.

Please support this motion.

Sunday 9 July 2017

General Synod, York 2015, Day 2

And so the second day of synod dawned.

After a good nights sleep in Alcuin College (the rooms are all en-suite now, not like my student days) I had an enjoyable Full English breakfast (one of the treats ofbeing away at Synod) in the Vanbrugh dining hall.

The mornings session consisted of a debate on presence and engagement, this was followed by dressing with various legislative matters.

After lunch I attended a very interesting workshop on Digital Evangelism. It looks like the church is (finally!) going to get to grips with this, and we'll be seeing updates and better integration of the websites and social media. And the websites at last will become mobile friendly.

There is also going to be training made available to the dioceses and parishes. I'll be urging my own diocese to take this up as Coventry's current digit offering is, not to put too much a point on it, distinctly sub par.

After this was the big debate of the day, Jayne Ozannne's private members motion against conversion therapy. After some extremely moving testimony in speeches from people  and some amendments including that  rare synod beast an amendment to an anmendment and multiple recorded votes by houses I am delighted to say that not only did synod vote to condemn conversion therapy we votes to call on the government to ban it.

Following the end of the days sessions and the evening meal, a very pleasant evening was spent on the terrace outside Vanbrugh College's bar drinking real ale overlooking the lake.

Saturday 8 July 2017

General Synod, York 2015, Day 1

Thanks to Fr Mark Bratton the Rector of Berkswell who is one of Coventry's clergy members of synod I got a lift up to York and so was there in good time.

After the normal meeting up with people I'd not seen since February.

After opening worship, was a welcome to various visiting Anglican and Ecumenical guests, including the Bishop of Edinburgh how was warmly applauded by the majority of synod (although some hardline ConEvos seemed to think we should have invited a GAFCON schismatic bishop instead.) We then had a short speech of greetings from The Rt Rev'd Matti Repo, Bishop of Tampere of the Church of Finland. Reference was made to the Nordic churches' attitude on sexuality, at  present they are all more inclusive than the CofE

As usual the first substantive item was the business committee report.

During this there was a discussion whether members should have a code conduct. As someone who was a City Councillor on a met borough for 14 years, where there is a code of conduct for elected members I'm actually surprised this is even a discussion point.

The rest of the afternoon was pretty much taken up with the Archbishops' motion on "After the General Election a Still Small Voice of Calm"

There was an attempt to politicise this with various amendments such as reducing the voting age to 16 and introduction of STV, although the amendment Senegal to think this on its own would bring in PR without changes to multi member cobstituencies. Fortunately all the amendments were defeated.

One important issue raised in the speeches was how when parish priests become too partisan party political it can act as barrier to reaching people and hinder mission. I wholeheartedly agree with this point and would encourage certain clergy of my acquaintance to reflect on it.

In the end the motion overwhelmingly passed.

In my personal opinion this debate achieved nothing ave I think synod could have used it's time better, discussing much more important issues or extending the time on later debates

After dinner (lamb) there was a chance to attend fringe events ( I went to the GAS Human Sexuality Group meeting and then the Affirming Catholics in Synod [ACiS] group meeting) followed by a couple of enjoyable pints in the Vanburgh bar, before heading back to my room on the outer reaches of the campus known as Alcuin College.

Sunday 11 June 2017

Best Man's speech at the Wedding of Kevin Foster and Hazel Noonan

Ladies and Gentlemen, and I suppose MPs as well,, we all know why we are here today. It's is a very special day. As we all know today is World Gin Appreciation day!

No, no, I am mistaken we are here to celebrate Kevin and Hazel being joined in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.

I first met Kevin when I was chairman of City of Coventry Conservative Future and he was chairman of the Warwick University branch. Despite that fact that he was attending Coventry’s second university we became firm friends and served together on Coventry City Council for a number of years including the opportunity to be the cabinet together and I served as Kevin’s Chief Whip when he was Leader and deputy leader.

Kevin was my best man when I got married and it is an honour to return the favour. Although any chance of a stag do was wrecked by a certain national event that happened a couple of days ago.

It is lucky that the General Election was not next week otherwise Kevin would have had a leafleting and canvassing session rather than a reception!

I’m sure we are all delighted Kevin was re-elected to parliament with a hugely increased majority, which is wholly down to the fact he is such a hard working representative.

Although I met Kevin when he was at university in Coventry he, like me, was a first generation immigrant to Coventry and originally came from Plymouth.

As he always remained a Devonian in his heart it is no surprise that his second love, politics, brought him back here to be the MP.

I say his second love of course, because his first love is Hazel whom he married today. Even if he didn’t realise that for a while!

I first met Hazel on a hit squad delivering leaflets. (it is amazing how many different people you meet over leaflets as a political activist) That year, 1999, was also the year we both first stood for the council, although we both had to wait another year to actually contest a seat successfully.

When Hazel took the first Cheylesmore seat off the Labour party she was keen to take the other two as well so turned to Kevin to do so. It’s wonderful that years later these two former ward colleagues have decided to become life colleagues. That’s what an interest in politics does for you. Certainly we all wish them a landslide of happyness!

I’d like to thank Fr John and the team at St Mathias for such a good service today. St Matthias was the Apostle chosen by lot to replace Judas. We are all glad there were no lots needed last Thursday! I believe Kevin is involved with parish, so well done for managing that. When I first met Kevin he told me on a Sunday morning he religiously observed his lie in.

If you believe what you see in Disney movies then marriage is all about bluebirds dropping showers of hearts on you. In real life marriage is not like. There will always be disagreements. Indeed in the Chronicles of Narnia, the great theologian and philosopher CS Lewis wrote “They had many quarrels, but they always made up again: so that years later, when they were grown up they were so used to quarreling and making up again that they got married so as to go on doing it more conveniently.”

Marriages work when two people are so atuned to other, and their souls are so connected that the bumps in the road are just that an annoyance that is easily overcome rather than something that throws you totally off course. Anyone who looks at Kevin and Hazel can see that this is the case with them and I wish them many happy years together.

Ladies and Gentlemen: The Bride and Groom.

Saturday 29 April 2017

We need Local Hustings not National Debates

With a surprise General Election coming upon us there has been discussions of whether or not to have national televised debates, and concerns that Mrs May, the Prime Minister has said no.

I think it is right we are not having debates these are an import from the American political system and are not needed here. We are not directly electing a Prime Minister, we are electing a local MP.

I'd like to see more local hustings rather than national debates, and a chance for people to put the questions to their candidates directly. This is much more important for democracy than a sterile stage managed televised debate with a hand picked audience.

Sunday 5 March 2017

The House of Lords and EU Citizens

The House of Lords has recently voted to amend the Brexit bill to guarantee the right of EU nationals to remaining the UK continued residency.

While some may say this is a good thing and the Lords are doing their job, let's actually stop and think about this.

If the House of Lords is to do their job as a revising chamber properly, why are they passing amendments supporting the rights of the EU citizens in Europe to remain in Britain, but saying nothing about British Citizens in EU?

In actual fact of course both sets of people should have their existing rights grandfathered.

So why has this not been done? Well the EU does not wish to discuss anything before Article 50 is triggered. They say they can not discuss anything until then. This is sheer hypocrisy. If Donald Tusk and the European Council were prepared to, they could easily come to an agreement with the UK government to allow those people who already are living across the forthcoming EU / UK to remain with grandfathered rights in their current country of residence.

It is right and proper that EU citizens in the UK should be allowed to stay post Brexit. However this can only be guaranteed if the UK citizens elsewhere in the EU have the same right. This could be sorted now if the EU were prepared to discuss this now ahead of the main Brexit negotiations. They won't do this for dogmatic reasons. It's the EU that is stopping a clarification of expats status. This is an example of what's wrong with the EU. They are more interested in their processes and dogma than real people with their concerns. This just shows that we are right to leave.

Thursday 16 February 2017

Disappointed the Bishop of Coventry admits voted in error

Disappointed that the Bishop of Coventry admitted his vote against was accidental.

I had hoped that the Spirit had moved him to listen to those who called upon Synod to vote against.

The Diocese of Coventry, the Laity of which I represent on the General Synod, has always been at the forefront of reconciliation, led by Coventry Cathedral. It is a shame Bishop Christopher had missed such an opportunity for reconciliation with LGBT people within the dioocese and indeed throughout the whole church.

I look forward to my home diocese through the work of cathedral, where I worship every Sunday, taking a lead in the radical inclusion the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke about yesterday.

Wednesday 15 February 2017

General Synod - Speech for take note debate on the shared conversations.

Disappointed not to be called to speak at synod this evening.

Here is what I would have said :-

Mr Chairman,
Thank you for inviting me to speak on this item.

Last weekend when talking to my Scots Presbyterian mother and told her that I was here at Synod this week, she asked me "Are you talking about sex again?"

She then proceeded to tell me that the problem was due to bishops and she didn't believe in bishops. For once I almost had sympathy with her.

Seriously though her response to hearing I was going to Synod undlerlines the problem we have as a church, people think the Church of England is against the inclusion of gay people.

This is a major challange to mission. Why do we allow interest in people's intimate relationships get in the way of the people about Christ's incarnation, death and resurrection?

How many people have been put off from attending church because of a perceived over interest in the fact that they were built in a way that meant they came into a loving relationship with someone of their own sex.

This report will do nothing to change this. People have told me it puts them off attending church again, or makes them consider why they do come. It could be the last straw for many people who were looking for a better outcome from the shared conversations.

I urge Synod not to take note to send a message that they are welcome.

Finally let us remember, we are warned in the scriptures that if you turn people away from Christ it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.

With this report we are in danger of doing just that.