This is the speech Canon John Spence gave in the Women Bishops Debate
John Spence, Archbishops’ Council:
There’s nothing like pulling the short straw!
I’m a new boy to this and I have no new theology to bring but then who would expect a former banker to have any theology at all?
There are two things I won’t talk about after today. One is being a new boy, because I won’t be a new boy anymore, and the other is about my blindness.
But let me tell you a story. In 1987 I was told that my eyesight was failing and that I would have tunnel vision by the time I was in my forties. In 1990 I could no longer see print on the page, no longer see images on a screen at the age of 38
Things felt bleak. I had the love of a wonderful wife, Yvonne, and three great
children. But at that time people who lost their eyesight were consigned to lose their jobs, to man telephone switchboards or to work in disabled factories. There were no technological aids, there was no support, there was an expectation that I would be cast on the wayside. Even my Group Personnel Director told me that I couldn’t be promoted because I could no longer manage people.
So I felt weak. But I had three things. I had my faith, I focussed always on the Lilies of the Field. I knew I had to trust people, I had to take a leap of faith with people I knew and those I didn’t to help make life possible for me. And I knew I had to adapt.
Well what happened? Well In the event I went on to be Managing Director of Lloyd’s Bank and was able to move that Personnel Director into early retirement.
I have been able to occupy a number of significant roles including the privilege of this role on the Archbishops’ Council.
But much more than that. I discovered that my trust was more than fully repaid, that my leap of faith was given back in abundance. Trust was repaid not just from those that I expected it from but from those I didn’t
And having adapted I found other people adapted to me. Those with whom I
worked, my organisation, the world in which I lived, and today we have an
understanding that those who are disabled are merely those who jump another hurdle in the race of life.
But above all I discovered a rich new world of possibilities. I chaired national
disability charities and understood just how much people had to give, and what this rich diversity could bring to all of us with mutual understanding.
So what do I say know? If there are any of you who are still in all conscience
struggling to decide whether you dare press the ‘abstain’ or even ‘positive’ key. Your faith is my faith is all of our faith. And every one of us has a vital role to ensure that that searing vision of the Risen Christ is taken out into this troubled country.
And if you can place your trust where there is not yet evidence, your trust will not be misplaced. You like me will discover just how kind and beautiful people can be.
You’ll come to see that promises will be delivered just as I have done. That you
having adapted will find that adaption is mutual. You can be confident of that. That we have to adapt to others just as others adapt to us because in that way you create that whole new world of possibilities.
Today for me it is not about two-thirds and one-third. It’s about a celebration of a coalition of consciences around the Risen Christ. And I just feel that the stronger the vote we can give today the greater the credibility we have in the outside world. But more important than that. The more confidently we can walk, hand in hand, to return this church to numerical and spiritual growth and to return Christ to His rightful place at the centre of this country, it’s conscience, and it’s culture. God bless you.
John Spence is Chair of the Finance Committee of the Archbishops’ Council