My laptop expired yesterday before I was able to blog. Initially I felt depressed and began to panic – how could I get online, and what was I going to do here at Synod if I couldn’t report on events as they unfolded? Then I told myself to calm down and that it wasn’t the end of the world. Maybe it was God’s way of telling me that I wasn’t here to blog but simply to be present, alongside my friends on General Synod for whom the next 2 days were going to be stressful and momentous.
Thanks to my partner’s laptop, I am at last able to come online and read reactions to yesterday’s debate, having attended the Eucharist in the Minster this morning and a WATCH meeting at lunchtime. The effect on me of my laptop crashing is not to be compared in scale with the effect of yesterday’s vote on those who either oppose outright the opening of the episcopate to women or can live with it only if a woman-bishop-free space is created for them on their terms.
I think there is a similarity in my emotional reaction, however, with those who were distressed by yesterday’s vote. Thirty minutes after my laptop crashed, I was able to pause, engage my adult self, and say, okay, this is where I am, deal with this present reality. I calmed down and resumed life without laptop.
Yesterday afternoon, some Synod members began to have Anglican tantrums, wanting to terminate the debate until they felt better, walking out when this was refused, discussing how they might overturn the decision when the debate resumes on Monday and issuing threats, yet again, about schism, money and splits. Anglican Mainstream reports that senior Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical leaders met yesterday evening to request an urgent meeting with both Archbishops to discuss the matter before Synod resumes on Monday morning. How to overturn the decision was the substance of their meeting.
Anglican Mainstream also claims the amendment was lost on a “procedural device” (their phrase and inverted commas) of requiring a two-thirds vote in all three houses, the clergy voting 50-50 and thus defeating the amendment. Firstly, it wasn’t split 50-50, the clergy vote was 85 for, 90 against with 5 abstentions. The vote could have been taken by Synod in its entirety, in which case the amendment would have passed, but it had voted for a vote by Houses. An earlier crucial vote two years ago on women in the episcopate legislation was taken by synod, not by houses, and on that occasion ensured that progress was made. The Holy Spirit seems to be telling Synod in subtle ways to get on with it.
The Archbishops are understandably distressed that their amendment was lost. It was their baby. But they were trying in some way to reinstate provisions for those opposed which have been most thoroughly explored over the past two years and rejected.
My take on yesterday’s vote is this. The Holy Spirit is guiding the Church of England into adulthood, to maturity as the Body of Christ. Yesterday she said, once again, Grow Up! It is time to welcome women into the episcopate. I call you friends, adult friends.
All sides in the debate now have painful emotions to work through. Those in favour of women in the episcopate feel somewhat guilty at the pain they have induced in others. But that doesn’t mean you need to capitulate to emotional immaturity or blackmail on either side. Be generous, grow up, hold your nerve and vote for what in your heart you believe to be right.
I, of course, have a personal interest in this. I am in favour of the inclusion of women at every level of church ministry. One day General Synod will be asked to vote on the place of LGBT people in the Church of England in respect of Civil Partnerships and the ordination of those with partners. It will need a very mature, emotionally confident group of people on Synod to achieve a positive, pro-gay vote.
Yesterday’s vote has laid another foundation stone. I believe members of Synod, Archbishops, bishops, priests and laity, will digest what has happened. Some will continue to feel hurt and in their inner world, feel marginalized or rejected. Others will reflect and adjust to the apparently new environment in which they find themselves. If we are not able to grow and change we will remain a church addicted to immature emotional attachments, to the idealised past and to the tyranny of the child which lurks in each of us.