I’ve been at General Synod in York for nearly 24 hours and this is the first space I’ve created to retreat to my room, check emails and news and post a comment. I’ve been in conversation for almost every waking moment since I arrived, except for sitting in the public gallery for questions yesterday evening. There were many questions about same sex marriage and the HoB Guidance. As usual the answers gave little away and even follow-up questions elicit little additional wisdom. One value is discovering how people like Andrea Minichiello Williams are incapable of framing a question but as for the opinion from the person answering, which isn’t allowed. She was called to order but continued trying to ask for an opinion anyway.
I have had some really creative conversations, with both people who are pro-gay and with conservative evangelicals, with warm and friendly bishops and with many colleagues in the various pro-inclusion organisations. I’ve learnt a lot, mostly about the blind spots in the house of bishops, and about individuals and how they think and work. I think (but I would, wouldn’t I?) that I have a much better understanding of the dynamics that the church confronts following equal marriage and the challenges faced by the House of Bishops.
There is a naive complacency about how they are functioning together and how they are going to deal with married clergy. They have by default decided to maintain the de facto policy (not agreed formally of course), that the majority of members of the House of Bishops would prefer partnered lesbian and gay clergy to co-habit (or live in sin as some would call it) rather than marry and legalise their relationship. This has been the policy of the House for as long as I’ve been ordained and is given substance because bishops welcome partners to diocesan and bishop’s house events and acknowledge partners at institutions and other parish services. Some bishops are fully aware that this is effectively their policy.
This afternoon Synod discusses The Common Good in groups from 3.30 to 4.45 preceded by a presentation by the Revd Jim Wallis titled The Uncommon Good. They will then debate and vote on the following motion:
‘That this Synod:
(a) affirm the theological imperative of serving the common good;
(b) commend the practical activities which serve the common good, exemplified by our parishes, dioceses and the NCIs, and encourage their further development; and
(c) call on the political parties to recognise the role, actual and potential, of churches in sustaining the common good of our communities when drawing up their manifestos for the 2015 General Election.’
The idea of The Common Good is a powerful one. I, of course, wonder whether the idea of the common good they discuss will include the common good of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, our families and friends. Will the Church of England recognize the role it has, actual and potential, of churches sustaining the common good in our communities and within the community of the church. Some members of Synod clearly think it doesn’t have a role when it comes to LGBTI people.
And now it’s time for lunchtime conversations ….