Without limits

I apologise if I got a bit grumpy yesterday – but that it was how it felt and it needed to be said. But a new day brings a new beginning. Keble’s great hymn is always a place to begin the day.

New every morning is the love
Our wakening and uprising prove;
Through sleep and darkness safely brought,
Restored to life and power and thought.

A new day in Westminster

A new day in Westminster

It seemed that Synod was ‘restored to life and power and thought’ and what resulted were some debates that were extremely good – Synod at its best. After the opening eucharist we moved into an area of work which has rightly occupied a great deal of time during this Quinquennium, and I’m obviously not talking about the ordination of women.

Some revisions to measures and canons in relation to safeguarding were before us. These were part of the constant process of getting this area of our life right, in terms of process, in terms of clarity and making sure that the needs and views of survivors of abuse are properly taken account of.

Then we moved, after Standing Orders, to a debate about how we deal pastorally and liturgically with those who have committed suicide. It’s a subject that is very difficult and delicate and especially for those of us who have had experience of suicide in the family, or amongst our friends, or in the parish. But one of the most powerful speeches – and there were many – came from a member of the Youth Council who talked in terms of the frightening number of young people who take their own life – more than one a day at the present time. Many are young men, many have been self harming and all are loved by God. The strong sense that came across in the debate was that God’s love is without limits. Fr Thomas Seville CR made the important point that by being compassionate we were not condoning suicide, and that was very clear in the debate. But at the same time the old sense that suicide set some one so apart from God that they were to be denied the ministrations of the church was absent and the final, overwhelming vote of the Synod in favour of changing how we work was very moving.

The afternoon opened with a debate on the new, alternative baptismal texts, which are specifically for use on those occasions when the congregation present might have a more peripheral association with church and the faith and need more accessible language. This is the hinterland I was talking about the other day in relation to discipleship and so it was good that the new texts were approved. But again it is about expressing the breadth of love that God has for all his children, all of creation, rather than the narrowness and the begrudging attitudes that often seem to come from the church.

Fr Faber - prophets come in many forms

Fr Faber – prophets come in many forms

At so many services nowadays we sing an old Fr Faber hymn that seems to become more and more relevant to where we are, an almost prophetic message to us who are working to create a more inclusive, welcoming church that mirrors the nature of the kingdom.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in His justice,
Which is more than liberty.

And the words which should always challenge us

But we make His love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify His strictness
With a zeal He will not own.

Synod was in a better and more inclusive place today.

With a final debate on mission and growth in rural parishes this Group of Sessions came to an end. This was our last time in Westminster for this Quinquennium. We next meet in York in July and when we are next in Westminster – well, it will be a new Synod and who knows who will have been returned to continue this important, frustrating but vital work of enabling the Church of England to be the visible sign and presence of God’s inclusive, welcoming, embracing kingdom of justice, mercy and peace.

Lord, for all we have done, thank you;
for all we failed to do, forgive us;
for all we could do, inspire us;
for all we shall do, bless us;
in Jesus’ name.
Amen.

Grumpy

I ended yesterday reflecting on the apparent energy levels – or rather lack of energy – that there appeared to be present in the Synod.  I suppose today the only word for my experience of Synod is ‘grumpy’.  I was only able to be around in the morning and so wasn’t there to experience what happened when people got back into the Chamber in the afternoon.  But I was there for the two parts of the morning – small group work looking at discipleship and then a much larger ‘hearing’ on one of the Task Group reports.

IMG_0578

The discussion about discipleship was in preparation for the debate that was to take place in the afternoon.  People told their own stories of deepening their own relationship with Christ, what it was that created the step change in their Christian commitment.  As one person described it it was about moving from being a ‘receiver’ to being a ‘disciple’. I can’t say that anything startling emerged from the discussion and there could have been a lot more passion around, given that it should be a subject that we are passionate about. But it was a good beginning and helped me to understand a little more about what other people mean when they talk about discipleship.  We often speak about the same things but use different language!

The Task Group presentation I had chosen to attend was on the ‘Green’ report about selection and training of senior leaders in the church.  A lot of the provision is for the development of bishops and deans and so I was particularly interested in that.  In fact I have signed up to be part of the mini-MBA which is being run for Deans in the last week of Lent.  Having read Public Administration for my first degree I’m really interested in what the language and the direction of the course will be like.  But, like many people, I suppose my concern is with a secular management model which seems to be at the background of the proposals, although the Bishop of Ely was at pains to point out that this is not in fact the case.

But the proposals were being rolled out even as we sat there talking about it (hence signing up for the course already) and so this was much more information sharing than giving Synod members any real chance of changing things – and this is what makes us grumpy.

As far as I understand it, and as I say, sadly I wasn’t there, that became more apparent in the afternoon.  If we were ‘CofE plc’ and Synod members were the shareholders who gather to hear reports about the decisions and actions of the Board of Directors then we might expect to be treated like this.  But we aren’t.  The truth is that we are a church episcopally led and synodically governed.  We may have some things to learn from business but we are not a business and Synod is made up of two elected house and one house unelected in the democratic sense.  If that is ignored then of course people will get grumpy.

We finish tomorrow – so we will see what the mood and the energy is.

Save us, O Lord, while waking,
and guard us while sleeping,
that awake we may watch with Christ
and asleep may rest in peace.

Energy levels

In the presentation of the task group reports in preparation for the work we will be engaged in tomorrow morning, Bishop Pete Broadbent, who was presenting ‘Simplification’, said to Synod that there appeared to have been a drop in energy levels. I think he was right, it wasn’t just me with a heavy cold who felt a bit stultified by the afternoon; it felt as though we all did.

Energy levels were low

Energy levels were low

I went back into the Chamber in time to vote against the final stage of the change in names of dioceses legislation. Thank God it was defeated! Why are some people so dismissive of the inheritance of the church that we enjoy and have received with joy? The church exists in the local and bishops exist and relate to that local and what is more, urban, reality. That has always been the case and I think for good reason. If it really is a block to mission – well, I cannot believe it. What is more of a block is not having confidence in Christ who is the head of the church, Christ who was incarnate in the particular, in the urban setting, who died in the particular, urban setting and who prepares a place for us in the named place, the heavenly Jerusalem. Of course a region has souls in it, but it does not have that particular, located feeling. Anyway, it is off the books. Hurrah!

So that excited me and normally I am excited by Questions (a bit of rough and tumble) but, perhaps because this was a new way of doing (managing) it, it felt less exciting, less responsive. The answers are printed in advance in the booklet that used only to contain the questions. The answer is assumed to have been read and supplimentaries are then taken. I found all of that quite a lot to get a handle on – remembering what the discussion was about from what you have read. But we need to give it time.

But that may have rather subdued Synod, hence Bishop Pete’s comments and add to that the raft of papers for tomorrow. But that is tomorrow!

Lighten our darkness,
Lord, we pray,
and in your great mercy
defend us from all perils and dangers of this night,
for the love of your only Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Amen.

Here we are again

The tea room at Synod is buzzing but for once it isn’t about the ordination of women to the episcopate that we’re all talking about. That is all done – well the legislation certainly is and as if to prove it Bishop Libby appeared in the gallery for the beginning of Synod. We now have to settle and establish the ‘new normal’ into the life of the church but that is not the business now of the Synod – although we are good at creating conducive or jarring background music!

I’m not sure what people are talking about as I sit here typing, perhaps I should ask them! It may be the ‘Green Report’ on developing senior leadership. It has been less than fortunate that Lord Green and HSBC have been in the headlines before we get to discuss (be it only in a task group) the report. His ears were probably burning during the report of the Business Committee when various people raised questions around process in relation to the report. Opinion seems to be divided about the report so it will be an interesting discussion to be part of.

They could be talking about discipleship because that is on the agenda. Like a great many words in the church it becomes loaded (I think they say ‘freighted’ nowadays) with particular meaning. Not being from an evangelical background I don’t use the term ‘disciple’ with quite the same sense of ‘that is what people who go to church should be’ as others do. Perhaps as well, being in a Cathedral I’m very conscious that the hinterland in church is very great. And it seems to me that it was that great hinterland of the curious and the sceptical and the hungry and the desperate that Jesus and his disciples – a specific group – ministered to. We are called to discipleship of course in the sense of following but not all will be disciples and we are the church of the great hinterland – we call it the parish. But more of that later.

The great hinterland - or all disciples?

The great hinterland – or all disciples?

They could be talking about how Synod opened with an address from Archbishop Bashar Warda, Archbishop of the Chaldean Diocese of Erbil in Iraq. He spoke with such dignity about the plight of his brother and sister Christians in that land, so many of whom have fled. He asked for our prayers and support in any way that we can give it. One of the things we are still doing in Southwark Cathedral is selling the Nasrani candles to support Canon Andrew White’s work out in Baghdad. A small thing in many ways, but a powerful way to pray.

Archbishop Warda, a man of dignity

Archbishop Warda, a man of dignity

They could be talking about Archbishop Justin’s Presidential Address. He spoke about evangelism and witness as not being strategies but as being essential to the nature of the church. He mentioned a great phrase, from a book about to be published, which I must remember, ‘the plural of disciple is church’. Then he concluded by saying ‘If we wait until we’re fit to witness we’ll wait for ever.’ As ever, it was a great address.

I’m sure there will be a lot of chatter during these three days. It’s a short Synod and the penultimate of this Quinquennium. Some big changes are on the horizon and we have not to lose sight of them because they will begin to define what the Church of England looks like in the future and I, for one, want to be able to recognise what emerges as the catholic church – sacramental, evangelical, vocational, inclusive, generous – which I love.

God, bless Synod:
God, bless it’s members
and guide us by your Holy Spirit
and in the name of your son,
Jesus Christ.
Amen.

And so to bed

This short Group of Sessions ended with two important debates. The first was on the Anglican-Methodist Covenant. For anyone in the Church of England or the Methodist Church this subject has been rattling on for far too long. The whole idea has been kicked into the long grass too many times as far as I’m concerned. Ok, there are some real issues to deal with – and they aren’t all from our side. Why would Methodists want to join up with the CofE, I sometimes ask myself? It’s not as though we have everything sorted! I am impressed by the Methodists social mission agenda, their commitment to gay and lesbian people and to women’s ministry. We have a lot of catching up to do before the Methodist Conference should accept us in a covenant with them.

The real business of ecumenism though happens nowadays not in Synod chambers or in Conference but on the ground, in the parishes, in community. We have a wonderful example of the Methodist Church at work in our local community at Bermondsey Central Methodist Mission. They do tremendous work in social outreach and we are achieving great things with them for the homeless of the area through the ROBES project, our local cold weather shelter. That is where the most effective work takes place – but structures have to catch up with it.

As far as ecclesiological differences are concerned I have learnt a huge amount from Porvoo. We’re twinned with Bergen Cathedral and work closely with the Norwegian Church in Rotherhithe. The situation of the Lutheran and Methodist churches is different. But when we entered into the Porvoo Agreement and the mutual recognition of ministries there were things that had still to be worked through and this remains the case. But that has not stood in the way of the relationship that we do have and that bears fruit in plenty. It is ‘by their fruit that you will know them’ says Jesus to us in St Matthew’s Gospel and the fruit is good. And I believe the fruit of a deeper relationship with Methodism in this country would be good.

Some of the people we welcome as guests in the ROBES project may have been made homeless through the implementation of the bedroom tax – I don’t know. But there are so many reasons why people end up homeless that this iniquitous attack on the welfare system cannot help.

Sleeping out for those with no place to lay their head

Sleeping out for those with no place to lay their head

It was on this tax that the Synod ended. The Diocese of Leeds had brought a motion expressing our deep concern about the effect of the tax. I had the opportunity to add to the debate. Some good and moving stories were told of people caught in this ill-thought through initiative.

The fact of the matter is that there are not sufficient single-occupancy dwellings for people who might want to move to move into; that those who have not been in debt previously are driven into arrears; that Councils are having to use their resources to compensate people caught in the trap; and that those who have made their home in a community, in a place, are being forced to move.

One Synod member said that she is widowed, living in her own home, with spare bedrooms. She receives a 25% reduction in her Council Tax. A person in the same situation as her but in public housing would be charged extra. How is that just, how is that fair? It is not, and we are the people of the God of justice.

 

Hope you've got no spare bedrooms up there, Christopher Robin!

Hope you’ve got no spare bedrooms up there, Christopher Robin!

There was a division of the whole Synod at the end of the debate and the Motion was passed with none opposed and only three abstentions. That gives a clear and strong message to the nation.

And ‘as I lay me down to sleep’ I will remember those who are homeless this night, and those who are concerned because they cannot pay the rent, and those who know that they have more bedrooms than they ‘need’.

May the Lord grant us all
a quiet night and a perfect end.
Amen.

Persecution

The focus of this morning in Synod shifted from what can often seem to be a preoccupation with our own affairs to something which should be high on our agendas, whoever we are. The Eucharist, Archbishop Justin’s homily and the panel discussion were all about the plight of those being persecuted in Iraq and Syria.

I was delighted that time – and quite a lot of time was given to this – but, to be honest, a little disappointed that what we had in the Chamber was so managed that what could have been passionate and engaging was anodyne and dull, nevertheless so much of what was said was important to hear.

After yesterday’s historic moment as the Canon was enacted, we had another today as we welcomed Shaykh Fuad Nahdi, Executive Director of the Radical Middle Way and an Imam, to take part in the General Synod. He was on the panel with His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, the Revd Rachel Carnegie, Joint Executive Director of Anglican Alliance and Bishop Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds who from his time as Bishop of Bradford gained huge experience at working with the Muslim community.

I’ve had the privilege of visiting Syria, Jordan, Sinai as well as the Holy Land as part of pilgrimages and part of the rich joy of that is to see the ‘tapestry of faith’ in the region at its best. The danger is that the tapestry is being torn apart, irreparably damaged, lost.

The plight of the ancient Christian churches is extreme and they are in danger of disappearing. But alongside this is the persecution of Muslim by Muslim, the destruction of mosques and shrines by those who share their faith. We have been there, we know what it is like. The beautiful retrochoir of Southwark Cathedral hosted trials of Christians by Christians during the reign of Queen Mary. People, like the protestant martyr John Rogers, were sent from that place in which God was and is worshipped to their death at Smithfield.

John Rogers, protestant martyr

John Rogers, protestant martyr

++Justin made the point in his homily that persecution should never be romanticised. It is wrong, it is terrifying, it is suffering. When we speak of martyrs in the church it is too easy to forget that we are talking about the death of real people, of ordinary people. Our red vestments may remind people of their blood but at times we are guilty of glamourising what is not glamorous.

This morning was a beginning, but only that, of taking seriously what is happening. What happens next, what we as a church do next, is what is really important and let that neither be anodyne nor romanatic.

Passionate, loving God,
give courage and hope
to your persecuted children,
whoever,
wherever
they are.
Amen.

In silence

London’s a strange place isn’t it. I got on the Tube this morning to go to Westminster for this second and final day of this Group of Sessions. The Circle Line train was packed as you would expect at 8.30. The doors closed and we moved off – and there was complete silence, complete silence. It was a better silence than we achieve in so many of our churches – it wasn’t unfriendly, not unsettling, not disturbing. People were just completely silent. Of course in people’s heads other things were happening – but not every one had headphones on. A lot were reading. But it felt like a place of utter tranquility.

I’ve talked to a number of people about what happened first thing yesterday afternoon as the Canon was enacted. It was received in ‘dignified silence’. The most momentous event in many of our Synod careers was received with the same silence as if we had just amended the Fees order, or decided some other piece of minor legislation – more silence in fact, as then there might at least be a rumble of pleasure. But nothing.

Given that everything we now do is in the media spotlight what does this say to the nation? That we aren’t really bothered? That it wasn’t as important as we had been making out? But we are and it is.

I understand of course that for others it was a painful moment. But then we should have been able to rejoice and weep together, that would be truly an honouring of one another’s feelings. But the moment passed and we moved into prayer and greater silence.

But this morning my heart is rejoicing and I want to sing, I want to say how good it is to be part of a church that has had the vision to do this. It is a great day and God is good.

I suppose that was what made the tremendous service in St Paul’s to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ordination of women so amazing. The spontaneous applause as the class of ’94 entered that wonderful building was not just applause for them but all that bottled-up, restrained joy that had been held back by dignified silence.

With the prophet Isaiah I say

Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

(Isaiah 12.6)

Diversity – creative or disastrous?

You could spend an afternoon idly wasting time, making some tea, watching rubbish TV, reading a book, having a doze. Or you could spend an afternoon making history and dealing with issues of importance and moment. This afternoon in Synod has felt more like a day than a few hours.

After the debate on the Report of the Business Committee in which were raised some very important issues, such as why the Private Members Motion on Equal Marriage has been parked for so long, we moved to the enactment of the amended Canon which would enable women to be consecrated as bishop. It only took a few minutes but at 14.54 on Monday 17 November 2014 it was done. The Archbishops, the Prolocutors and the Chairs of the House of Laity signed the document and it was enacted. And after all the struggles it was as simple and profound as that. Sometimes life is surprisingly simple and beautiful and this was one of those moments.

The Archbishop of York then led us in prayer and it all felt so right and so calm.

The Synod Chamber

The Synod Chamber

Archbishop Justin then gave a most powerful address about the state of the Anglican Communion. He began by saying very clearly that the Anglican Communion ‘exists and is flourishing’ and he told some great stories from his visits around the Communion of where the Provinces are vibrant and growing. But he also recognised that the diversity of the Communion, not just in cultural terms but in theological as well, mean that, ‘our divisions may be too much to manage’. He spoke about his desire that the Communion works more collegially and that was why a Lambeth Conference would be called if it was the desire of the Communion, not because there was an ‘8 in the year’. And he concluded by commenting that the Communion of the future is ‘likely to be very different from the past’.

As someone who commented quite negatively about aspects of the Anglican Communion when we were debating the Covenant and rejecting that as a way forward, I thought this was an honest and truthful address. But ++Justin talked of ‘a prize worth almost anything to achieve’ by which I think he meant our unity in Christ. My question is, so who pays the price of that? Is it gay and lesbian people who are looking for justice and equality, not just in the Church of England but in Uganda and other places in the Communion where even their lives are in danger and not just their chance of preferment or freedom to love. We are always dealing with the issues of truth and justice and freedom to be the people that God created us to be, whoever, whatever we are.

Then followed Legislative Business and a good debate on the Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of the Clergy. That sounds quite dry – but it isn’t at all. How we live out our vocation is so important. We are told at ordination that we are to be ‘ambassadors for Christ’. What does that mean for the way we act and live as deacons, priests and bishops?

But it is also about such things as the Seal of the Confessional and how that relates to safeguarding. That provoked some excellent speeches from people as diverse as Fr Philip North (soon to be the next Bishop of Burnley) and Canon Chris Sugden, who exist at very different ends of the candle but were clear in their defence of confidentiality, as am I. Once the seal is broken it is broken. But that means we must face the very difficult issue of what happens when someone discloses abuse in the confessional. There are ways of addressing it but they need thinking through and, as ever, we must listen to survivors.

We also need to listen to the words of Jesus to the apostles when he commissioned them to this ministry of reconciliation into which every priest is drawn

‘If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’ (John 20.23)

We may like the idea of the first half of what Jesus says and may avoid the second. But the truth is, and this is a hard truth, that the two go together. Reconciliation is tough work, in the lives of individuals and in the Church of England and in the Anglican Communion.

Is diversity creative or disastrous? It has to be creative, but as with the ministry of reconciliation, there are two sides to the coin and we must be as honest and realistic about that as ++Justin was this afternoon.

So after Questions this long and momentous, historic afternoon ended.

Deo gratias.
Thanks be to God.
Amen.

Arriving at the edge of history

The tea room is already full as members of the General Synod arrive for this two day Group of Sessions being held in Westminster. There should have been sunshine for such a day as this, but instead the skies are clouded over and there is a hint of rain in the air. But nothing can dampen the moment.

I’m old enough to remember that two feasts used to fall on this day, 17 November, and you had to make a choice. Hugh or Hilda? Now they have been separated out and today is the feast of St Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln and Wednesday is the feast of St Hilda, Abbess of Whitby. But for this day I want to bring them back together to stand with the Church of England on the edge of history.

Hugh was one of those great bishops. It seems from my reading of it that he understood the pastoral role of the bishop and he gave himself to it, riding round his diocese, visiting the clergy, encouraging them and building up the church. Anyone who can have a swan as a pet can’t be all bad and Hugh wasn’t bad at all.

St Hugh, pray for us.

St Hugh, pray for us.

Hilda was one of the most tremendous women in the history of our church. She presided over the Synod of the church which had to handle the difficult issue of the date of Easter – celtic or Roman pattern? She gathered a community around her of both men and women and was a true mother to the church of her day. There is always an episcopal feel to her and depicted holding her pastoral staff as an abbess should, we see a sign of the moment of history that awaits us in the Chamber at the beginning of business this afternoon.

St Hilda, pray for us.

St Hilda, pray for us.

Hugh and Hilda, formative figures for true episcopacy in this land and patrons for this afternoon.

It has taken a great deal of time to get to this place, many tears have been shed, there have been frustrations and difficulties, false dawns, pain, disappointments, mistakes, moments of near disaster, loss of credibility, compromises, and, in the end, a new clarity and sense of purpose. It has been costly for those in favour and for those who are oppossed. But we are here and I feel a huge sense of privilege to be part of this afternoon.

It is right to be joyful but it is wrong to gloat. The ‘Five Guiding Principles’ have got us to this point and to this momentous afternoon, and they are a real commitment to mutual flourishing. That is not easy for some but we have to see it is a vital and real commitment by the whole church. We must all flourish; by God’s grace we will all flourish.

The ‘Today’ programme on BBC Radio 4 this morning talked about the Synod and made the point that the Anglican Church in the other parts of the British Isles can already have bishops who are women – but they haven’t. That is the next challenge for the church following this afternoon. It is one thing to pass legislation, it is another to make sure that women are nominated to diocesan and suffragan sees. That will be a real test of the resolve of the whole church.

So we move to the Chamber. There is other business for us to deal with – but more of that later. Now we stand at this historic moment and God is with us and the prayers of St Hugh and St Hilda will support us.

God bless us as we meet in Synod.
May your Holy Spirit guide and equip us
in all we will do.
Amen.

Going home

The final morning of this Group of Sessions ended up being more exciting than I had thought – though nowhere near as exciting as the day before! There were lost of bits of legislation to address but two that were particularly significant.

The first was all about parochial property and where ownership should be vested. There is pressure from some members of the Synod that PCCs should be given the right to ‘own’ and manage their own property rather than it being vested in the Diocesan Board of Finance as it is now. On the face of it that seems totally sensible. If a PCC had the skills to manage, dispose of and acquire its own property then why not? If a PCC did not have the skills then they could still use the good offices of the diocese.

Jesus said

‘They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.’ (Matthew 7.15)

Poor Red Riding Hood! She thought it was grandma.

Poor Red Riding Hood! She thought it was grandma.

He was speaking of false prophets and not Measures before Synod. But the basic truth applies. We only have to look across the waters at the recent experience of The Episcopal Church to see what can happen when dioceses and parishes and the national church come into dispute over the ownership of property and the attempts by smaller groups of people to take possession of what they believe to be theirs, for whatever reason.

Jesus also said ‘It must not be so among you’. There are principles in all of this about the nature of the church as ‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic’ and we must be conscious of this. What can seem to be about property can become about nature, about who we are.

Synod rejected what would not have been helpful but we have to be vigilant. Mutual flourishing is exactly that, mutual, and that applies to the inheritance that is ours, of faith, and of those things and resources that enable us to be the church in this land and property is part of that.

The second piece of business that caused a stir was on Church Representation as it affected the workings of PCCs. This debate was adjourned at the February Group of Sessions. So we began where we left off. Two things that it allowed for – a minimum of two PCC meetings a year and a Standing Committee that comprised the Incumbent and Churchwardens. I can see the sense in the first – though it is very minimal – but not the second. It is all too easily for cabals to develop in parishes without legislating them into existence!

A request was made for it to go back to a Revision Committee, but that wasn’t possible. So the option was vote yes or no and as this was a final stage it had to be by houses with a 2/3rds majority in each. It failed to secure that and so cannot come back in this form. But in the quest for simplification we need to look at these issues and we need to get it right as this has proved to be a waste of time and resources.

The penultimate business of each Group of Sessions are the farewells and on this occasion it was time to say goodbye and thank you to the Bishop of Burnley, John Goddard and the Bishop of Oxford, John Pritchard. They are quite different – only their names are the same – but both will be missed. ++Sentamu and ++Justin gave great accounts of all that they have given to the church.

We then stood for the Prorogation of the Group of Sessions and Sentamu sent us home with God’s blessing. It has been a memorable and historic Synod of York. The church is now different; we will flourish – I am confident of that. But perhaps I need to finish with something that Fr Philip North said in his speech to Synod in the ‘big debate’. He was quoting the Labour Party slogan for the 1945 General Election. They said ‘And now win the peace’.

20140715-150406-54246361.jpg

It is not said of this Synod in the sense of victory but in the sense that we are now called by God to be the church that we now are and to work for the kingdom and to go for growth and to preach the Gospel and celebrate the sacraments and to do all ‘that the world might believe’.

As I head home that is what I take with me – and a great deal of thanksgiving and I offer the prayer of Dag Hammarskjøld

For all that has been, thanks.
For all that shall be, yes.
Amen.

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