Despite the joy around the victory of Andy Murray yesterday, the sun has not yet emerged in York. But today looks as though it will be a long and intense one in the Chamber, so we don’t want it too hot!
There are two big topics before us today. The first is Women in the Episcopate which is the first debate on the subject after the failure to secure a 2/3rds majority in each of the houses last November. After Saturday’s conversations we will see what Synod feels like.
There are four options before us which range from what seems to be a simple measure with a bishops’ declaration to a legislative option which appears to tie everything up in the provision. The House of Bishops is supporting the first, simpler, though in many ways, more robust option. I say more robust because the bishops’ declaration will be something which the bishops will hold to and will provide for those who cannot accept the ministry of women but without the complexity that other options provide. There are a number of amendments including one from Bishop Trevor Wilmott which would provide a remedy for those who did have a grievance against a bishop and so give added reassurance.
All we can do is pray and listen to each other as the morning and probably the first part of the afternoon proceeds.
Following the debate on the episcopate we turn to the reorganisation of three of the Yorkshire dioceses – Bradford, Ripon & Leeds and Wakefield. As someone who was ordained and ministered in Ripon Diocese, as it was then called, I have a keen interest in what is proposed and in the debate. Beyond the specific issue of the shape of the church in Yorkshire it will also give an indication of what Synod thinks about this way of working by the Dioceses Commission.
The day will conclude with finance and reports from the Church Commissioners and Archbishops’ Council.
But the day began as it should begin, at the altar, with the Eucharist and a reminder in the reading from the book of Genesis that ‘this is none other than the house of God and this is the gate of heaven’. The Bishop of Lincoln spoke to us about the connectivity between heaven and earth, signified by Jacob’s dream of the ladder. The Bishop quoted from the poem by Francis Thompson ‘The Kingdom of Heaven’ with the lines
The angels keep their ancient places–
Turn but a stone and start a wing!
‘Tis ye, ’tis your estrangèd faces,
That miss the many-splendored thing.
But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry–and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.
The foot of the ladder touches even the floor of the Synod Chamber and this can be both our Charing Cross and Gate of Heaven as we seek to do the will of God.
We will start the Session singing the ancient hymn ‘Come Holy Ghost’ and this will be our prayer
Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,
and lighten with celestial fire.
Thou the anointing Spirit art,
who dost thy sevenfold gifts impart.