It does feel as though the meeting of the Synod was a long time ago. The last time I wrote I was on the train heading back to London and facing up to the prospect of picking up things back at the Cathedral and back home.
Inevitably, in lots of different places, people have asked me, ‘So what was Synod like?’ It’s a good question, what was it like? As I think I reflected before, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. But that feels like a really inadequate and hardly endorsing way of speaking about it. The problem is, it’s true. It could have been a great deal worse and we did arrive in the debate on the ordination of women to the episcopate in a place where we go forward again and engage once more in a process which, by the grace of God, will see women enter the episcopate. The amendments which were passed were helpful ones – the less helpful were defeated. People spoke well and carefully – perhaps in a way which reflected the fact that we had spent the Saturday in conversation. So all of that was good.
So why do I feel less than wholeheartedly positive about it? Part of the answer to that must be that the votes by houses that we did take on the Monday clearly showed – as far as I read it – that there remains a substantial group in the House of Laity who are still willing to vote against the legislation. My question is, will they change their mind as the process is worked through? I don’t want to say that minds are never changed by discussion and debate – but to be honest, my mind isn’t often changed on things on which I hold strong views – and am I so different to others?
And the second thing that leaves me with some niggling doubts is Bishop Pete’s intervention. The ‘I agree with Pete’ bandwagon which developed made me slightly – or more than slightly – nervous. Were we ‘bushwhacked’ in some way? What will changing the process like this – a larger steering committee, doing the revision process on the floor of the Synod – improve what emerges or make it more difficult and more compromised. I am not politically astute enough to know – and I suppose that is why I am a little nervous. Synod quite often goes for ‘good ideas’ on the hoof and they are often then seen not to be good ideas when people have had time to really consider the implications. I may be wrong – I hope I am.
So I wait with tentative anticipation of the Synod in November. What will come back to us? The decision was clear but is the process? All I can do is pray and I hope that you will pray as well, and follow the debate as it continues in the church. And remember, it is the will of the church in response to the promptings of the Holy Spirit that women will be ordained to episcopal ministry. We need women on the bench, in the House – the church and its mission and ministry can only benefit from the full inclusion of all God’s people. God’s will be done – God’s will will be done.
This the prayer used by WATCH – Women and the Church – composed by the Revd Canon Pamela Wilding. I invite you to pray it with me.
Gracious, loving Lord,
we look forward with hope and joyful anticipation
to the time when men and women can serve you, and all people,
equally in every task within your Church.
Thank you that every position held and task done
is valued by you and furthers your mission on earth.
Thank you Lord for hearing our prayer.