I woke up realising that something was different and it felt, to be honest, rather strange. In many ways I have been something of a ‘Jonny-come-lately’ to the campaigning for women in the episcopate. Some people have been campaigning for years and years and some have given their lives to seeing what we saw yesterday. But even I woke thinking, ‘so what happens next, what do we do now, what does General Synod do?’
The next second in my recollecting was a moment of joy and a sense of privilege. I am delighted that we have made the decision and I feel honoured, privileged to have been able to be part of that decision making process. It is a moment of history and the ‘Synod of York’ will be talked about in the future as we speak of the ‘Synod of Whitby’. It was good that the decision was made here in Yorkshire where Hilda played such a critical, leadership role in the life of the early church.
But where to now? In a real sense this Group of Sessions continues and my folder to take into the Chamber for this morning is full of bits and pieces of legislation. But the ‘where to now’ question is much bigger.
Yesterday when we made the decision that women and men are called by God to ministry – all ministry – and there should be no bar to that, we also committed ourselves to the flourishing of the whole church. In his sermon in the Minster on Sunday, the Revd Jim Wallis said that scepticism is ok, it is cynicism that is not. From some of the speeches that we heard yesterday afternoon it would seem that there is some scepticism about that we are not fully committed to that concept of mutual flourishing which is enshrined in the ‘Five Guiding Principles’. No one has said that will be easy, someone said that we had to be ‘intentional’ about it and I think that is right. It will take a change of culture to achieve.
What I do believe is that we now have an opportunity, now that this topic that has traumatised the church, soaked up our energy, absorbed our prayers for so long, is behind us that we can get on with the real task of the church – making Christ known and working for the full realisation that the kingdom is amongst us. And if we do that, for the common good, we will flourish in each of our manifestations of church.
There is always something more that needs to be addressed and as Questions revealed, way back on Friday as this Synod began to meet, it will be around same-sex relationships, equal marriage and the church’s understanding of sexuality in all its manifestations where the next work will have to be done. So the journey continues – it always does – but we enjoy for a moment where we are and what we have done and look around with Jesus who says to us
‘I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.’ (John 4.35)
Lord, send us out into those flourishing fields
that we may bring in the harvest of your kingdom.