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.
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.
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,