Cautious steps

There are times when you can’t race ahead, when you have to step more cautiously.  The famous split infinitive at the beginning of Star Trek, ‘to boldly go where no man has gone before’ was one way of travelling.  But Synod was not in Trekkie mode this afternoon as we debated the proposals that would lead to the mutual recognition and interchangeability of ministries between the Methodist Church and the Church of England.

vector-man-doing-tightrope-walker-in-the-mountain

Tread carefully

If you are chairing a debate, as I was chairing this debate, it means that you have to spend time backstage planning how you will manage the debate.  That meant that unfortunately I wasn’t in the Chamber for the opening of this Session and for questions and the subsequent presentation on safeguarding.  But there is a screen on which we can watch what is happening and we can hear a lot of what is going on.  The questions that followed on from the presentation concluded with a standing ovation by members of the Synod.  So I can only conclude that it went well.

There was a great deal of interest in the Methodist-Anglican debate.  Lots of people had put in to speak, there were three amendments to be handled and, potentially, some procedural motions.  We had two hours allotted for the debate, which may seem like a long time but, believe me, time moves on very quickly.

I knew what the issues would be, of course.  There would be a group of people who were eager to move forward as quickly as possible with a legislative process – the bold ones.  Others would be more cautious, wanting more time to consider what we mean by episcope, the role of bishops, about the ‘anomaly’ we would live with for maybe two decades of ministers not episcopally ordained celebrating the sacraments, particularly presiding at the Eucharist.  Others were concerned that the recent decision of the Methodist Conference to support equal marriage in church revealed different doctrinal positions on marriage.  So, for different reasons there were cautious people and for good reason there were bold people.  We had to find a way through.

In the end we chose the path of caution, but still with momentum, asking the House of Bishops to come back with further thoughts and deliberations in the next quinquennium.  I am sure that this was the best decision – without that measure of caution the whole thing might have been lost!

We were reminded by a couple of speakers of the Methodist Covenant Prayer which begins like this

I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you, exalted for you, or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing: I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.

There is no caution in this prayer.  When we say it we boldly place our selves, everything we are, into the hands and the will of God.  For Methodists covenant means everything and as we are already in a covenant with them it should mean everything for us as well.  The journey, the path we have chosen may be the cautious one but it will demand boldness as well.

Oh, and the debate … the final amended motion was passed in all three Houses.  We move forward.

God give us the courage to be bold,
and the wisdom which calls for caution,
that in all things your will be done.
Amen.

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