Quotable quotes

I’ve seen many things in General Synod but I have never seen the number of amendments to some pieces of legislation that we have seen so far in this Group of Sessions. I thought I was going to get Repetitive Strain Injury yesterday afternoon as we were voting on around 16 amendments in one debate! It was all done as efficiently as possible but Synod procedures aren’t exactly designed to be nifty! But what it does show is that some members read the documents we get sent very carefully – and thank goodness for that, however much ones heart sinks at the length of the Order Paper!

But after a lot of rather tedious legislative business (I’m obviously not referring to the Cathedrals Measure), Synod engaged with something that was of real importance.

Fr Andrew Moughtin-Mumby, a priest in Southwark Diocese, had proposed a Private Members Motion back in 2018 when it was the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush. Those less than nifty processes of Synod, to which I have just referred, meant that we finally debated it yesterday. But in fact it could not have come at a more relevant or opportune time. The news was all about the deportation of a group of people from the UK to Jamaica. The courts were involved, the injustices were clear and it was a reminder that the Windrush scandal was being repeated.

Andrew gave one of the best speeches that I have heard in Synod. From his own experience as a person of colour and as Parish Priest in a black-majority church not far from the cathedral, serving a congregation which has within it people with their own stories of discrimination to tell, he spoke powerfully and carefully and in a very measured but clear way of the need for change.

There were three amendments to his Motion – on the need to offer an apology for our own treatment of the BAME community and on the need to appoint an independent person to look again at how we handle race and ethnicity within the life of the church. The Motion was amended and then carried.

The Archbishop of Canterbury was one of the first to speak in the debate. He threw away his prepared speech and spoke from the heart. It was powerful and moving stuff.

In both his homily at the Eucharist which began the day and in this unprepared speech ++Justin gave us some quotable quotes. In the homily he said this

‘In our haste to make statements we lose sight of the human being.’

In his intervention in the Windrush debate he said

‘We did not do justice in the past, we do not do justice now.’

These are powerful statements, a little like at the Synod in 2017 after the House of Bishops’ paper on sexuality was rejected by the members of Synod, who chose not to take note of it, when ++Justin said that we needed a ‘radical Christian inclusion’. That has proved to be a quotable quote. I know the Archbishop doesn’t say things lightly. But I also know that the church and its leaders can be quick to speak, clever at finding the words and slow or unable or unwilling to act. I will add these new quotable quotes to the list I am collecting as I want to see them being ‘cashed out’ in the life of the church.

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus advises the people

Let your word be “Yes, Yes” or “No, No”.’ (Matthew 5.37)

Jesus was good at quotable quotes – the best – but his words always had substance for he was the Word he spoke. May we not lose sight of the human being and live the justice of which we speak, otherwise we should have stopped at yes, or no!

Jesus, may we have the courage to be who we say we are, to live as we promise to live, to be as you would have us be. Amen.

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