Crystal Maze

You may be a fan of the game show, ‘The Crystal Maze’. Well, fantasy can sometimes find echoes in reality. As General Synod began this Group of Sessions on Monday afternoon we had to get to grips with two ways of voting. To be honest we always have two ways. Most often we have a show of hands, especially on procedural matters, ending a debate, agreeing to debate an amendment, that kind of thing. In addition, we used to do something akin to what they still do across the road in Westminster and that is to troop through doors marked ‘Ayes’ and ‘Noes’ in order to register our votes. Then electronic voting was introduced and so we all have what looks like a Blackberry (other phones are available) into which we put a voting card. In that way we can take formal votes, as a Synod or in our Houses. But now we are online we are voting differently.

The Simple Vote is by a Zoom poll but I learnt today at the Panel of Chairs meeting that you can only have 25 such polls in a day – so we need to be careful how we use them. The more formal votes will be taken on the Crystal Platform. It is this maze that we got caught in initially. But we will learn how to do it efficiently, or at least, we have to.

But we began the Synod by putting into effect the legislation we passed at the last meeting in September when we agreed that we could function in this remote way. So after the initial welcomes to new members and Ecumenical representatives, this new way of working gained final approval.

The Presidents then addressed Synod. The Presidents are the two archbishops and what they said began with the pandemic and the huge inequalities in our society that it has exposed, then they moved on to the other challenges that we are facing talking about safeguarding, racism and the issue of immigration and the people who make the dangerous journey across the Channel. Mention was also made of the challenge to democracy by populism in politics and the huge challenge of climate change. The pictured painted was of a frightening and challenging maze.

The Archbishop of York had a really encouraging quote from Othello up his sleeve which was new to me. Othello is saying of Desdemona as she is walking away

“But I do love thee! And when I love thee not, Chaos is come again” (Othello III. iii.).

It is the supreme love of God on which we rely and that we know in Jesus that saves us, ultimately, from this chaos that always threatens humanity. It was love that they then moved on to. The Bishop of Coventry spoke about the ‘Living in Love and Faith’ (LLF) project which had recently produced its much awaited material. He was joined by Eva John in encouraging us to engage with it positively and openly and this was reinforced by Archbishop Justin who reminded us of one of the things that he said when the proposals on sexuality from the House of Bishops were rejected by Synod in 2017. He then used a phrase which he reiterated, a phrase which some of us were encouraged by then and remain encouraged by now

‘We need a new radical Christian inclusion in the church.’

Of course, it being the Church of England, not everyone is encouraged by this and as the video released last week by the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) revealed, there are those who are not prepared to be involved in the debate that LLF is encouraging the church to have. But you may have read my blog about that already. If not here is a link to it.

There was a glitch in the timing and it was decided that we wouldn’t have time for breakout rooms (as one wag later described them ‘breakdown rooms’) and thank God for that. I’m not sure very many of us were ready for that. So we were spared by what became the slow progress of the Synod. This was no ones fault. We were all getting used to the technology and navigating the screens and the blue hands and the Points of Order and the maze of the voting systems. I am confident that we will get better and it will become easier and flow better. But it also shows what many of us know after these last eight months – nothing beats actually being together. Just as the sacramental life of the church depends, by its very nature, on proximity, on being there, so in a way do gatherings of this nature.

The Report of the Business Committee which normally is relatively uncontentious was met with some harsh and I thought undeserved criticism. The Agenda we were told was too much like any Synod agenda and hadn’t taken into account the special nature of this Synod. But there is stuff that we do need to do, to enact and to debate and whilst the whole thing can become a seemingly inescapable maze we have a task to do and we need to do it for the good of the church.

One important debate was about our response to the Covid Pandemic. The final Motion was much improved by Canon Tim Goode’s amendments which took into account the needs of the many people with disability and others who had suffered disproportionality from what has happened. But as so often in this period, events were overtaking the debate and as we heard whilst we were talking the Prime Minister announced that we will be able to resume public worship after this lockdown. Deo gratias.

The Session ended with Questions. Even though there were far fewer than is usual we didn’t get far with them. It was just one of those days and today, Tuesday, I am sure will be slicker and better and the maze will seem less formidable.

But I am left with the powerful words of Othello and the supreme and chaos defeating love of God that sees us through every maze that life can confront us with.

I do love thee! And when I love thee not, Chaos is come again”

Loving God, love us through the present challenges and the chaos that threatens, into your peace which passes understanding. Amen.

Previous Post
Comments are closed.
Holy Land

A pilgrimage for returning pilgrims

My Lent Diary

A journey from ashes to a garden

In the Steps of Martin Luther

A Southwark Cathedral Pilgrimage 2017

Canda, Jerusalem, Mucknall

Southwark Diocesan Pilgrimage 2016

Hearts on Fire - Pilgrims in the Holy Land

A good city for all

A good city for all

In the Steps of St Paul

Southwark Cathedral Pilgrimage June 2015


Reflections from the Dean of Southwark

Andrew Nunn's reflections from General Synod

the personal views of the Dean of Southwark

%d bloggers like this: