Looking out

We are back in Westminster and another Group of Sessions of the General Synod is about to begin. It doesn’t seem long since we were here in November but three months can be a long time in life nowadays. Omicron arrived after we had previously met and has proved to be the great disrupter of so much of life, even if some life seems to be getting back to something like normality. But for us in Synod the consequence is that some members will be joining us via Zoom and most will be in the Chamber. That will present challenges to those of us in the chair, but that is as it has to be.

Synod is often accused of spending most of its time focused on internal matters rather than looking out into the world which Christ came to save. There is often some truth in that, when we are caught up in debates on sexuality, orders of ministry, finance and stuff like that. The genuine response to such criticisms is that the Synod is the governing body of the CofE and so has to look at the ways in which we work and live, those things have to be on our agenda. Nevertheless where the criticism is valid is when an agenda allows for nothing that seems to be really outward looking.

So we should be encouraged that in this Group of Sessions we have debates on challenging modern day slavery, racial justice, the persecuted church, as well as how we live as a church engaged in mission, and as a safe church for the most vulnerable and those we make vulnerable by our actions and attitudes.

However, there is stuff that is definitely about the church – how much we pay the clergy, who nominates the next Archbishop of Canterbury, a review of our governance – and all those are important things as well.

I’m kicking off proceedings today as it happens, but in an unusual way. Before Synod is formally welcomed we have to debate reviving the Standing Orders Measure that allowed for remote meetings. If Synod approves then we continue; if it votes against then presumably those on Zoom will be kicked out into that place where there will be ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’!

The other thing to watch out for is that this being the second Group of Sessions of this new Synod the members will have read the Standing Orders and worked out some of the procedures, such as ‘Following Motions’ and ‘Move to Next Business’. We know of at least one FM and there may be others. It isn’t just omicron that is the great disrupter!

However, democracy needs to disrupt otherwise the status quo has it its own way. Jesus in the Temple is the real great disrupter, overturning the tables, creating a moment of chaos into which truth is spoken. It may not have suited those who had set the ‘Jerusalem agenda’ but this is how God often works, in the church, in the world. And Jesus looks out from the cross and sees it all.

Loving God, bless us as we gather, as we look both inwards and outwards, as we disrupt and as we affirm, that in all things your kingdom of grace might be advanced. Amen.

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