Hot air

The weather here is lovely. I woke after a really good night’s sleep to clear blue skies and lovely sunshine. The rabbits are bouncing over the lawns, the geese are heading down into the water and Synod members making their way across to where they are eating for a good ‘fry-up’ before what promises to be an intense day. We are going to begin with the debate about the Canterbury CNC – but there will be more about that later.

The micro-climate of the Synod chamber is always something to be experienced. Walking out yesterday onto the platform for the first time since 2019 it was good to feel that something had been done to alleviate the intense heat that can build up when the place is full of people, all producing a lot of hot air, the curtains drawn to keep the strong sunshine out and a stuffiness created. It can be a bit unbearable to be honest – and especially on the Saturday which always seems to be a long and intense day.

Producing hot air!

There is also that other micro-climate which is about the mood of the Synod. It depends on how people arrive, how happy or grumpy they are, what they are feeling about the big items on the agenda, the ones which will have been trailed in the church press, the ones that everyone has been talking about before they arrived here. At the moment, I have to say, it is hard to gauge that and so today will be interesting. There were some important debates however, yesterday, following the Archbishop of York’s Presidential Address and the debate on the report of the Business Committee.

The first thing that Synod looked at was the Net Zero Carbon commitment that had been made. 2030 is the goal for the Church of England. Interestingly, at the recent National Cathedrals Conference held in Newcastle we were addressed on the issue by an expert who had looked at our plans, at our buildings and structures and basically told us that it is impossible for us to achieve this by the target date we have set for ourselves without any reference to what is possible, practical or affordable. The Bishop of Norwich who is leading on this was there at the conference and responded by telling us that it was important that we had the challenge and that having the challenge was engaging the mind of the church in creative and exciting ways. I think that there is some truth in this, just as long as not achieving it in 2030 doesn’t then lead to recriminations, a sense of failure, a wallowing in guilt (we are world class at that) or a reluctance to carry on, just as long as perceived failure in fact spurs us on to do even better.

Protestors arrive

So, we were moving towards the conclusion of the debate when all of a sudden as if from nowhere a group of members of Christian Climate Action got in front of the platform, unfurled their banner and stood there. There was suddenly a different climate in the chamber, and for new members uncertainty as to what would happen next. In fact what happened was that the session was adjourned for ten minutes, the platform cleared and finally the protesters were persuaded, nicely, to leave. The debate resumed and we passed the motion unanimously, to continue towards the target, as hard and demanding as that would be. But the presence of the protestors and their presence outside the chamber reminded us that we are just as passionate about climate justice as we were passionate about the fact that justice needed to be done for women as far as ordination was concerned. When the debates on the ordination of women were happening we had to make our way through protestors outside and sit through disturbances inside the chamber. Where there are matters of justice – climate, gender, racial, sexual, financial – we should allow our passion to be known and heard, the room needs to be heated, the atmosphere charged.

That debate was then followed by one on the War in Ukraine, which also had to be adjourned but this time because we were running out of time and had to get to Questions. That debate will resume later in this Group of Sessions. That too though is about justice and especially about justice for those who seek refuge. My concern is that we have seen a much more generous welcome given to refugees from the Ukraine than we have to refugees from the Middle East and Africa and not least the response of the government to those who, in the absence of any other means of finding a place of safety, cast themselves upon the waters and risk everything to cross the Channel and now face potential deportation to Rwanda. Justice means justice, and justice means justice for all.

The prophet Amos writes

Let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
(Amos 5.24)

In the heat of the day, in the stifling climate of the Synod chamber, that sounds like refreshment – and that is what justice brings, refreshment, love, life and it is justice that we seek for all people.

God of justice, may we seek what you desire for your children, the life, the love, the refreshment that righteousness brings. Amen.

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