Picking up speed

It was back in 1949, in a Looney Tunes cartoon, that the Road Runner first streaked across our screens. Always outwitting Wile E Coyote, the Road Runner was a great character. His speed always got him out of trouble.

There was something of the Road Runner at General Synod on this first day of this current Group of Sessions. There are times when the processes of the Synod seem like wading through treacle and then thought is given to streamlining them and we get a very different experience. This became apparent today. New procedures were being used for the first time in relation to legislative business. Instead of working laboriously through everything, there is now a ‘deemed approval’ system whereby unless an objection has been received and if no one is indicating that they wish to speak the whole thing goes through. That is exactly what happened when I took the chair towards the beginning of the afternoon session.

Synod had before it an Amending Canon which made changes to respond to one of the IICSA recommendations. Each diocese has at present a Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor. The proposal is that this position will be designated ‘officer’ which moves the focus away from purely advice to something much more executive in responsibility. The mover of the Motion had her time to present her report. There were no speeches made after that, no one wanted to speak. So we moved to the next stage, no one spoke. So we moved to end of the process. Within ten minutes the whole thing was finished. We had had quite a substantial period of time allocated in the agenda as had other similar items that afternoon. The Road Runner was at work and like another super-fast cartoon character of the past, Speedy Gonzales, we came to the end of business and arrived at the first of the three Living in Love and Faith (LLF) items on the agenda.

This initial item was a presentation by the Bishop of London in which she set out what had happened, how we had got to where we are and what will then be happening. I have to say, Bishop Sarah’s address was excellent. It was calm, kind, considered, sprinkled with theology and full of honesty. It was followed by a video of lots of people, and especially bishops, all saying nice things about gay people, which, personally, I could have done without. It’s like the apology that we have received; I don’t need an apology, I need change; I don’t need nice words, I need to see evidence of repentance, metanoia in Greek, which involves turning round, a change of direction, and I don’t think that is actually where we are. But it was a good beginning.

The next stage, tomorrow, is Group Work. The prospect of this fills me with a degree of despair. It feels like I have been in groups talking about this stuff for ever. But … I will play my part and say my piece and participate fully, and hope, and pray that it will help stage three of the Synodical process, THE DEBATE. I don’t think the Road Runner or Speedy will be evident on Wednesday afternoon, nor should they be.

But the effect of the new procedures was that there was almost two hours for Questions and as a result of excellent chairing all the questions were dealt with, probably a first, or at least a very rare occurrence – and this tour de force was greeted by applause from Synod members.

Jesus talks about a narrow gate and the path that leads to it

‘The gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life.’ (Matthew 7.14)

You can’t rush along that hard path, nor negotiate that narrow gate at speed; it takes careful work. So the pace will slow down but it has been an exhilarating beginning!

Loving God, help us travel the path that lies ahead and find that gate that leads to life. Amen.

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