I really was too exhausted to write anything about yesterday afternoon in General Synod when I finally got home. But a new day has dawned, I slept well and rise to give God praise. Eleanor Farjeon’s poem expresses it so well
Morning has broken,
Like the first morning,
Blackbird has spoken
Like the first bird;
Praise for the singing,
Praise for the morning,
Praise for them springing
Fresh from the Word.
It was a very good debate that we held on sexuality and marriage, but I would say that as I was one of the many members of the Synod who had decided that they couldn’t take note of the bishops’ report which was what we were being asked to do. The Bishop of Norwich as chair of the reflection group did an excellent job at presenting the paper and his ‘tone’ (tone being the in-word of the day) was irenic and seductive. Of course we understood the journey we had been on; of course we understood how difficult the task before them had been. But that didn’t make what was before us any more acceptable. As I said when I was called to speak ‘If this report is the first indication of the new tone then I don’t like the tone.’
One thing that the Bishop of Norwich did remind me of, however, was that the document ‘Issues in Human Sexuality’ published in 1991 quickly and quietly morphed from being a discussion paper to being policy. All those to be ordained or consecrated are required to give an assurance that they accept that paper and will live by it. It has become totemic and toxic. My fear was that the paper presented to us would become the new ‘Issues’, even though we were given lots of reassurance that it was just the beginning – that’s what they said about ‘Issues’ and it has been doing its damage in the church and in the lives of gay men and women for over 25 years! My fears were further heightened when I noticed that in the Anglican News Service it said that, in preparation for the meeting of Primates of the Communion this year, Archbishop Justin had presented this report as a ‘declaration on human sexuality’ (Anglican Communion News Service 1 February 2017). It was already gaining in status.
It was not easy speaking and voting against the House of Bishops. I count many of those in the House as my friends and I hope that they are still my friends today as much as they were before yesterday. But a new day has dawned, morning has broken and whereas I thought that the liberal, progressive catholic voice had grown quiet and fearful we heard it with new confidence and vigour yesterday. And we heard, and this was so wonderful, the voice of the open evangelical constituency, led by the Archdeacon of Dudley, the Ven Nikki Groarke, who began the debate and said she had been silent for too long.
The voice of Synod rang out from that chamber yesterday and, I hope, gave hope to the nation. That, after all is what we are called to do, for as the prophet Micah says to us
What does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6.8)
We did it.
Lord, bless your church,
heal our divisions
that we may bring your Good News
to this generation.