Responsible representation

Trust, transparency and diversity were important words that came through a debate that opened the afternoon. The title of the Report was ‘Responsible representation’ and was around the election process to the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC). This is the body which nominates candidates to the Crown for appointment as diocesan bishops. I had the privilege – and I mean that – of serving on that body for eight years. It was an incredible experience. I felt that it was a huge responsibility, listening closely to the representatives from the diocese, the ‘Diocesan Six’ as they are known, so that the ‘Central Members’ can assist in discerning the right person for the next stage of life in that diocese.

There have been a number of issues over the past few years which have resulted in an inquiry into the work of the CNC and now some recommendations were being brought forward to amend the way in which people are elected to serve on that body. We are a broad church and that needs to be represented. ‘From Lament to Action’ has reminded us this week that we need to see UKME representation at every level, not just in the candidates coming forwards for appointment but in those making those appointments, or nominating people for particular office in the church.

The debate exposed some of the issues which are always there under the polite surface of Synod. One of the downsides of Zoom Synods is that it is very hard to judge the mood. When we are in a chamber together, whether that is here in Westminster or in York, you can easily work out what Synod is feeling and some of that veneer of politeness can be broken. Here the constraints of the remote gathering means that we don’t get proper engagement.

One of the problems we face has been institutionalised in the Five Guiding Principles., I voted for them when we were working out how we might bring forth legislation which would be agreeable to the church in general to enable the ordination of women to the episcopate. It was the positive and only way forward. And I do support those principles and the concept of mutual flourishing. St Paul writes this truth in his First Letter to the Corinthians.

If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it. (1 Corinthians 12.26)

But the important word is ‘mutual’. The church and all in ministry need to flourish and not just some – and too often it can feel as though the demands of mutual flourishing do not fall equally across the church.

The Central Members of the CNC should be representative of the church and that does mean those who are not in favour of the ordained ministry of women as priests or bishops should be represented. But so do other aspects of diversity both of person and opinion. Whether the proposals before us will achieve this I am not sure and those who check voting in Synod closely will see how I voted. I remain to be convinced but I am open to convincing.

The sun has been beating down outside of Church House. The members of the Panel of Chairs who are here, those who act as Registrars and Administrators in the debates, the staff of the Synod have all been stuck inside. But it has been good to meet, to do the business we have done, to achieve what we have achieved and to seek the real flourishing of the church through the exercise of responsible representation in every place, at every level.

I hope that we can meet in person in July, that we can be in York for the last Group of Sessions of this extended quinquennium. But for all that has been done, even in strange circumstances, thanks be to God.

I want to sign off with a prayer which I often use, by Dag Hammarskjold

For all that has been, thanks; for all that will be, yes. Amen.

Under pressure

There were so many great Queen songs. You hear one and memories flood back of when you heard it, or sang along to it. So one came to mind ‘Under pressure’ with the lines

Pressure pressing down on me
Pressing down on you, no man ask for
Under pressure that burns a building down
Splits a family in two
Puts people on streets

General Synod continues today and finishes’ today. It has been a short Group of Sessions and that is right given that we are operating remotely and managing it all on screens. Into the agenda we now get screen breaks. The pressure of looking at a screen is just too much. We need a break every so often. But it also means that there is a certain amount of ‘winging it’ and ‘making it up as we go along’. After all, this is only the second actual meeting of General Synod where decisions are being made in this remote way, and Standing Orders – which is the other Bible for the Synod – were not written with this in mind. So we are constantly tweaking how things happen. It makes life … interesting!

As I said Morning Prayer before leaving the Deanery for Church House Westminster this morning, I was struck by these words in the Benedictus, the Gospel Canticle that is at the heart of the morning Office, the Song of Zechariah from St Luke’s Gospel.

‘Free to worship him without fear’

It leapt out at me because of one of the debates yesterday. Most of the business to be honest, such as today’s, is around legislation or appointments – and all of that is vital to the good governance and functioning of the church. But in the midst of it all was a debate on International Religious Freedom. We know that that freedom is under threat in many places for many people and not just for Christians. Like all freedoms it comes with responsibilities, such as using that freedom to liberate and not oppress, to create justice and peace for all, to honour everyone and the whole of creation. Sadly, as we know one person’s freedom can become another person’s oppression. So whether we are talking about our Coptic sisters and brothers in Egypt, or the Uyghur peoples in China or the Rohingya peoples in Myanmar the same principle of which Zechariah sings is true, ‘Free to worship him without fear’ .

So it was good that within the pressure of Synod we remebered the pressure placed upon those who simply want to worship without fear.

God, as we rejoice in our freedom may we use it to free others to worship without fear. Amen.

A moving beginning

Before Synod got down to the business that was before it we gave time to both remember His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh and to listen to the Presidential Address. It was good for Synod to be able to record our thanks for the support of Prince Philip over the years and also to assure Her Majesty The Queen of our prayers. What came across however from what was said by the few members I had the time to call to speak was appreciation for what the Duke had achieved in people’s lives, not least through the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. Dr Rachel Jepson, a member of the Archbishops’ Council spoke in particular about the way in which she wouldn’t be the person she is without the opportunities for personal development that the scheme afforded. Synod gave almost unanimous support to the Motion proposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury

‘That this Synod request that the Presidents convey to Her Majesty the heartfelt sympathy of the Archbishops, Bishops, Clergy and Laity of the General Synod of the Church of England on the death of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, assuring Her Majesty of the honour in which his memory will be held by them and of their prayers for Her Majesty and all the Royal Family.’

We then moved straight on to the Presidential Address. Archbishop Stephen spoke to us from his home in York. As I had rightly assumed he addressed us in response to the Panorama exposé on racism in the Church of England. As ever he spoke powerfully and the story with which he concluded, his experience as a Ward Orderly in St Christopher’s Hospice in south London in the early eighties at the time of the Brixton riots was deeply moving. His call for action, to be the change we need to be, was powerful.

This is the prayer I wrote for the Diocese of Southwark for use yesterday, Stephen Lawrence Day. I offer it to you.

The sun rises

You may or may not know this but Church of England churches are not allowed to fly the Union Flag, the Union Jack. We have to fly the cross of St George, the English flag, because we are, of course, the Church of England. I’m not suggesting that police officers would shimmy up flagpoles if the wrong flag is being flown to tear it down, but you’re just not supposed to because being the Church of England and having the cross of St George flying above is what we do and who we are.

So it is a good day, this Feast of St George, for the church to meet in Synod. The General Synod is gathering for a Group of Sessions, just two days, today and tomorrow, to do some of the business that really has to be done. We are still meeting virtually and, as you will remember, those who read this kind of thing, the Synod passed legislation that enabled us to make legal decisions in this distanced, virtual way.

I will shortly be heading along the river from Southwark Cathedral to Church House Westminster to chair some of the debates. As a member of the Panel of Chairs we were asked to indicate if we would be happy to come in to do the task, and being local I am more than happy.

The agenda has already been amended twice in preparation for this Group of Sessions. The first reason was to include an opportunity for the Synod to pay its respects to and bear tribute to the late Duke of Edinburgh. Prince Philip died after the Business Committee had done its work of putting the agenda together, so an extra item at the beginning was added. Then a very short Presidential Address was added. I don’t know what this is about but I suspect it may be in response to both the recent Panorama programme exposing racism in the CofE and the publication yesterday of the report ‘From Lament to Action’ the work of the Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce. We shall see.

The rest of the time will be taken up with debates on topics like safeguarding and pensions, clergy discipline and the nomination of Diocesan Bishops, as well as on the subject of international religious freedom.

There are always dragons out there and there are always the vulnerable to be protected. If the CofE has the audacity to live under the banner of St George it needs to take heed of what is said in the Letter to the Ephesians in one of the set readings for this morning.

Our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6.12)

Even in the heavenly places evil can be found.

God of hosts, who so kindled the flame of love in the heart of your servant George that he bore witness to the risen Lord by his life and by his death: give us the same faith and power of love that we who rejoice in his triumphs may come to share with him the fullness of the resurrection; through Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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.

A safe church

I couldn’t be in the Synod Chamber for the start of today’s business, as much as I wanted to be.  In fact, I was on the ‘Big Breakfast’ show on ‘Premier Radio’ with Lisa Gutwein, a member of the congregation at Southwark Cathedral and also the author of the recently published book ‘Doorkins the Cathedral Cat’.  The interview had been in the diary for a long time and we were keen to tell the story of Doorkins, so that was why I was there. It may sound very trivial compared with the importance of the debate that was going on just down the road, on Safeguarding in the church and I suppose in reality it is.  But there is a deeper message to Doorkins than just the story of a cute tabby cat.

Doorkins arrived at the Cathedral doors in 2008.  She was a stray who somehow found her way into the churchyard.  The vergers noticed her there each morning and after a while put out food for her.  Then they put the food inside, in the warm and very cautiously she made her way across the threshold and into the building.  And she decided it was safe to stay.  Since then she has become a feature of our life and a much loved part of the Southwark Cathedral family.  She is still a bit wild and can be grumpy and challenging but she can also be loving – not so different from a lot of people who come to church!  We don’t know her story and why she was on the streets – and, of course, we never will.  She was God’s little gift to us.

Her story is a parable of what a safe church should be, simply that, safe, whoever you are.  Unfortunately all the incidents of abuse that are now known about and those yet to be disclosed happened in or around churches perpetrated by people, clergy and laity, who used their power to prey on others, children, vulnerable adults, of whom they took advantage.  The safe church became the unsafe environment.  We all need a safe space, we can all be vulnerable when all of a sudden there is a power imbalance and the church should and must be safe.  Getting there will take a lot of doing and rebuilding trust will take a long time.  The debate in Synod today was just another stage on the journey – but as we were clearly told, there has to be a change of culture and that change will involve how each of us thinks and speaks and acts. We have to change.

This Group of Sessions ended with a debate on Valuing People with Down’s Syndrome.  As I had anticipated it was powerful and moving.  I felt tears welling up at various points as I heard some of the contributions.  We rejoiced when we were told about a young man, Simon, who had encouraged his congregation in the sharing of the Peace – not just a polite shake of the hand but the trusting hug.  He was bringing his warmth to warm up the church.

open-arms-1

Two members of Synod, themselves living with disability, made powerful contributions.  Rachel Wilson said to us

‘The beginning of an individual’s story does not dictate its end’

That is true for each one of us.  And Tim Goode said to us

‘I give thanks to God that I have to live an interdependent life.’

Interdependence has to be the hallmark of what it means to be church.

Some wanted to draw us into the issue of abortion and Synod resisted that, and for good reason.  This was a Motion aimed at Her Majesty’s Government and it needed to be clear and focused and the final Motion, slightly amended and supported by everyone who voted, is just that.

But the final short film we saw of young people with Down’s Syndrome thanking us, each in their own way, but reach with lovely, genuine smiles was both heart-warming and deeply powerful.  These are our sisters and brothers, who like you and me can be vulnerable and need both a safe church and a welcoming world.  We would be poorer without them.

In between these two debates we talked about Religious Communities and about Digital Evangelism, both useful and good debates.

All in all it has been a fascinating Synod that has taken us here and there, to places we haven’t been before.  But as the psalmist says in Psalm 139

Where can I go then from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
(Psalm 139.6)

There is no place where God is not and this Synod has reminded us of that fact.

Jesus,
you entered an unsafe world
and paid the price
for us, for me.
May we create a safe church
in which your wounded hands
embrace all your children.
Amen.

One holy catholic and apostolic

In a lot of the services that we attend, at some stage, we will be asked to stand up and ‘declare our faith’ by joining together in saying one of the Creeds.  They are designed, I suppose, to keep us on message, an attempt by the early church to hold believers to a line and stop all those heretical beliefs gaining ascendency over the true faith.  In writing his Second Letter to Timothy, St Paul recognises that this situation will come about

For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully. (2 Timothy 4.3-5)

That lovely phrase ‘itching ears’ is exactly right. So to avoid the scratching at doctrine in the way that was happening, we agreed the Creeds and as part of that the wonderful description of the nature of the church ‘one holy catholic and apostolic’.

Meetings of the General Synod cover a great many topics and when we are at our best some of those are outward facing, such as yesterday’s debate on Food Wastage.  It was a timely discussion as many churches are concerned with issues relating to justice, peace and the integrity of creation – and how we use food resources fits each of these imperatives. The Borough Market, next to Southwark Cathedral, has developed very effective work with the local traders and food ‘recycling’, ‘recovery’ charities who take what remains and distribute it amongst those community and charitable groups that need it.  When the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visited the market just before Christmas I had the privilege of presenting representatives of one such charity, ‘Plan Zheroes’, with whom, last year, the market distributed over 9,000 kilos of food that would have otherwise have been wasted.  It is this kind of work that needs promoting and developing.

But the rest of the day in Synod was more about looking at the nature of the church that we describe in the Creed.  We began by being addressed by three Archbishops from very different parts of the Anglican Communion – Southern Africa, Pakistan and Polynesia.  Each had different stories to tell and it was moving to hear them speak.  Then we debated our partnership links, the wonderful link that for instance the Diocese of Southwark and our cathedral has with four of the five dioceses in Zimbabwe.  Last year, in February, I was there visiting each of the dioceses and seeing the amazing life, work, witness and mission in which the church is engaged.  I came back exhilarated. The Anglican Communion is an exciting place to be – not the thorn in the side that can be so often portrayed when things are not going as we would like them to.

We spent a lot of time on legislation – we are a legislative body after all and that work is vital, the nuts and bolts of church life.

John-Wesley-Preaching-Revival

John Wesley preaching

 

But two things stood out – the Presidential Address by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the debate on Mission and Ministry in Covenant with the Methodist Church.  The Archbishop spoke of the tension between tradition and creativity.  The three-legged stool of Anglicanism is scripture, reason and tradition and they serve us well.  But that important ‘leg’ of tradition can at times seem to hold back innovation.  The Archbishop quoting someone quoting someone said

‘Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.’

A helpful Tweet in response to one of mine added a quote from Gustav Mahler

‘Tradition is not the worship of ashes but the preservation of fire.’

I love that.  All of it played in to seeing a way forward for deepening the relationship we already have with the Methodist Church in this country.  We belong together but there are differences and these focus on church order, on how episcope is exercised (in a monarchical system as in the western catholic tradition or through Conference, synodically, as with Methodism) and therefore how the grace of orders is conferred and with what sacramental guarantees.

One thing I do know is that John Wesley set hearts on fire with his preaching, his teaching, his leadership.  In an era when the church looked more like ashes he fanned those flames and created a revival of faith amongst people the Church of England just wasn’t speaking to which challenged us then and still does.  I had the privilege of chairing this debate and there were great speeches to be heard and a moving set of presentations by a former President of the Conference and the present Secretary of the Conference.  In the end a vote, taken in all three Houses, passed an amended motion.  There is a lot of work to do but it is exciting to see how the church can be the church, in the past, in the present and in the future, truly one, holy, catholic and apostolic.

And today? It will be challenging – safeguarding and Down’s Syndrome as well as other matters.  But more of that later.

Lord of the Church,
may we be your church
one
holy
catholic
apostolic
that the world might believe.
Amen.

A matter of discernment

To be honest, Day One of this Group of Sessions felt, and was, a bit odd.  We began at 1.30pm; we ended at 5.30pm! There was hardly time to settle yourself into the chamber let alone really begin to engage with things or get a sense of the mood of the Synod.  There is always a mood and its interesting to get a sense of that.  Are people angry, frustrated, determined, excited?  I’ve been to many Synods in which you can cut the atmosphere with a knife.  But there was nothing you could identify yesterday, nothing discernable – today may be different of course.

The time we did have in the Chamber was taken up by three things.  After the Archbishop of Canterbury had welcomed new members and some visitors, particularly some bishops representing the Anglican Communion, we moved into the first debate.  This is always on the Report of the Business Committee.  Even this didn’t get the pulse racing. The session ended with Questions, of which there were over 90.  A lot of those were around safeguarding and were something of a prelude to the discussions which will take place first thing on Saturday morning.  But apart from that there was a great deal that was interesting but nothing earth or church shattering.

In between these two standard items of business that would always take place on the first day of Synod was the main course on the menu.  Professor O’Donovan and his team of theologians had been asked to look at the processes of the Crown Nominations Commission and to report back to the Archbishops and the Synod.  This they did and we then debated the way forward for the work of the CNC.

As a former member of the CNC – I served for 8 very enjoyable years – it was fascinating to read and then to listen to what was said in the debate.  I had, of course, attended one of the meetings of the group to give my reflections on the process.  One of the problems about talking about it in any detail is that at the beginning of each CNC all 14 members take an oath of eternal secrecy.  One member of the Synod in the debate said that the CNC was as ‘leaky as a sieve’ which, if it were true, would challenge that principle of confidentiality.  I think, however, that is an urban myth that needs revealing as such.  In my experience the leaks came from every where else apart from the membership of the CNC.  With interviews, references, follow-up references there are a great many people ‘in the know’ who have not sworn an oath of strict confidentiality.  The last nomination made by the CNC, Bishop Sarah Mullally to London, was a shock and welcome surprise to so many.  As you can imagine I had heard a great many rumours about what was going on but nothing that reflected the truth.  If someone was going to leak this would have been the leak of the century!

It seems to me that the most important thing that came out of the report and the debate is that the work of the CNC is the work of discernment and that means a great deal of sitting and listening to God, being open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and, as I said in my speech to Synod, ‘to form the Church not in our image but in Christ’s image.’ I have strong views about the church and work out of a clear and well know church tradition, but I hope that I have always been able to leave some of my tribal branding at the door of discernment.  And whether we are nominating bishops or making decisions in PCC the call to embrace the divine spirit of true discernment is the same.

Samuel

Samuel sees as God sees

 

The story of the identifying of David as God’s successor to Saul is an important one for any of us who are engaged at any level of discernment.  Samuel has been given the unenviable task and God tells him what will happen

‘I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.’ (1 Samuel 16.3)

But when Samuel looked on Eliab, the oldest son and the obvious choice, God says to him

‘The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’ (1 Samuel 16.7)

Learning to see as God sees, to look as deep as God looks, is the task of the church and of each of us.

So what does today hold? Look out for the debate on food wastage – sounds like motherhood and apple pie but its important to air the issue.  There is plenty of legislation, the business that really does affect the nitty-gritty of the life of the church. But the most interesting and perhaps contentious business will be about unity with the Methodists.  I have no idea which way that will go – but as I am in the chair for that debate that might be a good thing! But whatever we are doing, may we be discerning.

God of wisdom,
may we see as you see,
know your mind
and do your will.
Amen.

A cold and frosty morning

It was beautiful, emerging from the Deanery this morning just before seven o’clock to make my way to the Cathedral.  The air was clear and crisp and the sky was that dark blue of the very early morning.  It was a bracing but exhilarating walk along the river. But instead of thinking about the weather I was actually thinking about the meeting of General Synod.

Thames 8 Feb

My commute this morning

This February Group of Sessions begins today, just down the river in Westminster.  There is one important difference from previous February Synods.  In response to a request from many in the House of Laity we begin later in the week and extend into Saturday.  That means that those who have to take time off from a ‘real job’ don’t have to take quite as much time off.  We will see how that works. As far as the team from the Diocese of Southwark is concerned there is one change.  The departure of my colleague Stephen Hance to be Dean of Derby meant that there was a vacancy and a by-election.  The computer churned away last week and out of it emerged the name of Fr Andrew Moughtin-Mumby.  Fr Andrew is vicar of St Peter’s Walworth a thriving and growing church near the Elephant and Castle in the affirming catholic tradition.  It is there that the pioneering work on ‘Diddy Disciples’ has been done and proving so effective.  It will be good to have Andrew as part of the team.

So what lies before us? I was trying to think about what the theme is for what is a very disparate agenda (but that is normally the case) and I think that what we are really considering is power and how we use it.

Among all the things that we will be discussing inside and outside of the Chamber there are four that stand out for me.  The first is the whole issue of safeguarding that challenges the church.  We have received two mega-reports on two bishops – George Bell and Peter Ball.  These are two very high-profile issues that the church has to face but there are so many cases emerging that require investigation.  I don’t admit to understanding all the reasons why abuse in its many forms takes place but there are often issues of power involved, the imbalance of power. You can require someone to do something and they feel obliged to do it.  It will not be a comfortable debate and we already know that some survivors of abuse will be outside Church House on Saturday to remind us of the human cost of what has been going on.

Another issue we will discuss is food wastage.  I have changed the way I shop and I now waste much less food.  I used to be a fan of a ‘big shop’ each week.  That used to seduce me into buying so much stuff – fruit, veg, salad, cooked meat, bread – it was endless, without any sense of planning and I would end up chucking so much stuff out because it had gone off.  But it wasn’t just the fresh stuff.  I would buy all manner of food for the larder.  I realised what I had been doing a few weeks ago when I gave some of the kitchen cupboards a clear-out.  One shelf was full of jams and preserves, mostly bought at church fairs, that were all out of date and useless.  The amount of jars and cans I had to throw away was scandalous.  So I am shopping and living differently, buying what I need when I need it. Of course I had the economic power to do the big shop and I had the power to waste what I had bought.  It is an abuse of creation and of my sisters and brothers who are powerless.

Thirdly, we will be debating closer union and mutual recognition of ministries with the Methodist Church.  My inbox has been full of emails from people telling me what to do about this.  But power is there behind a lot of it, the imbalance between a larger and a smaller church – we are not equal players in this; the power of tradition and practice as it pertains to ministry; and the power of priestly and episcopal authority and how in the life of the church this is bestowed, shared, recognised.

Finally, we will be looking at the valuing of people with Down’s Syndrome in our society and in our church.  Scientific advances give us a huge amount of power and a staggering number of choices.  If we now can effectively determine which foetus carries the syndrome should we, would we, support the termination of all such pregnancies? What sort of image of humanity do we have, an idealised one, free from any kind of ‘syndrome’ or potential for illness or for not conforming to what is thought to be ‘normal’? But how do I use my power in such a conversation who is not a parent and will not be, who hasn’t faced agonising decisions of this nature and yet have a platform from which to pontificate?

Before I set off for Westminster I am doing the assembly at our Cathedral Primary School.  My subject is the last part of the Lord’s Prayer and those final words that we say

‘for the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours’.

The reason we have so many problems with power is that we exercise it as if it is ours, but in reality it is God’s. Pray that we may be able to deal well with these challenges as to how we exercise whatever power we think we have.

We beseech you, O Lord, to hear the prayers of your people; and grant that the members of the General Synod may both perceive and know the things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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

sabbaticalthoughtsblog.wordpress.com/

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

LIVING GOD

Reflections from the Dean of Southwark

Andrew Nunn's reflections from General Synod

the personal views of the Dean of Southwark