The electronic voting results for General Synod were released yesterday. You can see how we voted by going to

Back in London

It does feel as though the meeting of the Synod was a long time ago. The last time I wrote I was on the train heading back to London and facing up to the prospect of picking up things back at the Cathedral and back home.

Inevitably, in lots of different places, people have asked me, ‘So what was Synod like?’ It’s a good question, what was it like? As I think I reflected before, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. But that feels like a really inadequate and hardly endorsing way of speaking about it. The problem is, it’s true. It could have been a great deal worse and we did arrive in the debate on the ordination of women to the episcopate in a place where we go forward again and engage once more in a process which, by the grace of God, will see women enter the episcopate. The amendments which were passed were helpful ones – the less helpful were defeated. People spoke well and carefully – perhaps in a way which reflected the fact that we had spent the Saturday in conversation. So all of that was good.

The General Synod gathered in York.

The General Synod gathered in York.

So why do I feel less than wholeheartedly positive about it? Part of the answer to that must be that the votes by houses that we did take on the Monday clearly showed – as far as I read it – that there remains a substantial group in the House of Laity who are still willing to vote against the legislation. My question is, will they change their mind as the process is worked through? I don’t want to say that minds are never changed by discussion and debate – but to be honest, my mind isn’t often changed on things on which I hold strong views – and am I so different to others?

Holy women of the early church.

Holy women of the early church.

And the second thing that leaves me with some niggling doubts is Bishop Pete’s intervention. The ‘I agree with Pete’ bandwagon which developed made me slightly – or more than slightly – nervous. Were we ‘bushwhacked’ in some way? What will changing the process like this – a larger steering committee, doing the revision process on the floor of the Synod – improve what emerges or make it more difficult and more compromised. I am not politically astute enough to know – and I suppose that is why I am a little nervous. Synod quite often goes for ‘good ideas’ on the hoof and they are often then seen not to be good ideas when people have had time to really consider the implications. I may be wrong – I hope I am.

So I wait with tentative anticipation of the Synod in November. What will come back to us? The decision was clear but is the process? All I can do is pray and I hope that you will pray as well, and follow the debate as it continues in the church. And remember, it is the will of the church in response to the promptings of the Holy Spirit that women will be ordained to episcopal ministry. We need women on the bench, in the House – the church and its mission and ministry can only benefit from the full inclusion of all God’s people. God’s will be done – God’s will will be done.

This the prayer used by WATCH – Women and the Church – composed by the Revd Canon Pamela Wilding. I invite you to pray it with me.

Pray that God's will be done.

Pray that God’s will be done.

Gracious, loving Lord,
we look forward with hope and joyful anticipation
to the time when men and women can serve you, and all people,
equally in every task within your Church.
Thank you that every position held and task done
is valued by you and furthers your mission on earth.
Thank you Lord for hearing our prayer.

Out of Egypt

The final Session of this meeting of the General Synod began, as usual, with Morning Prayer. That was immediately followed by a change in the order of business as His Grace Bishop Angaelos, one of the Ecumenical Representatives to the Synod and a bishop in the Coptic Church, addressed the Synod about the situation in Egypt.

Early morning on the campus.

Early morning on the campus.

He set the present situation in a longer context reminding us that Egypt after the Pharaohs was established as a Christian country. It was the place where the Holy Family found refuge and the church there has always held Jesus in their hearts. He said it was the land of monasticism and martyrs and it is this background that we must bear in mind in thinking of Egypt. He then spelt out the collapse in society over the last two years, denying the way in which the recent events had been reported, as a military coup. Instead it was a response to the reaction of the people in what had become a deeply polarised society. He pointed out that western models of democracy are not the answer in all situations and that it is a different concept to majority rule. The bishop ended by announcing to the Synod three days of prayer, beginning today and ending on Thursday, and he asked us to pray particularly for strength and reconciliation for the people. ‘We must remember’, he said, ‘that darkness is always dissipated by the light of God.’

St Antony of Egypt, pray for us.

St Antony of Egypt, pray for us.

He was thanked with a standing ovation, led by ++Justin. It was exactly right that he had been invited to speak to us and good to hear his perspective on things.

Lord Jesus Christ,
you found safety amongst the people of Egypt.
Grant to those same people
the strength they need to face today
and the courage to be reconciled for the future.
Through the prayers of St Antony, St Catherine
and of your Holy Mother and St Joseph
shed the light of your presence
into present darkness.
For your love’s sake.

Margaret Swinson was then able to tell the Synod that, following the debate the previous day on the ordination of women to the episcopate, the Appointments Committee had met to put in place the Steering Committee to progress the work. This was good news as it is important that we keep to the timetable agreed, particularly in preparation for November. Keep an eye open for the membership to be announced.

The first report of the Business Committee on the work of the Elections Review Group was then presented. This deals with a number of issues relating to the membership of the Synod and especially the balance between members from the southern and northern provinces, representation by black and minority ethnic people and the representatives from the universities constituency.

The Synod Chamber on Tuesday morning.

The Synod Chamber on Tuesday morning.

What had looked potentially uninteresting turned out to be very interesting and important. The northern province is smaller than the southern, but how do we hear the northern voice powerfully rather than things being dominated by the south? So far the numbers of representatives on Synod for the northern dioceses have been weighted to give them more members of Synod than their numbers under the present form of calculations would deliver? Should this continue?

How do we have real representation by BAME members of our churches? Do we co-opt people to give a proper balance?

Should universities be a separate electoral college? Why should this ‘rotten borough’ persist?

You can imagine the debate was lively, especially with regard to the universities. There was a following motion which Professor Richard Burridge of King’s London presented. It called for accurate information and reform of this constituency and not abolition. Synod accepted this.

With regard to BAME members, the Revd Rosemarie Mallett from Southwark and a member of the Cathedral Chapter, pointed out that the responsibility for encouraging BAME people to stand for Synod is the responsibility of all of us, for the presence of BAME people on the Synod is not primarily for their benefit but to the benefit of the whole church.

The report was noted but it is clear that the steering committee, chaired by Canon Simon Butler of Southwark Diocese, has a great deal of work to do to get this right. It seems vital to me that we have theologians in the Synod – we lack that theological voice to a very large extent and, as I will say later, we lost one of those voices from the Synod today. There are theologians of course amongst the members but the university root is one way in which we can clearly gain this expertise – and if we do not make our decisions in the light of theology then we are not really doing the job as it should be done.

Finding shade from the heat of debate!

Finding shade from the heat of debate!

There were then a series of Draft Amending Canons relating to this that were proposed and accepted. This will progress the work on all of this.

The final debate was again extremely important, and so important that at the end, as we were running out of time, the debate was adjourned until a future Group of Sessions. The issue was the work of the Elections Review Group and notably the electorate for the House of Laity and online elections.

There is a clear feeling that the House of Laity is unrepresentative of the church as a whole. This came to a head in November when it was the House of Laity who voted in such a way that the women bishops’ legislation was defeated. The electoral college for electing lay representatives is made up of the members of the Deanery Synods. The proposal was that a new Electoral College be formed by electing people from each church at each APCM to this task, or adopting uniniversal suffrage so that every member of the Electoral Roll had a vote.

Coupled with this was a proposal that voting moves to online from 2020 and that nominations be allowed by email from 2015.

A great many people had requested to speak. It was clear that there was a great deal of unhappiness with elements of what was proposed. No one was arguing against things needing to change, or the election process being modernised – but were the solutions proposed the right ones? The Ven Christine Hardman came up with a fantastic suggestion – make the electoral college the lay members of each PCC – not just the elected members, but all lay members. In this way Churchwardens and some Readers would be part of the electoral college. It gained huge support in the form of applause.

As I have said, we ran out of time – but we will come back to it. This is critical for the future of the Church and the effectiveness and reputation of the General Synod.

The reason we ran out of time was that Farewells were scheduled for 12.30pm before the Synod was prorogued at 1.00pm.

The first bishop to whom farewell was said was the Bishop of Liverpool, James Jones. Bishop James is a great communicator and proved himself a skilled chair and reconciler when he looked after the recent Hillsborough Enquiry. ++Sentamu quoted him speaking on ‘Thought for the Day’, when he said that he had been asked ‘Is Christianity relevant?’ and replied ‘It is, but only for those who die!’

The second bishop to be thanked was the Bishop of Hereford, Anthony Priddis. We learnt a great deal about the bishop from ++Justin, who led the tribute. His wife is an accomplished painter and he must be the only bishop whose portrait was painted by his wife, and he is fly fisherman. But beyond this, testimony was paid to his tremendous work in the diocese and the rural community. The Archbishop said that when he says grace before a meal ‘he gives thanks for those who grew the food before those who cooked it!.

Not the Diocese of Hereford but the York University campus.

Not the Diocese of Hereford but the York University campus.

The final bishop we said goodbye and thank you to was the Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, Dr Geoffrey Rowell. Bishop Geoffrey has had a glittering academic career as well as serving since 2001 as the diocesan bishop in Europe. He has brought huge energy and commitment to the task. His vocation was formed early, we were told. He was the first altar server at his school, Winchester College, since the Reformation and knew that he was called to be a bishop at the age of 12! I have personal reason to be grateful to Bishop Geoffrey as, when he was Chaplain at Keble College, Oxford he acted on behalf of the Patrons in appointing me to my first living in the Parish of Richmond Hill in Leeds. He has always been a thoughtful, wise and caring person and it is his theological input into debates that we will particularly miss.

The Archbishop of York then prorogued the Synod and we dispersed.

It was a good Synod – I need to think more about what happened and on the train heading back to London is perhaps not the time to do it. I hope though that the time spent on Saturday will bear fruit in a different way of doing things. If that proves to be true then the Lord is calling us out into a new land. But now, keep praying for Egypt.

The end is in sight

The final Session of this meeting of the General Synod that takes place this morning will deal with what is really internal business. There is a report before us from the Elections Review Group. Their report is about the number of those returned to the Synod from each of the dioceses, the particular representatives from the Universities and the co-option of members of the black and minority ethnic communities.

Such discussions, though sometimes dry, are obviously important as we want the General Synod to be as representative of the Church of England as possible – and in many ways of course, it isn’t. Looking around the chamber we are whiter and older and more middle class and possible more male (though that has changed in recent years) than the church in general. Addressing that is vitally important.

Inside the Synod Chamber.

Inside the Synod Chamber.

The morning will end with more farewells and we will then collect our bags and leave York.

And the weather? Well, there seems to be fog, or is it mist? The Vale of York is notorious for fog that lingers, so let’s hope this burns off and we can leave as we arrived, in bright sunshine.

Eternal God and Father,
you create and redeem us by the power of your love:
guide and strengthen us by your Spirit,
that we may give ourselves in love and service
to one another and to you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The end of the day

This evening’s business was lacking in the suspense or tension of the day, but no worse for that. Reports are always an important element in the life of any body and this evening reports were received from the Church Commissioners and the Archbishops’ Council. But it is also important how we say goodbye and thank you to people, and meetings of the General Synod are always an opportunity to do that.

This evening the Archbishop led farewells to two people.

Andrew Britton, Lay Canon of  Southwark Cathedral.

Andrew Britton, Lay Canon of Southwark Cathedral.

Andrew Britton, who is a Lay Canon of Southwark Cathedral, and has been Chair of the Finance Committee of the Archbishops’ Council since 2007, retires from his post and the Synod, Andrew is a great colleague and the ultimate ‘safe pair of hands’. We mill miss his calm wisdom. However, we are delighted that he continues as a Reader in the diocese and a Canon of the Cathedral.

Bishop Michael Langrish, the Bishop of Exeter, was enthroned as bishop of that diocese in 2000. Michael has been a defender of the traditional catholic position in the Church of England and was one of only four diocesans who would not ordain women. We wish him well in his retirement.

Tomorrow we move to the final business of this Group of Sessions. Now we sleep.

Keep watch, dear Lord,
with those who work, or watch,
or weep this night,
and give your angels charge over those who sleep.
Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary,
bless the dying, soothe the suffering,
pity the afflicted, shield the joyous;
and all for your love’s sake.

‘Let’s build on this’

It has been a hard and intense day in the Synod Chamber and inevitably there will be some people who will be disappointed at the result of the votes that have been taken. That is always the case but today we were engaged in two significant subjects which will both, in their own ways, shape the future life of our church.

After Morning Prayer in the Chamber we began debating Women in the Episcopate. As you know, Saturday was given over to ‘facilitated conversations’ which has become the buzz phrase of this Synod, along with, ‘I agree with Pete.’ But more of that later.

We had just begun and there was a call for a Point of Order, which always stops the business of the Synod. One member called for an adjournment of this business until tomorrow on the grounds that the House of Lords was debating Equal Marriage and the bishops needed to be in the Lords. There was a groan, and the Point of Order was quickly dispatched and we were able to carry on.

The Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, Bishop Nigel Stock (who has been appointed the new Bishop at Lambeth) introduced the debate in a very irenic tone, which was just the way that was needed. It seemed in many ways to be the tone in which the debate was conducted and there was a feeling that Saturday had produced benefits for today – we did, at times, behave differently.

There were 8 amendments on the Order Paper, each of which, in some way, tested aspects of the other three options in the report, the House of Bishops having recommended Option 1. You will have to look at the papers to see what all this is about but one thing I will include here are the Five Principles, which were very much welcomed by speakers from across the range of views represented in the Synod.

These principles came out of the facilitated conversations that took place in February and it seems clear that they will be significant in what happens next.

 Once legislation has been passed to enable women to become bishops the Church of England will be fully and unequivocally committed to all orders of ministry being open equally to all, without reference to gender, and will hold that those whom it has duly ordained and appointed to office are the true and lawful holders of the office which they occupy and thus deserve due respect and canonical obedience;
 Anyone who ministers within the Church of England must then be prepared to acknowledge that the Church of England has reached a clear decision on the matter;
 Since it will continue to share the historic episcopate with other Churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and those provinces of the Anglican Communion which continue to ordain only men as priests or bishops, the Church of England will acknowledge that its own clear decision on ministry and gender is set within a broader process of discernment within the Anglican Communion and the whole Church of God;
 Since those within the Church of England who, on grounds of theological conviction, are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests will continue to be within the spectrum of teaching and tradition of the Anglican Communion, the Church of England will remain committed to enabling them to flourish within its life and structures; and
 Pastoral and sacramental provision for the minority within the Church of England will be made without specifying a limit of time and in a way that maintains the highest possible degree of communion and contributes to mutual flourishing across the whole Church of England.

Bishop Nigel was clear that the motion sought to preserve ‘the richness and diversity of the church we love’. The Bishop of Lincoln, the first speaker in the debate, quoted St Augustine, a quote carved into the floor of the chapel of the Royal Foundation of St Katherine in London.

St Augustine of Hippo.

St Augustine of Hippo.

‘We come to God not by navigation but by love.’

It is a lovely quote and sets the desire for some for tighter legislation – navigation – against the need for grace and trust – love.

Bishop Pete Broadbent, the Bishop of Willesden, came up with a cunning plan. He encouraged the Synod to request a larger Standing Committee to take the work forward and to not go for the normal Revision Committee stage but to hold that in the Synod. ‘If you are with me just say ‘I agree with Pete.’ And many people did!

Rebecca Swinson, a younger member of the Synod, said that she had grown up with priests, men and women, and she was eager that her children would not have to hear the words ‘women bishops’ but just know bishops. She urged us to get on with an urgent task.

There were so many significant speeches, I cannot mention them all. Tony Baldry MP, the Second Estates Commissioner, warned the Synod that many in the House of Commons are ‘hostile to the Church of England’ and he told us that they would not welcome us looking for further exemption from equality legislation. He said that ‘I can hold the line ’til 2015 but there are those … putting their minds to how to sort it for us.’ It was a truth we needed to hear.

The Chamber during the debate.

The Chamber during the debate.

We then began looking at the amendments. In the end two were passed and six were defeated. The two accepted had the effect of including in the final form of the motion, a mandatory grievance procedure and facilitated conversations. Remember, all of this is a steer to the Steering Committee, nothing is really yet on paper.

The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke towards the end of the debate and it was he who said ‘Let’s build on this’. The amended motion was a good place to begin working towards something that we can, as a church agree on, and will result in women being ordained bishop on the same basis as men, whilst giving security to those who, in conscience, are unable to accept the ministry of ordained women.

But it will be a hard call. The final vote was

For 319; Against 84; Abstentions 22

But if you look at the votes we took during the debate on the amendments by houses you will see the challenge

For 7/10 Against 34/28 Abstentions 0/1

For 48/55 Against 137/128 Abstentions 4/8

For 75/93 Against 115/100 Abstentions 4/4

These record two sets of votes on amendments favoured principally by those who are opposed to the Option 1 way forward which is supported heavily by those wishing to see women ordained as bishop. It is obvious that there is not a 2/3rds majority in the House of Laity. The houses of Bishops and Clergy are clearly of a mind. So it is in the House of Laity that hearts and minds have to be changed – but we knew that at the end of the vote in the November Synod. It that sense, nothing has changed.

It will take some analysis of that final vote to see how the laity voted. But we have to trust the Holy Spirit in all of this – and it may be that this present Synod cannot deliver this legislation and that Final Approval will have to wait until the election of a new Synod in the summer of 2015. It will be sad if we are unable to complete the task – but if we can’t we can’t and others will have to be elected who can succeed where we fail. But all of that is a long way off.

This debate had gone into the afternoon – don’t worry we did break for lunch. What followed immediately after the episcopate debate was one on the reorganisation of the three Yorkshire dioceses of Bradford, Ripon & Leeds and Wakefield. It was an interesting debate because I genuinely was unclear what to do. To be honest, I am not convinced by the plans, I was also concerned that one diocese – Wakefield – was not in favour and that this seemed like a ‘shotgun wedding’ and I am unclear about the ecclesiology that says three cathedrals in one diocese is ok.

But as I listened to the debate I decided that the right thing to do was to abstain and not to vote against the motion and that, unusually, is what I did. I look forward to it achieving all that people say it will achieve and if it does, we will all learn from the experience. And that may be where we have seen something that may change the face of the future Church of England as much, perhaps, as women in the episcopate.

Bradford, Ripon & Leeds and Wakefield are three wonderful dioceses, each of which I have had a great deal of experience. So I will pray for them in the months ahead as the prepare for the coming into being of the new Diocese of Leeds.

Lord of the church,
bless the church in the dioceses of
Bradford, Ripon & Leeds and Wakefield.
Fill their bishops and people with your grace
and make them eager for all the future holds.

You’ll have to wait

The debate on the ordination of women to the episcopate continues after lunch. So I will give you some thoughts later in the day. Just to say we have completed six amendments of which only one has passed! More later.

Slightly overcast

Despite the joy around the victory of Andy Murray yesterday, the sun has not yet emerged in York. But today looks as though it will be a long and intense one in the Chamber, so we don’t want it too hot!

There are two big topics before us today. The first is Women in the Episcopate which is the first debate on the subject after the failure to secure a 2/3rds majority in each of the houses last November. After Saturday’s conversations we will see what Synod feels like.

There are four options before us which range from what seems to be a simple measure with a bishops’ declaration to a legislative option which appears to tie everything up in the provision. The House of Bishops is supporting the first, simpler, though in many ways, more robust option. I say more robust because the bishops’ declaration will be something which the bishops will hold to and will provide for those who cannot accept the ministry of women but without the complexity that other options provide. There are a number of amendments including one from Bishop Trevor Wilmott which would provide a remedy for those who did have a grievance against a bishop and so give added reassurance.

All we can do is pray and listen to each other as the morning and probably the first part of the afternoon proceeds.

Ripon Cathedral

Ripon Cathedral

Following the debate on the episcopate we turn to the reorganisation of three of the Yorkshire dioceses – Bradford, Ripon & Leeds and Wakefield. As someone who was ordained and ministered in Ripon Diocese, as it was then called, I have a keen interest in what is proposed and in the debate. Beyond the specific issue of the shape of the church in Yorkshire it will also give an indication of what Synod thinks about this way of working by the Dioceses Commission.

The day will conclude with finance and reports from the Church Commissioners and Archbishops’ Council.

But the day began as it should begin, at the altar, with the Eucharist and a reminder in the reading from the book of Genesis that ‘this is none other than the house of God and this is the gate of heaven’. The Bishop of Lincoln spoke to us about the connectivity between heaven and earth, signified by Jacob’s dream of the ladder. The Bishop quoted from the poem by Francis Thompson ‘The Kingdom of Heaven’ with the lines

Jacob's ladder with the angels of God ascending and descending.

Jacob’s ladder with the angels of God ascending and descending.

The angels keep their ancient places–
Turn but a stone and start a wing!
‘Tis ye, ’tis your estrangèd faces,
That miss the many-splendored thing.
But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry–and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.

The foot of the ladder touches even the floor of the Synod Chamber and this can be both our Charing Cross and Gate of Heaven as we seek to do the will of God.

We will start the Session singing the ancient hymn ‘Come Holy Ghost’ and this will be our prayer

Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,
and lighten with celestial fire.
Thou the anointing Spirit art,
who dost thy sevenfold gifts impart.

‘The poor will always be with you’

It has been a long day and so this is a short post.

Enjoying the Southwark Synod Supper.

Enjoying the Southwark Synod Supper.

The evening began with our Southwark supper. We do this each time we meet in York. Adrian Greenwood acts as the organiser and gets us together to share supper – which is a very good thing to do. When we pull in others at the Synod from Southwark Diocese there is a room full and, as Bishop Christopher commented, people from the diocese make a huge contribution to the life of the Synod.

The Southwark Supper

The Southwark Supper

We went from the supper back to the Chamber and to the debate which was introduced by a member of the Archbishops’ Council from our diocese, Philip Fletcher, who is Chair of the Mission and Public Affairs Council, on Welfare Reform and the Church.

The Order Paper contained a good number of amendments and a great deal of the time was given to dealing with these. But the debate was a good one and it raised many of the issues that I was standing to make. I had had the privilege earlier in the week to hear at the Society of Catholic Priests Conference, from Professor Emeritus John Hull who spoke to us about the prophetic church. He said that we need to understand our vocation – to be prophetic. We are called to speak boldly, courageously to society about where things are wrong, where the justice of God is not being honoured, where unjust structures must be challenged. It is not for the church to provide the answers for the politicians. We are not here to do the politicians job, we are here to fulfil the prophet’s mission.

Welfare reform at the moment is loading the poor in our society with the costs of societal austerity. Too many of those in employment are now in poverty. This cannot be right and in the debate the church spoke out powerfully and challenging.

The final vote on the amended motion was taken by a division of the Synod and the result was those in favour were 331, againt 1 and abstentions 7. This is a powerful message to society and all in politics and not just the present government. Things have to be different – the kingdom values that we hold are different and we are committed to that, for as we pray ‘thy kingdom come’.

Jesus says in Mark 14.7 that ‘The poor will always be with you.’ This was not a message to us to complacency, to accepting the situation but a call to the reality that there is always a bias towards the poor. I turn also for my inspiration to the book of Deuteronomy

Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbour in your land.’ (Deuteronomy 15.11)

Perhaps we can offer this prayer of St Augustine for all our brothers and sisters.

Watch, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight,
and give Your angels and saints charge over those who sleep.
Tend Your sick ones, O Lord Christ.
Rest Your weary ones.
Bless Your dying ones.
Soothe Your suffering ones.
Pity Your afflicted ones.
Shield Your joyous ones, and all for Your love’s sake.

‘A humbler, compassionate, more humane church’

It has not been an easy afternoon in Synod. It began with legislative business on Faculty Jurisdiction and then the Draft Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure, which, as the name suggests, is a catch all bit of legislation tidying up different measures as diverse as provisions relating to Christ Church, Oxford to the Burial Act of 1857. It is work that needs doing.

But the real business of the afternoon was to be on safeguarding which was focused on the follow-up to the Chichester Commissaries report. The debate was introduced by Bishop Paul Butler, the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham who began by reading out a statement from the survivors group. Members of that group were in the chamber but they had not been allowed to address the Synod themselves. So they wrote what was a painful statement to listen to. They highlighted a lack of consultation with them in the process and they questioned the value of any apology that might follow and the debate we were going to have, if we thought that this was our response.

In fact as the debate proceeded it became very clear that no one thought that this was the response of the Church of England but only the beginning. Bishop Paul was clear in his apology to the survivors of abuse in our churches. He said that we ‘confess our sin, repent and commit to being different in the future’. His words were echoed during the debate, chaired by the Revd Dr Rosemarie Mallett from the Diocese of Southwark, by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop and Archdeacon of Chichester.

Professor Glynn Harrison was the first person to be called and he spoke on behalf of a clergyman who had himself been abused. That testimony was powerful and moving and set the tone for a serious and profound debate. Southwark representatives – Mark Steadman, Simon Butler and April Alexander – all made significant contributions. The Bishop of Hereford made the important point that it is not just individuals who are groomed by potential offenders but whole church communities and that was echoed by others. Many people, not least ++Justin, spoke about the need for a change in culture in the church. The Archbishop speaking of the report said ‘What we are looking at today is far from enough .. it has to be a complete change of culture and behaviour’.

The Bishop of Chichester was the last person to be called to speak. It was he who said that we must be a ‘humbler, compassionate, more humane church.’

It was a good debate on a painful, agonising subject. Before we voted we kept a time of silence as the full importance of what we had heard sank in and we could pray that we would do the right thing. A division of the whole Synod had been called for, which means voting with our electronic voting system. The result was 360 people voted in favour of the amended motion (the amendment simply strengthened it) with none voting against and none abstaining.

As the Archbishop said, this was only a beginning and we must work with the survivors to change our culture and our behaviour and get things right. It is a gospel, kingdom issue.

Lord, have mercy upon us.  Lord, forgive us.

Lord, have mercy upon us. Lord, forgive us.

The apology was made on behalf of the whole church and all we can say is

Kyrie eleison
Christe eleison
Kyrie eleison

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

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


Reflections from the Dean of Southwark

Andrew Nunn's reflections from General Synod

the personal views of the Dean of Southwark