This morning, I woke to torrential rain and a terrible sinking feeling that the nightmare of the night before was actually reality.
Yesterday, 20 November 2012, General Synod said ‘no’ to the legislation that would allow women to be bishops. Or at least that is what the headlines say. In reality, an overwhelming majority of General synod said ‘yes’ to the legislation – 73%, reflecting the vote of the diocese, where 42 of the 44 said yes. The vote was carried in the house of bishops and the house of laity, and was only lost by 6 votes in the house of laity. Such are the workings of the government of the Church of England that ends the hopes that we could move on from this argument now.
Some lay members of our churches have asked me, ‘who are these laity who are supposed to be representing me!’ It is a good question. The reality is, somewhere along the way General Synod seems to have lost the idea that each elected person is there to express the views of their diocese, and over recent times there has been a significant move towards a place where people are there to represent their ‘tribe’. Those who enter into synod in this way are dishonouring the people they should be representing, dishonouring the church and dishonouring God. When election of a new General Synod comes around, I hope that we as churches in this benefice will have some healthy debate and be inspired to get involved in the process.
I heard some of the 100+ speeches made, and those opposed to women’s ministry spoke of both tradition and scripture. This is difficult ground to inhabit. Of course, slavery, stoning people to death, and child abuse, along with subordination of women, can all be argued from our scripture and tradition. And they are all abhorrent and wrong. What is more, none of these things can be sustained when we look to Jesus. He welcomed children, challenged stoning, preached that all are free and was radical in his treatment of women. We serve a living God, and we continually discover more about our God – to say otherwise is to diminish who God is.
Personally, the vote yesterday is a devastating blow. It undermines my ministry and says to me that I am second-class. But more than that, it breaks my heart for the message it sends out and the brilliant leaders it means we miss out on as a church.
Please do pray, for softer hearts, for an openness to what our God is doing in our time, and for great wisdom for ++Rowan and +Justin, and for all of us, as we seek to move on.
With love, Kate