Magazine Leader - July 2013

From the Vicar

July 2013

General Synod meets over the first weekend of July. As always we meet at the University of York. The dress is casual and spending time together over a long weekend is a great way to talk together. Conversation in the bar is as important as formal debates, but serious decisions have to be made and how we vote can have a lasting effect on the life of the church. For better or for worse, the rules governing the life of the Church of England have the force of law and General Synod is the one body, outside Parliament, which can enact law in this way. It does mean that many things we decide have to go on through Parliament and end up needing the Royal Assent. Some things cannot be decided until the proposals have been sent down for consideration at diocesan (or even deanery) level.

It will be remembered that the legislation to allow the ordination of women as bishops was just such a proposal. Years of debate led to some final proposals, which were then passed down to the dioceses for their vote. Forty two out of forty four dioceses voted in favour, but then the General Synod had to take the final vote, which they did last November. The proposals received clear and large majorities in all three houses (bishops, clergy & laity) but failed by six votes in the House of Laity to get the required two-thirds majority. Now some people do find the idea of women bishops to be totally unacceptable, but overall there was a reaction of disgust in the country at large. We did ourselves no favours that day. Society has moved on and excluding women in this way leaves us seeming to be out of touch with the rest of society. It was in 1975 that the Church of England decided that there are no theological objections to the ordination of women. Almost forty years on, we still have not yet sorted this out and we are left seeming to be obsessed with issues which seem irrelevant to people’s lives.

The dilemma facing General Synod is to get on and speedily finish this matter, so as to fully receive the gift of women’s ministry with joy. Yet there is also the desire to ensure that those who struggle, with what they see as an unacceptable change, should still find a home in our church and be able to flourish. We find ourselves stuck between two conflicting aspirations and we have allowed this whole issue to become far too drawn out and destructive. We cannot go back to the discussion of last November. There is no point in running through all that again. We need to find a fresh approach, which is what we will be seeking to do in York this July. We cannot load too high an expectation on our new Archbishop, but he comes with a reputation as a resolver of conflicts and his different style of leadership might just make the difference. We will spend a whole day in small groups on the Saturday, talking through the issues and listening to each other, before debating and voting on some new proposals on the Monday. On the Sunday we will worship together in York Minister. I ask your prayers that we get it right this time and that we do indeed see our first women bishops, by about the year 2015, in a church in which those who cannot accept such a development nonetheless feel that they too have a valued home in the Church of England


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