Grace on Sunday?

The only hard news of the day is the announcement that there will definitely be a motion to adjourn the women bishops debate back to the Bishops. It’s all explained here.We’ll see what actually happens tomorrow! In the meantime – well, it’s not exactly a peaceful Sunday…

The Synod members’ migration from accommodation to breakfast is normally a pretty sporadic thing, spread over an hour or so.  But today, just as I emerged onto the duck-poo strewn pathways of the campus at 7.55 a.m., so did large numbers of other members from theirs. The cause of this concentrated tidal wave was the end of Radio 4’s Sunday Programme – live from Synod.

Journalistically, well done them: two packages about the background, one about the EAPPI motion that is causing upset in some quarters (yes, we are discussing non-women Bishops stuff), and a setpiece debate with Miranda Threlfall-Holmes (WATCH); Alison Ruoff (conservative evangelicals) and the Bishop of Willesden. Ed Stourton did a good job as presenter and chair. Listen to it here

Everyone else must have been listening too, and then rushing out to get their breakfast in before Sunday worship. The official venue is York Minister: a great space, top choir, Archbishop preaching, women in their best frocks and men wearing trousers with only one crease in. (Well, two, if you see what I mean..) However, I ducked out of ‘big church’ ( I do plenty of that in my day job) and joined two or three others in the local parish church at Heslington. It’s a Local Ecumenical Partnership with Methodists (which may explain three of the extremely obscure hymns). But the celebrant was the Vicar who introduced the service with a word about the NT reading: Paul’s claim, under the immense pressure of his ‘thorn in the flesh’, that ‘My grace is sufficient for you’. It felt like a word for Synod as we approach the critical debate tomorrow. ( I gather Archbishop Rowan preached a belter of a sermon in the Minster – check it out here)

Then coffee with my fellow members of the Escape Committee, and yet another anguished strategy/tactics discussion. A strong view expressed that the Bishops, when they put their amendment 5.1.(c) into the Measure were under pressure of time and poor process. Some now wish to repent, it seems: others do not. It might help the mood if someone could clarify that in the debate – it would remove some of the paranoia that ‘the Bishops have been trying to stitch the whole thing up’. Some suggest that the debate may be all over by early afternoon – opening a window for the Bishops to get some time together before going home on Tuesday. Those pushing for adjournment tomorrow are beginning to talk about not only giving the Bishops an opportunity to think again, but also finding a way for the main protagonists to sit round a table together and agree a line that would gain maximum support if we have to come back in November. But I’ve no idea if that will actually happen.

Grateful for encouraging texts and emails from the home team. I gather the Dean preached on this in Wells Cathedral this morning; others have let me know the Synod is high up in their prayers. One colleague, on holiday in France, cheekily texted a note of support accompanied by a picture of a restaurant table and wine bottle… Thanks, guys.

Lunchtime was a real rumour-fest. One man said he had heard on the BBC that the Bishops were going to withdraw 5.1.(c). Which cannot be true: they have no power to do so now. I now realise what he meant was the announcement (see the top of this post) that there will definitely be an adjournment motion, freeing the Bishops to consider withdrawing or changing it later in the year. Not quite the same thing. But is shows how febrile the atmosphere is… Lots of little huddles, and Bishops muttering quietly in corners to each other.

The end of the day saw some life in the debates about the place of Christianity in public life, about the 2011 riots – so we are not only thinking about the King’s Great Matter. But tomorrow – well, it’ll be like a kitchen towel – all-absorbing. Keen people can listen to the debates in the internet here.  Or if you’re really keen (or anxious) keep an eye on the twitter feed. Go to and search for #synod or try clicking here

And say a prayer for us. I’ll try to post again at lunchtime.

This entry was posted in 2012: July - York, General Synod and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Grace on Sunday?

  1. catherine wright says:

    grateful, stephen, for your comments and summary.
    Prayers a-plenty from WM, and many in B&W I know.

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