R. E. S P. E. C. T
“Lord knows what it means to me”, sang Aretha Franklin. We are in for a day of debate about that word tomorrow. Or are we? The papers today talk of a steady move towards acceptance of the legislation as now proposed. But then supposedly knowledgeable commentators tell us it all hangs on a dozen or so votes in the House of Laity. (Two-thirds majorities in the House of Bishops and House of Clergy are being taken as read.)
My fear is that the debate tomorrow will be a serious of set-pieces by the various tendencies, saying mostly what they have said before. If that is what happens, maybe we could cut out all the agony, and just vote at lunchtime.
My train journey to General Synod today felt like an enacted parable of the progress of the Women Bishops legislation. The destination, desirable, and achievable; the actual journey a frustrating stop/start. ‘Signalling problems at Tisbury’. When you are waiting at Templecombe, that means a long wait, as there is only one track. Trains cannot pass, and the one I am trying to catch (to London) has to wait for another to make its journey and move off towards Exeter. So while the elaborate (and thankfully safety-conscious) South West Trains and Network Rail crews did what they had to, we waited at Templecombe for 40 minutes, waited another 10 at Gllingham, and a bit more between Tisbury and Salisbury. ’Enough waiting’ indeed. But we got there in the end, an hour late.
All shall be Wellsby?
If you believe the papers a lot hangs on any contribution the Bishop of Durham may make. Apparently he has spent all weekend preparing a speech. Apparently, his new-found stature as the Archbishop-elect means that all eyes will be on him. Apparently his speech will so entrance his more conservative evangelical supporters that they will all roll over and either abstain or even vote in favour. And that will be that.
Yes, and the 1043 to Waterloo might get in on time. But it might not…
Can you predict the voting?
Most observers and hacks think Synod is like Parliament. But it’s not. Every vote is a free vote in Synod. We do listen; we do say our prayers, and we judge our vote accordingly. Of course there are many members who are firmly wedded to their own position (those who are impossibilists against women Bishops will never be persuaded). Some of them may even vote against their own views, thinking of the impact on the wider church. Mind you, electronic voting means that our votes are recorded, so you can’t hide your private betrayals in a show of hands.
I noted in July how I turned up intending to vote one way, but was persuaded to vote another. My guess (and hope) is that there are a fair number of members who will want to have the case for ‘respect’ made in speeches, and to hear some arguments for and against. Then they’ll decide how to vote.
The corridors will be hot with speculation and rumour, some of which I’ll endeavour to post here….
If you are very keen, you can listen to a live audio stream here. The Big Debate will start around 10.00, after the Communion service. Or you can get live coverage (with plenty of bias, wit and in-jokes)via a Twitter feed here.