Lest you should think this is all fun and amateur journalism: I’m not sleeping well. So here are my reflections in the small hours, before returning to the fray – which, thankfully, starts with a Communion service, at which the preacher will be Archbishop Rowan.
That cheers me up because in my ten years on Synod, he has consistently amazed me with his ability to preach a homily without obvious text or notes that somehow addresses both the biblical text and the concerns of Synod. This morning will be his last such service. Hopefully he can draw us together and point us forward one last time.
Last night was a night for fringe meetings and interest groups. I went to the EGGS meeting, and someone pointed out afterwards that this was the one such fringe meeting that was divided. WATCH, the Catholic Group, AffCath and other groups all know roughly what they want out of tomorrow. But EGGS is different. It includes Reform leaders like Rod Thomas, and others who are opposed to women Bishops on ‘headship’ grounds. They made their position painfully clear last night. But it also includes leading ‘open evangelical’ men and women who are determinedly in favour, like Archdeacon Rachel Treweek. So we had a very frank exchange of views about what people hope for in the morning; what they fear most, and how we can live together afterwards. Thankfully, EGGS believes in prayer, and we did some of that too. By tonight, we will be needing to work out how to care for one another…
What the papers say…
Synod likes to believe the world watches what we do. And just occasionally, it’s true. We expect acres of press coverage for this day’s debate; BBC cameras up in the gallery, not to mention the thousands (yes) of tweets and numerous bloggers – some amateurs like me, others heavyweights. A consistent theme in tea-room discussions hs been: what will the watching world say if we reject women Bishops?
Some of the opponents don’t worry about what the world says, In fact, it justifies their position to some extent, If the media, the man in the pub, and the woman in the wine bar think the church is being ridiculous, they don’t mind. ‘We are called to be faithful, not popular’, and so on.
But the media interest is extraordinary. I spent an hour with a north London vicar, Jane Morris last night. The international news agency Reuters came to her parish on Sunday, filmed an interview with her and took pictures of the worship. Now she is mentioned on newspapers websites from Turkey to the Philippines. Try a Google search on ‘jane morris women bishops‘ and you’ll see what I mean.
In my view, what the media say is not a determining factor on whether of not women bishops are the will of God for his church and the world. But those who want to throw out this legislation today do need to consider the impact such a decision will have on the public face and mission of the Church. Not to mention the impact it will have on our women in ministry.
Someone pointed out at the EGGS meeting that the opponents are on a hiding to nothing even if they manage to defeat the legislation today.Waiting in the wings of synodical procedures is a Diocesan Synod Motion calling for the rescinding of the Act of Synod (the structure under which ‘objecting ‘ parishes have, since 1992, been able to decline the ministry of a woman priest and claim alternative episcopal oversight from a ‘traditionalist’ (aka Flying) Bishop – ‘Resolutions A, B and C’ in C of E shorthand). That motion has been ‘parked’ for a long time while the Women Bishops legislation is dealt with.
Apparently, if we throw out the legislation tomorrow – a real possibility, they say – that Diocesan motion comes back into play, maybe even as early as the next Synod in July, And it only needs a simple majority to be passed. In other words, in ‘saving’ their position tomorrow by preventing the Women Bishops legislation getting a two-thirds majority, the opponents open themselves up to having their current ‘protection’ removed when Synod meets again. And as only 51% of members need to support the Diocesan motion – it could easily happen. So their last state would be very much worse than their first.
Like many others, our diocese is having some prayer vigils today. You might like to join in, wherever you may be…
I’m going back to sleep now!