Welcome to my world

I’ve blogged almost exclusively about the Women Bishops issue, but there is so much else going on around any Synod meeting. I am not a single-issue member, and you might be surprised what I find interesting. So let’s take a look at some of my highlights before a roundup of today’s Women and the Episcopate news:

Stephen’s synodical highlights

  1. The worship. I find the times spent together in worship surprisingly inspirational. It can be hot, people are tired, they are wound up about their pet speech or amendment. But – and even despite the sometimes pedestrian texts we use – it works. We have a slightly naff keyboard for the singing, but it is great singing to be a part of. There can be moments of shared stillness, and a sense of belonging to one another that, sadly, I don’t always find in some of the various churches I help out at.
  2. The marketplace. I often avoid this like the plague, because I don’t want to be buttonholed by someone trying to flog me there pet cause/charity/latest-bright-idea-that-will-revive-the-church. However, just occasionally it is worth a trip into the tiddly little room allocated at Church House when we are in London. Today, I found the WATCH stall (Women and the Church – more here) giving away little gingerbread figures ; little arms, little feet, and on their heads a purple mitre! And they were selling their legendary A woman’s place is in the House – of Bishops tea-towels at three for a tenner. Must be a special discount – they are £12.50 on the website.
  3. The tearoom. A place to get away from the cramped seats and intense concentration on the floor of Synod. Now there is a big screen and audio feed, so you can keep up with debates. There’s free tea and coffee ad lib,and people galore to talk to. So you have those slightly stilted chats with people you bump into and can’t quite remember who they are, some ‘heads down’ detailed chats with diocesan colleagues about current problems back home – and, best of all, those serendipitous meetings with people about what’s on the agenda, the hot gossip about future appointments, the irritated whingeing about Press reporting of Synod, and almost any topic under the sun. Today, for example, I had a serious talk with an old Synod crony who’s having a very hard time at their place of work; some stiff politicking about a diocesan issue, and a hilarious but surreal discussion with complete strangers about yesterday’s ‘missing bible’ moment.

Fringe benefits

And then there are the fringe meetings. I pick up a lot of quality information (or “gossip”, as we call it in the trade) there. Having bought my tea-towels this afternoon, I went to the WATCH fringe meeting tonight, where I learned that:

  • it is generally felt that Archbishop Justin is very keen to get this through as quickly as possible – dioceses should be on standby to have a meeting between March and July so the whole thing can be wrapped up at the July 2014 York Synod.
  • there are severe practical difficulties in ‘arranging’ for a conservative ‘headship’ evangelical to be parachuted into a particular suffragan post (look what happened to the idea of a (traditional Catholic) non-ordaining Bishop of Whitby! (details here)
  • there is a real commitment to be ready to work with people you happen to disagree with if they are called to a post as being the right person for that post. It’s just possible that all our facilitated and conversational work in recent months will help people to believe that is true. I think it is. we have to work within our differences.

Today’s Women Bishops* activity

* (or Bishops, as we might prefer to call them)

The man event on this front today was this morning’s discussion groups. We began with a simple act of worship – sensitively led by the Bishop facilitating the group. Then the conversation began: it was gentle, but frank. No names, no packdrill, but in our group of about 20 we had two conservative ‘headship’ evangelicals and a leading Forward in Faith person. It was clear to everyone that they were in one sense in a minority: pretty well everyone else declared themselves content with the proposals and anxious to ‘get on with it’.

We fell to talking through some of the details of what’s proposed in GS1924. Each group had a member of the Steering Committee with it, so we got authoritative explanations. As I’d suspected we might, we devoted attention to the particular concerns of the ‘headship’ evangelicals – what does it mean to swear an oath of canonical obedience to a woman Bishop? How can a ‘supply’ of Bishops be guaranteed to traditionalist Catholic and ‘headship’ evangelical parishes? I’m not going to go into details, but there was some use of difficult vocabulary, and apologies were offered and accepted across the room. We left the room feeling we understood each other a whole lot better.

So – a good process. Things were said – and heard – that would not be said or heard on the floor of Synod in a big debate. That’s part of the whole ‘facilitated/listening/different’ Synod we’re getting into at present. The only ‘political’ point that was made was a plea from the Steering Committee member that people refrain from trying to put amendments to the motion as proposed – speak about the things you would like to see changed, but don;t derail the thing at this stage. Nods of assent all round our room, at least.

My web adventures

Blogging about Synod has been an adventure for me. The way WordPress works, as blog owner, I get the stats on who is looking at it, and where they are. Today, for example, I’ve picked up 254 views. Most (218) are in the UK, but strangely, someone in Mexico has had a look, as has someone in Poland! Leaves me wondering who they are, and why they are interested. And do they read to the bottom of the page..?

The other thing you get to find out is how people get to the blog. Around a hundred and fifty come from links on other sites – more than a hundred from Twitter – so big thanks to people like David Keen (@davidmkeen) and Pete Broadbent (@petespurs) who retweet or otherwise draw attention to bathwellschap’s humble efforts. But there are clearly people in North America following us, as 26 have come via Kendall Harmon’s TitusOneNine blog. Thank you too!

I try to put in links to the things I write about, so interested people can follow them up for themselves. Around a quarter of readers seem to do that – most are going to the Church of England website for the live video stream. I gather the lip-sync delay is up to 25 seconds for some users – must be excruciating. Other users go from me to the Bishop of Willesden’s blog I referred to yesterday. Ooh, and again today.

And finally

My own contribution to debate today was on the debate about reforming Synod. The main motion from London diocese said that Synod works on a ‘Parliamentary model’. I had a bit of fun comparing and contrasting what happens over the road at the Houses of Parliament with how Synod works –

  • we sit in a circle, smiling at each other: they sit opposite each other, glaring
  • our leaders sit in Synod all the time, and cannot command us: theirs are hardly ever there, and tell their troops what to do.
  • when we vote, we ‘decide’: they ‘divide’
  • and so on

I raised a few laughs at the end of a long day, but overall, it was a bit of a ineffective debate, and it was put out of its misery by a procedural motion to move to next business.

Tomorrow morning: a Eucharist – bound to be very moving – and then the set-piece debate and decisions. Watch this space if you dare.

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Aside | This entry was posted in 2013: Nov - London, General Synod and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Welcome to my world

  1. Pat Pillinger says:

    Stephen
    It has been fascinating and helpful to read your blog about what really is going on at GS and comparing it with what the media feed us so many thanks. Most refreshing and encouraging. I came to your blog via Caroline!!

    Hope to catch up with you sometime, Take care and God bless
    Pat P

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