Yesterday At Synod

Wednesday, 9th July 2008 at 10:30 UTC Leave a comment

These can hardly be complete reflections, but I hope they shed some light on what is otherwise quite an alien and difficult world to understand through the lens of a media which understands it much less than its prepared to admit. Also, its no longer ‘yesterday’; I am, of course, writing about Monday 7th July and the House of Bishops motion on Women Bishops.

Just to put this debate in context, as it is one of many, I should explain that this was the debate during which the decision needed to be made about how to accommodate those who simply couldn’t accept Women as Bishops. There were about 6 options on the table, a stupidly high number. The previous stage was to discuss the reports on these options, the next will be final approval of the fine print on how those provisions work. The stage after may well be the decision of Synod, the House of Commons, the House of Lords and ultimately, Elizabeth Windsor’s autograph. Yes, this is the Church of England. Don’t you just love it?

There was endless talk of unity and the way to achieve it. There were people trying to push one idea or another all afternoon. An amendment got passed changing the motion from saying it was the will of synod to have women bishops to being the will of the majority of synod. Sorry, synod works by simple majority in this respect, its mind is that of 50% plus 1 of its members.

Many of the amendments called for alternatives to what is termed the ‘Code of Practice Option’. Under this option, a series of guidelines will be produced laying out how conservative parishes directly under control of a Female Bishop should react. Actually, in reality, this means parishes where either the clergy or a small number of well organised laity have shoved through measures to prevent Women priests for celebrating communion or becoming the priest in charge of the parish.

Copyright \

Yes, thanks to ASBOJesus for that one. Awesome cartoon, highly recommended. Anyhow, there were also options like special Diocese, usually the region covered by a Bishop, but these would be Diocese separate of the usual ones with their own diocese Bishop, who would have to never have attended a communion service involving a woman priest, never have consecrated a woman bishop, and be able to prove that they had an exclusively male lineage. This isn’t just about women bishops, its about male bishops made bishop by women, and about male bishops who make women bishops. We wouldn’t want any Half-bloods in the church would we?

There were endless speeches that said more about unity than about the issue at hand. The church, it seems has become incredibly timid at doing anything. There were people accepting that some wanted women bishops and prepared to say that it was fine as long as they could have a get-out provision, and others prepared to not have women bishops because those very same would be put out. I commented to a friend as we left that it seemed like Synod was now Hell-bent on Unity, and not a choice of words made lightly.

Amendment after amendment was proposed, speeches would be heard both for and against, and then a vote would be called. Time and time again someone would demand a vote by houses*, the chair would wearily say do I see 25 people standing, about 30 people would stand up, he’d concede, the bell would ring, the two minutes of waiting would occur, the code number for vote numbers to be registered via the shiny new handsets would appear, a minute would pass, it would disappear, the clerk would copy the numbers off the laptop, and then the chair would read out the result, which would be about 1/3rd in favour in each and every house.

There was one amendment which bucked that trend, clearing the Laity, falling by a vote in the Bishops and by not much more in the clergy: to ask for full investigations and detailing both a diocese and a code of practice plan for the future. This would mean another vote to decide between the two, before the final vote. More delaying, though perhaps a good reason for it.

It was interesting to note that only 43 Bishops were in attendance from a total of nearer 60. It would have been good to have more present, that is for sure. All in all, a bizarre event that simply resulted in a slight fudge, that will likely mean many leave the church completely, rather than a structural adjustment that would make the whole church a less pleasant place to be, but prevent some of the leakages. Let us hope that the Spirit will convict many to stay and see how this proposal works out.

* Synod is formed of 3 houses and 2 convocations: House of Bishops, House of Clergy, House of Laity, the Convocation of Canterbury and the Convocation of York. A vote by houses means that the vote must be a majority in every house, not just a majority of those voting. It prevents the Bishops and Laity ganging up on the Clergy, as far as I can tell.


Entry filed under: Church, General Synod, News, Religion.

Synod Sunday Tid-bits

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