OK, following the defeat of the draft Measure to introduce women bishops, here are some (very) preliminary thoughts on my part.
First, if you prayed about the outcome, and if you believe in the sovereignty of God, I hope you have at least taken a moment to breathe a humble ‘Thy will be done’. Had it gone the other way, that is the only view I think Traditionalists could properly have taken.
Our challenge in this regard is not to fathom out why we have been either delighted or disappointed but to ask what God is saying in this. (And no, the sovereign God is not saying what a bunch of wotsits the people are whose vote went the ‘wrong’ way and if He’d had His way things would have been very different.)
One thing is very clear — the Church of England has given enormous amounts of time and energy to this subject. So if, after all that effort and prayer as well, we come down to a simplistic ‘triumph of good/evil over evil/good’ view of the current situation, then we need to go away and do some serious theological reflection of our own about the nature of God.
Secondly, my own personal feelings, for what they’re worth, are of being rather flat. Not least this is because I rather agree with those who are saying we have made ourselves look ridiculous. Indeed we have. But we have no one to blame but ourselves.
Thirdly, therefore, before anything else happens I think we need a period of repentance. Over the past few years, it has become clear that the Church was being called on to deliver an outcome that would satisfy two opposing points of view — but opposing views on what is supposed to be a ‘second order’, albeit deeply significant, issue.
At the 1998 Lambeth Conference, it was officially declared that whether one was for or against the ordination and consecration of women, one could be a loyal Anglican. More recently, I have heard repeated assurances that everyone was supposed to be allowed to ‘flourish’ under the new arrangements. And yet despite all the time available, and all the energy expended, those for whom these arrangements would be most difficult did not finally feel that they would be encouraged to flourish, and nor did they feel that they could really trust those who would have the most influence over their flourishing.
That is a tragic indictment of the Church.
And fourthly, I think it will be clear in retrospect that the vote was finally lost not today but in July. Frankly, with the original Clause 5(1)c on the table, I was in two minds as to whether this was enough. And my own ‘Don’t know’ would undoubtedly have translated into enough votes in General Synod at the time to push the Measure through.
It surely has to be recognized that the power to produce a formula for compromise has, for some considerable time, rested largely with those who had supported the introduction of women bishops. Where simple majorities have counted, they have had the controlling hand. But this must therefore suggest that had they been willing to concede just a little more, then we would not be where we are today.
And if their response is, “But that would have been a step too far,” then I would simply ask whether where we are now is where they would rather be.
So what of the future?
The worst case scenario, in my view, is what I think some are already desiring on the majority side — go away, regroup, come back and win. Yet is God really saying, “If only you’d got a few more votes you could have wiped the floor with the opposition?”
The smart move, I suggest, would be rather to recognize the mistake of July, to ask Traditionalists what would actually satisfy them, to hammer out a deal both parties can accept and then, but only then, to bring it back to Synod at the earliest opportunity.
I find myself asking what could be wrong with that. Unfortunately, I suspect there will be those out there only too willing to tell me.Please give a full name and location when posting. Comments without this information may be deleted. Recommend: