Saturday, November 24, 2012


There's a rather lovely response to this week's failure of the Church of England's General Synod to pass the legislation that will allow for women to be ordained bishop. It's on the Fulcrum site, a place with which I have a mixed relationship, and it spoofs the "when I am old I shall wear purple" poem.

Have a read.

There's a lot of hurt there. And a lot of hope. And a fair bit of generosity too.

It's not been the best week in the Church of England's life. When 40 out of 42 dioceses support the legislation, but the motion fails, questions have to be asked about the nature of synod. How are these people elected? What is the basis of their role - are they delegates, representatives, free agents etc? Were people clear about how they would vote on this issue in advance, and did they keep their word? How did 40 out of 42 dioceses fail to get this past General Synod?

It's not simply about theology; methodology comes in here somewhere, and that muddies the waters. It's not a Chelsea-esque response (we didn't get our way so let's blame the Ref & take him to court) it's a genuine question coming from genuine bemusement that the apparent mind of the church was overridden by a superbly organised minority.

Change, of course, if always difficult. And change, when it comes must (in the Church) never be a case of the majority winning or the minority lashing out. People are people; but in God's house, people are people following the One who commanded us to love people. All people. Especially the ones with whom we disagree.

So - in the words of the poem - we go the extra mile for grace. Because we go the extra mile for people. Because we believe they would do so for us, even when the evidence cries out it's not so. This is the hope of the community of God. We do not believe the worst about each other, we hope the best.

Tom Wright was a little scathing about the Prime Minister's response to the vote - that the Church had to 'get with the project'. Tom's piece was published in the Times, and again reprinted by Fulcrum. The Church isn't about a liberalising, progressive march to a better future; it's about the redeeming of humanity. Not the project, but the promise. Where all are equally human in God's order. I like Tom's attitude, and I like his put-down of DC. Mr Cameron fails to grasp the depths of difference and integrity that must live in the Church, but which must be wrapped in grace and hope and an ability to change as we have hearts opened to a better understanding of the bigger picture of Biblical truth - not simply current social trends.

But what of now?

What of those feeling desperate this weekend?

What of those who have lost a little hope as a result of this vote?

OK. This isn't my issue. I mean, I have always been pro-women's ministry. So much so, that my priesting was delayed by my diocesan in 1994 because he wouldn't allow two English women priest friends of mine to attend the service in Llandaff. My reply was - that if they weren't welcome, neither was I. Six months later I was priested in Monmouth diocese by Rowan Williams. One of those friends came & took part.

But as an evangelical who self confessedly is hardly the straightest arrow in the quiver, I have my fair share of being on the 'wrong end' of Church politics and bad attitudes. Presumptions about Biblical debates by people who don't know where to look for texts on a subject. Presumptions about me and my attitudes. Closed doors. Glass ceilings. Suspicion, when all I have tried to do is show people Jesus.

So I know a thing or two about weeks like this.

And the answer is - God is good. There is always hope. The story is long, and complex, and I am afraid longer and more complex than we would often like it to be. But people are people. And this wonderful truth means that in God's economy the news is good. Power and control and limitations and disbelief and distrust and fear do not win. He is risen! And the power that raised Jesus from the dead will do more than we can ask or imagine.

Those of us who don't get what we hope for don't take what we have left and sulk; we serve any way. Because we are loved. And because of that love, restoring us, we remember that this is the story of the world: brokenness being restored.

A bad week for the Church of England?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. Perhaps a typical week. We live in a world where many people live on the precipice of wonderful dreams being dashed out of their hands, and we live to comfort, heal, restore, forgive with all the love which has been and is being poured into our hearts. We can only have any ministry because we are receiving these things. And so we pass them on.

Look - we know what life is like. It's the same for us. And yet Jesus is here; making the world of difference. Even as we make an unworldly mess.

It may look like the dark of night; but a little hope and a lot of prayer - and this could yet become a purple patch for all of us.

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