I am very disappointed with General Synod’s vote yesterday. But, this wasn’t about women bishops. No, really, it wasn’t. General Synod voted in 2006 to have women bishops. Women bishops have been accepted by General Synod and the majority of the Church of England. This vote was about how to implement the already-agreed principle of women bishops.
And that’s where things went wrong of course. People who still don’t accept the majority acceptance were unhappy with what they felt were the lack of adequate provisions for them. People who strongly wanted women bishops were unhappy with what they felt were too many concessions to the minority. If both sides are unhappy it might be that that was the best compromise we were going to get… I do wonder whether some notional ‘best’ solution (which hasn’t been found in all the years of discussion and wrangling) was the enemy of the not-quite-good-enough solution that was actually being voted on.
I don’t believe that this was God’s will for the Church of England. I think that “creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed” as it says in Romans 8 (a reading that was used at Synod yesterday). I believe that we as a church should be doing this – revealing God’s love and working to grow his kingdom. I also believe that God gives us the free will to make a mess of things (including, frankly, much more important things than this).
This has been a damaging and hurtful vote, but it doesn’t change the fact that General Synod has already affirmed the ministry of women as bishops. Unfortunately, it’s going to take longer than many of us hoped and prayed it would to actually have a woman as a bishop. It also raises questions about our procedures and about how we organise our synods and how we vote for members.
One of the things that I was very surprised about when I was voting for clergy representatives for General Synod was how few explicitly stated their position over this issue. I understand that there was the same problem with the lay people standing. I think that this is symptomatic of wider problems.
Where do we go from here? I don’t know. But I do know “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”