Sunday, 11 July 2010

...and the next day.

So where are we now, then? 'In a difficult place' is the simple answer. As a comment on the previous post says, "in voting with conscience (which you must, of course, do) you have voted such that others will no longer be able to, in good conscience, stay in the Church. A bitterly sad irony. I mean no disparagement when I write that - just observing the terrible moment we have come to." He's right, of course. Here's what it looks like to me at the moment.

We have in front of us now legislation that is fundamentally flawed. Its intent is to remove the legal obstacles to the consecration of women as bishops. In its current form what it does is both remove those obstacles but add further law to ensure that conscientious objection is possible. It is inevitable that if you draw up legislation that way then you will compromise its intention, but while there was a chance that the compromise would allow people to stay together who would otherwise have parted, it was worth doing. However, what yesterday showed us was that there is not sufficient support within Synod for the sort of provision that traditionalists say they need, and that the sort of provision that the majority are prepared to include in legislation is insufficient for the very people for whom it is intended. What is to be done? The answer to that is informed, obviously, by where we are in the revision procedure and how it works. Essentially, whatever Synod agrees now stays agreed. If the Measure is sent for further revision it has to be with specific instructions - once it has gone to the Dioceses and been ratified it cannot subsequently be altered. Consequently these, I think, are the options we have.

1. We grind through the rest of the revision process and send on to the Dioceses more or less what the Revision Committee sent to Synod. From now on, the rest of the amendments don't really change the broad force of the legislation.
2. We stop the revision process at the point we have now reached, and send the legislation back to committee with an instruction to re-examine Clause 2 of the Measure.
3. We vote down Clause 2 of the Measure - and as a consequence the rest of it, because the rest of it is only there as a result of that clause - and send a 'single clause measure' to the dioceses.

I don't know any more if I can endure option 1. If yesterday tells us anything, it's that the legislation is broken. It's not enough for those for whom it was designed, and if that is the case, I cannot see how passing it will cause anything except more confusion and pain as we thrash our way through a statutory code of practice in two year's time that will be equally divisive and equally futile.

Option 2 is tempting. Yesterday was such a bitter blow for me because I have hoped for the last five years that someone, somehow, would produce a rabbit from a hat. Someone, somehow, would show us a way to hold these two integrities in tension. But there is no rabbit, only an imaginary Easter Bunny, and no amount of further revision will give it material form.

So that leaves us with what looks like the nuclear option. A simple yes or no - do we do this or not? All along the argument has been that the single clause option would split us - that people would leave if we did it that way. Well, we passed that point yesterday afternoon. People will now leave. And given that people will now leave, are we really being anything other than patronising and tokenistic if we continue to put provisions into the legislation?

Let's play 'Let's Suppose' for a minute. Suppose we send a single clause measure to the dioceses. Each of them in turn will then be able to indicate to us whether or not they really want the church to change in this way. Some will not want to. If more than half don't then the legislation falls. Even if more than half pass it, if they report substantial divisions then that should be noted by the next Synod when it comes for approval. Suppose such a measure is passed by the dioceses and comes back to Synod. 2/3 of members in each house need to pass it. This will be a new Synod, elected inevitably with this issue in mind - it will be much clearer to our electorate what is going on if the legislation is simple - and they will decide as they decide.

There has been a choice all along about this, and it is one that we have repeatedly shied away from. It was inevitable that provision would be needed for those who could not agree. We could have made that provision by trust, but fearing the consequences of the vulnerability on both sides that such trust would entail, instead we have tried to make it by law. Law has failed us. Trust is now all that remains.

And thus, in my folly, afore this time often I wondered why, by the great foreseeing wisdom of God, the beginning of sin was not letted (stopped); for then, methought, all should have been well.... But Jesus, who in this Vision informed me of all that is needful to me, answered by this word and said, Sin is behovable (unavoidable), but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

For if we never fell, we should not know how feeble and how wretched we are of our self, and also we should not fully know that marvellous love of our Maker.


Anonymous said...

I think Bishop John Saxbee was right in the debate. All we can do now is trust in grace & that the Holy Spirit is at work, even in the General Synod. We have to trust that any women appointed to be bishops will be mature and holy enough to make provision for those who cannot in conscience accept their ministry. And the 'anti-women-bishops' brigade have to be mature enough to trust them to do so. I believe in Julian of Norwich's God - not the one who sets down unchangeable laws for all time.

Suem said...

I think you are right about the options 1-3!

I agree with yourself, John Saxbee, and with preacherwoman above that the answer is trust and grace over law, but we have so little trust around!

Of course, some people will leave. I would suggest they are the ones for whom nothing really would have been enough.
I hope others do not leave. I hope they stay and see whether their worst fears are realised - or not as the case may be.

We really are trying to square the circle in this situation, it is a mess, but there has to be some way through.