For many of us July 2012 was going to bethe moment. The moment the General Synod of the Church of England finally decided if she was going to move ahead with the ordination of women to the episcopate. The legislation was there, a decision seemed to be inevitable and then voices of objection were raised by those in favour of the ordination of women to the episcopate and an adjournment was called for.
When the vote came a majority of synod voted to adjourn the debate so that the bishops could reconsider their amendments. That small lifeline that was offered to our constituency seemed to be being dragged away. Interestingly over a third of the House of Laity voted against the adjournment, this same third who voted for proper provision for us. The measure will return to the House of Bishops and it is to be hoped that they return the measure to Synod unchanged or if it is changed then still containing the wording that insists that our position is one of theological conviction and bishops who share that conviction must be provided to minster to us.
In speech after speech those proposing the need for adjournment spoke of how they did not trust the House of Bishops, how the process was not transparent enough. These are very often the same people who are telling our constituency that they must trust the House of Bishops, trust a Code of Practice and, yes, trust them. There is here a conflict of ideas; we cannot be expected to blindly trust the House of Bishops when those exhorting us to do so do not trust them either.
At the Synod there also emerged a third way. A new campaign, ‘Better Together’, was launched. This sought to focus the debate on finding a future where, in the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury, ‘everyone can be happy’. It is not a membership organization nor is there something to sign up to, rather it is an encouragement for us all to think in a new way, whatever our point of view may be. It is to remind us that we need to work together for the furtherance of the Gospel and that there needs to be mutual respect. It is an acknowledgement that since 1992 there have had to be compromises and in the majority of cases these have worked. It also acknowledges that we as a constituency need to be given a secure and lasting place in the Church of England, something that is not terminal care. It is something we can work towards in our parishes and in our local deaneries and dioceses, showing that we are willing to contribute to the life of the Church, firm in our own convictions. This will only work if we can be given that honoured place that has been promised time and time again.
Fr Sam Philpott has on many occasions urged us to get off the battlefield and return to the mission field, the true home of a Catholic Christian, indeed the true home of any Christian. We long to be able to do this to work for the spread of the Gospel. The House of Bishops has an opportunity to ensure that we have a slim chance of being able to do just that. The legislation is not perfect, it might not offer enough, but what it must not do is simply write us out of the Church of England. Anglo-Catholics and Conservative Evangelicals have always offered so much to the Church of England. In the last century they have been pioneers in mission, evangelism and education. They have sought in different ways to enliven the life of the Church of England and to strengthen her mission and service to the nation. We are asking for the space and understanding to be able to do this. We will not be able to thrive if we have to second guess the church authorities or try to work our way through complicated procedures. We are being asked to trust the Church of England and the Church of England needs to trust us, trust us to work with them in the mission field.
The coming months will be tense ones, they will be difficult ones for many. We are called to remain united and focused on our common future to continue to work in the vineyard and to serve the people of God. We are also called to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit that God’s will might be done. This magazine continues to support our Catholic bishops and the Catholic Group in Synod. It thanks them for their tireless work and assures them of our prayers. If we work together and if we seek to do God’s will then we can show the world and the Church that we are Better Together. ND
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