The Price of Folly

READING a rival publication the other day, my eye passed over an advertisement for a conference entitled ‘Act of Synod – Act of Folly?’ Why is FiF advertising in the Church Times and not in ND was my immediate reaction, until a closer look showed it to be from the ‘Group for Rescinding the Act of Synod’. Poor dears, they have got it in one.

At the time (1992) it must have seemed like a good idea, and a price worth paying, to allow for a period of reception (for which the Act of Synod offered the mechanism) and thus accept that all women priests ordained under the General Synod’s measure would be provisional. It was sold as an act of generosity, and garnered just enough votes to ensure victory. Great tactics; clever victory.

Or was it? The fact that a woman priest of the CofE is provisional (a maybe priest, if you like, with no sanction moral or theological applicable to anyone who suggests ‘maybe not’) is a fact easily ignored. Are ABC parishes any more difficult to live with than other off-the-wall ones that spring up and die with various passing incumbents? Probably not; they are part of the strange character of the CofE. Unfortunately, maybe priests can only make maybe bishops; and the one thing a bishop ought not to be is a maybe. The Act of Synod seemed like a clever idea to get women priests; it now undercuts the basis for getting women bishops.

Act of folly? It begins to look like one. We are still here, and the period of reception is no closer to being over. So, why was such an act of folly committed? Surely, because the Act of Synod was seen not as a mechanism to enshrine the provisionality of CofE women priests, but as an act of generosity by the nice people (them) towards the nasty people (us). I suspect those who now make up the membership of GRAS have come to believe their own propaganda: what was calculated political manoeuvring (nothing wrong in that) was sold as generosity. We did not believe it, but in the end they did. And if they rescind the Act they would rescind all the women priests ordained under the Measure of which it was part. What folly. NT

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