Grace

It’s a normal working day in the life of this curate – a funeral visit, a walk through the village, an unexpected flu jab this morning – this afternoon, tributes to write, website content to plan, a funeral meeting – this evening a volunteers briefing meeting as part of my reflection on Winchester Cathedral, and a staff meeting to end. 

Except it doesn’t feel quite like an ordinary day.  Yesterday, synod rejected the method put before them of enabling women to be appointed and operate as bishops.   Rejected by a minority in one House, and I note that there was a simple and substantial majority in favour of the Measure as it stood, but the voting hurdle in one house was not reached.  These things happen.

I feel a little odd, having blogged ranted, on the topic of democracy and listening to the voices we don’t want to hear as well as those we do.  And I’m clear in my views of bishops (of all gender and sexual identities).  I even commented on why I didn’t wear a twibbon in support of the Measure – it was all part of shutting up and praying instead. When I heard the outcome of the vote was I so shocked and grieved. Today I am angry.

And then I got a Direct Message on Twitter (these are private, so I protect the identity of the sender) – “Is it not God’s Will?”   

If the decisions of General Synod indicate God’s will, then God wants bishops male and female.  That decision has already been made.  But God didn’t want this measure.  Were I to be mischievous, I might suggest that God doesn’t want second class bishops any more than I do.  And I don’t want to be a second class priest any more either.  I don’t think it matters whether I have a penis or not.  I am in God’s image.  

What grace and love am I showing to those who cannot accept women priests or women bishops? Precious little. What grace do they wish to be shown? I’ve never asked, to be honest. I assume – not to be subject to the sacramental ministry of a woman, while remaining in an honoured place in the Church of England. And what grace do I want from them? To be able to minister sacramentally anywhere I am called to be.In whatever order of Deacon, Priest, Bishop seems good to God and to the church.  

Are these two objectives so irreconcilable?  Of course they aren’t.  If I was particularly catholic in my practise, I would be unlikely to try to serve in a strongly evangelical church.  And vice versa.  And I’ve spent years either fitting in with a parish church in the village where I am living at the time, or seeking out church which better suits me and enables me to meet God.  I voted with my feet, and so do most regular churchgoers.  But this simple and practical solution to differences of churchmanship does not appear to suit any side of the debate concerning people’s ability to respond to God’s call with integrity. But the solution requires the removal of the idea of “taint” (that a bishop who ordains women cannot validly ordain men either), and it acknowledges that if insufficient men are bishops, then there is a risk that there won’t be any men ordained by men left in the church. But the same is true if the Church of England shifts to the evangelical or catholic ends of the spectrum – the result would be the exclusion of some people – and we don’t have legislation about that.    

So my solution is to have a single measure, no codes of conduct, not even any Resolutions A B or C, just bishops, priests, deacons and laity in every glorious variety and hue we can find, and people who vote with their feet.  

BUT both sides of the debate would have to trust each other.  Trust is built by interacting gently, quietly, with calmness and listening, not by trading 120 second speeches at Synod.  But now I’ve put my cards firmly on the table – who will trust me?  The people I am seeing about funerals today trust me.  The website techies trust me.  My training incumbent trusts me.  I am by the grace of God trusted every day of my life.  Let me work with you, you can trust me.  

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4 responses to “Grace

  1. Well said Claire. I particularly like your penultimate paragraph. It may sound over-simplistic to the warring factions on both sides of the great divide, but for me , simple soul that I am, it seems just about perfect.

  2. Excellent post and reflective thinking involved. I wish that I had been capable of that yesterday evening. I allowed emotions and feelings of anger and disappointment to overcome my normally quite calm being.

    I have repented that, and my general feeling today is of sadness, prayer for reconciliation and peace between and for all of those involved.

    It's difficult to accept that some people feel so strongly that there are theological or sacramental grounds to discriminate against women in ministry. I can understand their fears, but wonder why we have allowed trust, fellowship, Grace and love to be pushed out of the whole process.

    Bitterness is something that some seem to hold, particularly on other blogs I read today. Holding onto it is sad and detrimental to our physical and mental well being. Better laid at the foot of the cross and move on.

    I don't have a clear vision of any resolution, but the thing that sticks out a mile is that the synodical process is flawed and unbalanced as it allows a minority to hold the majority to ransom. Time to change that, if nothing else.

  3. Pingback: drbexl.co.uk » Blog Archive » #AdventBookClub: Day 6·

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