So Synod has voted to continue developing the current set of proposals to enable the Church of England to appoint its Bishops without worrying about which appendages are additional or lacking. Good. I’m glad. It can be hard enough to discern and follow a vocational path, so I am delighted that there is a little more hope today for women who are called to the Episcopate. Theirs will be a difficult task, but at least there is a good chance now that they will have the opportunity to find out just how hard it is.
I can’t help thinking back to my encounter about a year ago in Winchester Cathedral. I have not seen my friend since, but today I suspect he may be enraged and saddened at the continuation down a path he believes to be profoundly wrong. Or he may have seen God at work in our encounter and in his many other experiences of the ministry of women and of men. The thing he said which has stayed with me most is about the Reserved Sacrament – “I don’t even know whether to reverence the Sacrament, because I can’t tell if it was properly consecrated”. Reserved Sacrament – consecrated bread and wine stored safely to be taken to the sick and the dying. If it’s not consecrated, it’s bread and wine. If it is consecrated, it’s bread and wine with layer upon layer of meaning, symbolism and holiness. It’s life giving. Were my friend to be presented with bread and wine I have consecrated at Holy Communion, he would not be able to accept that it carried those life giving properties.
But when I go into a church, I check if it contains Reserved Sacrament. I go and pray in front of it. I am the same as my friend. I do the same as he does. We would both agree that any Sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward invisible grace. The difference between us is smaller than a hairsbreadth. But tiny chromosomes create massive chasms. My prayer is that the chasms, of human making, may be bridged and healed.