Comments: General Synod: Thursday morning

So--I'm assuming this includes making women eligible for archbishop as well...does it or will we have to go through a whole new row about that in a dozen years?

And will even TEA be good enough if there's a female ABC?

Posted by Derek at Thursday, 9 February 2006 at 8:54pm GMT

Am I excessively optimistic in thinking that ++Rowan's words, "Integrity might not mean absolute division. It can mean a process of admittedly painful, often untidy but ultimately evangelical self-discovery," might apply equally well to the situation with the churches of North America?

Posted by Prior Aelred at Thursday, 9 February 2006 at 11:51pm GMT

If this is not inappropriate do we know who the one negative voter is? And: why he or she voted as he or she did?

Posted by Kendall Harmon at Friday, 10 February 2006 at 12:31am GMT

Pior Aelred, I hope you are not excessively optimistic in so thinking. I think it is possible myself.

But ++Rowan also called attention to a serious obstacle to the "process of self-discovery," namely the adversarial approach to the issues facing the Communion. In North American culture, this adversarial model is powerful. It structures any issue as a debate between two (and only two) "sides," a debate that one side and one side only can "win" and must win through a total defeat of the opposing side, which must in turn accept that it has been utterly defeated and crushed. Of course, neither side is ever going to be willing to accept the humiliation of unconditional surrender to the other side, and fear of what would follow such an unconditional surrender can keep a "side" fighting long after its position has become untenable.

This "total war" model is in common use in the symbolic and advocacy politics of the United States. However, its use to structure the disagreements within the Anglican Communion prevents us from developing ++Rowan's "common culture," through which the issues we all face could be discussed and deliberated upon, and within which such disagreements could be held in productive tension. Absent such a common culture, the only solution for our disagreements will be schism, and schism again, and still more schism.

I suppose we all have to ask ourselves whether the real, actual consequences of schism are worth the satisfactions -- the thrills, I would say -- derived from the symbolic contests which produce them. ++Rowan calls us to do so:

"[O]n the practical level ... we have the challenge of developing a real common culture.... Perhaps it oughtn’t to be possible to do it, but mysteriously, it seems to be. Like the water beetle who, you may remember

‘... flabbergasts the human race
By gliding on the water's face
With ease celerity and grace.
But if he ever stopped to think
Of how he did it, he would sink.’

(The Water Beetle, Hilaire Belloc)

"Well, we have a little bit of water-beetling to do, I suspect, in the years ahead; I hope that we can do it with some confidence, given the stories of how we hear it just might be done. Common culture grows out of finding different ways of engaging than simply the adversarial model and that’s been put before us, I think, very clearly. Common conversation, common culture, the whole notion which we have looked at already in this Synod, of finding other ways than debate to do our business."

No doubt many will dismiss this as mere "fudge," but I think ++Rowan's words ought to be deeply pondered by all of us in the Communion.

Posted by Charlotte at Friday, 10 February 2006 at 6:04pm GMT

Mrs. Slater's phrase is odd: "lay people and women." Aren't women people? Strange thinking leads to strange theology.

Posted by Marcia at Friday, 10 February 2006 at 8:12pm GMT

I think Rowan Williams et all have taken a sensible course, allowing the dissenters a "safety valve" to mollify (save for the "all or nothing" souls).

One thing about this discussion (and various others in global anglican communion) is how power and debate is handled. There are times when power brokers can "play the system" to block changes and hinder diversity, which on one hand creates stability but on the other risks stagnation from inertia.

Many Anglicans find change uncomfortable (they are naturally gentle reserved souls who avoid trouble). However, there are times we must consider whether uncomfortable change is required, and if so, manage it as best we can.

For example, I've just read an excellent interview with Michael Lerner, referring to his newly released book "The Left Hand of God". He looks at "Translative Spirituality" which "can be a really good thing to have at any particular moment... e.g. save the whales.." (This is what Anglicans are good at). However, Lerner suggests that to save the planet will require a "Transformative Spirituality" that "respond(s) with awe, wonder, and radical amazement at the grandeur of creation" and thus embrace a fundamental new bottom line of paradigms.

Stephen Jay Gould would call this a "punctuated equilibrium" shift in global spiritual consciousness. Such shifts are never incremental, but unfortunately are sometimes necessary. They are never comfortable during the birth pains.

For more see:
The Dalai Lama is also aware of the need for fundamental paradigm reviews.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Friday, 10 February 2006 at 8:32pm GMT

And then concluded that yes, its fudge again - as it always is from Williams.

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 10 February 2006 at 8:58pm GMT

In response to Kendall Harmon:
I am not sure that it is right to identify the voter; save to say they were one of the new, young members of Synod.

Why did they vote against? I could not say, in this case.

However, there were a number of significant amendments to the proposal. There was much to-ing and fro-ing with various interested parties the night before. Some groups appeared to have planned various outcomes for various scenarios: yes if this, no if that - and having voted down all the individual amendments, I suspect it would have been easy to continue, and have voted against the main motion to... especially if one was from a party that was in principle against the ordination of women to the episcopate.

Posted by Alastair Cutting at Friday, 10 February 2006 at 9:12pm GMT

There's nothing wrong with "fudges". If I were in a sinking boat in the middle of the Atlantic and the team worked out a "fudge" to plug the hole to enable us to get to the other side, then I'd take the fudge. Better that than going down with the ship because the solution isn't in the procedure manual.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Saturday, 11 February 2006 at 7:15am GMT

Good idea, Cheryl. :)

Posted by RMF at Saturday, 11 February 2006 at 2:28pm GMT

That puts me in mind of a parlour game.

If you are in the middle of the ocean and your boat has sunk and you are about to drown, which of the following would you refuse the aid of (whilst demanding the aid of another):

a) a woman

b) a homosexual

c) someone who rejects the aid of women or homosexuals

Posted by Augustus Meriwether at Saturday, 11 February 2006 at 3:45pm GMT

Better to accept that we shouldn't be in the same boat in the first place.

Still, at the moment, I've opted out and I'm sailing on Boat Quaker, and I'll stay there until the CofE is worth attending again.

Posted by Merseymike at Saturday, 11 February 2006 at 5:55pm GMT

So we have souls who won't be in the same boat as women? That's cool. Hope their boat isn't Noah's Ark. They're going to have a (none)population problem within a few decades.

On the parlour game, who can you trust?
An "unclean" woman?
A "sinner" homosexual?
Or someone who rejects how the potter has made their kin and others?

My answer. They're all imperfect sinners, so I pray that God really is the loving and merciful that Jesus says He is.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Saturday, 11 February 2006 at 7:40pm GMT

Sorry to hear that, MM. Is there *no* CofE parish accessible to you, that is "worth attending"?

I'm truly blessed here in the U.S. of A., that wherever I've lived in it (both coasts, and the middle), there's been an ECUSA parish where I could

1) feed on Jesus (cuz if that's not the point, why bother?) while

2) not getting my Imago Dei smashed in the process.

I'm really sorry if that's not the case across the Pond... :-(

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Saturday, 11 February 2006 at 7:43pm GMT

In this diocese, precious few - and to be frank, I'm tired of having to excuse institutional homophobia. If I was in ECUSA then no problem, and if/when the split comes, then a church which follows that path wouldf be one worth belonging to. But the CofE simply isn't at the moment. Its entire approach encourages dishonesty and is deeply prejudiced.

Posted by Merseymike at Sunday, 12 February 2006 at 12:50am GMT

Response to Marcia:

I know that lay people include women, but the church has not always included us. I proposed the amendment that the Drafting Group should include lay people and women, because:

a) the Guildford Group was four (male) Bishops and one (female) Archdeacon
b) I believe strongly that the work needs to be representative, not only of the 44 Diocesan Bishops, and the 12,000 or so ordained clergy, but also of the 1.2 million lay people on church electoral rolls
c) it has happened that lay people were represented for generations by men only
d) women now make up about one fifth of the ordained clergy, and more than half of the lay people

Although my amendment was lost, it is now on record that the Archbishop has assured Synod that the Drafting Group will be representative of the groups I mentioned.

The whole debate is being shown on the digital BBC Parliament channel tonight (Sunday 12 Feb) from 8.30pm until midnight - so you can see/hear what was said. It is also available as audio on the General Synod website.


Posted by Sue Slater at Sunday, 12 February 2006 at 12:45pm GMT

Merseymike, thanks for your last posting. Unfortunately "fudging" is required to get past a deadlock. This leads into a reply to Sue's posting.

People should not underestimate the opposition to the ordination of women or acceptance of homosexuals. There are people who have made it a core mission to ensure these things do not happen (they are passionate, so no amount of clever talking will convince them in the short term, I sometimes wonder if God has not "hardened" their hearts to force the debate to be had. You can only debate when both sides "speak their mind" and if neither side is passionate then their deepest fears and needs might not be articulated.)

These souls will do any and everything to slow/stop these reforms. That is why "fudging" is required. They are blind to the irony that they complained that tea was communicating to them "like they were children". Blind to irony that they have effectively been treating women like "children" when it came to making decisions or understanding the Word of God.

Further, they are so passionate that they will use any and every means at their disposal to protect their world paradigm. This includes removing women-friendly ministers from office (in less polite terms this is called stacking the synod numbers), shunning or bullying accommodating souls, exhorting censorship and using "educational" material to protect their flocks, prayer points within parishes to keep existing flocks "pure" and signal to the dissidents to either shut up or move on.

Consequently Synod can be said to reflect a political soup of determined souls, as many of the meek and gentle have left for calmer waters.

However, the suppressors should understand that some of those who remain remain because they remember and are prepared to fight for the underlying principles that is the backbone of the Anglican Church's history. Namely, it's ability to turn the bible into the Living Word of God, by acknowledging and taking on the hard issues such as slavery and the environment*, and to come up with inclusive and diverse solutions that maximise the number of souls able to reach out and engage with and for God through Jesus.

(* And not taking issues on after the deceiver has lost every amalek basis to justify ignoring the problem, but taking them on because it is the right thing to do and trusting God to level the paths towards the greater good.)

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Sunday, 12 February 2006 at 8:07pm GMT

Farewell, Merseymike; I think you have made the right choice in joining the Quakers, as their creedless views should be accommodating to all.

Cheryl Clough: God 'hardening the hearts' of those opposed to the ordination of women? LOL! You sound like a Calvinist! I do wonder what concept of catholicity you are working with. And I hardly think the costfree gesture politics of 'apologies' is taking on the 'hard issue' of slavery. There are millions of slaves today - in Niger, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and the underclasses of India. What has the Church of England ever done for them?

Posted by Peter Bergman at Sunday, 12 February 2006 at 10:35pm GMT

Peter. Not enough. Sigh.

Don't bother scratching for a label, everytime I think I've found one, someone tells me that it doesn't apply because of an inconsistency my application.

"Hardening of hearts" is a nice way of trying to suggest that people might not be listening to each other as well as they could be. (I keep getting images of children standing in the middle of the room with fingers in their ears, screaming that they are not listening). It's true that they can't hear what the other side has to say. However, it's not that the other side has nothing of merit to consider, but that they simply refuse to countenance any precedent that might topple their safe intellectual edifice that has nice clear boundaries and miminal uncertainty.

Again, that is why "fudging" is required. There are those who fear the unknown. Most people are implementers, very few have the ability to imagine something that is not yet and work towards making that manifest. The latter visionaries often forget to build bridges to bring the implementers into the new territory.

My experience is that once people can see what you're trying to do, they then find it easier to accept the changes. At a later point they often act and talk as if it was the way things always should have been and that they were part of the leadership driving the change (this leads to quiet bemusement by those who had to subtly hold their hand during the change transition).

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Monday, 13 February 2006 at 3:41am GMT

Cheryl: the 'fingers in the ears' comment invites the inevitable 'tu quoque' remark. WO is an innovation, and no amount of rewriting the past will change that fact. The opponents of WO are neither fools nor ignorant. Your accusation is of contumacy. If God is actually leading His Church in that direction, I would expect a very wide level of ecumenical consensus witnessing to this (cf Acts 15), not some local schism, however 'prophetic' it claims to be. And I would expect there to be fruitfulness and life, not stagnation and decline, as we see everywhere in the old-line liberal Western Church.
As for your claim of bullying of supporters of WO, do you really know how things are in Ecusa for traditionalists? They are the ones excluded by the 'inclusivists', and they are leaving in droves.

Posted by Peter Bergman at Monday, 13 February 2006 at 11:18am GMT

Thankfully the Synod was almost unanimous in our desire and decision to find a way forward for everyone, except those who want to exclude others by means of "single-clause" legislation.

The week was a model of how synods ought to work: people talking to each other at great length and in earnest, seeking a grace-filled solution, both in the chamber and outside it. Something of a miracle came about under Rowan's leadership: a resolution which was capable of uniting people across almost the entire spectrum of views.

Posted by Alan Marsh at Tuesday, 14 February 2006 at 12:28am GMT

What 'unity'? This isn't unity, its a fudge - based purely on holding an institution - a worthless, pointless institution, together.

There is no 'way forward' for everyone which won't involve unacceptable discrimination, and the sooner that is realised, the sooner we can get on with reality. Maybe then I might even think church is worth going to again. Probably too late, though.

Posted by Merseymike at Tuesday, 14 February 2006 at 5:27pm GMT

Unity expressed by a vote of 348-1 seems to me to describe pretty accurately the sense of unity achieved by the Synod at the final vote.

It may not be your reality, Merseymike, but those present felt very strongly about remaining together as a church - not as an institution. That's why we voted as we did.

Posted by Alan Marsh at Tuesday, 14 February 2006 at 11:53pm GMT

But all that will happen is that you will stay together whilst continuing to believe different things. Thats not unity.

And churches are institutions.

Posted by Merseymike at Wednesday, 15 February 2006 at 6:56pm GMT

Actually many of us prefer to think of the Church as the Body of Christ, with many limbs and organs.

If you are looking for uniformity then I think you will be looking for a long time for a religious body which meets your needs. The nearest thing is probably the Salvation Army, but I don't suppose for one moment that you agree with anything it believes.

Posted by Alan Marsh at Wednesday, 15 February 2006 at 9:35pm GMT

I'm not looking for uniformity, but a bit of credibility would help. There is nothing at all which holds together liberal and conservative christians within the CofE other than tradition and convenience.

Posted by Merseymike at Friday, 17 February 2006 at 12:13am GMT

No-one would claim that the early church was comprised of people who agreed about everything, quite the contrary. But their willingness to hold together caused others in the community to wonder at their way of life and to say things like, "See how these Christians love one another." For my own part I regard that approach as offering a greater credibility.

Posted by Alan Marsh at Friday, 17 February 2006 at 4:52pm GMT

I don't disagree with your assessment of the synod mood, but watching from the gallery it was clear that quite a few people were not merely absent from the final vote, but were in fact present and abstaining from voting. And this included people from both viewpoints.
The total voting in the earlier division was 409. The total voting in the final vote was 350. I'm not claiming that 59 or more people abstained but the support for TEA was in fact only 348 out of 466. Over one hundred people failed to record a vote.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Saturday, 18 February 2006 at 5:12pm GMT

Many of us slipped out for a leak during the earlier division. Quite a number remained in the tea room afterwards rather than return to the debate, having already endured two hours.

It is difficult to say what abstentions amount to, even if they are formally counted, which they aren't at Synod. But given the normal level of absence even from critical votes, I don't think it possible to draw too many conclusions from the abstentions you observed, especially if they were from both "sides".

In any event, I noticed how many people simply were not at Synod that day who I had expected to see.

FWIW my estimate of the voting in the House of Laity means that there will not be a 2/3 majority for women bishops in this Synod, TEA or no TEA.

Posted by Alan Marsh at Saturday, 18 February 2006 at 7:07pm GMT
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