The time for treatises is over. It’s time for change, and this is why.
- We have sussed out that the reasons why women have not been treated equally in our culture has nothing to do with capabilities and everything to do with assumptions and prejudices. It is time to do all we can to treat women and men the same. Any self-respecting parent today has equally high hopes for their daughters and their sons. Let us assume that God is at least as loving as that.
- The world is watching and waiting. It is amazed that we are finding this so difficult. There is a lesson to the world in the difficulty: the church is kind and is not into overly rapid and reckless change, and it does not needlessly alienate its minorities. Holding the family together matters. But I have a strong hunch that the world has now spotted this. We have given the ‘we do not proceed without due care and attention’ message extremely clearly.
- The tension which the stand-off has created in the church is draining, enervating and spiritually sapping. It turns us in on ourselves again and again. We need to move on so that we stop asking the question, ‘who can hold which office in the church?’ and put all our energies into helping the people who are called to high office help the rest of us to do a better job of loving God and loving people.
- The church needs the best possible people in episcopal orders. Bishops matter, especially for the wider ministry of the church and for the care and nurture of the clergy. And so the church needs to be able to call people to be bishops from the whole cohort of the current generation of clergy.
There are more reasons but these four seem to me to be more than enough.
Will some people be hurt in the process?
Yes. But people are going to be hurt whichever way this goes. Those who will find this difficult must be cared for and respected for their conscience’ sake and their faithfulness to the views they hold. That’s non-negotiable.
Will it be tricky ecumenically?
Yes. But ecumenism is always tricky but it is never going to be authentic if churches make their internal decisions in order to make ecumenism easy. The road to unity is one that we must continue to walk, but we must walk it as ourselves – not as the easy but false companions others would wish us to be.
Is the legislation imperfect?
Yes. Legislation is always imperfect to some degree. What the church needs now is not perfect legislation but mission-shaped pragmatism.
One last point. I actually like the fact that the motion to Synod hinges and hangs on the word ‘respect’. If through all this we learn more about how to respect each other in practice as well as in theory, and find ourselves in a situation where we all know that it is only by earning and giving trust that we are making a serious contribution to the fellowship and mission of the church, we will have put ourselves in a very good place. An uncomfortable one – but a good one.
A Quaker friend of mine told me that she thought that the Church of England had recently become very exciting. She is correct. With the right decision on Tuesday, to follow-up the great new appointment at Canterbury, a new era for the church will open up. November 2012 could go down in the history books as a very remarkable month indeed.
For a long time the argument was that the time is not right. That argument is now out of date. The time has come.
Synod: Do it!