I walked into a room of silent clergy. They had been monitoring proceedings from Synod. ‘Still waiting?’ I asked, thinking it would create an exchange that would fill a few anxious seconds. ‘It didn’t pass’ someone muttered. I stared at them. ‘Stephen, it didn’t go through’. They all looked at me. We shared a moment of disbelief we will remember for a long time.
People had told me that it would be close in the House of Laity. I took the point but had heard so little – never mind anything convincing – for the case against that I was sure it would all work out. It didn’t. I got that one wrong.
I heard of the upset of friends on Synod and those consoling them. There is heart stuff going on here. Rejection. It seems like an over-reaction until you begin to imagine some of the things that are said to women clergy by those who believe that women cannot be clergy. ‘Nasty’ doesn’t get near it.
Of course I have no idea who should do what next or how this will unfold. But here’s a thought.
The scandal is that about 72% of the Synod were in favour and that all but two of the dioceses were in favour.
The problem here is not the mind of the Church, but the shape of Synod.
Of course its great to have a General Synod – how some other churches would love one – but for some time I have been uncomfortable about the idea of it being divided into three houses. What are laity anyway? Not the non-ordained, but the whole people of God.
The outrage here is the cast of mind that has created the synodical structure of ‘three houses’.
Using this system to resolve the iniquity of women priests not being able to be called to be bishops was, it seems now, probably a mistake. The church’s governance problem is more fundamental than that.
What the church needs to do is to address the bad theology that lies behind the tripartite synodical structure.
A single Synod is the answer.
Let there be one house.