On voting against

July 11, 2010 § 14 Comments

I left General Synod last night, not in anger, but because I’m officiating in my own church in Beverley today. Having organised the Synod service at York Minster since 2003 I’m not sure whether I’m sad not to be there this morning or utterly thrilled.  Doesn’t matter. Beverley calls.

This reflection is therefore after a sleep in my own bed and breakfast with my family, rather than the confines of York University. All the press rports make it sound that those who voted against were determined that there shoudl be no provision for those who cannot accept the ministry of women as bishops, and that rather overstates it. The Measure builds in provision, and the vote was about whether that provision should be legally required (so that a woman bishop would have no choice but to offer it) or formally sought, so that a woman bishop would delegate it.

On this distinction was put unbearable pressure. To vote one way would be the end, we were told. But earlier in the debate a respected Bishop had pleaded that ‘grace’ be given a chance, rather than law. An Oxford Professor had pointed out that it would be in no one’s interestes, least of all a woman bishop’s, not to make such provision, and to ensure that such provision was acceptable to those who needed it. But to require it by law would be to dimish the episcopal standing of a woman diocesan.

I could not see that the Arcbishop’s amendment helped with this problem, and neither could the Steering Committee, who have lived with this for two years. I listened carefully, very carefully. And I voted not to kick a group of people out of the church, but to invite our church to operate with grace, rather than wielding writs at each other.

I believe that the Measure will enable exactly the kind of provision for those whose consciences cannot take a woman bishop to exist within the church. But that provision will need to be by grace rather than law. So offered, I think it will be a better church that results. But I do not doubt the despair of those who made the result such a telling event. And I pray that, before the debate resumes on Monday, grace may abound.

§ 14 Responses to On voting against

  • David Brooke says:

    Bravo, Jeremy! Very well and simply put, and I hope and pray and perhaps even dare to trust that the gracious intent of your ‘no’ (and that of many others) will be heard midst the clanging cymbals.

  • Jeremy, I so much agree with you. I have a great deal of respect for Bp of Lincoln, and hoped that his call for ‘grace’ rather than ‘law’ to be allowed to operate through the operation of the Code of Practice would prevail. As I listened to the debates I was praying non of the ‘legal alternative’ amendments would pass and was so glad they didn’t. I don’t think the C of E will fall apart as a result of the vote. The Abps. made clear it was not a test of loyalty or vote of confidence in them. I just wish they had shown trust in the Revision Committee, and not put their own amendment forward. Like you, praying for everyone at Synod, especially on Monday

  • Pete Hobson says:

    I also listened very carefully, wanting the best possible provision, and voted for the amendment. I am still not persuaded by this ‘headline’ that what was at stake was whether provision is ‘enshrined in legislation’ or not. A Measure IS legislation. The current draft already REQUIRES a woman bishop to delegate. The amendment would require her (or him) to SHARE. I think a lot of the opposition to it, including your reasoning above, has been based on an faulty argument.

  • Doug Chaplin says:

    Thanks Jeremy – a useful counterpoint to the threnody of despair and anger

  • RachR says:

    Thank you for this – the most wonderful summing up of the situation as many of us see it.

  • Robert Hart says:

    Clearly, Jeremy you sincerely believe that “the [unamended] Measure will enable exactly the kind of provision for those whose consciences cannot take a woman bishop to exist within the church” and clearly you’ve given a great deal of thought to this difficult matter. But, unfortunately, those of us for whom this provision is intended do not feel that the provision is adequate. One of the main reasons that so many of us feel hurt, betrayed and downhearted is that numerous people seem to be telling us what they think we need, but few seem to be listening to what we actually say we need and why we say we need it.

    You make some very good points about gracious provision, but there are two flaws in all of this, as I see it:
    1) If those of us, who for theological reasons cannot accept the ordination of women to the episcopate, are to continue to have an ‘equal and honoured place’ because we are ‘loyal Anglicans’, then why should we accept a gracious place, rather than a place by right? That does not seem very ‘equal and honoured.’
    2) Very many of us see the current dispensation administered with very little grace. Why would a new dispensation, when we would be even more marginalized, be more gracious? Why can’t we have the legal protection to exist (like you do) so that we can go forward with mission, assured that we are truly ‘equal and honoured’ as ‘loyal Anglicans’?

    Please try to see things from the perspective of the minority. Ghettos are created by the majority who find the minority unpalatable.

    With prayers and best wishes


  • Mark A says:

    Hi Jeremy

    Thanks for your post, it certainly is a different perspective from the one we see in the press and I found it to be a helpful alternative.

    I very much hope you are right, but it has got me thinking about the place of ‘grace’ in all this and whether it can work in this context. So a couple of reflections / questions (and I write as someone who supports the decision to Consecrate Women Bishops and doesn’t envy you your task)

    1. Paul writes that God’s word to him in 2 Corinthians 12 is “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” But in this context the choice of whether to be gracious or not rests with those with the ‘power’ not those who are in ‘weakness’. Of course, the Church pre-eminently should be able to do this as the whole thing is based on grace. This leads those who are in authority in the Church (at whatever level – including my own) to be led pre-eminently by grace. This demands a high degree of trust on the part of those led in those who lead, something which comments above suggest may be lacking. Why? This leads me onto my second thought …

    2. General Synod is a law making body. Can you *inject* grace into a system that is based on law? We have just finished going through Galatians and my reflections on it are that Paul says you can’t. In fact Paul seems to suggest that any appeal to law pushes grace out, which is why he is so opposed to the Galatians being circumcised.

    Not sure where all that leaves us (or you and your colleagues on Synod) but perhaps it might be appropriate for us all to reflect further on the place of grace – it strikes me that this is still such a radical concept that after 2000 years the Church (in all its manifestations) still hasn’t really got a handle on it.

    Am praying for you.


  • […] sanest comments so far (I thought) have also been the kindest, and included these: from Jeremy Fletcher wrote that the decision must be one that doesn’t diminish the episcopal standing of a woman […]

  • […] the event of the vote itself, I go along with Jeremy Fletcher and hope that grace can win out in the end – but, grace that empowers bishops to be generous […]

  • […] the voice of sanity: Jeremy Fletcher […]

  • Rebecca Lewis says:

    I wish that I could believe my honoured place in the church will persist with nothing but grace. However, the proponents of women bishops have done nothing this weekend to allay my fears. Everything I’ve seen from women in the last 5 days (the men seem to be more restrained) has been crowing, victorious, patronising and thoroughly un-Christian. I do not believe that I will have long to wait before I am forced to accept their ministry or leave.

    • Hi Rebecca

      I’m very sorry that you have encountered the kind of reactions you have. It’s not where I am…and I want to work for a church where we live with each other with grace and joy.

  • […] those who voted it down. That is me and 89 others. I blogged about my reasons for voting against here and none of them were “fascist” as far as I can tell. In fact I reckoned that a church […]

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