Jeremy Fletcher's Blog

On voting against

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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.

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