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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Synod - a week in reflection

I've not blogged for a long time and realised that there are thousands of blogs kicking around post-synod, but thought I'd throw this one in for good measure. I'm afraid this isn't some deep and meaningful theological or academic reflection, it's just a splurge of thoughts........hope that's ok with you all.

It's almost been a week and there's been so much kicking around in my head. I've shared my angst, anger, tears, hopes etc with a few close friends but have also felt the need to retreat into myself to try to work things through too.

Last Tuesday has been well documented. The vote for the measure that would have led, if passed, to the consecration of women to the episcopacy. In other words 'allowing' women to be bishops. And whilst the church shouts and gets red in the face about the fact that it has agreed that women 'can' be bishops, to most people, they don't 'get' that (quite rightly in many respects) and so as far as they are concerned last week's vote was about whether women could or couldn't be bishops.

To state my stance from the start, I think women should be bishops and without any sort of condition or provision; there shouldn't be anything in place to make anyone in ministry feel second class, not quite there, not valid etc. To be honest, I do struggle to be 'generous' to those who are not in favour in terms of provision made for them.

I travelled to London on Tuesday my own to show my support and solidarity with my female colleagues and for all those who support the measure as well as being able to see, hopefully, first hand, the synod in action and to hear what people had to say in debating the measure. I was surprised how emotional I found the day as well as struggling with it too. I had to leave the afternoon session early and as a result followed the rest of the debate via social media, just hoping and praying that the vote would go the 'right' way.

It didn't

And so, as I walked home, I sobbed. It hurt. The church I wanted to be proud of had let me down. Let colleagues down. Let those we minister to down. And I struggle to understand how and why.

As a man, I felt stuck in a bit of a no-man's land (possibly not the best phrase to use!). I'm in favour - very strongly in favour - passionately so - and hurt enormously that men can be bishops but the talented, amazing and saintly women whom I work beside cannot at the moment. That really hurts. And last week really hurt - it still does.

I know that I can't ever even start to understand how it feels to be an ordained woman and the pain of last week's vote or understand the pain over the years of ministering in a church where there are people who don't value or consider valid one's ministry. I will never know what that feels like, and that also feels very painful.

Toward the end of last week an email was sent to women clergy within the diocese from one of our DDOs who was having an 'open house' on Friday for anyone who cared to pop in. I thought twice about going as I wasn't sure how 'welcome' a man would be; but decided to go as I had felt very isolated and was hoping that I could express how I felt and hear how other felt. I'm very glad I did. Whilst I was, for the time I was there, the only man, I was made very welcome, was able to listen and be listened to and to share in tears, anger, conversation and affirmation and it helped. It didn't take any of the pain or anger away, but I am so very glad I could go.

And then yesterday the whole thing came back again as the results of the individual votes were published. There was the expected House of Bishops and Clergy division of votes - no surprises there, but the real hit between the eyes was the House of Laity vote from the diocese representatives. Six voted against the measure and one for. What a kick in the teeth that was. This diocese. I know it's not as simple as saying 'our votes made all the difference', but that what it feels like. It really does. And it makes me feel sick.

I don't know what the solution is, but I want some answers.

I want to know when; when my sisters in Christ will be treated equally, when we as a church will have ministry and leadership in total equality; when those who have an episcopal vocation are able to realise it and what the church, my diocese is doing about it.

I keep returning time and again to the prayer I referenced at the beginning of Tuesday and which has been on me since from Br Roger of Taize:

'God of all mercy, you bury our past in the heart of Christ and you are going to take care of our future.

Gather everything that happens, trivialities included, without reservation, regret or nostalgia, in inexhaustible wonder. Set out, going forward one step at the time, from doubt toward faith, not worrying about the impossible ahead. Light fire, even with the thorns that tear you.'

And to conclude, some wise words from Brooke Fraser......'flags' (click here)


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