What a day!
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15
Add your own favourite quote for these moments.
Our grateful thanks to those who tried
Heading this list is our anonymous champion (we presume male), the Church Mouse, who rustled up the Yes2WomenBishops petition and got us all to sign, and got us to get all our friends to sign. Thank-you WATCH, who have been keeping watch through long years of seemingly endless nights. I am not attempting to name names, because they are legion. You know who you are, and we know who some of you are, and we just want to thank you for doing all that you did. It nearly worked!
Never glad confident morning again?
But, however we comfort ourselves, the House of Laity in the Church of England has today committed a blunder which will cost the Church dear. It will cost the new Archbishop of Canterbury, threatening to turn him into an Ancient Mariner stalked by an albatross even before the enthronement. It will cost the Bishops who, at 44 votes in favour, 3 against and 2 abstentions, mirrored the vote in their dioceses. It will cost the House of Clergy who, though less overwhelmingly, supported the motion by 148 in favour, 45 against and with no abstentions. And it will cost the House of Laity itself, who by voting 132 in favour, 74 against and with no abstentions, bring into question the degree to which they are representative of their dioceses. If you are a lay person in the Church of England, this is what has just been done in your name. Please take a moment to consider whether there is anything more you could or should have done to prevent this outcome. And then let us bury our heads in Aslan’s mane, like Lucy, and seek comfort there.
The Micawber Perspective
But having wept, it is time to reflect that it could (just) have been very much worse. You remember Micawber on the subject of annual income -
“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”
Yes, we are in misery. But there is only a shilling in it (5p in new money!). If 6 lay members had voted the other way (or abstained) the motion would have passed. This is of course maddening, but it is also ground for hope. We only have to tweak a few votes to change this.
What is to be done?
I don’t know. This is where you come in. I suggest that, since it was the laity that got us into this mess, it is to some extent up to the laity to try and get us out of it. Off the top of my head (and I haven’t even had a chance to sleep on this):
- We could begin by analysing the lay vote – what proportion of those who voted against were actually in favour of women bishops, but feel that the amended measure was discriminatory? Secondly, what proportion are implacably against women bishops on principle? I suggest we can work with the first group, but it is pointless to waste time on the second.
- My understanding of what ++John Sentamu said is that the next move is up to the House of Laity: General Synod can discuss it again whenever the HOL agrees to reconsider. (Did I get that bit right – maybe not?). I am pretty sure he is not thinking of waiting for 10 years.
- The next elections for GS will be in 2015 – we could work to ensure that more people to our way of thinking put themselves up as candidates.
- We could talk to those who are in favour of women bishops but against the measure whether they might agree to abstain (only 2 abstentions altogether).
- The Bishops are apparently meeting tomorrow to discuss what to do next – this is a hopeful sign as it may indicate that they will try and turn things around (for once I am grateful for the machinations of the princes of the Church!)
Please let us have your thoughts and ideas in the comments. Please, please.
Important Appendix – with thanks to Lou Henderson for flagging it up:
Consecration of Women to the Episcopate: Future Process: Note from the Secretary General
3. If the Measure is rejected the effect of Standing Order 61(d) is that it cannot be considered again on the First Consideration Stage in the same form until a new Synod comes into being unless the Presidents, the Prolocutors and the Chairman and ViceChairman of the House of Laity give permission for such a motion to be moved and make a report in writing to the Synod setting out a summary of the case for reconsideration and their reasons for giving such permission.
4. If the Measure is rejected on 20 November it will, in the first instance, be for the House of Bishops and the Archbishops‟ Council to consider how best to test the mind of the General Synod on what should happen next. In addition there are Diocesan Synod Motions for the General Synod to consider on the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993 and the Ordination of Women to the Episcopate. The Business Committee agreed to „park‟ these until the conclusion of the current legislative process.
Published by the General Synod of the Church of England
The Phoenix image is by DVARG via Shutterstock. Somehow it seemed a good symbol of any attempt to rescue something from the ruins!