This is the speech I gave at General Synod on the debate on Prayers of Love and Faith. I was opposing an amendment to the main motion which sought to enshrine ‘firm provision’ for those opposed, in terms which sounded likely to be similar to the arrangements for women bishops. So it is quite specific!
I oppose this amendment on three grounds: from my experience of the women bishops debates and the operation of the five guiding principles in practice, from the experience of our ecumenical colleagues, and from our historical ecclesiology.
And I’m baffled by 3 things so far in this debate.like Simon I’m baffled by my more protestant colleagues seeming to argue for a theology of salvation by works. Like Amanda I’m baffled by more Biblically focused colleagues seeming so willing to take their fellow believers to court. And I’m baffled by all this talk of canons seeming to set aside Canon A8, Of Schisms.
Because it’s not as if there has ever been a time when the Church of England was not divided. We were designed to be a church that would hold together deeply, even violently opposed theologies, in peace, for the common good.
That’s why Our ecclesiology is not founded on confessional statements beyond the creeds, but on a radical commitment to the people of a particular place - a parish, a diocese, a country - ALL the people. Whatever their religious or ethical views.
This is the radical vision of the parish that I want to save.
Those of us who sat through the women bishops debates will know first hand how often and how clearly this synod rejected any suggestion of structural differentiation, of a third province or so on.
I’m afraid I’m increasingly of the view that those who were disappointed by that are still fighting that battle on this front instead - indeed, that the real end game, for some, is to cynically use this issue to achieve major change in our Ecclesiology by the back door.
(As an unscripted aside I then added something like - we have heard a lot about transparency in this debate. Can I suggest that if you want to change our ecclesiology that should be brought to this synod as Article 7 or 8 business, not pushed through as some sort of back room prisoner exchange.)
I have seen this happening already, I’m afraid, as a member of the House of Bishops Standing commission on the 5 guiding principles. Resolutions are, sadly, in some places being used to pick a theologically acceptable bishop, and declare UDI from everyone else - very much not the original intention.
This summer I was one of ten Anglican delegates to a Roman Catholic consultation on synodality. My fellow Delegates from the Baptist, Methodist, quaker, URC, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic Churches all used this issue of same sex blessings in reflecting on their own synodical processes. And I heard from all of them, repeatedly, that the one thing they knew was that they weren’t going to do what we had done over women bishops. They told me they had learned from our mistake in enshrining the sort of thing the Bishop of Durham is now asking for in our structures.
THEY were baffled that we might not learn from it ourselves.
Our structure for holding together is the gift of our parish system. Our unity is based on geography, it will not be achieved by further distinguishing our divisions.
I beg you to resist this amendment, and to support the main motion.