I was (and still am) utterly devastated by the result of the vote at General Synod on Tuesday. On a whim I decided to go down to Church House after leaving work as early as I could for the end of the debate and the vote itself. The public gallery was full by the time I got there at 5pm (unsurprisingly) so I sat with a dozen or so other latecomers in the overflow “Abbey Room”.
Every house at the Synod was in favour of the motion. The overall number in favour was around 75%. However, the rules for passing this measure were that each house had to approve the measure by a two-thirds majority, and the percentage in the house of laity was only 64%. By six votes the measure did not pass laity and did not pass at all.
I was gutted. Silently gutted, unlike a particularly unpleasant little (literally) anglocatholic man who was also watching in the Abbey Room. After hearing that the measure had not carried in the house of laity he shouted “Yes” at the top of his voice. Prior to announcing the result ++John Sentamu had requested that all those watching in the Church House were to please keep respectful silence on hearing the result. Clearly this message hadn’t transmitted to this particular man, or he chose to ignore it. It was an incredibly ungracious moment…
I will admit it – the legislation was not good. It was not the legislation I wanted to see before the Synod, and was not the legislation I wanted to see passed. I want our church to declare that anybody can be a bishop regardless of colour, sex, sexuality, whatever, with no exceptions, get outs.
What we had instead was a bit of a fudge that tried to provide “provision” for those who could not accept the ministry of women. Those “provisions” were not far reaching enough for some, they were not “proper provision” – they voted against. We don’t know who exactly voted for and against, but it is thought that some of the supporters of women bishops also voted against, as they felt the provisions gave too much away.
It was bad legislation, but I still wanted it to pass. The legislation did make some provision (although clearly not enough for some) and possibly just, although I’m not sure, avoided enshrining discrimination in the legislation. What I wanted to see pass would be seen by those opposed as even worse legislation.
The mood at Church House was incredibly bleak. One young vicar watching with me in the Abbey Room threw his dog collar on the floor as he was taking in the result. As I talked to him afterwards he asked me, “What am I going to say to my friends who I can’t get into church anyway? What am I going to say from the pulpit on Sunday? What indeed.
This result is not the absolute catastrophe some have portrayed it as. There will be women bishops, and hopefully with no discrimination in the legislation; the majority of Synod voted for this legislation as did the diocese (42/44); and Christ is still risen, let us not forget that small detail! The waiting, though, is ridiculous now. This vote is hugely damaging for the church of england. Anyone saying this was a good result for church unity hasn’t got a clue – I cannot see how divisions are not simply going to grow on this issue.
It has been a gut punch, something that’s left me completely deflated since Tuesday evening. What made it feel worse was that I’ve been cooped up in work for the last two days (as you’d expect?!), when all I wanted to do was whatever I could to help and support those I love in the church I still seem to love. There have been many female ministers/priests who have played such an important part in my life of faith: Annabel Shilson-Thomas, Maggi Dawn, Julia Binney, Kathryn Fleming, Carol Jones. (So many apologies if I have left anybody out.) How this result must make them feel I can only begin to imagine.
Leaving me so deflated could have left me wanting nothing more to do with this church. Some people have talked about leaving: I can see why some people would want to run a mile. But it hasn’t had that effect on me. If anything, it’s made me want to get more involved, and help to right what I see as an injustice. The church is hurting (as am I), needs healing and I want, if I can, to help.