… except this time, I think it will be different. Ignore what the media are telling you – this is not a vote on whether women can be bishops. That was decided in favour, two years ago. The reason the measure failed last November is because the traditionalists who can’t in conscience accept women in authority felt that there were insufficient safeguards for them.
I noted that Archbish Justin grabbed this particular nettle very early on, when he appointed Canon David Porter (reconciliation guru based at Coventry Cathedral, my old stamping ground) as his adviser. Since then they have enlarged the lead discussion group, so that it now is made up of representatives of all the different shades of opinion.
Over the weekend at General Synod in York, David and his team which includes Mennonite colleagues have been working behind the scenes, and everyone has been discussing things in private, in small groups. Having had the privilege of training by the Mennonites, I suspect this will include each person being given the opportunity to say what they think. This is done without interruption. The main points of their opinion are read back to them to ensure accuracy (and also, sometimes if you hear your opinion coming from somebody else you realise it isn’t exactly what you thought!) Opposing parties are then given the same opportunity.
This simple approach means that everyone is listened to, properly. The next task is to look at what’s been said, and identify the main topics which are common to everyone. By this time you have got people working in a less head-to-head way, and a more side-by-side way.
The hope is that when everyone gets back to a plenary, it will be with a much better understanding of how and why others think the way they do. It will also have made the arguments clearer.
Last time the measure passed in the House of Bishops and the House of Clergy, and failed by a very small margin in the House of Laity. Let’s hope this time the heat will have been turned down, the light will be turned up, and a decision will be made in a spirit of love and charity!
I’m a deacon, and therefore this will not affect me personally (only priests are eligible to be bishops and I’ve never been called to priesthood.) Sometimes I wonder what all the fuss is about and why everyone is getting so wound up. but now I understand …
… now that looks like fun. Change of vocation, anyone?
(What are all the arguments about? for a simplified view check out http://godschool.blog.co.uk/2010/02/20/women-bishops-and-more-some-musings-8041570/ )