Monday night’s decision by the General Synod to move towards legislation enabling the ordination of women to the episcopate in the Church of England has devastated many who find this unacceptable. Conversations over the last 24 hours with those opposed to women bishops clearly suggests that their real dismay is not about women bishops (as they had foreseen that this was an unstoppable cause), but in not being accommodated within the Church of England by something stronger that a Code of Practice.
As ever in pastoral ministry, all one can do for people as they grapple with reality is to be there for them – walking closely as they tread the path of understanding. Reality and the truth about a situation or about life is frequently disturbing, yet is is only when we have recognised truth, that we can really respond creatively to life as it is, rather than as we had hoped it would be.
Monday night’s vote confirmed the reality that we have become a different church. A Church open to being challenged and shaped by our culture; a church ready to revisit our theology because of questions asked of us by the world we are called to serve; a church not prepared to enshrine division within its legislation.
Yet I am very aware of good friends and others who are hurting as they encounter the reality of the church we have become. It is not a time for celebration by those who are encouraged by this decision, but for walking close with those who are hurting, as they discover ways of responding creatively to the reality of the church we have become.
I am among those who believe that the church has always been reshaped by is culture and that the only constants are the values of the Kingdom which the Spirit breaths through history , leading us into truth – but I still want to close to those who see it differently, for we would be less if they walk at a distance to us or we to them.