General Synod meets to discuss
salvation, redemption and evangelism feminism, gayness and fashion
The General Synod of the Church of England meets in London today (and tomorrow, and on Wednesday). As far as the media are concerned, there are only two items on the agenda - women bishops and all things gay.
Because that's all the Church ever talks intensely about - gender and sexuality; specifically feminism and gayness. These raise the strongest emotions, for and against. Is it acceptable for two men to marry, or two women to be blessed? Can they say, "God made us this way?" Is same-sex relationship a bar to ordination? "Why does the Church bless hamsters, buildings and trees, but not a sincere, monogamous homosexual union?" These are matters of value, justice and equality.
And it's true that the main item of business is the Revision Stage for the draft legislation to enable women to become bishops. In an unusual move, this will be taken on the floor of the Synod without there having been a prior Revision Committee. There will also be three other debates as part of the women bishops process: on the Declaration and Disputes Resolution Procedure agreed by the House of Bishops in December; to initiate the process to rescind the 1993 Act of Synod; and to suspend part of the Standing Orders in order to accelerate the process for referring the legislation to the dioceses.
But there will also be important debates on gender-based violence, the Girl Guides’ Promise, the environment and fossil fuels.
These won't get so much coverage from the media.
Well, the Girl Guides' Promise might, but only in the context of how anachronistic and absurd such oaths are in this secular age of enlightenment.
And fossil fuels might, in the context of how irresponsible the Church is to support fracking.
And the environment might, because it has been a bit wet lately.
But the second main item of business will be a presentation from the House of Bishops Working Group on Human Sexuality. Sir Joseph Pilling will participate, and he will explain the genius of his via media on gay marriage.
This will comprehensively eclipse the motion from the Guildford Diocesan Synod on Magna Carta, because that's far less titillating.
It will also overshadow the presentation on ethical investment by the Ethical Investment Advisory Group, which will give an overview of the Church of England’s approach to ethical investment, in particular the work it has done on reflecting the Church’s position on alcohol more faithfully, and supporting purposeful investment in business. That's just one big yawn.
Pilling might be fused in some people's minds with the debate on legislative change in relation to child safeguarding, which has been developed in response to the reports of the Chichester commissaries. This includes making it easier to suspend clergy, or bring complaints against them when abuse is alleged, enabling bishops to compel clergy to undergo risk assessments and imposing a duty on relevant persons to have regard to the House of Bishops’ safeguarding policies.
So it's kind of all about women bishops, gay marriage and paedophiles, really.
The Archbishop of Canterbury will give a Presidential Address on Wednesday.
But nobody will be overly concerned with that, unless he has a go at Wonga or says something which may be interpreted as a "split" or "schism".
Oh, His Grace almost forgot.
There's a Private Member's Motion (a kind of EDM) to be moved by the Rev'd Christopher Hobbs, which calls on the General Synod to amend Canon B8 so that the wearing of the forms of vesture referred to in that Canon "becomes optional rather than mandatory". The media will like that one, too.
So it's really all about women bishops, gay marriage, paedophiles and fashion.
Welcome to the Vogue Synod.
His Grace really must look into being co-opted.