Following the defeat at General Synod in Nov 2012 of the legistlation to approve Women Bishops in the Church of England, a working group was appointed to explore a way forward. The working group have come up with four options to take this forward The issue is not whether Women Bishops should be allowed, but how to accomodate for those who by conscience cannot accept the authority of a woman. The Yes2WomenBishops campaign puts the options more clearly. Option one it seems is favoured by the House of Bishops and is the one which potentially is less enriched in law but more on trust, and options 2, 3, 4 potentially get more and more law bound. It could be that option 4 wouldn’t be approved by parliament anyway because it could potentially conflict with the law of the land, this would result in yet another ‘car crash’ a waste of two more years of work, deflation, pain, loss of hope and a further loss of credibility to the people we serve.
As far as I can see option 1 looks the most desirable as it stands at the moment. However, this is the option which will require us to TRUST one another.
Trust, a word we often hear preached from the pulpit. Trust is key in the development of our faith, in the flourishing of our relationship with Christ. Like a child jumping into her father’s arms from up high, trust is required. But she can only trust if she thinks the father won’t let her down. That he won’t move and leave her flat faced on the floor, damaged and isolated. This is the challenge of faith.
To trust is to have had some assurance that we can depend on that person. That they will do what they say they will, that their yes means yes and their no means no. We trust when integrity has been demonstrated. Trust in a new situation is often dependent on whether trust in the past has resulted in a positive outcome; was it worth the risk?
In contrast, when the goal posts change when we weren’t looking or without being communicated effectively, trust declines. Trust that has been deposited is withdrawn. Step by step trust can deplete, through misunderstandings, faulty listening as well as more obvious breeches of trust through abuse of power and shattered dreams.
Maggi Dawn in her book ‘Like the Wilderness of the Sea – Women Bishops and the Church of England‘ says this, ‘To wait through disappointments and broken deadlines while a resolution is repeatedly deferred is damaging to individuals, relationships and institutions.’ (p32). Whatever option is is chosen by General Synod, I think we need to clear the decks, come before God and confess our sins together as a Church, as the Body of Christ represented by the whole Church of England. The slate is clearing , most people do not want a repeat of Nov 2012 and nor do people want to continue to invest energy into this debate for another ten years. Further cleansing and preparation will demand forgiveness of one another, to put our individual hurts to one side and be prepared to tackle this issue afresh with new strength and energy. Led by the Breath of God, to re-deposit trust into the accounts, into the bodies of all sides of the debate.
To do this, each member of the body will need to reflect on their own integrity. Our motives and behaviours. Our consistency, reliability and authenticity will need self-examination. In theory as brothers and sisters in Christ this should be possible, we should be able to be a witness by the way we trust one another. Because we are prepared to action what we say we will, to live by our promises to one another. Shouldn’t we? To reflect to one another the faith we have in Christ. To live it out.
This is one of our greatest challenges at this juncture in the debate. Some may say it’s a pipedream.
New birth is painful. Delivery must come soon.
Surely we can do it without the epidural. To start again and to trust. To grow trust. To commit to try to trust.
When a comfortable level is reached by the grace of God and by the transformative power of the Holy Spirit, we will not need great walls of law to protect us, but quite simply trust.
Perhaps I am niave, but this is my dream and my prayer.