Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Majority Affirms Majority

Newsnight on BBC 2 Monday evening was wallowing in the "unclarity" of the Church of England General Synod's decision regarding declining all but a statutory code of conduct for opponents of women bishops. It is grasping a prickly nettle all right but the vote is not large enough for a two thirds majority in all three houses when the actual legislation arrives.

The Bishop of Durham Tom Wright seemed to be nervous, and contemplating a split on other matters (according to The Guardian):

The Bishop of Durham said such a vital and sensitive debate should not have taken place a week before Lambeth, the once-a-decade gathering of the world's Anglican bishops. He called for unity amid the mood of unhappiness and disunity.

The Right Rev Tom Wright said: "There might be some things that we might eventually have to split over. This should not be one of them."

The Church of England knows it has to cross the rubicon on this matter, even at this time, and has done so. Synod agreed with Tom Butler to press on not Tom Wright to kick it into the grass. But what odd wording!

That this Synod:

(a) affirm that the wish of its majority is for women to be admitted to the episcopate;

(b) affirm its view that special arrangements be available, within the existing structures of the Church of England, for those who as a matter of theological conviction will not be able to receive the ministry of women as bishops or priests;

(c) affirm that these should be contained in a statutory national code of practice to which all concerned would be required to have regard; and

(d) instruct the legislative drafting group, in consultation with the House of Bishops, to complete its work accordingly, including preparing the first draft of a code of practice, so that the Business Committee can include first consideration of the draft legislation in the agenda for the February 2009 group of sessions.

What if it did not affirm that its majority is for women to be admitted to the episcopate? Would that mean there was still a majority? This could have been a strategy for Robert Mugabe where voters could have been asked to affirm that a majority support Mugabe. They might not have affirmed it, but Mugabe could have said that he still as a majority!

It'll be a while before the traditionalists will have to decide to go (or not) - some may start considering the future now. The Pope may take an early view too, oh how he could do what Tom Wright fears, plus it gives GAFCON a second recruiting motivator, even if GAFCON is divided on the issue.

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