Sitting with a member of clergy recently I encouraged them to reflect on how they normally discerned what God was calling them to do and suggested that is how they were likely to discern God’s movement in this instance.
This meeting led me to reflect on how the Church of England as a body has discerned God’s movement in the past, and how it is trying to do so now over issues like human sexuality, it has not been an easy or painless process.
Today the meeting of the church’s General Synod begins and the highest profile agenda item will be the report from the House of Bishops on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations. Its publication has attracted a range of responses – some people have felt betrayed and rejected and I recognise the legitimacy of their response but, as one of those on the drafting group, I can honestly say this was not the report’s intent.
The House of Bishops wants to affirm the integrity and value of each person affected by what is said in the report, and offered up the paper in all humility. I still stand by this intention and alongside all my colleagues, who served on the bishops reflection group, are motivated by the desire to find a way forward together.
We are an episcopally led and synodically governed church and the House of Bishops operate within the context of synod and ecclesiastical law. The debate which will take place on Wednesday at synod is a ‘take note’ debate. I pray that synod members will speak into the debate and as far as I am able I will play my part to ensure the House of Bishops takes note of all the responses.
The report from the House of Bishops has been offered up in prayer and, as others have said, it was not intended to be the final word, but a resource for dialogue. I pray that Synod will take seriously their role in reflecting back to the House of Bishops the response of the Church of England, and that they will be heard.