General Synod in July
General Synod in July is a strange event. 450+ people take over York University and spend up to 16 hours a day together over a long weekend debating, reflecting, eating, drinking, arguing, crying, worshipping together. Even if you're not an introvert, it's an exhausting and full-on time.
This year I was almost expecting a damp squib: LLF was on hold till November and two of the biggest agenda items were governance and the Mission and Pastoral Measure - important topics, on which some have strong opinions, but quite functional and dry for most people. That was before it became clear, in the last couple of weeks running up to Synod, that safeguarding would be on the agenda and the staff involved had either been sacked or resigned in dramatic circumstances.
As the situation unfolded that afternoon, the exact events and different understandings of what had happened, why, and the implications were unclear. What was clear was the complete mess and poor communication, miscommunication and possibly mal-communication, that was involved. Survivors remained unheard, and process, accountability and governance were still messy and unclear. It remains to be seen how this will work out, but I weep at how standing orders which are meant to serve the system to allow democratic accountability almost ruled the system rather than aided it. Nobody was benefitting from how things transpired, and we all need to get on our knees and pray for wisdom, clarity and paths to healing to emerge and guide what happens next. Jesus wept can be a phrase glibly applied, but this time it was true.
As to LLF, where our interests more directly lie, there was a 'bishops in conversation' session where GS members could ask questions. Implementation of the Prayers of Love and Faith is in train, though providing 'protections ' and reassurance is an area for quibbling and negotiations continue despite the obvious parallels with marriage in the church after divorce, both in function and practicalities, as well as squaring the circle of maintaining Canon B30 on 'traditional' marriage (whatever we may think of that). Issues in Human Sexuality will go, but again, do pray for those drafting its replacement (I was on the group looking at that and I am cautiously encouraged, despite those present who would love to roll it all back). One of the difficulties has been, and was even asked at GS, whether the bishops are actually capable of defining sex. It's quite strange really to have such strong opinions on who can and can't do something you're unwilling? unable? too embarrassed? to define! Though, more seriously, giving a definition risks laying bare some illogicalities around beliefs around non-procreative sex, which some don't want to admit.
Overall, synod was difficult, to be honest, but as ever too, the friendships, fellowship and camaraderie made it bearable. Our coalition of inclusive friends expressed in the GS Gender & Sexuality Group is a source of real encouragement. Please do continue to pray for this corner of the church, that it might express the radical love it claims to believe in and which so many of us are trying to express and just need the system to help us do more generously and honestly and graciously.
Jo Winn-Smith, Trustee