Success at Synod

General Synod - July 2014

Over 40 people gathered at General Synod on Monday evening for  the Accepting Evangelicals fringe event.

That in itself was a success.  It had been a very long and emotional day, as the legislation on women bishops was debated and voted through – itself a historic moment for the church – and I secretly wondered how many of the Synod members who had signed up to attend would be too exhausted to come.

I need not have worried.  We actually had more people arrive than we expected, including members of Reform, Anglican Mainstream and a range of church traditions.

Our speakers were David Runcorn and David Ison – Bishop David Gillett had to step down as he is recovering from major emergency surgery (and is making a good recovery) but needs to rest.

David Runcorn is the author of the ‘Including Evangelicals’ section in the recent CofE Report on sexuality – the Pilling Report.  For us this report has marked a watershed, as for the first time, it has recognised the diversity of theological understanding amongst evangelical Anglicans on sexuality.

David Ison , as Dean of St Pauls Cathedral in London is one of the most senior members of the clergy in England.

Both identify themselves as Evangelicals and both spoke passionately and theologically about the need for the Church to continue its journey of understanding on sexuality.  Both argued that the journey is 3-fold – an emotional journey, a hermeneutical journey, and a journey into a new community of faith.

David Ison ended with these words,

“All of us across the church, including the wide variety of Evangelicals and our viewpoints, are indeed on a journey. Wherever we start from, we’re called to grow into Christ: and as we grow closer to him, and are formed more into his likeness, so we grow closer to one another. For all of us, journeying into Christ will make sex and gender less important, and love more vital. We have a vision of a new community in the kingdom of God, and a calling to make that kingdom more of a reality in this fallen world: and the challenge to us is how we are going to build it.”

You can read the script of both speeches by following the links below.  We are extremely grateful to both Davids for giving their time and theological expertise.  The meeting finished with buzz groups around each table and questions to our speakers.  At all times the atmosphere was friendly and enquiring.

The last time we hosted a meeting at General Synod was 10 years ago on the weekend we launched Accepting Evangelicals.  We won’t leave it so long next time – we may even be back next year!

Benny Hazlehurst
Director of Accepting Evangelicals
 
 

For pdf’s of both speeches click the links below:pdf_icon

AE synod address – David Runcorn

AE Synod address – David Ison

 

Coming Out at General Synod

General Synod Feb 2014The Church of England’s General Synod met in London this week and took the next steps in dealing with two contentious issues.

The first was legislation to bring women bishops a step closer, unpicking the fiasco of November 2013 when a small number of ‘No’ votes held the church to ransom.  This week however, the vote was decisive and clear.  The next steps of legislation sailed though and actually speeded up the process.  As result we may finally see women bishops early next year.

The second was a presentation on the Pilling Report on Human Sexuality with an opportunity for Synod members to ask questions about the process by which its recommendations are to be considered and implemented.

The Archbishop of Canterbury referred to both these issues in his presidential address.  On the subject of sexuality, he talked of enabling the Church of England to ‘disagree well’ and seek the flourishing of every part of the church – progressive and conservative.  He also echoed previous statements he has made about the dangers of sticking with the current position which refuses to acknowledge or endorse same-sex relationships.

“We have received a report with disagreement in it on sexuality, through the group led by Sir Joseph Pilling.  There is great fear among some, here and round the world,  that that will lead to the betrayal of our traditions, to the denial of the authority of scripture, to apostasy, not to use too strong a word. And there is also a great fear that our decisions will lead us to the rejection of LGBT people, to irrelevance in a changing society, to behaviour that many see akin to racism. Both those fears are alive and well in this room today.

We have to find a way forward that is one of holiness and obedience to the call of God and enables us to fulfil our purposes.  This cannot be done through fear. How we go forward matters deeply, as does where we arrive.”

But the most striking contribution to that debate came in the questions on the Pilling Report, when Canon Simon Butler posed the following question:

“My question requires a little context and a large amount of honesty. I’m gay; I don’t have a vocation to celibacy and at the same time I’ve always taken my baptismal and ordination vows with serious intent and with a sincere desire to model my life on the example of Christ simul justus et peccator. Those who have selected me, ordained me and licensed me know all this. My parish know this too.

My question is this: at the end of the process of facilitated conversations will the College of Bishops tell me whether there is a place for people like me as licensed priests, deacons and bishops in the Church rather than persisting in the existing policy that encourages a massive dishonesty so corrosive to the gospel? For my personal spiritual health, for the flourishing of people like me as ministers of the gospel and for the health of the wider church I think we will all need to have a clear answer to that question.”

Simon is an evangelical vicar in South London.  Although his sexuality has been known to his friends for some time, this is the first time he has spoken in such a public way at General Synod about it.  His example is both an encouragement and a challenge to church leaders and Bishops to lift the veil of silence and speak openly and truthfully about their sexuality. 

It must have taken considerable courage to make his statement and yet this is the kind of honesty which we need, if we are to have the genuine and open conversations which will lead us all forward ‘in Spirit and in Truth’.

To read the Archbishops address in full, follow this link