Friday, October 22, 2010

More thoughts on the Synod controversy (and no more)

The recent post about the failings of synodical process has generated an unprecedented amount of traffic to these pages, even to a rare mention from the Church Mouse, and spun off all kinds of surprising conversations elsewhere in the online universe. Pleasant as it is to have the attention, it has made me re-examine what I said in the light of the knowledge that people are actually reading it, and I feel a few more thoughts are in order:
  • Always Hope has never pretended to be offering fully thought through opinions. It's more in the line of "thinking aloud", and I do welcome people's feedback, because the conversation is interesting, and it helps me form the thoughts more carefully. It may even be that I sometmes deliberately overstate the point. This is not because I court controversy - it's just what I call humour. Regular readers may get used to this and perhaps forgive me for it.
  • You might be interested to know that though I personally am in favour of women in the episcopate, I would have liked to see a more formal provision for those who aren't. But I do stand by my comments about the behaviour of these "groups" on Synod. What has bothered me is not their aims, but the way they are behaving. Today I'm reading Ephesians 4:1-16, which talks about Christian unity. Unity does not have to presume absolute uniformity, but Ephesians says that the defining characteristics of Christian unity are charity and maturity, and I don't see much evidence of either of these in the way this episode has been played out.
  • I have had several comments suggesting that I must be a bit of an innocent abroad if I think that the process of church governance can ever be non-political. This is very interesting. Of course what I was actually trying to say was that the Synod seemed to be aping the kind of politics that we see at Westminster. As well as being rude, this was making the point that it might be better for the church to develop its own model. Of course there are always going to different interests at work in a gathering like the Synod. But block voting? Manipulation of the agenda? Spinning the issues? These are not acceptable, and yes, even if the Bishops do it, that doesn't make it any better (worse, really). And am I really so naive to want a group of Christians to debate in a mature and honest way? I don't think so. We live in a fallen world, but our calling is to be transformed rather than conform. A bit of skulduggery at Synod might be inevitable, but I don't have to like it, nor do Synod members have to engage in it quite so enthusiastically.

Anyway, talking of being mature, time to move on. Thanks particularly to Alastair to a timely reflection on the choosing of words.

3 comments:

Gurdur said...

Bit of a pity you feel like moving on. You have something worthwhile to say, even if I disagree with it.

Pam said...

"am I really so naive to want a group of Christians to debate in a mature and honest way? I don't think so"

No, you are not naive - Synod is an elected body and people who are elected should be held to account. You have a perfect right to do that.

I think your original suggestion of a code of conduct for Synod members is a good one. It seems to me that some of the comments you've had imply that it is OK for people to act 'politically' - yes it is, and people in groups will always be 'political' - that's part of how organisations make decisions.

However, once politicians have been elected to office, they are accountable for the way in which they carry out their duties, and if they are seen to be acting purely out of self interest (as with the expenses scandal) or purely in the interests of their own supporters this is rightly censured.

Many Christian organisations make the mistake of assuming their members, being Christians, will act correctly without the need for any formal encouragement to do so. And indeed, if we all adhered to our basic Christian codes of conduct - the 10 Commandments and the Beatitudes - that would probably be the case. As it is, though, I think that General Synod as a legislative body certainly should spell out what is expected of its members.

Perhaps if General Synod did have a code of conduct which was effectively administered, those who don't believe codes of conduct provide protection would see that they are actually very good at delivering accountability.

Suem said...

For what it's worth, my comment about "you thought Synod was about prayer and discernment" was a bit of a "tease":)

I think there is prayer and discernment, there is also politics and lobbying. When people feel strongly about issues, they will take action to secure what they feel is the right path for the Church, not just their own "vested" interests.

Does prayer, love, grace and discernment mean that we don't take the action that we feel it is right to do? I don't think so. I think given some of the very strong feelings and issues at stake, it is surprising we have not had more politics and bitterness than we have. The Cof E can be quite gracious, and I would like to see us hold on to this. With parishes electing to go to Rome, for example, I hope issues of property etc can be resolved in a positive spirit - with no recourse to the courts.