Synod is not, as many commentators are saying, the Church of England. (As in "Church of England rejects women bishops"). The Church of England is where I was last night, with a group of baffled women and men who worship in their local churches week by week, who work tirelessly to serve their communities in the name of Christ, and who see no connection between their lives and what happens in the Synod chamber. The Church of England has been saddled with a governing body which has only a tenuous connection with the body of the Church itself.
The synodical system was born in 1970, a product of the same post-war bureaucratic impulse which gave us Ted Heath's restructuring of local government and a whole culture of little committees and procedural rectitude throughout the nation's life. Business has long since moved on from this, the public sector is moving, but the Church remains wedded to it. Our system of governance is locked down by statutes, procedural rules, and glacial ponderings in interminable committees. General Synod yesterday epitomised this, as 7 hours of debate produced over a hundred speeches, largely saying what had already been said before, ending in an arcane vote which left us exactly where we were 10 years ago. Andrew Brown called it a "long and boring suicide note".
The system is no longer, if it ever was, fit for purpose. Synod is broke, and I dare anyone to say otherwise in the light of what happened yesterday. A majority, in the dioceses and in the chamber itself, voted in favour, but the measure was lost. Literally years of painstaking work was wasted because the rules say it cannot return to the Synod in the present 5-year term. The vote was decided by a small number of people who are in favour of women bishops but decided that the solution proposed was not sufficiently detailed. The will of the whole church was blocked by a minority who played the system more effectively than anybody else. Nor should this have been a surprise to anyone who has watched the antics of the Synod in recent years. Its world is one of motion and counter-motion, block votes and backroom deals, dusty briefing papers and divisions by houses. This is no way to do governance in the 21st Century.
It's being said that new Archbishop of Canterbury's first priority is to get the issue of women in the episcopacy through the Synod. Surely as he casts his eye over this antiquated and self-serving institution, his very first act should be to tear down the whole edifice and build something new in its place.