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Wednesday, 28 February 2007

On Making People Feel Included. Or Not. - (a) 28Feb2007

So. The long expected debates on Lesbian & Gay Christians, and Civil Partnerships, at General Synod.

Firstly, the Bishops had been a bit sneaky on both of these. I think probably rightly. I think they were probably trying to pre-empted a much worse set of discussions - even if they wound up many in Synod by their (we are not allowed to call them 'wrecking') amendments, morning and afternoon.

Almost immediately we were in to Synod politics. A move for 'Next Business'. To kill the debate? Possibly, but the speaker actually gave quite eloquent reasons as to why this discussion now might not be the best timing (with Tanzania just last week; and press headlines of a "Church obsessed with sex", he may well have had a point). But Next Business-ing it would have meant that it could not come back to Synod within the 5 years of this quinquennium. That lost.

And was almost immediately replaced with a move to 'Adjourn' the debate (not as devastating a consequence as Next Business). Again that lost. So for a moment it looked like there may be have been no debate at all, but it did then get started.

For those who had been in any doubt before as to whether this motion might shift the base of the theological position of the CofE, there was now quite a lot of clarity. That was indeed the thrust of those supporting the motion. And many in Synod felt that was already long over-due.

There were also a number of very spirited rejoinders from those seeking to maintain the historic position. What was encouraging from - most of - these was a fairly genuine warmth, and a desire to see progress on from just listening, to engaging dialogue, and even in some ways working together.

The lead Bishop (both very cleverly chosen, I thought) introduced his amendment to the motion. Some felt that this significantly reduced the effectiveness of the original motion, but soon there was an additional amendment, which cleverly managed to bring much more sensitivity to the gay aspect of the motion, whilst not alienating so many of the conservatives or traditionalists.

There were many eloquent, passionate, and wide-ranging speeches. And not too much rubbishing of other peoples theology and Biblical interpretation.

The amended amended (not a repeated word!) motion was then put. (It is always hard for the original proposer of a motion that, now amended, bears little relation to what you thought you had proposed. I myself got caught out with that in another synod in another place - having to ask people to vote in favour for something I was no longer sure I supported.)

However, it was passed, and by a big majority.

Some felt that it was 'not much progress'. But then for some others it was several stages further than they might have originally wanted too go. It has been described as "could have been worse" by quite a few. And apart from the mealy-mouthed tenor of such a comment, I think actually, it could, indeed, have been much much worse for either one 'side' or another. In the end a long and intense debate seemed to get to reach quite a significant place. I, for one, was relieved it was not much, much worse.

(problems connecting in the chamber again earlier... got posted eventually...)

Alastair GS101

1 comment:

Kevin Lewis said...

A very good summary of events, following an intersting debate. It was my first time at Synod, and despite feeling initially out of my depth for not being a public school male in my late 50's or early 60's, I discovered that (most!) in Synod are actually normal human beings. Quite a discovery!