On behalf of Guidford Diocesan Synod, Canon Robert Cotton has just successfully moved a motion to ask the House of Bishops for an account of exactly how the various institutions of the Church of England in particular and the Anglican Communion as a whole relate to each other. I wish them luck - not least because some of the various Bishops' contributions made it quite clear that they were not exactly of one mind. ++York, for example, was very keen to impress upon us the Synod was not a parliament, and that it did not govern, although it did legislate. I don't know if it's what he intended, but the impression he gave me, at least, was that we really ought to do what we were told by our bishops without making so much fuss. In this, he was echoing +Durham, who in a speech of great oratorical style, made it quite plain to us that he thought we were in a mess right now, and that we needed strong guidance from the Bishops in order for us to get out of it.
Now, I'm enough of a Catholic to be entirely happy with a Church structure that presupposes obedience to my Bishop, and through him my Metropolitan, but the Church of England as it stands is not quite like that. The very existence of some of its institutions implies that in the Church of England the word of the Bishops in Synod is not law. What is more, in implying that this is - or should be - the situation, the bishops are being more than a little inconsistent. There was a definite undercurrent to this morning's debate that reflected on the position we found ourselves in last night, and +Durham in particular was clear in his view that the Synod as a whole had caused a difficult situation to become worse by behaving like a Parliament. The clear implication was that if we had been guided firmly by the bishops it would have been far better. I would have far more sympathy with this view if it were not for the fact that we actually did follow the bishops' lead - the motion we passed was substantially the motion they put in front of us.
No doubt there will be much more chewing over all of this in due course - both on this blog and elsewhere - and I am sure that as we all head off home I will not be the only one wondering exactly how we ought to be relating to our fellow members of the Church of England, and the Communion as a whole.
Any episcopal volunteers to blog from Lambeth?