Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Time to think ... about Synod

P's & G's, complete with MDF gallery?
By the time I finish writing this, I'm sure everyone else will have moved on. But if I had attempted a blog post about Synod at the weekend, when all the other bloggers (sounds rude, that) were getting their posts out, I would have written something I'd subsequently regret. No; I needed time to reflect. And I'm glad I did - I hope I remember to return to why later.

Having been one of the signatories to a Rule 10 motion that would have hastened us along the path to legislating for same-sex marriage in church, I was pretty fed up when the motion failed to attract the two-thirds majority that would have allowed us to deal with the subject in open debate. Synod wanted the debate - but not quite enough of us wanted it. I have a strong suspicion that the secret ballot, as we tautologously referred to it, along with the confusion resulting from a bishop-led objection to a show of hands, led to several inattentive or merely poor souls voting the wrong way - in other words, not as they actually thought they were voting.

This raises another scunner (no, auto-correct, not scanner: I'm Scottish.) The venue for this year, the once-grand and now modernised cavern of P's & G's, didn't make for the same contact with the chair as we had in the more regimented but better-lit surroundings of Palmerston Place. Punters in the middle or rear of the space couldn't communicate confusion or unreadiness without a great deal of palaver involving roving mikes and the bearers of the mikes peering into the throng to try to find the confused/challenged/challenging one. This being the case, it was more than ever important for the various chairs to speak with clarity and decision, and certainly not to rely on the overhead screens to make up for the deficiencies in their own communication skills. (People don't always cast their eyes screenwards in moments of stress, especially when they're rummaging through their Synod papers and have their reading glasses on anyway.) And, as every teacher knows, you can't simply assume that everyone is paying attention the moment you open your mouth; the table-group layout makes (again, as every teacher knows) for covert communication or simple distraction.

But the single thing that got to me this year was the sudden descent of a whole bunch of protagonists into fuzzy, warm and ultimately vapid religious jargon. And tone. There. That's it. There's a whole raft of expressions that belong in this jargon, and some others that are pressed into service and will never be quite the same again (like Francis of Assisi after Margaret Thatcher had appropriated his words).  "Unpack" comes to mind, and they're not talking about the messages (shopping, if you're not from these parts). No-one called a spade a spade, let alone a bloody shovel, and there was no place for what one commentator has described as "honest fury". Those who were feeling such fury had nowhere to go, because it would have been smothered in soft fuzziness, smiled at and forgiven.

Now, I was personally grateful for individual kindness and concern in the aftermath, even as I still raged for friends old and new whose hurt and frustration were all too apparent - but I have huge problems for this kind of institutionalised, forced gentleness. For a start, I think it betrays the god I believe in. I think it castrates the prophet and makes a virtue of passivity. And where was the passion, the leadership that would have given some sense of a vibrant community realising its past and grasping the opportunity to move into a new, juster present?

I can't at the moment think if I'm actually at the end of my time on Synod, or if I have another year to go. Maybe someone reading this will be able to tell me. The Primus gave us a sliver of hope that things may move in 2015, but who knows whereI'll be then? A friend gave me even more hope in that  his perceptions have changed post-Synod, and that is joyous news. That's the news that makes me glad I waited to post this, as there would have been nothing to redeem the situation had I leapt in. But if anyone is planning any more soft play areas for the church, any more padded "conversations", I'll be returning to a quip that was going the rounds on Facebook recently:

If anyone asks you "What would Jesus do?", remember that overturning tables is always an option.


  1. This reminds me of the time (20 years ago now) when the question of women's ordination to the priesthood was being debated in the Church in Wales. The first Bill failed and yes, there was some of that warm fuzziness trotted out to try to console the majority who had voted for it. It didn't work. Within a couple of weeks a campaigning organisation had been set up and all my spare time for the next two years was taken up by being its secretary.

  2. We do need you back in the "there is no Rule 10 cabal" non-cabal, not just next year but when we get to vote on the draft Canon 31 and at the subsequent Diocesan synod and at the substantially voting General Synod.

    It is hard enough for people to stick their noses out, overtly and publicly oppose both the church leadership and the "respectful listening treacle". Even if you could find somebody as committed as you are (and coming from one of our further flung and more sparsely populated dioceses, that may be non-trivial), they are likely to a Synod newbie and, with respect, slightly less hard-boiled.

    I also didn't particularly enjoy the Ps&Gs experience. But had prior warning from Diocesan Synod. And was sat right at the front, so was rather more obvious.

  3. Can I just say that commenting on Blogger, linked through the iOS Facebook app, is a nightmare ...

  4. Matthew, I'm sorry about the comment thing - obviously it doesn't affect me, and I only use moderation because I had a troll at one time. I've used blogger for almost 9 years now, and am unwilling to migrate!

  5. Christine, it's neither you nor Blogger. It's Facebook's dreadful app. Much easier directly on the browser, as I am doing now.

  6. Is it possible for us even by Synod authority
    to graft what we have inherited from the first Adam
    onto the new creation life of the last Adam.