Diocesan Synod votes for women bishops
High spot of Diocesan Synod on Saturday 10 May was undoubtedly the debate culminating in an overwhelming vote in favour of the Consecration of Women in the Episcopate.
By way of An Introduction, the Dean of Truro, Roger Bush, outlined the chronological background to the debate and pointed out that the latest proposal was radically different from the original, rejected by General Synod 18 months ago. “It is based on simplicity and a desire to move forward together,” he said, “Taking into account the views of all and bound by trust and not legislation.”
Speeches from the floor were heartfelt and measured, with the majority in support of the motion – citing a number of female Cornish saints; the past 20 years of joy and benefits gained following the ordination of women as priests; and the need to be less introspective and to take on board the views of the wider community. “This is all about simplicity, reciprocity and mutuality,” said one delegate. “It also seeks to meet the needs of the minority of opponents too,” remarked another.
Speakers against the proposals acknowledged that the deferral of 18 months had been a useful period for reflection and that removal of legislative measures was a positive step. However, in their opinion, there remained deep theological reasons why the consecration of women bishops was unnacceptable, and adoption of the proposals would shut doors to closer collaboration with Orthodox and Roman Catholic ecumenical partners.
It was also suggested that there were ongoing discussions behind the scenes such that delegates were not necessarily aware of the “full picture” and that the Bishops, the Working Party and General Synod were all devolving responsibility for making the decision to parishes rather than offering full guidance.
Summing up the Dean thanked all the speakers and said: “It has been a good debate that reflects where we are in this matter and a chance to clear away mutual suspicion.”
The final voting was: house of Bishops 2 For, 0 Against; House of Clergy 26 For, 1 Against; House of Laity 37 For, 2 Against. There were no Abstentions.
In his Presidential Address, Bishop Tim encouraged delegates to enjoy the season of Easter. “Look around you … what do you see?” he asked. “We are wonderful, incredible people … alive. It is truly miraculous, yet we can take it for granted.
“I don’t think we spend anything like enough time noticing how extraordinary we are as creatures and valuing and rejoicing that we are alive. This time of year especially we have a reason to take this challenge of noticing and valuing our aliveness seriously. It is Easter!
“I encourage you strongly to enjoy the whole season of Easter. Seven weeks of joyful awareness of the reality of new life in Christ.”
Bishop Tim pointed out that as well as the debate on women bishops, the subject of finance was on the agenda and that the figures might not “appear on the surface to be joyful”.
“We are looking at deficits in our budget and the matters are serious and we do need to take action to address them. My prayer is that we can view the matters of finance as a part of the wider picture.
“The money is not the problem. The problem is that we are too diffident in proclaiming our faith, too introspective in many of our actions and our words, and too limited in our vision.”
Bishop Tim urged delegates to read the book by Pope Francis entitled The Joy of the Gospel. “In it,” he said, “He (Pope Francis) comments that when people leave worship they should not always appear as if they are leaving a funeral!
“God does not call us to bland mediocrity; God does not call us to uniformity either of style, taste or views. God does not call us to agree at the lowest common denominator. God does not call us to be silent on the difficult and disturbing issues. God does not call us to refrain from telling the world we are his disciples. God calls us to be a fully alive, joyful Easter people.”
In his presentation of the Annual Accounts for 2013, finance director, Michael Kent, guided delegates through the unpleasant realities of an operating deficit and the measures being adopted to redress the situation, including the 3 Strands of the ‘Our Vision’ strategy and a radical review of the MMF system.
“Parishes have become so immersed in the struggle to meet their MMF obligations that they are putting maintenance before mission and disconnecting with the Church beyond their own parish boundaries,” he said. “This state of affairs is simply not compatible with the strategy of ‘Our Vision’.
Acting DBF chairman, Mike Todd, complemented Michael’s financial analysis with a presentation entitled ‘Moving Forward, Balancing the Books’. In it he described how during the next 12 months he would preside over a complete overhaul of the method by which the diocesan budget was set; such that it was realistic, stable and sustainable. It would adopt a simple top down, zero-based approach, closely involve the Deaneries and lead to focused decision making.
In other sessions, Sheri Sturgess, reported on November’s General Synod meeting; and Sarah Acraman sought approval for the diocesan safeguarding guideline documentation, ‘Responsible Caring’. She reported that, although there had been increased uptake in safeguarding training across the diocese, there was no room for complacency and that everyone should familiarise themselves with the definition of ‘vulnerable’ in the context of safeguarding.
During Synod, Bishop Tim paid particular tribute to the work of Roger Caudwell and Paul Terrett as they retired from the roles respectively as chairman and vice-chairman of the Diocesan Board of Finance.
He described Roger as “an extraordinary man – quiet and thoughtful, calm and careful, sharp and perceptive with an eye for detail and a heart for the Gospel”; and of Paul he said, “he filled every role imaginable within the governance of the DBF and indeed the diocese” – adding he was “erudite, witty, sharp and to the point, it seems to me he even knew Archbishop Benson before he came to the Diocese of Truro!”
Read the Synod Book for 2013 here