Wednesday, 21 November 2012

A Church reaching out to women...

Today, like many people - women, men, bishops, priests and lay people - I am still in shock about the decision by Synod last night to narrowly reject the legislation that would have paved the way for women bishops as early as 2014.  Like many, I am waiting to hear what Synod will decide as the way forward.  Like many, I do believe the discussion will continue and I prayerfully hope, concrete plans and clear leadership will take precedence.

But today, I am deeply touched by what I am seeing and experiencing in the church.  Many, many women are deeply hurt, angry and feel betrayed by last night's decision but today, I am seeing women who are choosing to obey the call of God on their lives and who are putting on their clerical collars anyway and continuing to minister to their congregations and the wider communities around them.  I am seeing women who may be wiping away their tears but who are determined to stand together and to be faithful.

This morning, as a college community, we gathered together in the chapel and shared in the set Morning Prayer service from "Common Worship" - the book that shapes a great deal of worship in the Church of England.  Today's service spoke deeply of acknowledging hurt, betrayal, shock, confusion and judgement and of finding a way forward not by our own righteousness but by God's grace.  I experienced and saw people praying for each other - and not just praying for comfort for those who are hurt but praying for those who have made this decision and who must meet again to consider a way forward.  

I have seen people - women and men - reaching out to one another to say, "How are you doing today? How are you feeling?" and expressing love and support towards each other as we struggle with this decision.  I have seen, heard on the news and read online, the many statements by bishops who are expressing deep regret with this decision and who are committing themselves to find a way forwards that will include women fully in church leadership.  These same bishops are expressing a deep desire to care for those who are hurt by this decision.

I have received, and sent, a wealth of messages online and through Facebook expressing love and compassion to those who today are struggling.  I have received personal emails from friends and leaders in the church expressing sorrow for the decision, validation of the church's commitment to our vocation and calling as women and the offer of support for those who need time to talk.

In other words, contrary to some of the news headlines, today I see a church who are truly reaching out to one another, truly caring for each other and truly trying to love one another even in the midst of such deep disagreement.

It is true that I personally am shocked and angered by yesterday's decision and yet at the same time, I am deeply touched by the level of human concern and caring that is flooding our church today.  I pray that in the midst of this deep challenge, we can continue finding each other, caring for each other and talking - not for eternity on the same issue, but as a method to find a way forward.  And in the midst of it all, I pray we continue to show each other how deeply we care and love.

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