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YORK: Archbishop of Canterbury addresses Synod

YORK: Archbishop of Canterbury addresses Synod

By Dr. Rowan Williams
July 12, 2010

Thank you very much Chair.

Mention was made on Saturday during the debate of the possibility of some presidential reaction to where we are in the process. After conversation over the weekend with many people from different stances within the Synod, it seemed right to say something this morning. First I'd like to say that I would want encourage Synod to complete the business here before it in York. It's very tempting at times of stress and difficulty, such as we've been through in the last couple of days, to think: "We'll drop it in the 'too difficult' basket" - I don't really think that's an option.

Archbishop Sentamu and I explained when we moved our amendment on Saturday that we didn't think a further referral to a revision committee would really help us at all at this stage and we remain of that view. We believe that we now need the dioceses to give their wisdom, their prayer and their thought to this process, and to move on.

The second thing I'd like to say is - and we've had a meeting of House of Bishops this morning - the House of Bishops will set in hand promptly the necessary work involved in producing a draft code of practice which will be available for debate in Synod, when legislation returns from the dioceses in about 18 months time. That, of course, is the moment at which we'll enter the final phase of this long and complex process. That is when all the material will be finally on the table.

I'm well aware that proposing an amendment as we did on Saturday, without an illustrative code of practice to accompany it, was asking a great deal of the faith and charity of Synod, but time was not on our side there. Nonetheless, the House of Bishops now wishes to proceed with as much speed as humanly possible to get that work done. That work will include trying to see how a code of practice can enshrine the best possible provision in the light of what we've heard and what we've discussed, in the light of the votes taken on Saturday.

You'll also be aware that the next phase of committal to the dioceses, it's possible for the dioceses to shape following motions. So the point I'm making is quite simply there remains work to be done. The House of Bishops will attempt to do the work that they need to do as swiftly and effectively as possible, and we ask for your prayers and support in what will undoubtedly be a very demanding task.

And third and last: obviously Archbishop Sentamu and I would have like our amendment to pass, that's what you do when you pose amendments, but we would want to encourage those disappointed by the outcome, and also the whole Synod as seeing that not as the end of the road. We are, in the Church of England, in the middle of both a legislative process and a process of discernment, and, I would dare to add, a process of service to one another.

The next phase of the work we try do together, I think has to be very, very closely focused on the service we seek to do one another. And that means of course, working in the interests of those who will be taking different decisions from our own, different paths from our own, so that all may grow up into Christ as best they can.

As the votes on Saturday illustrated, we remain as a Synod, it seems, committed by a majority to the desirability to seeing women as bishops for the health and flourishing of the work of God's Kingdom in this Church and this nation. We're also profoundly committed by a majority in the Synod to the maximum generosity that can be consistently and coherently exercised towards the consciences of minorities. We have not yet cracked how to do that. We all know that. To recognise it is not at all to gloss over it or to say that there is some kind of 'synodical juggernaut' which has to roll on regardless of the unfinished business that Saturday put before us.

So, that's it really - we have to recognise that those two goals are still the goals before us. Holding together is desperately difficult and to see it perhaps in terms of the service we give to one another may at least give us all a sense that we have something to work for in this process - and that, I hope, is what today will help us forward with. So I hope we can this morning recommit ourselves to that search for the goals that Synod seems to have settled upon, to do that in love and in hopefulness, in awareness of the extremely difficult decisions that face many and not minimising those and yet also in the belief that we are - in serving one another here - quite simply, serving the God who calls us.

Thank you.

+Rowan Cantaur

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