A few days ago I was at Wycliffe Hall, speaking to some Anglican ordinands about why everyone should do rural ministry. Unsurprisingly the conversation soon turned to LLF, and that General Synod vote. Since I am a member of Synod, I was quizzed about what had happened. After a bit, one student asked me, “Given what’s happened, how can you be so upbeat”?

It’s a fair question, and there are a fair few answers. The first thing to bear in mind to is that although a direction of travel is indicated, there is nothing new as yet which has been agreed upon. Key elements were missing from the Bishops’ proposals (such as guidance as to where, when and with whom these “blessings” might be used) and as it stands at the moment nothing has happened. This is the pregnant pause, the drawing up of lines of battle. There may be a time to leave, but this is not it.

Secondly, remember that the motion was not the overwhelming success bishops thought it would be. If six members of the house of laity have voted in a different way, the whole thing would not have passed. It really was that close, and what the vote shows us is the direction of travel of the bishops, not the Church of England as a whole. There is an awful lot of opposition, and you are not standing alone.

In fact, that is my third point. I don’t think I have seen such a strong, broad and deep evangelical unity in the Church of England as I see now. It often takes an emergency to bring a group together, and that is precisely what has happened. Make no mistake, it is in the evangelical wing of the Church of England that the numbers, spiritual vitality, missional impetus and money is found. This unity is a profound gift, and we must be sure to move together. We must not be divided, for if we are we cannot stand.

And to be sure our bishops are divided. Amongst themselves, and from their clergy and laity. What we received at Synod was an episcopal shrug and declaration that they couldn’t make up their mind. Instead, they kicked their disunity down to their parishes and insisted that the decision should be made by each incumbent. No strong call, but a whimper. This lack of unity means that any initiative like this cannot endure, and their lack of care towards their own clergy has elicited much support from the laity. Remember that the bishops are not the church – the church is the whole people of God.

Hold Firm

This vote of synod has brought attention from every part of the Anglican Communion, and a further reason to hold firm is that the communion is now in the process of realigning itself around its more faithful provinces (which is to say 75% of the worldwide Anglican Communion).

Read it all in The Church Society