Conflict resolution in a Christian environment is what is surfacing time and time again during this summer of reflection.
The July 2010 General Synod of the CofE has not resolved issues but has taken decisions that have further entrenched both sides of the issues surrounding the admission of women to Anglican Holy Orders. As the dust settles it seems that the taste of victory is not satisfying those who seem to be victors, and the bitter taste of rejection is making pain more acute to others. Where do we go from here?
Thinking about Synod it is good to reflect on what synod really is. The word is made up of two Greek words syn=with and hodos=road. Synod means journeying together. In the context of the Christian tradition this means looking after each other and placing the interests of the other first (as all are created in the image of God and in each other we see Christ) we make sure that all have the necessary to freely follow Christ on this earth till we are fulfilled in the Kingdom which is and is yet to come. Clearly the majority of General Synod of the CofE is not doing this as it refuses to hear those who seek redress for what they know is an injustice of significant proportions. The so called “painful compromise” which some are seeing as a healing and generous provision is in fact a measly bandage to cover without treating a very deep and serious wound. This is not Christian in any sense of the word and by no stretch of fertile imagination.
If in Christ we take each other seriously and respectfully, as we should, what is on offer will not do.
If some plead that they have the right for ordination (and nobody does) how can they be people of integrity if they are deaf and blind (wilfully?) to those who have the right to follow Christ freely in the Church in a secure and honoured way that will enable them to flourish (and all have this right).
The issue therefore is: when a local Synod (as the General Synod of the CofE is) comes to an impasse (as we clearly are in) how do we move forward?
Some suggest put up or shut up, as some rude correspondent known as Poppy Tupper longs for the day when those like me should go to Rome or wherever so that the Affirming clergy can take over our altars and much loved people. That this will not do in the Mystical Body of Christ is obvious.
There is another road. If the CofE General Synod is not able or willing to share Good News with all members of the CofE, then we need to seek remedy elsewhere. This is where the Archbishops in communion with all diocesans have this grave responsibility regarding the salvation of souls. How can this body proceed?
Passing the buck to diocesan synods to discuss what General Synod is proposing is legal but cosmetic. The bishops have made promises in their ordination and while sharing their duties with the laity and clergy (which is praiseworthy but not necessary for salvation) they cannot use this to flee their sacrosanct duties. In this stalemate it is their duty to listen, pray and find an honourable way out for all.
What is the question? It is not if women are to be admitted to Anglican Holy Orders or not. Sadly, these bishops have heard what our ecumenical partners had to say but decided to plough ahead anyways. The question now is: how do we honour the fundamental right of traditional Christians to have an honoured place in the Church and with integrity flourish. The easiest and simplest ecclesial solution would have been to create a separate jurisdiction, a diocese/s. Entrenchment has inhibited this good and just solution that would have honoured both integrities. The innovators need to keep in mind that traditionalist and orthodox Anglicans have not moved the goalposts but are faithful to what the Church believed always, everywhere and by everyone. This ecclesial problem needs an ecclesial solution and this is where the bishops must look; the Church.
The Church of Rome has offered an unprecedented gift and life line to the CofE. An Anglican Ordinariate will secure an honoured place in which traditionalists can flourish and leaves no corner in the CofE in which female Anglican bishops can have no jurisdiction. This seems to me a win win situation. The House of Bishops need the courage and the spirit of generosity to see how this can be smoothly implemented. If, as some commentators say, the number of parishes are so small (from two to five in every diocese) this should be easy to accomplish, and if the bishops set a sunset clause for five to ten years for other parishes to be able to adopt the scheme, this would be a generous period of reception which enables people to calmly decide or to make provision for their future. I am sure that it is not true that our bishops are seeking the pound of flesh with all the blood they can take with it.
This might be the best ecclesial solution for conflict resolution. The right of members of the Church to seek redress of grievances can be traced to Jesus himself who said that when his followers cannot resolve conflicts they should refer it to the Universal Church for redress. (Mt 18:15-18) St Paul admonishes to resolve such conflicts within the Church and not to use civil courts proceedings. What better way than the Anglican Ordinariate? And yes I know, hoping beyond all hope is a Christian virtue. Expecting the right solution from the present House of Bishops is, I trust, within reason.