A WORD IN EDGEWAYS
When I was elected to General Synod in 1990, I saw myself in the role of a reformer able to re-focus the Church in the right direction, possibly by one major speech in a big debate. Between 1990 and 1995 I spoke for five minutes in a York debate on the family – I did not even get the expected ten minutes for a maiden speech, and apart from a question on China and the treatment of children that was the sum total of my contribution to the quinquennium. Of course, I voted on many issues including the 1992 debate on the Ordination of Women measure and felt this was an important aspect of Synodical ministry. I recall bobbing up and down that day, along with many others, hoping to be called to make that major speech – but alas!
Over the five years I became somewhat disheartened and withdrawn at the whole Synodical process and was quite prepared to wallow in self pity and blame the system. However, when it came round to a decision on whether to stand again in 1995, I realised this attitude was not good enough and a self examination was required as to what could be done in a spirit of humble obedience.
On re-election I vowed to be more of a participator rather than a critical spectator. In November 1995 I was called to speak twice – in the Lay Office Holders debate and also in the Clergy Conditions of Service debate, achieving instant national fame by being quoted in the broadsheets and in my own local press. I then received an invitation to serve on the Revision Committee of the Lay Office Holders working party and now this invitation to write in New Directions. I am not claiming these developments as being of vital importance in the life of the Church, but in some small way they may well serve as an example of what is possible given the right attitude.
This leads me on to one of my concerns for the Church of England. I am Chairman of my Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship, a member of Reform, Church Society and the Evangelical Group of the General Synod, and a supporter of The Christian Institute – no points for identifying my Churchmanship! More importantly, in this magazine as anywhere else, I want to use all my efforts to promote the unity of all believers around the authority of God’s written word. My concern is how little we use this authority in General Synod debates. Of course there are references made – it would be a strange Church body that made none – but I do wonder what is the impact of biblical contributions and how effective are they when they are used? In Hebrews 4 v 12 we read:
For the Word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and of the joints and marrow and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
As church workers in whatever capacity, ordained or lay, here is a resource that is unconquerable and not capable of being equalled by any opposition – and it belongs to us!
In, dare I say, a typical Church of England diffidential manner, the General Synod will spend some time at York in July debating the value of Bible Study sessions. Here is the Word of God, His complete message for the salvation of souls and the ordering of a lifestyle honouring to God our Maker, being treated as though there was something dangerous within its pages. And truly this is so for the unstable because it really does search us out ‘to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit … and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.’
At the February sessions of General Synod this year, I had prepared speeches for the Signs of Life debate and the Liturgical debates but I was not called to speak. This was back to the reality of Synodical life in all its ordinariness after the heady days of November and fleeting fame. In one of the speeches that I didn’t make I would have supported the Decade of Evangelism, but only on the basis that Bible preaching is the key to addressing our National and individual predicaments. The preoccupation with methods and apparatus (which appeal to the senses rather than the soul) is in direct contrast to the Gospels which contain little about methods and apparatus. St Luke, writing in Acts 19 v 20 records, So mightily grew the Word of God and prevailed and in the space of just three years the name of Jesus was magnified in Ephesus and the whole of Asia heard the Gospel. Like me, dear reader, I am sure you are convinced that the Word of God is like dynamite. It needs to be handled with care and attention and, like dynamite, nothing can stand in its way.
In the other speech I didn’t make, I was prepared to defend the Book of Common Prayer, principally because it contains sound doctrine, which in my opinion is sadly lacking in much of our modern material. My Bible quote would have been from Jeremiah 6 v 16:
Thus says the Lord: Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, “We will not walk therein.”
I believe we are living in spiritually exciting days and we in the Church need to be built up in our faith so that we can stand for the Faith and having done all, to stand.
Lewis Currie is a lay member of General Synod representing the Diocese of Bath and Wells. He is also a Reader.