Constituency. Integrity. It is not the name that is at issue, but its boundary. The narrowest definition of ours might be the ‘Resolution C’ parishes. The broadest might include any who would call themselves traditionalist. Certainly the broad penumbra of those unhappy with the liberal bias of the CofE is of real importance: FiF, Reform, SSC and the Catholic societies, all seek to serve and renew beyond their immediate membership.
How should the broad and narrow integrities relate to each other? This is what makes it interesting. The forthcoming Sacred Synod will draw on the broad definition of the clergy constituency, and its topics (marriage, authority, unity, liturgy) are necessarily of wider interest. But what will bring us to London is a deeper and perhaps unspoken question, ‘Who will still stand when the next storm sweeps over us?’
It is inevitable that the acceptance of women bishops will occasion a greater crisis that did that of women priests in 1992. Do we really want another fight so soon? Definitely not. But simply keeping our heads down will not save the Church of England nor ensure the survival of what we believe in.
When we climb up out of the trenches and face the storm of fire (and the proponents of women bishops have every right to want to defeat us) who will go with us? Either we march together or we do not march at all. Who is this ‘we’? That is what we will discover at the Synod. Each of us asks it of each other. It is a question as clergy we ask of our bishops. As they do of us.
‘I’d climb the highest mountain, if I knew that when I got there, I’d find you,’ sang the incomparable Ink Spots. Lovely harmonies but a poor declaration of commitment. Wouldn’t we all? If the prize were guaranteed, we would all enlist; if victory were certain, we would all fight side by side.
‘Will we stand together when the next tempest rages?’ It may not be on the agenda, but that is the question many of us will be bringing this October. So, dear Father, have you registered? And to lay people: are you urging your vicar to go?