Martin Hislop examines the proposals to rescind the Act of Synod

The Diocese of Southwark, self-appointed trail-blazer in innovation and ‘progressive’ thinking, is leading the call to repeal the Act of Synod. Encouraged by GRAS and Affirming Catholics (virtually interchangeable entities), a motion calling for repeal will be debated at the March Diocesan Synod.

The things they say

Recently I attended two deanery synods and heard two speakers deliver the same call for the end of the Act of Synod on the grounds of its alleged illogicality; its divisiveness; its undermining of episcope; its negative impact on ecumenical relations and its unacceptability to the outside world because of its offence to women.

Both speeches commenced with the assurance that the repeal presents no threat to the Measure and the availability of Resolutions A & B to parishes. Such assurances seek only to disguise the real agenda that drives this campaign.

This is a pre-emptive strike by those who fear that the experience of the campaign for women’s ordination will be revisited in the battle for admission of women to the episcopate. The zealots who campaigned for women priests see in the Act of Synod (and even in the Measure) a generosity that is unacceptable. For them, as Bishop Baker of Salisbury wrote, when he voted against the Act of Synod, it is not a question of righteousness but what is ‘right’. For them the House of Bishops, the General Synod and the Eames Commission are all wrong. No dissent to this innovation can be tolerated.

For them their victory was watered down by the House of Bishops. The zealots fear that the bishops will be even more circumspect when it comes to admission to their sacred club. Nothing must be allowed to tarnish the glittering prize of the jewelled mitre.

The real Agenda

The real agenda was revealed at the Merton Deanery in December when the advocate for repeal, Canon John Shepherd of Battersea, forcefully argued that there may have been grounds for some transitional consideration for priests ordained before 1992, but that any man seeking to be ordained after 1992 should accept that decision. If he had any doubts or misgivings, he must keep them to himself!

This is not far from the Canadian and American stance that insists not only that candidates for ordination must NOT oppose the ordination of women, but that they must manifestly embrace it.

The assurance given that parishes may still have Resolutions A & B is exposed as worthless against the determination to ensure that any period of reception is over and that the ‘right’ position prevails. Remove the Act of Synod, dispense with Extended Episcopal Care and require from candidates to ordination and those seeking preferment that they assent to the new Holy Writ of women’s ordination and Resolutions A & B have been rendered meaningless. What point is there if there are no priests to make that affirmation?

Resolutions A & B may remain on the statute books, but they will be like the meeting of the Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral to elect an archbishop – an empty gesture.

Martin Hislop is parish priest of St Luke, Kingston, in the Diocese of Southwark.