Jane Gore Booth
No doubt many readers of New Directions were despondent after July’s vote in principle to ordain women to the episcopate. In some ways, however, it was a good thing: if the motion had been defeated, the supporters of women bishops would just have continued with their campaign until they won, as they did with women priests.
Now we know where we are, and the next step for the Church of England is to work out a way of honouring the assurances made at the last two Lambeth Conferences, and in 1993 and 1994, that there remains a respected place in the church for those who cannot accept women’s ordination.
The importance of prayer
We do not know yet what provision we are likely to be offered, but there is no point in complaining afterwards if we do not pray now. It is essential that we pray daily, fervently, for the guidance of the Holy Spirit on the whole Church of England, and in particular on the members of the Guildford Group which will make recommendations as to the way forward.
This group includes the Bishop of Blackburn who is of our integrity. He needs our prayers. So do the brave bishops who, although in favour of women bishops in principle, realize that the Church is going about the process in the wrong way: General Synod should not have voted on the principle before diocesan synods and the wider church had had time to consider the theology in the Rochester Report. We must pray for those who may not agree with us but who are men of integrity and will be disposed to treat us fairly.
Of course we need to pray for those standing for election to the next General Synod. Let us pray daily for our candidates between now and the election in September, and after the election for the members of the Catholic Group who will have an important but difficult job in the next General Synod.
Our prayer must be generous. It should include those with whom we disagree. We need them to be both generous and fair, and why should they be if we are not generous enough to pray for them?
Some people do not see the point of intercessory prayer. But intercessory prayer is not an attempt to change God’s purpose but to release his purpose. Ask and you shall receive, we are told in the gospel.
So here is work for all readers of New Directions in the weeks and months and years ahead. Work for all readers: no one is too old to pray. Busy working people may have to snatch time for intercessory prayer on their journey to work or in their lunch hour. A list on a postcard, perhaps with different intentions for different days of the week, might help.
The elderly, the housebound and the sick will have more time. So pray, please. And as long as you are praying in the spirit of ‘Thy will be done’ nothing can go wrong. We do not know God’s plan for the Church of England or for the universal Church, but we do know that we can trust him to make all things right in the end.