After due electoral process (on which, in an article in this edition (see page 11), Canon Tony Delves has brought his sagacity and wit to bear) Her Majesty the Queen has inaugurated a new quinquennium of the General Synod.
In the avalanche of papers which they receive, new members of the Synod will also get, for the first time, their complimentary copy of New Directions. It comes with our good wishes to all those who are prepared to give their time and attention to the business of the Church. And it comes as a reminder that, after nearly twenty years, opponents of women priests and bishops are still here – in numbers scarcely changed and in determination undiminished.
It seems not unlikely that a modest degree of global warming has affected the Synod. But a marginal swing in the elections brings with it additional difficulties – not only for traditionalists but for the Church as a whole. The failure of the Women Bishops legislation at the last hurdle is now a clear possibility. But it would surely be a tragedy for all parties. There would be anger and frustration on the one hand, and even greater apprehension about the future on the other.
Much of this edition of New Directions is devoted to Anglicanorum Coetibus and its out-workings in Ordinariates shortly to be established in three Anglican Provinces. We seek to reflect to the wider Church all that is happening in the orthodox constituency. But it would be foolish and premature to conclude that, because the ordinariates exist, opposition to women priests and bishops in the Synod and the Church will simply ebb away. Many await the decision of the Synod before making a decision about their own future.
They look for this Synod intelligently and generously to renew and extend the provision for them which Synod made in 1992/3 – and which it then promised would last ‘as long as it was needed’.
It is sometimes argued that one Synod cannot bind its successors. But that is neither a necessary nor an admirable principle. Some undertakings are morally binding; and the credibility of democratic institutions is dependent on the respect which such undertakings require and demand.
As the long process of legislative drafting draws to its close, there is, admittedly, little room for manoeuvre. Following motions from Diocesan Synods might affect the shape of the legislation somewhat. But the last chance to bring the matter to an honourable, equitable and successful conclusion lies with the bishops.
We pray for them. Like St Paul, they are both tempted and required to be all things to all men (and women). Never more than now have they needed the charism which comes with their office: to discern what it true and just, and to do it.
As press coverage reveals, the nation is delighted that Prince William has at last decided to wed Kate Middleton.
We echo the nation’s good wishes and prayers. In choosing Westminster Abbey (for a service which, as The Dean of Westminster, Dr John Hall has said will have ‘their personal commitment to each other at the heat of it’), they are choosing to associate their own wedding with that of William’s parents. And that was in an era of national austerity far graver than that which affects us now.
To every marriage there are pitfalls. Adjustment to married life is never easy. And surely, for anyone marrying into such a family, it is daunting indeed. But we trust that Miss Middleton will be sustained
by the prayers of all people of good will; and that the press has learned from past experience to respect her privacy and dignity.
Few can fail to have been shocked by the comments of the Bishop of Willesden, who has justly merited the censure which the Bishop of London has visited upon him. To quote the Dean of Westminster again, Pete Broadbent’s words were ‘entirely crass and extremely offensive’. New Directions looks to the bishops of the Church to defend the sanctity of marriage as a sacrament of the Church, and to witness robustly to a society which seems often to ignore or denigrate it. But cynicism and sarcasm have no place in the pastoral care and concern which every priest should exercise toward couples who seek the Church’s blessing in good faith and with right intention.