Signs of the Fall
Americans call this Season "The Fall". How especially appropriate that seems this year. Curiously, though as a retired bishop I have no vote, I was sent some of the addresses by would-be synodspersons. They will all be anxiously waiting on the result of the General Synod elections. For me, I fear (as someone said of Parliamentary elections) it is just "One lot of sinners out; another lot of sinners in". The sinners on Synod, though, have a very tedious time ahead.
On one hand there is the monstrous regimen, champing at the bit, wanting to see which of them will be first past the post in the Episcopessa Stakes. On the other, the far smaller group (and, I expect, much diminished even since 2005) of 'traditionalists' doing their utmost to win some concessions for those opposed to women's consecration.
Neither party will have had much cheer from the announcement of the Revision Committee on the Legislation. There are some of those eight appointed members about whom I know nothing at all - but even from those I do know it is clear that the liberal ascendancy has the majority. So that might encourage WATCH and its friends. The timetable, though, can only annoy them. "The expectation is that the House will bring a draft of the code to Synod in February 2012". The House is, of course, the House of Bishops. It is their Standing Committee which set up the working group, and that working group is expected to "conclude its report for the House (of Bishops) by next autumn, having consulted the House and the legislative Steering Committee first".
Rowan in the Fall
For six years I had the joy of attending (but not voting at) meetings of the House of Bishops. The Agenda was always overpacked, and discussion, even of the most serious matters, often cursory. So this new working group will have to meet, get to know one another, look at previous reports and see why they were rejected, discover their terms of reference, begin to make suggestions, go to the House of Bishops and ask them to comment, wait for the response, make a stab at a draft, get the legislative Steering Committee to look at it, redraft it in the light of what the Steering Committee said and the House of Bishops and (provided they have not been simply told "go back and do it again") produce the rabbit from the hat "by next Autumn". A busy twelve months for those three Bishops (Ed & Ips, Coventry and Whitby) two archdeacons (Christine Hardman of Lewisham and Greenwich, and Jane Sinclair of Stow and Lindsey) one parish clergyman and two unordained ladies.
Assuming this is achieved, "the expectation is that the House (of Bishops) will bring a draft code to Synod in February 2012 - though the final version of the code cannot be drawn up by the House and approved by Synod until the legislation itself has received Royal Assent - which cannot in practice be before 2013".
I suppose that is because Royal Assent will only be given once the Ecclesiastical Committe of Parliament has looked at the legislation, and determined whether it is satisfied with the draft statutory code of practice. Last time round, in '92, it was not. It might not satisfy them this time, either, but for quite different reasons. Whereas last time Parliament wanted to put in safeguards for those unable to accept women's ordination, now the reverse might be true; they could well say that in view of equal opportunities legislation &c, there should be NO permission for any priest to refuse the ministrations of a woman bishop. They might then demand of the church a single clause measure, without any safeguards.
Yet many, I guess, will be hanging on in the C of E by their fingertips during all that time, desperate that something will be done which will make it possible for them to remain. For me, and I suspect many others, this is the culmination of what began with Keble's 1833 Assize Sermon. He started there the movement to free the Church from the power of the State; to enable it to become truly a part of the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, the battle is all but ended, with the Church rolling over and assenting to every new wind of doctrine, based not on Revelation but on Rights: the rights of women, gay and transgendered rights, the right to end one's life. What a blessing is the Ordinariate!