Synod each year can be a very long and often uneventful conference. Yesterday was a great exception to that perception of our annual synod. As many of you will know by now yesterday we passed a motion asking the bishop to approve a rite for blessing same-sex couples who have been civilly married. There was tremendous concern and tremendous anxiety as we entered into the 3 pm session that would perhaps, for some be a defining moment. As is the case each year, when we get to a debate or a place of discomfort, the usual players stood with motions to table and amendments to delay, but this year to my surprise those voices did not prevail. There was a strong desire by the house, both those in favour of this motion and those opposed, to have the debate and the dialogue. There was a real desire to make a decision and that was refreshing indeed.
More impressive was the tenure of yesterday’s conversation. Our bishops very skilfully allowed all voices to be heard. When time seemed to have run out with speakers still at the microphone, common sense prevailed and we choose listening over process. Bravo Bishop! There was a great deal of respect for all who spoke yesterday, over 60 people in all. I was pleased that the conversation did not deteriorate into vitriolic accusations and conjecture. I want to express my gratitude to all the speakers for your candour, and the integrity of your words. It was good to hear all of the concerns expressed before we voted. Perhaps most impressive was the strong voice of the youth delegates. They spoke often and with great candour and each youth delegate who spoke was well informed. The church is in good stead in years ahead.
The support for yesterday’s motion was more than marginal. In the end nearly 73% of the clerics and 72% of the laity voted in favour of moving forward with the blessing of same sex couples who are civilly married. At one point yesterday a speaker suggested that Jesus was all about peace. That if we are not feeling peace than this is not a good decision. Martin Luther King Jr. said that “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.” What was being felt in the room yesterday in our anticipation quite rightly was tension, but it was not an absence of peace. In fact, as I have already said, there was a great sense of peace given because of the respect shown between all parties and all speakers. Yesterday we affirmed the presence of justice. In so doing we have engaged in the peace of Jesus.
Now we await our bishop’s response to the will of this synod. Bishop Bruce has concurred with the decision made yesterday and I am certain that is not something that he does lightly. I pray today that ALL members of the church will continue to come to the table and engage in being the people of God, the body of Christ. Yesterday, it was very easy to be proud to be an Anglican.
Back to business today – not nearly as exciting, but still a small piece of being church.
[written live from the floor of synod which is not quite so dynamic this morning!]