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What happened at General Synod? Living in Love and Faith Feb 24

What happened at General Synod? Living in Love and Faith Feb 24
This blog summarises the Living in Love and Faith debate
at General Synod on Feb 26-27th, 2024.

Anglican Futures
February 24, 2024

On the fourth day of this session of General Synod, Bishop Martyn Snow, the new lead bishop on Living in Love and Faith, proposed a 're-setting' of the Living in Love and Faith process. He had set out his approach in a Paper - Living in Love, Faith and Reconciliation (GS 2346), which Anglican Futures discussed last week.

The original motion before Synod was:

'That this Synod welcome the further work carried out on Living in Love and Faith and the focus on reconciliation and bridge building; and ask that the proposal for a set of commitments through which the whole Church can continue to pursue the implementation of the motions previously passed by Synod on Living in Love and Faith, be brought back to Synod as soon as possible.'

In his opening speech, Bishop Martyn made three main points:

1. An apology to the LGTBQI+ community and others who are concerned that his 'reconciliaton' proposal was a sign he was "rowing back" : "This is a very personal apology, because I know that many of you were hoping for concrete proposals for implementing the previous decisions of Synod on LLF. I could give a list of excuses for why we are not yet able to do that, but instead I offer a simple heartfelt apology. It's not for lack of trying, and I want to add that I am determined to do everything possible to ensure that by July's Synod we do have concrete decisions."
2. That whether or not Synod voted on the motion, "The work goes on. Both the work of implementing the decisions already taken and the work of reconciliation - finding a way forward that most, if not all, can agree."
3. That reconciliation is, "at the heart of the gospel and of Anglicanism... which held the extremes together." He explained he had "come to the personal conclusion that the missionary imperative is less about do we, or don't we, disagree with same-sex marriage - that question alone is not going to determine whether the Church grows or shrinks over the years. The missionary imperative for this day and age is reconciliation."
4. Bishop Martyn went as far as to say, that his very personal appeal to Synod was, "Be reconciled to God, and show this by being reconciled to one another."

There were then six speeches on the main motion. Five from progressive women and one from a conservative man.

Rev Nikki Groake - claimed to speak for the "silent majority" who "over the intervening years has steadily moved in a clear direction, gathering momentum - many evangelicals have journeyed towards inclusivity." She warned the bishops against being "diverted towards differentiation" by a "very small minority."

Helen King - said that "unless we can appreciate each other as fellow human beings and fellow Christians, this is going nowhere, no matter how many groups are set up."

Jane Rosam - talked about the rural parish made up of "skint little people" compared to the "loud shouty people" who have said they will withold their parish share. They "work hard to fit in with one another" and "live with difference" - including putting up with her - a licensed lay minister who has been married to Joanna, her "same-sex partner for over thirty years."

Rachel Webbley - "a white woman committed to inclusion in every area of church's life," was alarmed by the inclusion of listening to GMH people - in case it gave the impression that there was "a homogenous view in the Anglican Communion."

Bishop Ruth Worsley - held up her Cross of Nails - and quoted the "pledge of transformation" from "Together for Hope - a partnership of secular and non-Christian faith-based organisations in Coventry.

Luke Appleton - said that in his view we were facing a new Reformation because "we are faced with a conflict between biblical Christianity and worldly compromise." He warned that the approach being taken to LLF would break the Elizabethan Settlement because half the chamber would never be able to accept the Prayers of Love and Faith.

After the first six speeches, the Chair chose to debate the first of five amendments to the main motion that had been tabled.

For brevity's sake, one speech from each 'side' of each will be partially quoted to give a flavour of the debate. The whole debate can be watched here (starting at about 4 hours) and here (starting at about 25 minutes)

Amendment 65 moved by Rev Joy Mawdesley

'Leave out "welcome" and insert "note".'

"To welcome is to be pleased about and support something; to note is to pay it particular attention."

Bishop Martyn did not accept the amendment - "As a different way forward, as reconciliation, I hope Synod might be able to welcome it."

Speaking in favour of the amendment - Rev Fraser Oates - "As someone who believes in the current and historic teaching of the Church, I'm left feeling like I am clutching at straws, it doesn't feel as if we are walking together even now. It feels like myself and many others are slowly being sidelined and I am struggling to see my place here anymore."

Speaking against the amendment - Vicky Brett - "I welcome the change of tone because I am angry - three times in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus gets angry...."

Amendment 65 passed by a show of hands.

Amendment 66 moved by Ed Shaw

'After "bridge-building insert "and acknowledge that for many in the Church of England, including members of General Synod, some of the issues raised are not matters on which they can simply agree to disagree".'

"We have been implicitly and explicitly told that we can agree to disagree; that these issues do not matter too much; that they are not issues of primary importance; that they do not impact the gospel; that we do not need to change our doctrine or structures.
But they are issues of primary importance for so many of us from a range of different perspectives; they do impact our understanding of the gospel; they are leading to change in our doctrine and our structures will, I'm afraid need to follow.
My amendment simply seeks to be honest about the depth of our current division."

Bishop Martyn - did not accept the amendment despite agreeing - but he feared, "that enshrining this in the motion is rather a counsel of despair, of saying there aren't any new and imaginative ways for us."

Against the amendment - Kenson Li - "The phrase, 'there are matters we simply cannot agree to disagree' suggests that reconciliation is not possible. Love does not leave the judge to apportion its' right - love reconciles itself to it's opposition with no regard to right whatsoever, says Hagel."

For the amendment - Rev Mark Smith - "It also exposes a troubling disconnect between the real depth of our disagreement and the character of the proposals before us. ...Bishops... You claim to recognise that for many these are not ones we can agree to disagree and yet every single proposal, every single strategy, every single position paper that has come out of this process consistently presupposes that these are ultimately matters adiaphora and maps out a way forward on that basis. But that case has never been made theologically - it has only ever been assumed and asserted."
There were four more speeches - two four and two against - and then Synod voted by houses.

For Against Abstention
Bishops 8 20 2
Clergy 83 92 2
Laity 86 98 1
Amendment 66 was lost

The session was then adjourned until the next day - when it began again with the third amendment.

Amendment 67 - to be moved by Jane Patterson

'After "bridge-building" insert "and welcome the greater emphasis on openness and transparency".'

"How can we "walk together" to different desired destinations? And how can we agree to reach there? Any resolution, if not reconciliation, now, will need the understanding and acceptance by the majority of us of more than one outcome. Not just the one we each desire but also the one others do. But the achievement of this depends on their being future-proofed, secure pastoral provision sufficient for those in need alongside the detailed pastoral guidance and the prayers. Openness and transparency are needed."

Bishop Martyn supported the amendment.

"I want to absolutely assure Synod that we are committed to openness, to honesty, to transparency, in the best way possible."

Against the amendment - Alan Dowen

"Reconciliation can only happen when we are reconciled to ourselves. My faith journey began seventy years ago. My faith has deepened as time has gone on but it has also grown and changed. It has to make sense. I can't believe two mutually exclusive things at the same time. My knowledge and my experience has to be aligned to my theology."

For the amendment - Neil Patterson

"If we are going to move forward, as I think we should, as one Church, united under God, we have got to be clear about what we do and how we do it going forward.... One of the reasons this is so painful is we are trying to come out from a place of hiddeness and hypocrisy - all of us who are LGBTQ know, the harm of the closet."

Amendment 67 was passed by a show of hands

Amendment 68 to be moved by Rev Charlie Skrine

'Leave out from "the proposal" to "Living in Love and Faith" and insert "proposals for a set of commitments together with a settlement based on legally secure structural provision".'

"Last night, 177 people in this Synod voted to acknowledge that many in this Synod simply cannot agree to disagree. 177 people said, "We are here". And I know it was just an amendment but did 210 people then vote to say, "No, you aren't"? I want to understand - is it that you don't believe that I exist, or it that you don't want me to be here? May I speak to the 210 - if we are going to get out of this dead-end - at some point I am going to have to vote for something you want or you are going to have to vote for something I want. And my suggestion is that we vote together for structures that will allow all of us to live with integrity, within the Church of England."

Bishop Martyn did not support the amendment - saying:

"Thank you for the manner in which you speak and your desire for unity, which I know is genuine. I am going to have to oppose this amendment because of what it takes out of the motion - we are committed to delivering on the decisions that Synod has already made. That has, I believe to stay in the motion... I am however sympathetic.. which is why I take you back to the commitments where we have used the phrase, in the commitments, 'minimum structural formal communion.' And it is that Communion that we want to be able to explore."

For the amendment - Bishop Andrew Watson (Guildford)

"Yes, bishops are called to be a focus of unity, and I take that call very seriously, enjoying the rich diversity of Guildford and the valuable presence and magnificent contribution of gay Christians in it. But we are also called to hand on entire the faith that is entrusted to us - and for some of us, whether rightly or wrongly, that is proving a point of tension now. A tension that commitment nine is seeking to resolve. My only question around that commitment is around the adjective, 'minimum', in the final sentence. An adjective I would prefer to replace with the word, 'proportionate.'"

Against the amendment - Simon Friend

"It is clear that this drive for structural provision has at the root of it the doctrinal question - 'Is sex outside of marriage of one man and one woman a first order, salvation issue?'... Sex is not the original sin - the use of the power of the knowledge of good and evil to judge, split, condemn and cast out 'the other' - that's the orginal sin. As Christians we believe Jesus made himself the final scapegoat so this cycle of shaming would end - so why do we let go? Why do we cling on to redemptive violence?"

There was a counted vote by houses

For Against Abstained
Bishops 8 24 2
Clergy 78 98 8
Laity 81 100 7
Amendment 68 was lost

"Move to next business" was called by Miranda Threlfall-Holmes before Amendment 69 had been announced.

"This is not intended as any sort of partisan move - it is very clear from conversations I have had with people with a very wide range of perspectives in this debate, in the Coffee Room and in the speeches we have heard so far - that there are very many of us who believe we will not be served well by pushing this debate on to a final vote. Personally, if does come to a final vote, I will have to vote against this motion because I am very uncomfortable, and I am with Charlie Skrine here, on a blank cheque for a set of commitments that won't be the ones in the paper but we have been asked, or told, not to debate."

Bishop Martyn responded by saying he was open to hearing the voice of Synod - and used his time to thank Synod for the tone of the debate and the staff for their hard work.

Synod voted: In favour - 332, Against - 69, Abstentions - 20

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