Watching and waiting

Watching and waiting

My heart aches this evening. the general synod has voted against a resolution to appoint women bishops. Although the measure was passed overwhelmingly by the houses of Bishops and Clergy, it fell just 6 votes (out of 206) short of obtaining the 2/3 majority required to pass the measure in the House of Laity. This means the measure won’t be able to be discussed again until 5 years time. It means heartache and disbelief for many Christians (male and female) who hold dear the authority of Scripture and believe wholeheartedly that God has called women to enter fully in what it means to be undershepherds of God’s church. The fact that 42 out of 44 dioceses voted to support the measure makes today’s vote harder to stomach. I don’t cry very often, but I cried this evening.

So, where do we go from here? How should we respond? Social media is full of (understandable) hurt and anger. Words like “embarrassing”, “ashamed”, “joke” have been used. I’m not sure that this sort of reaction is entirely helpful. Much as I’m disappointed by the result today and slightly scared of the vitriol and ridicule we’ll attract in the wider media, I refuse to believe that those who voted against the measure were any less prayerful and godly in their deliberations or any less guided by their consciences than those who were in favour. Like many others, I listened to the debate as it unfolded throughout the day. People where respectful, honest, and in some cases, good humoured. I don’t think the discussions themselves were dishonouring to either party. For this, at least, I am grateful. The single prayer that all of us prayed, whatever our perspective was, “Your will be done.” Despite my feelings about this issue, I have to believe that God is somehow sovereign in all of this; that when people prayed for guidance and voted in a way that they felt that God was leading them, that this prayer was somehow answered. Perhaps this particular motion wasn’t God’s best for the church, even if it is his will for there to be women bishops (which I genuinely believe is the case).

So, once again, where do we go from here? We go on our knees, crying out to God for mercy on his Church, for love and forgiveness to flood the hearts of those who are hurting; for wisdom to those whose responsibility it is for those who must make the next crucial steps in this increasingly agonising process; for unity in our mission to serve the world that God so loves, and above all, for Jesus to be glorified and for God’s kingdom to come.

In short, we watch and wait, which, I guess is pretty apt as we approach Advent. Because Jesus is King, because he is with us, and because he’s coming back, despite our failings, there will always be hope. So, let’s not give up. Let’s hold on to hope, and trust in God, that somehow, through his church, his will might be done. In the meantime we pray, “maranatha, Come, Lord Jesus.”

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