Following the February General Synod meeting, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York wrote to members of the General Synod to set out the next steps following the vote on General Synod not to take note of the paper on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations.
At a national level, these steps included two main strands. The first was to establish a pastoral advisory group. This is now in process and the group, once established, will be chaired by the Right Reverend Christine Hardman, Bishop of Newcastle. The second was to develop a teaching document. Work on this is now under way too.
The next steps also included an invitation for every Diocesan Bishop to meet with their General Synod members for an extended conversation in order to establish clearly the desires of every member of Synod for the way forward. In Winchester, Bishop Tim Dakin met with General Synod members from the Diocese last month. The Diocesan General Synod members have produced a shared update on this meeting:
“On May 18th General Synod members from Winchester diocese met with Bishop Tim Dakin to discuss our reactions to the debate on Human Sexuality and think about ways to go forward. To make best use of the time we decided that what was said in the room should stay in the room but that we would write an agreed short summary of the meeting. This worked well and encouraged an honest expression of differences of opinion.
“We represent a range of views: some uphold the historic teaching on both marriage and sexuality, some would like affirmation of same sex couples, and others would like services of blessing and (eventually) marriage of same sex couples to take place in church.
“We touched on painful and difficult aspects of the human sexuality issue. None of us think there is a simple answer, none of us want schism though some fear it may be inevitable.
“We do hold to our common ground: we all take scripture seriously even though our reading and interpretation may differ; we all want our energies to be available for other issues e.g. for mission and evangelism; to work for social justice, especially in areas like modern slavery, and to promote better stewardship of the Earth and its resources. Having started working together at the regional Shared Conversations and now survived four gatherings of General Synod we have begun to form bonds of friendship which will sustain us as we debate this issue further amongst ourselves. We would like to see more work done outside of the adversarial, sometime combative, atmosphere of Synod and its attendant meetings. We are thinking of best ways to do this, possibly with our neighbouring or link dioceses.
“We agreed, as the Winchester group of General Synod representatives, that this is difficult, complicated and painful, but we remain deeply committed to each other, to loving each other as Jesus loved us, and to go on working together.”
To read the letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York following General Synod, click here.
To read the letter from Bishop Tim following General Synod, click here.