On Thursday, a group of us offered an amendment that would have kept the canon on marriage as it is (that is, between a man and a woman) but would have included a conscience clause that would have permitted those who want to marry people of the same sex to do so. This was to be a gracious way of allowing there to be change. It would have cost us a great deal as other biblical Christians would have criticised our compromise. We are grateful that the Primus, David Chillingworth, spoke in favour of it. Because we love the Body of Christ, we offered this compromise as a way of holding us together. Sadly it was rejected and now we are the ones who will have the conscience clause to allow us to say, "No!". We offered a clause which allowed some to say, "Yes!". All we are now offered is a clause that allows us to say, "No!" with the basis of our understanding of marriage completely undermined. You see how that would have worked - we could have said, "I won't do this, but I know someone who will". It was a positive and generous move on our part but I really don't think that members of Synod realised that or if they did, cared. The activists scented victory and went for it. Of course, that rejection means that we don't have to defend our compromise, and in the longer term that may well be a good thing. However, I wonder whether Synod's rejection of the compromise amendment will be appreciated in quite the same way? An opportunity lost?
In the end, even the "least worst" option was rejected. This option would still have changed the canon by removing the man/woman wording, but inserted a clause that said that there were two expressions of marriage in our church, one between opposite sexes and one between the same sex. This would have reflected the messy and divided nature of the Church and perhaps we might have learned to live with that. At the very least it would have given the re-affirmers of a biblical understanding of a marriage with a shred of dignity. Unfortunately even that was rejected.
We're left with a situation where we either simply roll over and accept the will of the General Synod or we resist, believing that this is neither biblical, nor the work of the Holy Spirit. Let's be clear - it will be the latter.
I could go into a downer over all of this, but I'm not. I'm very conscious of the prayers of people around the world who are praying for us and this Church. Things are a lot clearer and a weight has been lifted from us. My hope is in Jesus and not a human created denomination. I can also pray that the bishops (who are meeting today) and Synod realise that it's never too late to turn back in humility and admit that the path chosen is not the best one. That it was rushed through without much thought of others. Isn't grace wonderful? We were told constantly that the world was waiting for us to get on and do this. Really? How strange it is then that, since Friday, there has been minimal press coverage of the decisions made. There's still time to rethink this, isn't there?
One final thought. We had a glorious morning of worship at St Thomas' yesterday. There was a lovely freedom in the worship and in the preaching on Jesus invitation to us and the deep dangers of religion (from Luke 14). We know where we are and what we are to be about. We kept the focus on Jesus and will go on doing so.
The announcement at the beginning of the service of the engagement of a young couple, Jo and Matthew, was met with joy by the congregation. They were leading the musical worship yesterday, so the congratulations were very public. Their announcement caused confusion for a visiting Southern Baptist couple from Sumter, South Carolina, who told me at the end that they worried that I'd indicated that Joe and Matthew had got engaged and that they'd thought it was the two male guitarists up front. I reassured them on today of all days, that was unlikely!