In this second blog post from the ‘Extra Ordinary Synod’ in Rome, Bishop Paul explores the diversity of opinion and positions on some of the important topics facing all traditions of the Christian faith.
ROME EXTRAORDINARY SYNOD REFLECTIONS 2
So the first week of interventions is over. A small group is hard at work over the weekend producing a new document that seeks to summarise all that has been said ready to be shared on Monday morning. The small groups (circoli minori) will then spend 5 and a bit sessions discussing this and offering feedback ready for a final version to be drafted. As this is an Extraordinary Synod there will be no propositions, just a paper. Over the next year in every country this will be considered further ahead of the full Synod next October, following which propositions will emerge. So do not expect any changes immediately.
My small group had a really excellent start after the formal process of electing a moderator and a rapporteur were completed. There was real openness in sharing, good humour and good listening. So I am hopeful of fruitful discussions.
7 Fraternal Delegates shared our 4 minute talks on Friday afternoon. With 6 of us staying together we had laughed about our various ways of trying to ensure we stuck to our 4 minutes. We were all pretty good, although they actually turned the clock off for us. So there was no 30 and 15 second warning; no red flashing 0:00 or turning down of the microphone for serious overrunning that had been the case on previous days. We had not collaborated in any way although no date our frequent conversations in our journeys to and from the Vatican and over meals had rubbed off on each of our preparation. Our perspectives were meant to reflect our differing traditions, and they did. We each struggled with thinking how to summarise where our churches are on key matters of marriage and sexuality. Try explaining where things stand in the Anglican Communion in a couple of sentences! We all wanted to offer not simply a national perspective but a global one. We are after all representing world communions and alliances. But reflecting afterwards we were aware of the common agreement across orthodox, Coptic and Protestant denominations on birth control being appropriate but with serious questions on abortion. We all still hold doctrinally that marriage is between a man and a woman and is for life; but are open to divorce in some circumstances and thus remarriage. We are all wrestling with what is the appropriate pastoral response to committed monogamous same sex relationships. Amongst the Protestants we all found ourselves speaking of the importance of the equality of women and men, and of children being equally valued too. On communion we all have a conviction that sharing in the eucharist is for sinners not saints and a means of God meeting us and enriching us, so we want to welcome all followers of Jesus to his table.
Most of all we all wanted to celebrate family, in its varied forms. We all recognise the pressures and difficulties but believe family is good for society and to be celebrated. We all want to focus on the promise and hope that comes from family life rather than the threats to it. We want to help families flourish. It is fair to say that I have heard this too from the lay Catholics present, and from many of the synod fathers.
We all received gracious and generous responses from cardinals, archbishops and bishops after we had completed our talks. There is no doubt in my. Ind that in many there is a desire to hear those of us who are ‘outside’ and can make observations as ‘outsiders’. But here too for me is one of the greatest personal challenges of being here. I can critique both positively and negatively what I see before me but do I recognise it when I act in the same way when I am the insider? It is a privilege and a challenge to be placed on the outside for these 2 weeks for it is making me look very hard at how we work on the inside in the Church of England.