Photo: SHAUN CURRY/AFP/Getty Images
This afternoon I went to observe the debate on the private member's motion on ACNA. As a bishop who serves a diocese which overlaps with some work of the Episcopal Church USA (through the latter's Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe), I believed it would be useful to feel the pulse of the synod on this matter.
It was a long debate, not without some surprising moments. One member proposed the procedural motion to move to next business, which if passed would have been the end of discussion on this item for the life of the synod. The member's rationale was that there was not enough truth circulating about the issue and that the synod would be in danger of breaking the ninth commandment, "you shall not bear false witness". His procedural motion did not pass.
At another moment the new, state-of-the-art electronic voting system failed so the synod had to revert to the old system of division by walking through separate doors. But then the division bell also seemed to fail for a while! Divine intervention?
One member, the Revd Johannes Arens, from the diocese of Ripon and Leeds, known to some in our diocese as he was ordained in the German Old Catholic Church, spoke against the original motion, warning of the difficulty of meddling in the internal policy of another Church. In urging the Church of England to learn how to live together in communion with the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, Fr Johannes reminded the synod that the Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, Geoffrey Rowell, is actually an honorary assistant bishop in the Episcopal Church, and that our relations with that Church continue, despite some difficulties.
Following close to 3 hours of debate, on amendments as well as on the motion itself, the following amended motion was carried overwhelmingly by the Synod. It was largely the one proposed by Bishop Mike Hill of Bristol, on behalf of the House of Bishops, with an preliminary paragraph added to express our concern from across the Atlantic:
'That this Synod
(a) aware of the distress caused by recent divisions within the Anglican churches of the United States of America and Canada;
(b) recognise and affirm the desire of those who have formed the Anglican Church in North America to remain within the Anglican family;
(c) acknowledge that this aspiration, in respect both of relations with the Church of England and membership of the Anglican Communion, raises issues which the relevant authorities of each need to explore further; and
(d) invite the Archbishops to report further to the Synod in 2011.'