..the vote cannot be understood without taking into account one other group: Conservative evangelicals. Alongside the commitment to leave marriage unchanged, there were several contrary indicators, included either as a genuine reflection of the range of views amongst the bishops or (if you are more cynical) as an exercise in balancing. A key phrase here is allowing ”˜maximum freedom within the law’ for pastoral provision, and Conservatives saw that as an alarming compromise within the report. In the Synod debate, I had the impression that two moments were key for them. The first was the speech of Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool, who wanted to honour the ”˜anger, the fury’ of campaigners (I am still trying to work out where in Scripture ”˜fury’ towards your fellow believers is a commended virtue), and who was determined to make the most of ”˜maximum freedom’ in his diocese.
The second came in Archbishop Justin Welby’s speech, the last to be taken, in which he emphasised the need for ”˜Christian inclusion’. I am not clear whether he intended the emphasis to be on ”˜Christian’ or ”˜inclusion’, but it was clearly a trigger phrase for Conservatives, who put it alongside Justin’s other positive comments about gay relationships as a signal that he cannot be trusted on this issue. Though I don’t agree with their approach, I can understand this viewpoint. He concluded his short speech with:
The way forward needs to be about love, joy and celebration of our humanity; of our creation in the image of God, of our belonging to Christ ”“ all of us, without exception, without exclusion.
If this means anything, I am not sure what it does mean. Including clergy defying the Church’s teaching, and ignoring their bishop and their ordination vows? Including ”˜non-realists’ who don’t believe in the existence of God? Including all? Moving boundaries is one thing, but abolishing them is quite another. (And where is mention of kingdom, redemption, newness of life?) Once Justin had said this, the die was cast, and I suspect just enough Conservatives joined with liberals in voting not to take note for the motion to fall.