The meeting was devoted almost entirely to discussion of two motions proposed by Keith W concerning the current proposals coming from the House of Bishops within General Synod to allow for blessing of same sex relations in church. The first motion called on the PCC to support Dan’s right not to bless same sex relationships at St James' by the Park, irrespective of whether all PCC members agree with his theology. The second motion proposed that PCC should withhold a proportion of our Common Mission Fund contribution from the Diocese as an expression of concern about the process and direction of travel.
Tracy opened the meeting with three verses of scripture: John 3 v16-17 “For God so loves the world”, Mark 12 29-31 ““Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” and John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another”. As a PCC we reflected on which words struck us from these passages and prayed for our discussions.
Dan introduced the topic, saying that the CofE is a broad church and when one group of believers tries to institute change that is difficult for another group tensions arise. It was inevitable that this debate was going to arise, however it has now become something of a can of worms. Not only is there a disagreement about the fundamental issue, but objections are being raised about the process that is being followed within General Synod. We have to acknowledge the hurt that has been caused by the church to same sex attracted people over many years. There is already an impact to our congregation from the debate in terms of people leaving the congregation or reducing their giving in response to the vote at the February General Synod meeting in favour of blessing same sex relationships.
Simon C joined the meeting remotely from York, where he has been attending the July General Synod meeting as a representative of Winchester Diocese in the House of Laity. He explained that there has been a 7 year process of dialogue within the Anglican Church which has now crystallised into two equally principled positions. It is difficult to see how these two positions can be reconciled. This is going to impact us as a church family at local, national and global level. The impact on local churches doesn’t seem to be appreciated by the Bishops. If change is enacted then the current plan will produce a whiter more western church. He finished by informing us the final text of the blessings for same sex relationships together with pastoral guidance and arrangements to protect dissenting clergy are due to come back to General Synod in November this year for final approval.
Keith introduced the first motion by saying that as a PCC we should support Dan, even if we disagreed with his position. He felt that it is important for Dan to have a formal expression of support to help deal with pressure from above, other clergy and below. Dan was asked if he needed this motion, and responded that at present it isn’t necessary but is good to have something in place for the future. Other questions raised included why the PCC should have this motion given that the choice not to bless same sex relationships rests with Dan, not the PCC, and what does “support” mean, could it be interpreted as support for Dan’s theological position, even if the motion as written doesn’t say this.
The PCC passed the first motion by a large majority.
Keith introduced the second motion saying the proposal is not designed to address the underlying theological proposal, but instead concerns the process and the impact on the wider Anglican communion. He said he felt there should be more opportunity for direct dialogue with the Bishops.
Nick opposed the motion, having read 1 John 4:18 “perfect love dries out fear”. Withholding money from the Diocese is not a supportive act, it forces the Diocese to make decisions about which areas of expenditure should be reduced, eg number of clergy in post, training of ordinands or Church Schools? He asked how as a PCC we can ask the congregation to support Dan, but then take action which will harm the church at a higher level? Bishops Debbie and David do not have a vote to cast in General Synod, and the incoming Bishop Phillip has only just been announced.
The PCC rejected the second motion by a large majority.
This was one of the most intense PCC meetings for several years, we appreciate the congregation’s prayers for us as we continue to think about this issue in the coming months.