The following is an attempt to put into order at least some of the impressions and thoughts I had while at General Synod, as well as a sense of where we are now. Unsurprisingly, as I move in the prophetic gift, the prophetic content is quite high…..
Jude 1 v17-25
17But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
20But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. 21Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
22Be merciful to those who doubt; 23snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
24To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
My overall impression was that the spiritual atmosphere of General Synod mirrored the physical atmosphere. I guess the Anglican Church of Canada had gone out of its way to find the dingiest hotel in Winnipeg, and in the Marlborough it had succeeded. The hotel was old, peeling, dark and yellowing, lighting seemed purposefully dim both in the corridor leading to the plenary hall and in the hall itself. The curtains were all drawn and the background to the stage was all in black with just the ‘draw the circle wide’ symbol in place.
Spiritually (and of course this is subjective), I could just take the above paragraph and repeat it. On the Wednesday afternoon the oppression was particularly intense, and I was glad when I could get out of the plenary hall. Prayer helped a lot, and I was able to resume the rest of the week without much further trouble, though it was certainly not a place in which I would choose to spend much time.
The weather too seemed to do its best to set the ‘atmosphere’, with plenty of cracking thunderstorms at appropriate moments. Now I’m not a ‘demons-under-every-bed’ or ‘read-something-into-every-movement-of the-skies’ kind of guy, but I believe there is a place for perception of spiritual reality through the media of physical manifestation. The trick is knowing the difference between genuine perception and an overactive imagination.
In our case, at Winnipeg, I believe we were seeing the physical manifestations of a spiritual battle.
As the week wore on I began to have a sense of our Father’s heart, and during Wednesday afternoon I felt a deep sense of grief over everything that was happening at Synod. Later that evening the feeling returned and I understood it more clearly for what it was. I knew I was experiencing just a tiny fraction of our Father’s deep ocean of grief over a church and a people who are leaving Him, turning away and spurning Him.
Grief it was too, not anger, just the deepest well of pain and heartbreak. (Ephesians 4 17-32 was given to me as warning against anger at this time). And, I was not alone in feeling this way – a number of folk both at synod, and who were praying for us at home also felt this deep sense of grief.
It is good that we do not see more than through a glass dimly – more and it would burn us out, for we cannot contain His heart in our current frame. It is a mercy to us.
I was given an analogy of an adulterous wife; bags packed in the front hall, opening the door, setting her face like flint and her heart as stone, just about to walk out into the night, ignoring the pleas of her Husband, the One who loves her dearly.
The cry was as incredulous as it was grief-stricken – “Church, why are you doing this, do you not see what you are doing? But no; you do not, you have set your heart on other lovers – and your heart is hard for your Husband.”
Roll forward to Sunday, with the contradictory passing of A186 and rejection of A187. After those votes, I gathered the opinion of a few folks as to what it all meant. Suffice to say, I got different options from everybody – and that was just within Essentials! Some said that the rejection of A187 meant that dioceses cannot go ahead with blessing of same sex unions (at least not under the auspices of the ACC). Others said that the acceptance of A186 gives de-facto authority for dioceses to go ahead with blessing of same sex unions, and that the failure to affirm A187 does not equate to a denial of the ability to bless SSU.
I can probably summarise the outcome in one word: confusion. This Church is a house that is completely divided against itself.
The clarity that was desired, was and was not delivered. In terms of the motions, we muddied the waters further – walking apart, but only slowly. However I do think we were given clarity as to the intractable divisions within our house. We are two religions occupying one Church, both with radically different understandings of the faith.
Both sides are likely to spin this in different ways, and both sides are likely to end up further apart. Clouds of confusion will continue to roll. Individual parishes and dioceses will likely do different things – some are likely to proceed with same sex blessings (this has already happened in two cases at time of writing), while others will affirm themselves as Windsor dioceses seeking to remain in the Anglican Communion.
To go back to the unfaithful wife analogy, it is as if the Anglican Church of Canada has opened the door, and now dithers on the doorstep. Some are trying to pull the Church back in, others trying to pull the Church outside. We teeter on the brink…..
I believe it was only by prayer that A187 did not go through, by the grace of God were we held back from that fateful step. In so doing, it buys us some time, a brief season where we can make decisions and decide which God we will follow – the God of the Ages, or the god of the age? Prayer was important over that time, and it is no less important now – essential indeed that over this summer we don’t rest into ‘summer mode’, but that we keep the intercessory prayer together. God can work miracles – nothing is so lost that He cannot find it.
We do not know what the next few months will bring, although when casting an eye further afield it does seem as if things are coming to a head. Decisions will have to be made that will carry eternal consequences, and there will be no more time to sit on the fence. Therefore, keep on praying, for this battle is not over yet.
I will leave the last word to a parishioner of our Church. This is what she sent me on the Sunday when A186 and A187 were voted on:
All week I have seen storm clouds dark and turbulent circling and swarming over Winnipeg. This afternoon there appeared in one section of these dark and boiling clouds a white cloud standing firm against the storm as if trying to push it aside. As I followed the afternoon’s deliberations I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what the expected outcome was by defeating A187. Then Pete wrote A House Divided and among the responses were several talking about splitting and dividing the spoils or not.
The message I have received relates to this: “Do not concern yourself with these things, for they are the things of men. Prepare yourself instead as you have been taught for I am sending my Son again. There is discord because it has been ordained. Stand firm. You who truly believe will know that My word is true. Show your example to others that they may stand with you in truth and light. Be always mindful that your heart be My heart.”