Monday of the fifth week of Ordinary Time (memorial of St Paul Miki and his companions, Martyrs), that is to say February 6th 2012, is the
fiftieth 60th anniversary of the death of King George VI. It is therefore also the 50th 60th anniversary of the Queen's Accession. But because February is a pretty grim month, the celebrations will be held over until the summer. Making February that much more grim this year is the Westminster Session of the General Synod of the Church of England, also scheduled to begin on Monday 6th. This promises to be four days of anything but Ordinary Time.
A draft Agenda has now been published on the official C of E website. For anyone who cares for the Church of England, and especially for its Anglo-Catholic rump, it would make a good calendar for four days of prayer. The first day (or rather half-day, beginning after lunch) is as usual just official business to be got out of the way, though perhaps the Loyal Address will be more worthwhile than usual, bearing in mind the date. Perhaps prayer will be said for the repose of the soul of His Late Majesty.
The real matter of the Synod starts on Tuesday 7th. From 2.30pm there is to be a presentation of the Draft Code of Practice regarding Women to the Episcopate, with questions following. That exercise in squaring the circle, making it clear that women who are ordained as bishops really are bishops with all the authority of their office – yet somehow allowing those who do not accept them as bishops to continue to live as though they did not exist — promises to be a fascinating time of prestidigitation. It will be an exceptionally worrying time for our brothers and sisters who want to be able still to say with integrity that "the Church of England is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church".
The next day looks like being especially lively. On Tuesday there will have been just two and a half hours for the subject but on Wednesday there will be a much longer time for debate: Except for the few minutes of a report on Standing Orders and a brief time for evening prayer the Synod will debate Women in the Episcopate from 2.30pm until 7pm. During this they will consider a diocesan motion from Manchester and another, much less friendly to Anglo-Catholics, from Southwark.
On Thursday morning, once further additional eucharistic prayers have been considered, 'Women in the Episcopate' will reach its final drafting stage before becoming law. That is unless in some way (perhaps by a failure to obtain a two-thirds majority in each House) the whole thing is put off for another five years.
It is sad to be bringing all this to your attention just as everyone is so excited at the establishment of the American Ordinariate. For us in England, though, it is of great importance. One way or another, it will affect how the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham develops over the next few years. Either it will speed its growth (as I pray it will) or it will provide yet one more line in the sand for the survivors of the Anglo-Catholic Movement to hide behind. They will be waiting once more as many of us have done in the past for something to turn up. So, friends, pray for the Synod, and especially for those who are trying to retain in the C of E a few shreds of its catholic past.
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