Road Ahead Closed


Dear friends

Yet again, residents of Tewkesbury and elsewhere have come across signs that warn us of flooded roads and pathways, preventing access except on foot and with a good pair of wellies! Yet our hearts go out to those who yet again have found their homes and businesses under water. 

Women Bishops

‘Road Ahead Closed’ has also been the experience for those campaigning for the right of women to be consecrated as Bishops. The disappointment of many including those who have been involved in the process of drafting legislation at General Synod is understandable. Presented in so much of the media as simply a discussion on equality between the genders, which if that were the case would surely have been so much more straightforward; the reality is far more complicated. 

As I see it, on the one hand, there are those who do see the debate as one of gender discrimination and on the other, those who see the debate to be about how God in his perfect wisdom has chosen to order his church and the different but complimentary roles given to men and women within this structure. Both sides appeal to scripture to argue their position. Both sides have sincerely held beliefs. Both sides claim equality between the genders and both sides come out with different conclusions. 

Church Unity

Whilst the two thirds majority required in all three houses for the purpose of preserving church unity was achieved in the House of Bishops and the House of Clergy, it failed to be carried in the House of Laity (representatives of the congregations) by 6 votes. Why was this? It appears that some of those who voted against the legislation did not do so because they were against women becoming Bishops, but because they were more concerned for Church unity and believed that there were insufficient arrangements in place to provide for those who in true conscience and for sound theological reasons could not accept women in this role. The reason the legislation failed is more to do with the process than the practise. Most people accept that it won’t be too long before we see women in the episcopacy, but how we get there is the point of debate.  

Anointed Leadership

However, more effective in God’s service than positional leadership is anointed leadership and you don’t need a title in front of your name for that. Every significant renewal movement from Jesus onwards was led by ordinary godly people with a vision for growing God’s Kingdom and a passion to pursue the anointing of God. It is these ordinary people who have changed the course of history and used their influence to impact the lives of countless others. We only have to look at the first disciples to see how blessed it is to be one of the ordinary! 

‘What the church and, more importantly, the world desperately needs is women and men impassioned by God and sold out for the Kingdom who will kick-start a spiritual revolution at grassroots level which will see our nation changed’. (Ian Parkinson) 

That is something we can all be a part of as we seek to serve with the anointing of the Holy Spirit in the place where God has put us. As we radiate God’s presence and breathe His life into the secular space of the classroom, office, community centre (wherever) so we bring the sense of the sacred that transforms the environment around us. For God’s anointed leadership, the road ahead is never closed. 

An Invitational Church

Neither is the ‘road ahead closed’ on the journey of faith as we approach Christmas and celebrate today with the first Sunday in Advent. It is of great encouragement that visitors to our services tell me how warmly they have been welcomed by members of our church family. That is wonderful, and yet we need to move from being a welcoming community to becoming an invitational one – that is, a Church that invites others to ‘come and see’, to share the belonging with us and be part of our community life. The season of advent as it leads up to Christmas provides us with many opportunities to invite others: to our cell group socials, a party with our neighbours, a ‘come with us’ to the carol service or Christingle service etc. 

Friends let us develop within our church a culture of invitation that is always ready to reach out to others with an invitation, then people will see that despite what is going on with the water levels in the town, the road to God is never closed.                  As ever in Christ,     Stephen