Deadly procedure, life-giving action

By Giles Fraser
February 24, 2009

"I have come to the conclusion that the making of laws is like the making of sausages – the less you know about the process the more you respect the result." So reported Frank Tracy in 1898 in his report on the Committee on Uniform Laws of the American Bankers' Association.

Now that sounds pretty mind-numbing stuff. But I raise you the General Synod of the Church of England. It's not just dull, but dull and infuriating at the same time. It's not a winning combination.

Earlier this month the Church of England's parliament debated once again the subject of women bishops, global capitalism, whether membership of the BNP is compatible with being an Anglican, and the deadly question of the covenant, a new set of rules for what counts as being a true Anglican which (though the higher-ups all deny this catagorically) is designed to exclude the US church from the communion because it had the temerity to make a gay man a bishop.

Much of this is the church putting its worst foot forward. Question time allows petty doctrinal point-scoring or score-settling. Other speakers are so bound up with procedural obscurantism that they make the question of angels dancing on a pin look like a model of practicality and relevance. The only thing that keeps me from falling asleep is my anger at the wastefulness of the whole thing. So I trudge home in the rain deeply miserable about the state of my church.

Yet as I write, two dozen or so churchgoers are sitting in our back room, discussing new ways of raising money for AIDS orphans in Zimbabwe or the Christian Aid appeal for Gaza or the local homeless project. They visit the sick and help look after the needy. They offer a space for people to come together to share their hopes for a better world and to seek means for personal transformation. And then I remember once again why I do it all.

General Synod produces headlines. But this is not the true church. They are sat in the back trying to make a difference. And that church I will love forever.


Giles Fraser is Anglican vicar of Putney and a media commentator. He co-founded InclusiveChurch.Net... and also got himslef elected to the Church of England's tricameral General Synod, which meets twice a year.

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