I keep hoping that there is an end to having to publish other people's letters on this blog, but now and again one of importance, interest or horror is washed up on the shores of the Anglican Wanderings newsdesk. This is one such letter, from the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. It says much the same as others, in it's core, but here it is anyway.
11th July, 2008
To: Priests Associate, members of the Order of OLW, the Walsingham Partnership, and the Society of Our Lady of Walsingham
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
THE SYNOD DEBATE ON WOMEN BISHOPS
Walsingham is God’s gift to the people of this land. Its history is marked by beauty and hope as much as it is marked by division and destruction. The reports of this week’s Synod in York have reminded us that the times in which we live are no different from the past. Reports that tell us women will be bishops with no provision for those who out of theological conviction cannot follow this path have raised fears and anxieties for many. What some in York see as the hope of radical courage others see as a destructive lack of generosity. What is the position of the Shrine? Firstly, the Shrine is a place where we are at home, invited to be part of a family that is characterised by the qualities of Mary in attentiveness to the Word of God, and a joyful pondering on its costly meaning and transformative power. It is therefore not primarily about politics. Secondly, the Shrine is a place that welcomes all people. If it has been a spiritual home to you in the past, it is now, and will be in the future.
Whatever may take place in the months to come, please be assured that Walsingham is here for you. Thirdly, the Guardians of the Shrine remain committed to a policy that maintains a discipline that the Church of England articulates by the passing of resolution A. Women priests do not minister sacramentally at the Shrine, though they are welcome as pilgrims, as are all those who accept their ministry. The painfulness that this causes on either side of this divide within our communion is fully evident to Guardians and those who minister at the Shrine. That is not a matter that any Guardian or priest ministering at the Shrine takes lightly – quite the reverse. However, the best in the Synod’s debate on Women Bishops indicated the potency of generosity. Among those who spoke most powerfully for generosity towards traditionalists (for want of a better term) were bishops who have supported the ordination of women. The Bishops of Winchester, Exeter, and Ripon and Leeds were foremost in putting amendments that called for generous provision for traditionalists.
The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke with clarity and passion to support that generosity, as did the Archbishop of York and, at great personal cost, the Bishop of Dover. This spirit of generosity may not have commanded the voting traditionalists needed in Synod. But we believe it is a generosity that does exist among our pilgrimage constituency and we trust is evident in the welcome all receive at the Shrine. Both of us are grateful for the many messages of support this week that have indicated this may be so. As for the future, we believe that Walsingham has an invaluable part to play in the re-evangelisation of this nation. It is not a political role. That belongs to others. But it is a role that in turbulent times must reflect and foster Mary’s capacity to ponder and wait on God. Now is not the moment to be making rash decisions, identifying enemies, or seeking scapegoats. It is the moment for patience and listening. The mind of the Synod is not yet clear. The drafting group has much work to do, and the Synod has required that they do it “in consultation with the House of Bishops.” We pray that in that House the voice of generosity heard at Synod will be clearly heard again, and heeded.
The Guardians of the Shrine and those who minister here take seriously the decision-making processes of the Church of England. These processes affect us all. But we must not let them lead us into panic or despair. Nothing irrevocable has yet been done. Here at the Shrine the process of appointing a new Priest Administrator is proceeding apace. There was a very positive response to the advertisements and Guardians hope to make an announcement sometime before the autumn. This summer offers us again the opportunity to do what lies at the heart of our vocation; to share and celebrate our faith with young people at the Youth Pilgrimage; to converge as Anglicans and Roman Catholics in the Assumption festivities that honour the mystery of redemption in Mary’s life; and to learn from the frail, the vulnerable and those with special needs in the Pilgrimage for Healing and Renewal. And in the meantime let us be attentive to the demands of daily life, of Christian vocation, and the very best enjoyment of the summer holidays.
Yours in Christ,
The Rev’d Canon Martin Warner
The Rev’d Philip North