Arrived Friday night at York and we arrived at Synod Chamber by 9.30 in time to hear Rowan William's Presidential address. He spoke well, starting off with a mention of Sudan and the jubilant celebrations there and also of his recent trip to the Congo and his contact with young people forced into the militia. He told us that those he had spoken to said that, in those difficult situations, the Church did not abandon them. Williams developed this theme to be more applicable to the wider church, and to our christian lives, as people who should have the strength not to abandon each other, not to stigmatise and reject. He said that among his priorities for the next five years was a vision of a church in love.
There has already been a postive reaction to William's words, one tweet described him as an "Archbishop on fire". I found his talk moving, but, as always, what he said was very nuanced, he seems to offer grains of hope and solace, so that different groups could take from it what they wished, but there was little real substance other than the plea (he said at one time that he was "pleading") that we should all be nice to each other. It made me think of Morrissey's Death of a disco dancer - I am sorry to show my age so often in this blog - in which we are told that love, peace and harmony are very nice, but we might have to wait until the next world to achieve them.
On a more positive note, in the afternoon I took my place among Changing Attitude supporters handing out leaflets about civil partnerships in church and was so struck by the warmth of member after member of General Synod. So many people stopped to give words of encouragement, and my one conversation with someone opposed was still positive and respectful. The Church of England may not look like a church in love, and I cannot say that it is, but there is love and there is respect, just that these voices are drowned by the fear and suspicion that comes from certain sectors and, ironically enough, perhaps from the top down.