I've just got home from work and have read the Archbishop's statement on the new draft legislation on women bishops. To summarise briefly, it proposes replacing the controversial Clause 5. 1(c) with the following wording, which was suggested by the Rev Janet Appleby:
"the selection of male bishops and male priests in a manner which respects the grounds on which parochial church councils issue Letters of Request under section 3"
It is worth reading the Archbishop's words in full; his focus is not upon what the legal understanding of the word "respect" might be (more on that later) but upon the idea of respect as a moral and spiritual concept and a quality which will be essential if the Church is to move forward on this issue:
"The bishops were deeply impressed by the moral and spiritual and relational content of this word ‘respect’, and they were eager to go for a form of words that had the advantage of simplicity and directness about it. They believed it was also very important that this had come not from themselves, but from the process of consulting the wider Church."
Well, it is simple and direct, it also has the advantage of the moral high ground - no-one on either side can really argue against the notion of respect. It also has the advantage that it cannot really be said to be enshrining in law the notion that discrimination against women is permissible or acceptable.
It disadvantage, it seems to me, is that it is vague. It is hard to know what constitutes, "respect(ing) the grounds on which parochial church councils issue Letters of Request" in actual legal and practical terms. It is for this reason that the opponents of women bishops will argue against it. We may see bitter disputes over what is meant by "respect" - oh, the irony!
I sense a certain weariness though about the whole matter. We need to move on and to find ways forward. This wording is by no means ideal, but there is no ideal solution and I have an inkling that this will pass.
And perhaps we should pray long and hard for the ability to truly exercise respect for each other - more so when we differ than when we agree.