Frank Advice 2

“A synod without freedom is not a synod. It is a conference. The synod, instead, is a protected space in which the Holy Spirit can work. And for this reason the persons must be free. This is why I will not allow the things that each one says to be published with name and surname. No, it should not be known who has said it. I have no problem with revealing what has been said, but not who has said it, in such a way that one may feel free to say what one wishes.” So said Pope Francis in an interview for Mexican Television, on the forth-coming second Synod on the Family.

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Dear Frank,

Bravo! You are really getting the hang of this.

What we call ‘Chatham House Rules’ is exactly the right tack. I am afraid that we in the CofE are saddled with a dysfunctional Parliamentary- style democracy, where every word of what is spoken is recorded, attributable and published afterwards. My advice is that this sort of transparency should be avoided at all costs. It’s a nightmare – it results in people being held accountable for opinions they have expressed, and worse still, it makes it more difficult for them to change their minds. Look how long it took us to get women bishops through!

Vincent had the right idea when he decided to forget how he had voted in the Synod.  Anonymity, as anybody can see, minimizes division by making it so much easier for people to follow their natural instinct to be on the winning side in the end.  As we have discovered in our Anglican Consultative Council, the Holy Spirit can lead us into new truth more easily in small unaccountable groups meeting in private.

How clever of you to identify this beneficial secrecy with ‘freedom’! Everybody, these days, is in favour of freedom – though you and I are aware what a dangerous thing it is. People can as well feel free to look backwards as to move forwards, which will never do. Better keep it all under wraps until you get the right result.

With all good wishes,
Your friend Justin.

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