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Pray for our Friends

The July session of the General Synod of the Church of England begins today, and every Catholic ought to be praying for the participants. One of the questions to be debated concerns women bishops and if past discussion is anything to go by, there is a possibility of further division and pain whatever Synod decides. To a sympathetic outsider, it looks as though there can be no winners but only losers. The media are not helping with their talk of "easy conversion to Roman Catholicism" for those who reject the idea of women bishops.

Colophon is not to going to be drawn on this question, but there is one point that is worth making. Becoming a Catholic is not just one option among many for people of faith. One becomes a Catholic - converts - as one becomes an Anglican or a Methodist or anything else, because one is convinced, because one can do no other. Conversion is never easy. It is not a question of adopting certain practices or changing "ecclesiastical club". It requires whole-hearted assent, acceptance of risk, readiness to set out into the unknown. It can never proceed from a negative. It is therefore wrong to suggest that it is a "solution" to the difficulty some find themselves in; nor should we forget that others hold different opinions equally sincerely; their consciences must be respected, and the consequences for them must also be weighed. Whatever is decided, the Church of England is about to change quite dramatically; and that will affect all the Christian churches in this country.

Let us pray for the Synod, for wisdom and charity in the discussions and for an outcome that is pleasing to God.