Consultation on “Synodal Pathway”
The idea of the church following a “Synodal Pathway” was discussed at the Parish Pastoral Council meeting and ideas were sought through members meeting with individuals and by way of a questionnaire distributed through the churches in the parish.
Overall, the response was very poor.
This in itself can be seen as a measure of the crisis church is facing, that so many felt there was no point in engaging. The initial reaction was ‘we have been consulted before, we have offered our opinions and they have been ignored by those in authority, we were not listened to’.
There was a reluctance to engage for this reason.
Those who offered their opinions stated that this is the last chance for the church to reform how it operates. Although few in number, those who responded still have hopes for their church that it can reform and become relevant again in the lives of individuals and in society.
It was commented on how many people young and old have left, some drifted away, others walked away in disappointment and frustration, while many left in anger feeling they were not listened to, not valued or respected, and in certain cases actively discriminated against.
If this process turns out to be another empty gesture then there is no hope for the church surviving in the immediate future and people will seek other means to express their faith.
Of the things that inspire, people expressed their appreciation of feeling that they belonged to a local community that offered real support at important points in life. They were happy with how the high points of the Christian year were celebrated in a meaningful way.
It was said that people feel equal in this parish and there is a welcome to all, male and female, to participate on an equal basis.
Also inspiring was the openness to all laity playing a real role in parish ministry and organisation.
What discouraged was the drift away by so many from parish life, especially parents of young children, and the consequent reduction in the numbers involved in ministries and other roles in the parish.
The most thing that discouraged involvement was the attitude towards women especially the exclusion of women from ordained ministry and from decision making roles and the fact their voices are not heard in the ‘upper echelons’ of church.
The result to the question about how the church can be more inclusive and welcoming centred mainly about the exclusion of women from ministry and from having meaningful roles in church authority.
Allowing priests to marry was felt to be a way to become more inclusive and would probably help avoid a repeat of some of the consequences that have flowed from this in the past.
Addressing the discrimination against women would help inclusiveness, but a failure to do so means that the church cannot speak with moral authority on other issues when it is seen not to regard women as equal to men.
As long as the church does not practice equality in all areas, not just with women but with LGBTQ+ , its teachings and pronouncements will not even be given a hearing by an increasing number of people in modern society. Church authorities have no creditability in modern society as long as discrimination on the grounds of gender or sexuality exists in church.
It was stated that in this present age the structure of a top down authority is not seen as acceptable and more decisions need to be devolved to a local level. Younger people need to be involved at all levels.