I remember back in 2002 when we were debating the proposed Anglican-Methodist Covenant, I was the awkward bugger who stood up in our local District Synod and voiced the question "If this were about entering into Covenant with a denomination in which black men were forbidden to become Bishops, would we be having the debate at all?"
After a suitable pause for the very audible gasp, and time for one or two to recover from the vapours, I stepped down: point made. Two things followed in the debate. One was that in entering this covenant it was recognised that we were asking our Methodist women to make some sacrifice. The other was a loud reassurance that our brothers and sisters in the Church of England were on a journey, and we should walk with them rather than stand aloof. On that basis, our synod duly voted in the Covenant.
Today we have seen that enough of those brothers and sisters have no intention of travelling anywhere to cause the journey for all of them to come to a standstill.
A small (Methodist) part of me wants to say "Ok, can we cancel the Covenant now until they get their act together?".
But the greater, more caring part of me weeps for the pain this decision has caused and will continue to cause those wonderful women - and men - who have been called by God and who faithfully serve Him in the church every day. Those no-voters probably don't even realise that in refusing certain areas of service to women they are denigrating the service of all those faithful women, ordained and lay, by indicating that in the Official Opinion of the church they are somehow 'lesser'.
There will be a lot of pain and a fair few tears in the Church of England tonight. But tomorrow those hurt priests and their congregations will be back doing what they do best, trying to serve God in the communities in which they're set. It is all those faithful brothers and sisters that we're in Covenant with. And those brothers and sisters we sit with tonight as they come to terms with a vote that brings a long process to an end, at least for now. Maybe the subject can be raised again in a few years, but tonight we, your Covenant partners will sit down beside you, hold your hands, share your pain and wait. And we will pray with you and for you.