“Typical!” I thought. Typically Anglican – not even the Bishops can agree on what they have agreed to vote.
So the motion was placed before General Synod on Wednesday evening whether to take note of the Bishops’ report on marriage and same sex relationships. The world held its breath.
You probably know that the motion was lost in a vote by Houses, in which the House of Clergy voted 100 to 93 (with two recorded abstentions) against.
However, what caught my eye was the vote in the House of Bishops. Some 43 bishops voted to ‘take note’ of their scheme but one actually voted against. Against their own report, that is.
And I was right: it was typically Anglican. But not for the reason I thought. Not one maverick Bishop choosing to break ranks. Not a charismatic Bishop suddenly seized by the Holy Spirit.
No – as we found out yesterday – it was the Bishop of Coventry pressing the wrong button.
And to be fair he owned up. “Due to a moment of distraction and some confusion over the voting process,” confessed the Rt Rev Christopher Cocksworth, “I pressed the wrong button on my handset.”
Now I have no idea what the buttons look like. Is there one big green one with YES alongside a big red button saying NO? At this point I recall Fr Dougal McGuire facing the big red emergency button in the airline cockpit in “Flight into Terror” (Father Ted 2:10 1996)
Thankfully Bishop Christopher’s dyspraxia did not affect the outcome of this important vote. And it does now seem that he was not alone. Several lay members also managed to press the wrong button.
However, just imagine how American politician, Becky Carney, felt when she pressed the wrong button in a key vote in her state legislature to allow fracking, something she had strenuously opposed. The motion to be passed needed just one more vote – and guess what?
Just after the vote, Carney’s voice could be heard on her microphone, saying “Oh my gosh. I pushed green.”
To be fair to Bishop Christopher and Ms Carney we’ve all been there. I usually press the wrong button when visiting Hampton Court. (I refer to the new flats off Black Moss Lane rather than the palace itself).
I cannot recall a single case of someone pressing the wrong button in the Bible. Which means that this is going to be a very short blog.
However, pushing the wrong button is at the heart of the human condition. Given a two way choice, we make the wrong decision. And usually for the wrong reasons. We take the forbidden fruit, we take the wrong road.
“Enter through the narrow gate,” says Jesus. “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13)
It’s so easy to press the wrong button. We follow the crowd, we are taken in by false promises, we refuse wise counsel. And more, we avoid hardship and tough testing. We take the easy option.
The big problem, however, of pressing the wrong button – as Bishop Christopher discovered – is that it cannot be unpressed. That’s it. The die is cast. “Turn around when possible” is not an option.
But what we can do is what the Bishop of Coventry did do – admit our mistake. Even if it takes the attention of the world media. And okay, for the next 25 years he will not be allowed to press any lift button in case he takes everyone to the wrong floor. But you own up.
One of the loveliest phrases in the Bible comes from the Old Testament book of Joel.
As ever the people of Israel have gone their own way, made their own choice to live independently of the LORD their God. The prophet urges that they rend their heart and not their garments. “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate.” (Joel 2:13)
And what happens next? Amazingly and wonderfully, God undoes the consequences of their wrong decision. “‘I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.” (2:25)
Okay you have pressed the wrong button, you have done your own thing. But no sooner as you articulate your bad decision and return to me, then watch me put things right.
Such is God’s grace to those who manage to press the wrong button.