Report on February General Synod
A heavy agenda but one packed with interesting items was the agenda for the February Synod this year. The next main synod will be at York in July but the amount of business is such that there may also have to be a short synod in November, but we will not know about that until later in the year.
These collects which were produced as alternatives in simple language to those to be found in Common Worship were finally approved with the requisite two-thirds majority.
Synodical Government Amendment.
For some time the Synod has been deciding how to reduce its numbers to take effect from the next elections in the autumn of 2005, and there had been much debate about a reduction in the numbers of deans, suffragan bishops and archdeacons. In the end it was agreed that there should be three deans for the province of Canterbury together with the deans of Westminster, St Georges Windsor and The Holy Trinity Gibraltar, and two deans in the province of York. Suffragan Bishops would be limited to four.. After much debate it was decided that there should not be a special constituency for archdeacons, but that archdeacons could stand in the clergy elections, but not more than one archdeacon could be elected for each diocese. Also approved were amendments to the Church representation rules reducing the age at which lay persons can be elected to Diocesan synods from eighteen to sixteen. The representatives of the universities remained unchanged at six.. Votes at Annual general meetings can be by show of hands or by voting papers signed by the voter on the back or if one tenth of those present and voting request it by numbered voting papers.
A Mission Shaped Church
This interesting report should be read in every parish and deanery, with its reflection on a “mixed economy” church, and it was commended for study and discussion, with parishes being urged to consider the area within their parish boundaries as one of responsibility rather than an area of ownership.
A Measure for Measure
The Synod gave approval to this report, which gives wider grounds for the suspension of presentation to livings, and more opportunities are suggested for clergy in authorised mission initiatives to exercise their ministry across territorial boundaries, and the dioceses commission will be given wider powers to arrange for joint functions to be carried out. There were 65 recommendations to the report. New Pastoral measures and other necessary legislation will be drafted to give effect to this. The legislation will take some time, and will be the subject of future reports to Synod.
Gender Neutral Language
This item moved by Birmingham Diocesan Synod was amended so that the only commitment was to draft future legislation and measures in gender-neutral language, thus saving the cost of amending all earlier church legislation
Future Use of the Church Commissioners Funds
This report was a consultation document with far reaching recommendations. The main thrust of the report was to create more money for mission development purposes. There was to be a 5m switch per annum from the support of bishops and .0.5m per annum from support for cathedrals. This was the cause of a lively debate, with many speakers arguing against cutting funds to cathedrals who were certainly already in the forefront of mission, with the most powerful contribution coming from the Bishop of St Albans, who criticised the report heavily for making the assumption that bishops had nothing to do with mission. He said that dioceses were the right people to concentrate on mission strategy, they knew what needed to be done. The synod voted to adjourn the debate so that there could be further consultations before the matter was brought back.
Being Human – a Report by the Doctrine Commission.
This report with chapters about power, sex money and the right use of time was noted by the Synod and many parishes were using it as basis for study and debate in their dioceses. The chapter on time was road tested in this diocese and some may be familiar with it.
Some Issues in Human Sexuality
This discussion document from the House of Bishops was commended to the church for study and reflection. There were some interesting contributions to the debate not least from one priest who spoke of what it is like to be a homosexual. It was openly mentioned in the debate that faithful Anglican Christians held differing views on these issues but two amendments moved failed.
Standing Orders of the Synod, the rules of Procedure of the Synod had been extensively revised by the committee and the result was approved by synod
This motion by the York Diocesan Synod was intended to remedy the anomaly, which exists now that the government have agreed to allow succession and property right to same sex couples, but not to heterosexual couples. An amending motion by the Bishop of Southwark was moved and carried. This affirmed that marriage is central to the stability and health of human society but recognised that there are issues of hardship and vulnerability for people whose relationships are not based on marriage which need to be addressed by the creation of new legal rights.
The Church of England(Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure received final approval, and The Draft Stipends (Cessation of Special Payments) Measure was revised in committee. A Draft of the Common Worship Ordinal was given first consideration and was referred for revision in committee. Any proposals for amendment must reach the Clerk of the Synod not later than Monday 15th March. The draft Amending Canon No 27 was not approved.
Being Positive about Aids.
Before discussing this report the synod had an address by The Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP, Secretary of State for International Development. The gist of this is reported in the Church Times of 13th February, and the following motion affirmed the work of the Church of England’s World Mission Agencies, the Development agencies and our own diocesan links in their support of people working with Aids, encouraging dioceses and parishes to support World Aids Day (Dec 1st)
Weekday Lectionary and Amendments to Calendar etc was approved for revision in committee
The Review of Clergy Terms of Service
This report proposes to give the large number of clergy who do not have the freehold employment rights, but without making them employees. Instead they will have common tenure. This would be an open-ended appointment until retiring age, and only in special circumstances for a fixed term Dioceses are asked to submit comments by July 2004, and the Archbishops Council will be asked to bring forward recommendations for legislation based on any responses that may be received from dioceses and other interested parties. The Review will have a second stage report, and the question of the freehold will be considered in that report. A form will be sent to dioceses for a summary of their reactions to the proposals.
The Gift of Authority
This report is the most recent of the four agreed statements produced by the second phase of the Anglican – Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) It discusses the possibility of a reformed universal primacy of the future, but the Council for Christian Unity felt that it had an element of ambiguity about it which needed to be resolved. There followed a debate which gave alternative options as to how this might best be expressed, and a motion by the Bishop of Rochester recognising the pioneering work of ARCIC in developing an ecumenical method which seeks to get behind the language of division and to express the common faith in fresh ways was carried. A further motion by Bishop Colin Buchanan, which regretted that the report omitted any reference to the papal Marian decrees, was lost.
This debate was initiated by the Mission and Public Affairs Council, and in referring to the Church’s calling to reach out to the marginalized and persecuted, the motion applauded the responses made by congregations, coalitions with other churches and working with other faiths and voluntary organisations in responding to the needs of refugees and asylum seekers. The motion called upon the Government to deliver a system characterised by the quality speed and justice of its decision making, its respect for human rights and its care for the most vulnerable, and to ensure that rights of appeal and judicial review were not removed, to ensure that no person was left homeless during the period that an application was being processed. The Mission and Public Affairs Committee were to study how a more positive approach could be made to asylum seekers, and report back to Synod within a year. The motion was carried by 300 or so votes in favour and none against.
This brought to an end an action packed synod with far reaching consequences for the Church. Some of the debates, on Mission, the Pastoral Measures, and Church Commissioners Funds will have a direct bearing on our own Kairos Review. At the same time attention was given to world problems, like Aids and Asylum seekers. Watch this space for a further report in July!