General Synod Digest – summary of just about every speech

General Synod Digest

Last week I was with Church Times reporter Madeleine Davies; reporter and deputy news editor Ed Thornton; and deputy editor Glyn Paflin; at the General Synod in York for the Church of England’s General Synod.

We were there to produce a number of reports for the paper and the Church Times new website; but also to write a detailed summary of each and every debate for the General Synod Digest – a thrice-yearly publication (there will be more, this year, as I wrote a preview of the July Synod at a time when we didn’t expect there to be a November one).

Here are the stories we produced for the General Synod Digest, with links to the full text on the Church Times website:

Women bishops

The Synod has agreed to adjourn the final-approval debate on the legislation for women bishops. It is to be resumed in November, when the House of Bishops will have had the opportunity to reflect again on Clause 5(1), as the Synod has requested.

Same-sex marriage

The Church of England response to the Government’s consultation on gay marriage, its status, and the process that lay behind it came under close scrutiny during Questions last Friday.

Diocese in Europe

The Draft Diocese in Europe Measure returned for revision.

Robert Key (Salisbury) suggested that the Anglican community in Europe “works in a way that puts us to shame in many respects”. The self-financing was “remarkable”. The Church owed it to this community to “help modestly” with finances, and to change the balance of governance to empower people in the diocese’s chaplaincies. It was a “good Measure” that the Synod should support.

Porvoo Communion

Among the ecumenical guests welcomed at the General Synod last Friday was the Archbishop of Turku & Finland, the Rt Revd Kari Mäkinen, who was invited to address the Synod from the platform.

The Archbishop described some of the “common questions”, arising from “great social and cultural change”, faced by Churches in the Porvoo Communion. Recognition of this commonality could lead to “deeper unity”, even if Churches reached different conclusions.

Summer riots 2011
Faith reflected in works at the barricades

The Church’s response to the riots of last summer was the subject of a debate on Sunday afternoon, based on the report Testing the Bridges: Understanding the role of the Church amidst riots, disturbances and disorder.

Faith in public life
Things visible and invisible

The General Synod has called on Christians to “manifest” their faith in “public life”; but it declined a request to embody this precept in a new addition to canon law.

Moving his private member’s motion, which was the basis of the debate on Sunday evening, the Revd Stephen Trott (Peterborough) said that it would be “nonsense, as things currently stand, to describe the situation of the Church in England as being one of persecution”.

Support work for peace in divided region, Synod urged

A motion on Palestine and Israel which has caused dismay in sections of the Jewish community was carried by the General Synod on Monday afternoon, but with an unusually high number of abstentions after an attempt to remove criticised parts of it failed.

Church schools

The Chadwick report, The Church School of the Future, was the subject of a presentation on Monday afternoon.

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, who chairs the Board of Education, suggested that, “for the long-term good of the Church of England, nothing is of greater importance than how we respond to the Chadwick report.” He sought to get across the “momentousness of the time we’re in”. If this opportunity was missed, the Christian story would “continue to slide out of our cultural memory”; but, by seizing it, the Church could be “embedding that story in the life of the nation in a way we haven’t been able to do for decades”.

Eucharistic prayers

The Synod gave final approval on Sunday afternoon to additional eucharistic prayers.

Introducing the debate, the Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, said that the original motion, brought to the Synod in 2008, had provided a “clear brief” to provide prayers that children could “engage with”, and that “reflected their needs as worshippers”.

Church Commissioners
Whittam Smith shocked by ‘bad business’ at Barclays

THE Church Commissioners’ annual report was the subject of a presentation on Saturday afternoon.

The First Church Estates Commissioner, Andreas Whittam Smith, said that it was “rather impossible not to be gloomy at the moment” regarding the global economic picture. How, in these circumstances, should the £5.2-billion fund be managed in a prudent way? Furthermore, the Church was facing its own “crisis” in the shape of demographic changes.

Draft budget

THE Synod approved the Archbishops’ Council’s draft budget and proposals for apportionment for 2013 on Sunday afternoon.

Introducing the debate, Andrew Britton, chairman of the Archbishops’ Council Finance Committee, said that last year the Synod had approved, for 2012, an increase of 1.8 per cent in total apportionment. During the closing months of last year, however, it had become clear “that expenditure in 2011 was coming in well under budget”.

PCC powers
Property rules may change

The Synod has voted to bring forward legislation to extend the property-owning powers of PCCs.

On Saturday afternoon, the Revd Christopher Hobbs (London) introduced a private member’s motion calling on the Archbishops’ Council to bring forward legislation to amend the Parochial Church Coun-cils (Powers) Measure 1956 to allow certain PCCs to own their own land.

Archbishops’ council

The Synod had a presentation and a question-and-answer session on the annual report of the Archbishops’ Council.

Canon Robert Cotton (Guildford) told the Synod that the Archbishops’ Council and House of Bishops had established a “promisingly styled Simplification Working Group”.

Fresh Expressions
Fresh Expressions found ‘authentic’

The General Synod endorsed Fresh Expressions (church-plants or new congregations that have been created in response to the changing culture) as “authentic manifestations of Anglican ecclesiology”, after a debate on Saturday evening.

“Fresh Expressions and traditional churches are part of one and the same Church engaged together in a common mission,” the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, said at the start of a debate on a report from the Mission and Public Affairs Council, Fresh Expressions and Church Growth, to which was appended the report of an Anglican-Methodist working party, Fresh Expressions in the Mission of the Church.

World mission
Working together at home and abroad

A report “exploring new frameworks for the Church of England in world mission” was the basis of a debate by the General Synod on Saturday morning.

Introducing the debate, the Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Mike Hill, commended the report World-shaped Mission to the Synod. The motion focused “on the four priorities that I believe will assist us to re-imagine the Church of England’s realistic contribution to the global mission”, he said. These were: “the necessity for co-ordination in a field of increasing diversity”; “the importance of a sense of common Anglican identity”; “the need for continuing relationships within the National Church Institutions”; and “the need to be seen to be working out principles of mutuality among Church of England links and agencies as well as with our partners in the global Church”.

Clergy discipline

Before the Clergy Discipline (Amendment) Measure came to the Synod for final approval, members were able to debate a take-note motion on a report from the steering committee.

Opening the debate, the Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill, said that “important lessons have been learned and a number of improvements put into place” since the original Measure, which came into force in 2006. The amendment Measure would also fulfil the request made by the Synod in 2009 to “bring back proposals to the effect that clergy in membership or support of racist organisations should be cognisant of discipline”.

Miscellaneous provisions

Exhumations, overseas clergy, and the disciplining of lay workers came before the Synod when it gave first consideration to a mixed bag of business under the headings of the Draft Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure and Draft Amending Canon No. 31.

Vacancy-in-see committees

THE Synod, on Monday afternoon, resolved “that the Vacancy in See Committees Regulation 1993 (as amended in 2003, 2007 and 2008) be amended so as to ensure that Vacancy in See Committees have at least 21 members”.

Introducing the motion from Bradford diocesan synod, Ian Fletcher (Bradford) said that it had been drawn up “to correct a perceived fault in the current Regulations”. The coding of the Vacancy-in-See Committees Regulation was “in need of some additional colour”.


Although the farewell to the Archbishop of Canterbury has been postponed until the November group of sessions, tribute was paid to three long-serving figures for whom this was their last group of sessions: the Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Nicholas Reade; the Bishop of Beverley, the Rt Revd Martyn Jarrett; and chief stenographer Margaret Stevenson.

Subscribers can download all the above stories in a handy PDF document, by clicking here.