General Synod, November 2015
Monday 23rd November
Travelled down to join Lichfield colleagues. Delighted to find 100 new members, changed age profile [down about 10 years] and cordial atmosphere.
New Induction Day handbook and lots of sensible information.
New Lichfield members, 5 clergy and 3 laity. Revs Zoe Heming, Shaun Morris, Damian Feeney, Sarah Schofield, Preb Brian Williams. Laity- Chris Gill, John Naylor, Robin Whitehouse. Returning members- Canon Pat Hawkins, Chik Tan, John Wilson, myself.
New members were given an update about ongoing business.
Canon David Porter gave a short report.
- 9 of the 13 shared conversations have taken place
- 2 days in July will be given to conversations- Day 1 will be all of Synod, Day 2 will be group work on scripture
- in preparation dioceses should be asked to take conversations forwards
- the age profile of the C of E needs change
- growth is needed
- the parish profile system should be retained
- Anecdote to Evidence report provided the catalyst for change
- demographics of the priesthood are being examined
- we have been subsidising decline
- to enable growth half the money provided will got to deprived areas
- the Darlow formula is being revised
- transitional funding will be in place
- money will be needed for lay training
- the second tranche of Senior Laedership training will take lplace
- training will be extended to deans
- a new Learning Community is being established
Interim appointments have been dealt with already in committee. Also loss of office. Next will be a new Enabling Measure to change legislation more easily.
National Church Issues
- IT and social media
- lack of female ordinands, 2 women for 7 men in 17-25 age range in church
Christina Rees and Rob Houlding played the parts of the Archbishops in a dramatized enactment of the proceedings of GS to help people understand the behaviour required, the nature of Questions, the Right to Reply, the procedure for speaking, entering and exiting the chamber etc. This provided welcome relief from the heavy information and some merriment, particularly as several saints appeared to contribute.
William Fittall was his usual efficient self in talking of Church House staff and their roles, as was Jacqui Phillips.
Altogether a much improved induction.
Tuesday 24th November
Inauguration at Westminster Abbey
Very much tighter security than usual with the Met police X raying our luggage. Waiting in the cloisters was not as chilly an experience as 5 years ago. We again paraded down the aisle with the laity accompanying the clergy. Good to see Julie Jones and Neil Harvey Smith there as my guests.
Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry appeared and fanfare accompanied the Queen's entrance. Service in such surroundings was as moving as ever; sitting beneath memorials to David Garrick and James Wyatt. Lessons were read by William Fittall, retiring Gen Sec and Bishop Libby Lane. Pope had sent his envoy, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the Papal Household, to give us profound reflections on Church Unity.
Following the service the Queen came to Church House to give an address. Justin Welby amused her with a brief account of the behaviour of her ancestors as regards the Church. She focused on Church Unity also. We had to wait for her to leave the building before escaping for lunch. Neil enjoyed a tour of the Church House building.
JW brought a plumb line into the chamber which had been found during renovations at Lambeth. He used it to illustrate building justice and judgement, talked of walking together, what the Lord wants, listening, warned against too much looking inwards, celebrating flourishing.
Business Committee report
Not as many complaints as usual about the business. There is a new app for GS which appears to be working well. The Birmingham Diocesan Synod motion on disinvesting in fossil fuels may be withdrawn. Some complaints about having presentations rather than take note debates which allow comment to be made. Also on Private Member's Motions which take too long to be discussed. The Comms team are thinking of having a chat room online for members.
REFORM AND RENEWAL
Bishop Pete Broadbent explained that there is a great deal left to do. 2300 responses to be analysed from the returns asking for the next issues. He commented on the closure of buildings, compensation for loss of office, Phase 2 proposals for the first half of 2016 which will go out to Dioceses and parishes June-Sept 2016, to be legislated for Feb 2017. The new Enabling Measure should help to process things more swiftly if it is passed in Feb 2016.
Matthew Frost explained a report is being prepared reviewing:
- the place and role of the lay leader
- culture and resources
- collaboration with the clergy
- leadership in all spheres
- definition of leadership
- underlying hindrances
- theological basis
- broad engagement, broadening relationships
- good practice
- shared understanding
- integration with other work streams
- practical solutions and implications
The new format for Questions again proved a success, with all questions answered in writing and supplementary questions asked in person.
A selected few:
- figures for visitors on social media to Baptisms 36000, Weddings 797000, Funerals 19000.
- numbers of employees earning over £100000. 4 in Admin, 9 in finance
- guidance on wearing mitres? own choice
- private sponsorship of refugees? conversations with Govt, churches and other faith partners
- no further guidance re same sex marriages
- election turnout for GS? ranging from 29-75%, under 50% in 22 of 33 dioceses that have posted figures, under 40% in 4 dioceses
- framework for RE in schools- need national agreed syllabus
- Virtual Learning Environment contract has been cancelled, but still using Uniservity until Sept 2016
- Clergy retirements and Lay Readers' retirements- no decision on clergy, Readers over 70s need to apply for PTO
- Extremist Disruption orders- Govt has pledged religious opinions will be safeguarded
- Trident decision - ethical considerations will be discussed next year, Lords Spiritual being resourced
- Halloween- resources on Church's website
- Has the C of E benefited from slavery? Any plans for reparations- no way to make an assessment
Loyal Address- sent by JW.
Margaret and John Sentamu, in traditional dress, made a unique presentation on their visit to Samoa, Fiji, Tonga. They witnessed consequences of rising seal levels, deforestation, and took part in ceremonies that honoured their presence.
The Migrant Crisis
60 million people are moving into other countries, a global problem. Burundi, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Eritrea and others.
320000 have died on the journey.
The public mood is challenging from some, bitter winter conditions are arriving, UK bishops are criticising the allocation of 20000. Dioceses are building practical partnerships and developing private sponsorship, the first Syrians from the camps will arrive by Christmas.
Caroline Spelman mounted a defence of the Govt position and the money spent on refugee camps. She also appealed for Home For Good for unaccompanied children, provision of Welcome boxes, teachers of English and help from Christian landlords. She spoke about the fear and resentment of some. Bishop Angaelous warmly thanked the UK church for wishing to help the refugees and the need for ecumenical collaboration. Tim Hind spoke about the Near Neighbours scheme. Rev Andrew Nunn had visited the Jungle camp with bibles and essentials. His amendment to subtly criticise the Govt response was lost. Giles Goddard's amendment to urge the Govt to take a fair proportion of refugees, particularly those with family in the UK was welcomed and added to a motion which recognised the suffering of the 60 million, urged parishes to assist other community partners, to pray, resettle more than 20000, urge the High Commissioner to take into account religious persecution and establish safe and legal routes to safety. The Bishop of Gibraltar spoke of 29000 traffickers, the heavy burden on countries close to the crisis points. Elliot Swattridge of the Youth Council denounced the zenophobia in the UK. Others spoke of the cruelty of IS, 800000 travelled by sea, 3500 drowned. The desire to help was pronounced. The motion was passed unanimously.
A long discussion on the new fees for legal officers, which have risen considerably. The new fees were approved despite the reservations of those who objected to the large rise. Comparisons were made with private work, which attracts larger fees. They will be reviewed next year.
Public Perceptions of Jesus
A presentation on Talking Jesus was positively received although some of the results were difficult. Relationships with practising Christians were important and many people were confident in talking about their faith. Christians are generally considered to be friendly, caring and good humoured. Half non-Christians have had conversations about faith. Practising Christians in the survey were highly educated, 81% had a degree; this raises questions about contacting the rest of the population.
82% can communicate their faith.
50% people are ready to have a conversation.
70% have talked about their faith in the previous month.
18-34 year olds are more likely to share their faith.
41% have grown up in a Christian family.
After the conversation 42% glad not to have faith!
Rev Zoe Heming bravely asked a question on her first session, 'How do we make sure that the "wounded healer", the "Weak Jesus" isn't lost or among a more business approach, especially during at time of fear where we prefer a powerful and strong, black and white Saviour?'
Bishop of Durham responded: 'Question is important and we need to learn "appropriate vulnerability" when most fear admitting weakness. The stories of people who walk through hard things, with God, are a powerful witness which we need to be braver about sharing'.
Church Buildings Review report
The blessing and burden of the buildings was recognised in the motion recommending the report to parishes and dioceses.
The press had seized the idea of Festival Churches and misrepresented it- the idea is to keep the churches open as much as possible.
Examples of rural parishes with Medieval buildings, imaginative alternative use of churches by their communities, the need for relief from VAT, the reducing grants available, state support, church building support officers, the support of English Heritage, extra money for roof repairs and bats were all mentioned in debate. The report was recommended.
House of Laity meeting
The candidates for the Chair and Vice Chair of the House of Laity and Archbishops' Council were invited to give 3 min addresses to the members of laity.
Tim Hind, Margaret Swinson and Jamie Harrison are standing for the Chair.
I am standing for the role of Vice Chair, together with Tim Hind, Jamie Harrison, Elizabeth Paver, Paul Boyd Lee.
John [Tug] Wilson is standing for the Business Committee and Preb Pat Hawkins for the Cathedral Repairs Commission.
Open Synod, the group I Vice Chair, had a successful lunch time event showcasing the various fringe groups for new members, who by that stage were looking tired but still able to enjoy finding out a little more about the workings of the interest groups.
Here is the link to the election addresses for the House of Laity elections for Chair, Vice Chair and Archbishops' Council:
Just heard Preb Pat Hawkins has a place on the Cathedral Repairs Commission for England, no election needed. Congratulations!