General Synod February 15-17 2016
Monday 15th February
Travelled down to London again in anticipation of a possible row about Resourcing Ministerial Education but otherwise concerned about the lack of balance in the House of Laity due to the election of members to the Archbishops' Council who are Conservative Evangelical or Catholic. This leaves one third of the more inclusive and 'liberal' Church lacking representation at the table. Nevertheless good to see Diocesan colleagues again and to have the opportunity to network with other dioceses and good to find Diocesan motions on the agenda.
Arrived at lunchtime and the atmosphere is again less fretful, the tearoom is crowded and a real buzz of communication.
Began with the presentation of the newly elected Prolocutors [Heads of Clergy reps] for Canterbury- Rev Canon Simon Butler [openly gay] and Ven Cherry Vann for York. Then Canon Dr Jamie Harrison as Chair of House of Laity [Cons Ev] and Canon Elizabeth Paver [Cath] from Durham and Sheffield respectively.
Professor Michael Clarke elected to continue as Chair of Dioceses' Commission [reviews dioceses].
The Business Committee report
Presented by Rev Canon Sue Booys again, with members asked to reflect on the proposal to have two 3 day sessions per year, with London sessions over a weekend, unless there are exceptional circumstances. This should help those working.
Future business includes a report from the Task Group on Lay Leadership in Feb 2107. I asked if this could be brought forward as it has been asked for over a long period of time. The answer was the Task Group has only just been formed. Also interchangeability of ministries for Anglican and Methodists, scheduled for the same time. Much of the rest of the business is around Renewal and Reform agenda.
Questions revealed cost of each Synod £300,000, shared conversations about AIDS and HIV, concern about too many presentations in the agenda, clergy clothing and budgets for social media.
An extended address by Justin Welby covering the Primates' meeting. The press spin on the event, disappointedly waiting in the café across the road for Bishops to leave; the Eucharist semi-circle including washing of feet and blessing colleagues; the presence of the crozier of St Gregory and the Augustine Gospels; open voting and the leaking of the vote to exclude ACNA all featured, together with concerns about Evangelism and Islam.
Extra arrangements for safeguarding for clergy and lay workers were accepted. Pastoral schemes, appointing teams, compensation for clergy after reorganisation, Bishop's Mission Orders and Patronage sparked some debate. Some clergy were concerned about the removal of job security, some about the removal of the right to consult about the sale of glebe land leading to local resentment, some about the new arrangements needed for Fresh Expressions and new forms of Church. The leader of The Black Sheep was worried that his new church was not fully recognised. Patrons were spoken of warmly by some. I commented that robust appointment procedures had made patrons unnecessary, there are difficulties in finding patrons, some of whom are dead, and difficulties arranging meetings.
Suddenly changed this title to Shared Conversations on Spirituality, Scripture and Mission. A presentation by David Porter on progress and future discussions at York in July. 'Given the significant changes in our culture in relation to human sexuality, how should the Church respond?'
13 regional conversations have taken place, 2 left.
Different procedure for July:
1. Story of our faith
2. Understanding scripture
3. Reading scripture together
4. Changing culture
5. Common perspectives
6. Walking together
Again a wide ranging set of questions answered in writing then supplementaries allowed: just a few..
Discussions on evangelism and how we came to faith. I was in a group with 4 clergy; 3 came to faith as teenagers, 2 always in the church from childhood. When was sharing faith fruitful and energising?
Evangelism Task Group
Presentation. Bishop Philip North challenged the Church to be more proactive, especially about housing estates. Nationally Church has 3.4% decline, housing estates 7%. Community engagement needed.
Black led churches liaison required, 25% born in UK but mother born out of UK is common. 1960s many Afro Caribbean people arrived.
Average age Church member is 62, 84% came to faith before 25, 1% after 45.
C of E not for Pentecostalists- Jesus message lost
81% Church population has a degree, only 44% general pop
Fresh Expressions are all age
need more disciples and pilgrims
accessible language needed
Soul Survivor and Youth Alpha popular
outreach to men needed
C of E and Church of Scotland Report
Presentation and address by Moderator of general Assembly of Church of Scotland, Revd Dr Angus Morrison.
Report went to General Assembly in May. Press release on 29 Jan. Scottish Episcopal Church had withdrawn but sent observer. St Columba's declaration affirms each other, now think what we can do for renewal. Based on Meissen and covenant with Methodists. Nothing in the report about disagreements. References were made to the history, the schism at the Reformation, Presbyters sharing responsibility through congregations, episcopal authority, the need for honest conversations, the confused and hurt messages from the SEC. Members were assured that SEC was involved all the way.
The report was accepted by 243 in favour, 50 against, 49 abstentions.
Parochial Church Fees- Worcester diocese
Motion was lost as many felt heating and verger fees were not the same for all churches. Moved to next business.
Proposed Enabling Measure- from Simplification agenda, will speed up changes in law.
Proposals had been examined by Ecclesiastical Law Society, Synod was challenged by Bishop of Willesden to make positive changes, previously commonly took 3 yrs to get a faculty. An amendment to have 40 members of GS to propose changes was lost. New Scrutiny Committee will check proposals before bringing matters to Synod.
Blood and Organ Donation- Leeds diocese call to ask members of C of E to become blood donors and organ donors.
Appropriately discussion led by Rev Paul Cartwright, leukaemia sufferer given treatment in 2008, a family liaison officer who often had to have discussions with next of kin. Shockingly only 60% give permission even when the donor's wishes are known. Comments were made by the husband of a hospital chaplain, people involved in kidney transplants, bone marrow transplants. Sacrifice and social responsibility is called for.
Motion carried unanimously.
Wednesday 17th February
Impact of sanctions on benefit claimants- West Yorkshire and the Dales diocesan motion
Background paper from Mission and Public Affairs Committee
Implementation of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 has left many struggling with sanctions. Numerous examples were given of those with mental health problems, those needing advocacy, the disabled, homeless, those with no payments who had lost benefits just by being late for appointments, not understanding procedures. Foodbank help is required by many and resort to loan shark. Life stories were shared. Rev Zoe Heming spoke about Jesus aligning himself with disabled people and that work was not readily available for those with complex needs.
The Feeding Britain Working party had reported in December 2014 and the Govt were called to act.
An amendment to encourage practical and pastoral support moved by the Bishop of St Albans was carried unanimously.
The final vote was 320 for, 0 against, 2 abstentions.
Reform and Renewal
A presentation was given on the programme by John Spence and Mike Eastwood.
18 in 1000 people attend C of E
81 yr olds are 8 times more likely to attend than 21 yr olds
Success will be measured by numbers, demographics, baptisms, confirmations and new propositions.
'Renewal and Reform seeks to bring hope through changed lives and transformed communities as people of faith and people finding faith discover vocations and develop a love of God'.
collaboratively led partnerships
a younger cohort of leaders
50% increase in ordinations
In discipleship: lay leadership and lay ministry, RME funding, increase in a range of vocations lay and ordained.
It is hoped that good practice can be identified in parishes and dioceses; under- represented groups including BME and white working class white people show increase; more intern schemes are encouraged; lay and clergy come together, partnerships are created between dioceses and TEIs.
Resourcing Ministerial Education
Vote 1 is considered to be unfit for purpose, lack transparency, have limited accountability, inflexible, not responding to change, no basis for growth, viewed as a tax on the system, unfair to women candidates. Work is taking place with TEIs to finalise age bands, manage transitional issues, develop rules for use of IME.
The Task Group for Lay Leadership had its first meeting on 11 Feb 2016, will go out to wider referral and consultation from March to April 2016, report to Archbishops' Council by Sept 2016, implementation and review by 2017. It is hoped to discover the vision, what is working well, barriers, and implement a plan and review system.
Mark Tanner's amendment to increase safeguards was moved. Rev Damian Feeney spoke as the father of an ordinand, on the principle of consulting the TEIs, the viring of funds, the lesser availability of funding and the Research Degrees Panel and Pathways course. The amendment was lost, 154 in favour, 202 against, 5 abstentions.
Rev Sarah Schofield asked about the support available for disabled ordinands and was reassured by the reply.
[The slides for this presentation will be on the R and R website]
Resourcing the Future
The new financial plans to offer more money to poorer dioceses were explained and the opportunities to bid for more funding. Consultations with dioceses were reported.
Rev Paul Fiddes, ecumenical observer, spoke about the need for partnership in mission, local covenanted partnerships.
Rev Sarah Schofield spoke as a trustee of CUF, an inner city priest, asking about the role of CUF in mission and outreach. The reply was that projects supported by CUF were likely to be looked on favourably. Jayne Ozanne spoke about the richer dioceses , what access would they have to funding, she was referred to her own diocese which has funds available. Rural impoverished parishes requiring funding was raised, the answer was to develop proposals.
John Spence advised all dioceses to approach with a strategy.
Justin Welby blessed us all and we departed with our heads full of information as usual. The later off peak trains were full of families on half term holiday, a reminder that the timing of this GS disadvantaged those with young families.
I also attended the WATCH meeting to hear Bishop Rachel Treweek speak about the challenges of being a woman in the House of Lords, her first few months in office.
The Open Synod meeting was with Jacqui Philips, the Clerk to the Synod and Mike Eastwood, seconded from Liverpool diocese for the Renewal and Reform programme.
DR JACQUI PHILLIPS and
Mike Eastwood AT OPEN SYNOD
OPEN SYNOD OPEN TO ALL OPEN TO THE VIEWS OF OTHERS OPEN MINDED OPEN
OPEN SYNOD hosted two of the powerful and influential Church of England personnel at their meeting on Tuesday 16th February 2016. Mike Eastwood is on secondment from the Diocese of Liverpool to the Reform and Renewal programme. Dr Jacqui Philips is the new Clerk to the General Synod, replacing Colin Podmore.
Mike Eastwood spoke of his BA in history, his cycling proficiency badge [!] and his work two days a week on R and R, his desire to reverse decline and establish a hopeful future.
Jacqui Philips has a Cambridge degree, experience in the corporate sector in London, Brussels, Washington, EU, US and Eire, a first job as a researcher for an MP and a doctorate on John Bunyan.
Mike Eastwood enthused about working for a coordinated narrative, being realistic about investing in different opportunities, looking at what works locally and mutual learning between dioceses. The first phase was looking at the Darlow formula and realigning to a different formula with more money for poorer dioceses. Phase 2 is looking at ministerial education, lay leadership, evangelism and discipleship. Some experimentation is to be encouraged and some projects will fail and some succeed.
He has written his first ever blog:
His motivational verse is Luke 10 v2,
He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.
Dr Jacqui Philips is responsible for staffing the national Church’s boards and committees, the House of Bishops, Archbishop’s Council etc and optimizing the work of NCIs, GS Misc 1094.
She spoke about the digital culture, the change in working practices, the consultation on patterns of Synods and the desire to serve the dioceses in a better way. New emphasis on safeguarding, training and support are her responsibilities and she is excited about the staffing of Task Groups and Phase 2 of Simplification.
Questions were asked about the changing language of the Church into management terms, the need to make biblical connections, too much time spent in trying to agree, the impetus for stewardship [40% of giving relies on over 60s], whether the parish system is efficient, the need for more churches- not less, the mission in rural communities, more radical and strategic thinking, whether we have too many dioceses and their need to work together, the need for reimagined church buildings. Comments were made about ‘turning rhetoric into reality’, lay people leading congregations, the need to ‘catch a vision’. Ely diocese has a zero based budget where each department bids for money, which has resulted in more money left for mission. ‘We have left this late in the day’ was a common feeling, also the need for sharing good practice; one idea was to support modelling of good ideas on the website. Ecumenical working has not been fully considered, the need to work together in communities.
Concerns were expressed about the poor quality of catering for fringe groups, seating arrangements, lack of Mothers’ Union meetings, chairmen of debates giving indicative timings, lack of use of the new voting machines’ microphones, the poor quality lighting in York, timings of General Synods.
Jacqui went away with much to think about.
Our next meeting will be our Annual Quiz for charity on Saturday night in York.