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Wednesday, 16 February 2011

General Synod February 2011 Sessions - a Summary

Here is a potted summary of what happened at the recent sessions of General Synod held at Church House, Westminster from 7 - 9 February. As usual, not all discussions and decisions are immediately relevant to this particular Church of England Diocese in Europe, but you cannot say you I don't keep you informed about what your Church is up to!

However, of particular ecumenical interest is the discussion on the ARCIC document Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ.

It is a slightly longer than normal post, so remember to follow the read more link.

Key debates and presentations included:

Address by International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell
The Secretary talked about the scope for greater collaboration between Government and the Church on the Millennium Development Goal of partnerships for development. He is the first Coalition Minister to address the Synod. The Archbishop of Canterbury thanked him and referred to the Church's continued commitment to international development work including the new Anglican Alliance: Development, Relief and Advocacy.

Clergy Discipline
The Synod gave initial consideration to a draft Measure making various changes to the disciplinary procedures for clergy which, amongst other things, would enable proceedings to be taken against clergy who are members of political parties or organisations whose constitutions etc. are declared by the House of Bishops to be incompatible with the teaching of the Church of England on race equality. The draft now undergos the usual process of detailed scrutiny and revision before being returned to the Synod for further debate.

Christian Initiation/Baptism
In response to a motion from Liverpool, the Synod passed the following resolution: "That this Synod request the House of Bishops to ask the Liturgical Commission to prepare material to supplement the Common Worship Initiation provision, including additional forms of the Decision, the Prayer over the Water and the Commission, expressed in accessible language". The resolution will likely be considered by the House of Bishops at its May meeting.

Plans for the quinquennium
Synod debated a strategic report from the Archbishops' Council and the House of Bishops looking at the opportunities and challenges facing the Church of England over the next 5 years. This work will now be taken forward by the Archbishops' Council and the House of Bishops

Anglican-Roman Catholic relations
The Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill (Chair of the Council for Christian Unity, CCU), and Bishop George Stack, on behalf of the (Roman) Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, gave a presentation. This was followed by a debate on a motion from the CCU based on the report from the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC): Mary - Grace and Hope in Christ, published in 2005. Synod voted to welcome the dialogue between the two Churches; noted the strengths and weaknesses of the ARCIC report and the areas for further work identified in the briefing paper from the Faith and Order Advisory Group; and encouraged study of the report.

Parochial Fees Policy
Synod had a general debate about the principles and practical outworking of the proposed new legal framework for setting fees and took note of the report Ecclesiastical Fees - Implementing the new legislation. Last year, Synod gave final approval to new legislation (which is now completing its parliamentary stages). The legal framework for setting fees will in future be significantly different and before the Archbishops' Council draws up the first Fees Order it sought Synod's views through this debate.

Marriage after Divorce and the Ordained Ministry
Synod debated and then agreed to take note of the House of Bishops' statement on Marriage after Divorce and the Ordained Ministry which was issued in June 2010. The statement clarified the position on a number of matters including the possible appointment of bishops who may have married again after divorce or have married someone who has been divorced.

Presidential Address by the Archbishop of York
Dr John Sentamu addressed Synod on the theme of "Reconnecting and Refreshing the Wellsprings of Solidarity in England".He explained what it meant for the Church of England to contribute as a national church for the common good at a time of great uncertainty. The full text can be found at

Anglican Communion Covenant
A motion from Mr John Ward (that was not debated at the November Synod for lack of time) called for two-thirds majorities (rather than simple majorities) in the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy and the House of Laity at the Final Approval Stage for the draft Act of Synod adopting the Anglican Communion Covenant. The motion was defeated.

The idea of an Anglican Communion Covenant was first proposed in the Windsor report of 2004, following developments in relation to same-sex partnerships in North America. It was envisaged that the Anglican Covenant would "make explicit and forceful the loyalty and bonds of affection" which govern the relationships between the Churches of the Anglican Communion. A text of the Covenant was sent in December 2009 to all the Churches of the Anglican Communion for their approval. The House of Bishops agreed in May 2010 to commend the Covenant to the Synod for adoption. Synod formally considered the Covenant in November before referring it for consideration by the diocesan synods. The draft Act of Synod will return to the Synod in due course for Final Approval, possibly in 2012.

Synod enjoyed two presentations: from the Ethical Investment Advisory Group and the Archbishops' Council Weddings Project. It also approved Colin Podmore as the new Clerk to the Synod, (upon the retirement in March of David Williams).

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, David. Great reporting!