THE GENERAL SYNOD, meeting at the University of York last weekend, decided to ask the Prime Minister for a greater say in church appointments.
Gordon Brown had proposed in a Green Paper published last week that the Church of England should have the decisive voice in the selection of diocesan bishops. In York, the Synod voted to ask for the same say in the appointment of deans and canons.
The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, proposed the change, saying, nevertheless, that the Church had benefited from the expertise of civil servants who had participated in the selection process.
Several challenges to the status quo in the Church failed during the York sessions. Attempts to ensure synodical scrutiny of the wording of the draft Anglican Covenant before the Lambeth Conference were defeated, after the Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, reminded the Synod of its earlier endorsement of the Windsor process that led to the drafting of the Covenant. They ought to be able to trust their archbishops, he said.
The final motion notes that the Covenant process will be concluded only after the text has been considered through the synodical processes across the Communion, a stage that will happen after Lambeth.
Another failed move was the attempt by the diocese of Southwark to instigate a review of the Church Commissioners. This was prompted by what was described as its “scrap” over the commercial sale of the Octavia Hill Estates in London. Although the diocesan motion offered Synod members a range of options, the Synod decided that it was satisfied with the present level of accountability, especially after a commitment by the First Church Estates Commissioner, Andreas Whittam Smith, to a regular question-and-answer session.
A private member’s motion requesting the publication of names on a blacklist of companies composed by the Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) was also resisted. In its place, Synod members accepted a proposal by the Bishop of Worcester, Dr Peter Selby, that the EIAG be more transparent about the thinking behind its investment advice.
The Synod voted for a limited relaxation of the qualifications needed by couples wanting to be married in a particular church. A minority of members had pressed for a complete relaxation.
There was a long debate on clergy pensions, at the end of which the Synod voted for a cap on pension increases and an extension from 37 years’ service to 40 before a full pension is accrued. The motion expresses the hope that this might be reviewed if the financial climate improves.
The Synod welcomed efforts to improve liturgy, reviewed progress with the Methodists, heard from clergy with disabilities, debated minority-ethnic concerns, approved the 2008 budget, and increased burial fees.
There were presentations from Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green, Children’s Commissioner; Mark Russell, chief executive of the Church Army; and the Most Revd Drexel Gomez, who chairs the Covenant Drafting Group.