THE SYNOD debated the Archbishops’ Council’s annual report on Saturday evening.
Introducing the debate, the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, said that the Council had been set up because many people were conscious that the
C of E lacked a central co-ordinating body. It had a responsibility to “co-ordinate, promote, aid and further the work and mission of the Church of England”.
As a “combined and streamlined version” of the old General Synod standing committee, the Central Board of Finance, and a bit of the old policy sub-committee, it was designed as an executive committee that could hold together resource and policy issues and give effect to the vision articulated by the House of Bishops.
“Occasionally I hear mutterings about the House of Bishops’ becoming much more assertive in recent times. Such mutterings need to be taken with a fair pinch of salt, but they may reflect the fact that the House has come to acknowledge that its capacity for corporate vision-setting has not always been its strength. So making the House and indeed the College of Bishops operate in a more purposeful way, a task on which the House of Bishops’ standing committee has been spending a good deal of time recently, isn’t intended to give the bishops more power, but should help the Council to do its own distinctive job more effectively.”
The Council inevitably spent a lot of time dealing with “resource issues”. It also spent a fair amount of time commissioning and shaping work that eventually came to the Synod; and it regularly reviewed the Church’s work relating to Parliament, Whitehall, and other ecumenical partners. “The creation of the Parliamentary Unit in the course of the past year was designed to create more focus for the Church’s engagement with both Houses of Parliament.”
The Council held to account those in Church House who were delivering services for the wider Church, and tried to make time for “horizon-scanning”, which resulted in initiatives such as the Weddings Project, the Youth Evangelism Fund, or the initiative to attract more ordinands from ethnic minorities.
Gavin Oldham (Oxford) questioned whether the strategic role of the Archbishops’ Council was being properly fulfilled.
David Jones (Salisbury) thought that the report had been self-confident, even perhaps smug.
Canon Chris Lilley (Lincoln) observed that only two people had initially stood to speak. Either they were “deliriously happy” or so disengaged that they could not be bothered to debate it.
The Revd Mark Ireland (Lichfield) urged the Church not to go into a cycle of managing decline, but believe God that things could be different.
Professor Anthony Berry (Chester) wanted the Synod to reflect on national institutions, as opposed to commercial organisations. He urged the Synod to find a way of talking about its institutions which would give impetus for change.
Dr Philip Giddings (Oxford) spoke of the challenge of the conversion of England. The Council needed support, prayer, understanding, and resource — a sharing of commitment and calling.
The Synod took note of the report.