THE new General Synod heeded the Archbishop of Canterbury’s call to continue the process towards an Anglican Covenant when it met at Church House this week, and it embraced the Government’s Big Society programme.
In his presidential address on Tuesday, Dr Williams urged Synod members, about one third of whom were sitting for the first time, to listen to one another’s arguments and “to surprise those who are looking on . . . by your loyalty to each other”.
During a debate on the Anglican Covenant on Wednesday morning, Dr Williams said that it was “unduly idealistic to believe that good will alone can carry us through”. He insisted that the Covenant was “an attempt to set out a structure of consent rather than a structure of discipline”.
After a debate in which concerns about the content and implementation of the Covenant were raised, all three Houses of the Synod voted overwhelmingly for the motion: “That the draft Act of Synod adopting the Anglican Communion Covenant be considered.”
In the House of Bishops, 39 voted in favour, none against, with one abstention; in the House of Clergy, 145 voted in favour, and 32 against, and 11 abstained; in the House of Laity, 147 voted in favour, and 25 against, and eight abstained.
Introducing a debate on the Big Society on Tuesday, the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Timothy Stevens, said that the programme had begun to unleash a new wave of energy in the Churches for practical social action. The Synod enthusiastically welcomed the concept of the Big Society as an opportunity for the Church and a way of emphasising work that is already being done.
The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, said that there was now a need to rebalance the contribution of state and civil society. Churches and charities could not expand volunteering without expanding the infrastructure and management of volunteers.
The Synod agreed that a feasibility study be undertaken to encourage the development of partnerships between the Government and voluntary organisations.
On Wednesday afternoon, the press gallery emptied as the Synod attended to the matter of clergy terms and conditions; it then debated and carried a motion that the Church of England Marriage (Amendment) Measure be considered for revision in committee.
Synod ended on a lighter note as Dr Williams paid tribute to the Bishop of Lincoln, Dr John Saxbee, who retires early next year. Dr Williams said that Dr Saxbee had modelled the kind of “public engagement and communication” which helped build the Big Society.