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Synod in brief

25 November 2010

THE Archbishop of Canterbury asked the Synod to pray for the Dean of Southwark, the Very Revd Colin Slee, who is seriously ill. He welcomed all the new members of the Synod, particularly the new Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cott­rell, and the new Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Lang­staff.

There was also a welcome for the Revd Jan Mullin, of the Moravian Church, and a delegation from the Evangelical Church of Finland.

BARONESS FRITCHIE, a senior cross-bench peer, has undertaken an external scrutiny, at the Archbishops’ request, of how the Crown Nom­inations Commission process for filling the vacancy in the see of Southwark gave rise to media reports (concerning the Dean of St Albans, Dr Jeffrey John). This report will be circulated only to members of the Commission for Southwark. Any recommendations will be carefully considered by the central members of the Commission, Dr Williams told the Synod during Questions.

THE First Church Estates Com­missioner, Andreas Whittam Smith, was visiting the north-east ear­lier than planned to hold discussions over the Zurbarán paintings at Auckland Castle, he told the Synod during Questions. In accordance with their usual practice, the Com­missioners would be reviewing Auckland Castle’s suitability as a see house, not their future ownership of it; and this review was entirely separate from the potential sale of the paintings.

THE Archbishops’ Council is ap­point­ing a Procurement Officer, with the help of funds from the Church Commissioners. The remit will be to help parishes and dioceses benefit from purchasing arrangements that take full advantage of the Church’s collective purchasing power, the Synod was told on Tuesday after­noon. The officer will have the challenge of “identifying opportun­ities to help parishes and dioceses save £10 million”, the deputy chair­man of the Finance Committee, Brian Newey (Oxford), said.

FROM October 2013, chancel-repair liability attached to a property will have to be registered against the title of the property for it to be binding on a purchaser. This means, the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, told the Synod during Ques­tions, that the so-called “convey­ancing trap” will disappear.

THE Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, defended the keeping of Houses of Bishops, minutes confi­den­­tial and the publication of only a “Summary of Decisions”. The out­comes of the meetings were reported to the Synod, and the House fre­quently issued explanatory material. But its meetings could involve candid and robust discussion. “In my judge­ment, bishops need to be able to ‘speak the truth in love’ in the privacy of their meetings without being inhibited by the thought that a detailed account of the exchanges is to be published,” he said.

There was a supplementary ques­tion from the original ques­tioner, Adrian Vincent (Guildford), a former minute-taker for the House of Bishops, who asked whether the House still held private sessions without minutes’ being taken. Yes, said Dr Sentamu.

THERE has been no delay in appointing the drafting group for the women-bishops Code of Practice, the Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, told the Synod; it was accepted in May that the group should not be constituted until after the July group of sessions. It is holding its first meeting this month. He said that it would “damage the integrity of the legislative process” to provide a preliminary draft for the diocesan synods to see during consideration of the draft legislation.

THE Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, resisted a request from Professor Tony Berry (Chester) for an invitation to be considered to “create a Christmas-carol wave” around the world at 10 a.m. (local time) on Christmas Day. “Christmas morning is a very busy time. I don’t think clergy or parish­ioners would appreciate a request to do something at a particular time which may not coincide with their own service times,” the Bishop said.

He also rejected a request for the Liturgical Commission to consider allowing the celebration of Ascension Day on the Seventh Sunday of Easter. The Ascension should be kept 40 days after Easter, and the following Sunday was already kept as the Sunday after Ascension Day.

IN THE light of the St Leonard’s sham-marriages case in Chichester diocese, the Secretary General, William Fittall, told the Synod that

the introduction in 2005 of the certificate-of-approval requirement for all non-Church of England wed­dings had increased pressure on the Church from those wishing to contract marriages of convenience. “In doubtful cases, clergy are en­couraged to proceed by way of common licence rather than banns so that diocesan registries can consult the Border Agency where necessary.”

IN THE three largest diocesan elec­torates for the General Synod, the turnout was: London (clergy 56 per cent), Lichfield (laity 42 per cent); Oxford (clergy 44.87 per cent, laity 45.75 per cent); Southwark (clergy 50.5 per cent), London (laity 50 per cent). In the three smallest, it was: Bradford (clergy 68 per cent), Europe (laity 45 per cent); Europe (clergy 61 per cent), Bradford (laity 51 per cent); and Sodor & Man (clergy 53 per cent, laity 44 per cent).

The highest percentage returns were in Ely (clergy 75 per cent) and Chelmsford (laity 64.13 per cent); and the lowest were in Bristol (clergy 43.2 per cent) and Liverpool (laity 36.3 per cent).

THE London Diocesan Board for Schools has investigated the issue of school-meal providers in London who did not offer non-halal meat, and has advised its schools that they should not opt for halal meat, and should change to a provider offering a choice, the Bishop of Lincoln, Dr John Saxbee, told the Synod in answer to a question from Alison Ruoff (Lon­don), who called it a manifestation of sharia.

SINCE 2005, 117 people have been recommended for training as Or­dained Pioneer Ministers. In 2010, 23 have been recommended. The peak year was 2008 (29).

THE working group chaired by the Bishop of Sheffield, the Rt Revd Steven Croft, on the impact of pro­posed changes in university funding will report to the Ministry Council in March 2011.

The Ministry Division has modelled some of the possible financial implications of the Browne report. On the assumption that candidates doing full-cost awards were charged £9000 in the future, and that the Church continued to pay the entire cost of such training, this would result in an addition cost of £450,000.

University fees paid by the C of E in 2009/10, outside the block grant for ordination training, ranged from £7135 at Oak Hill and £10,114 at Queen’s College, Birmingham, to £107,097 at Westcott House, Cam­bridge, and £98,372 (including retrospective fees of £28,066) at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. These were for students in colleges. Fees (outside block grants) for students on the 16 regional courses totalled £86,260.

THIS YEAR, 72 per cent of those in ministerial training in theological colleges are male; 28 per cent are female. Thirty-eight per cent are aged between 30 and 39; 29 per cent aged 20-29.

THE Church of England “in its local presence, including parish churches, schools, chaplaincies, and charitable trusts, constitutes the single most extensive network in society”, Dr Philip Giddings (Oxford), chairman of the Mission and Public Affairs Council, told the Synod, in answer to a question about the estimated number of faith groups in the UK.

THE estimated cost of a General Synod meeting in London is £400,000 at 2011 prices, the Synod heard. Fay Wilson-Rudd (Bath & Wells) asked the Business Committee to consider providing the members with e-notebooks dedicated to receiving Synod papers, to reduce postage, paper, and staff time. A lively debate on the Business Committee’s report focused partly on its decision to send some of the more substantial papers to Synod members electronically, and only a short summary in printed form, while paper versions of the larger documents remain available on request. This is a trial. Members’ responses are being canvassed.

SINCE the Church’s national disin­vestment in the mining company Vedanta Resources, on eth­ical grounds, Gavin Oldham (Oxford) told the Synod, the Indian govern­ment has denied Vedanta permission to go ahead with its proposal to mine in the Niyamgiri hills. The C of E’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group will be ready to resume dialogue with the company if it demonstrates clear commitment to improving its per­formance on social and environ­mental issues, Mr Old­ham said.

THE Synod should acknowledge the Pope’s “remarkable” visit to Britain, Prebendary David Houlding (London) said during the debate on the Business Committee’s report. People seemed to have felt a new freedom to express their faith in Jesus Christ publicly.

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