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Don’t talk too long, Synod warned

14 June 2013

by Pat Ashworth 

Gay relationships

THE SEC voted overwhelmingly last year not to adopt the Anglican Covenant, a move that the Primus described as a brave decision, "expressive of the clarity of our mind, and passionate sense of what the Communion is all about." Individual provinces needed to explore these issues internally, in their own lives, the Primus reiterated last week.

Discussion of the Covenant had become a surrogate for discussion of human sexuality, he suggested: "We should have been talking about the issues, but we were talking about the Covenant." The Secretary General, John Stuart, who attended the 15th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council at the end of last year, believed that the Covenant would fade as an item on the Communion agenda. "It will become increasingly clear that the Covenant is not the way forward," he said.

Scotland was welcome everywhere, and the SEC's standing in the Anglican Communion - to which it affirmed its commitment - had not changed as a result of its decision, the Primus said. He has travelled widely in the Communion over the past year, and is closely involved with the Continuing Indaba project, which seeks to "encourage conversation across difference in the cause of mission".

He was speaking in the context of the setting up of a design process to discuss same-sex relationships, on which there has been no debate in the SEC. The group's convener, the Bishop of Brechin, Dr Nigel Peyton, acknowledged in his introduction that some would find "discussion of the undiscussable" difficult, but that the approach was intended to be "generous, thoughtful and respectful", not reduced to issues, but focusing on people. It was a "great opportunity to grasp a theological and contextual moment".

Alison Clark (Argyll & The Isles) reminded the Synod that two listening processes had already been engaged in, one of which had involved 100 people. She urged the design group to take account of the considerable work already done. Helen Hood (Edinburgh) was impatient with the amount of time spent "talking about how to discuss things. Move forward; have a timetable; get on with it," she urged.

The Very Revd Dr Francis Bridger (Brechin) saw the move as a unique opportunity for the province to develop a valuable model for others. But while it was important to create a context for listening and discussion, it was also vital to move on, identify outcomes, and be clear about them. Dr Beth Routledge (Glasgow & Galloway) sought early clarification of the process. Was it about gay marriage? Pastoral responsibility for couples in same-sex relationships? And what was now the status of the Communion moratoria on the consecration of bishops and the development of blessing rites?

Christine McIntosh (Argyll & The Isles) was among those urging "Don't take too long or let the steps be too small." The Very Revd Kelvin Holdsworth (Glasgow & Galloway) acknowledged the goodwill behind the process, but, reminding the Synod that Indaba had come out of the same Lambeth Conference as had excluded Bishop Gene Robinson, said: "Some of the reference points don't read very positively for me. . . It's not gone very well so far."

The Primus acknowledged that there had been no clarity in the Communion about the link between the Anglican Covenant and the status of the moratoria, whose authority appeared to be "ebbing away as time passes". He likened them to a ceasefire that stopped the fighting but "removed the urgency to resolve the issues".

The design group will engage Communion partners, particularly through companionship links, and will report its progress to the Mission and Ministry Board.


THE Synod also welcomed a paper on ethical investment and ethical banking from the Church in Society Investment Committee.Jeremy Bur­c­hill, its convener, said that in­­vestments must reflect the Church's values and ethos, and not run cou­n­ter to its aims. The Church "must insist on integrity, and demonstrate it ourselves".

But, more than this, it must move from not just negative screening-out of investments that did not meet these aims to a more ethical position generally. "We hope in due course that adapting wider social invest­ment policies can widen our activities as a Church. . . Develop an informed debate on business ethics," he said. He urged the ad­­option of activities that were ap­­propriate to the scrutiny of corp­orate governance.

Time pressures limited debate, but despair was expressed from the floor at those excluded from mainstream banking, and forced to use doorstep and payday lenders, who could charge interest of up to 5000 per cent. Members were urged to find their local Credit Union, and pledge a modest amount each month to provide an affordable source of credit for the most disadvantaged in their localities.

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