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Synod: ‘There will be arguments’ despite group talks

14 June 2013

SAM ATKINS

A "SHARP" argument about the provision afforded to those who cannot accept the episcopal ministry of women is expected at the next meeting of the General Synod, William Fittall, the Secretary General, said on Friday.

At a press briefing in preparation for the July meeting, Mr Fittall said that there was a "very sharp division of views on those questions . . . of giving people the protection that they need . . . as to how much you need to put in legislation and how much you can rely on declarations and Acts of Synod. There will be sharp argument in this Synod."

The motion from the House of Bishops which proposes that draft legislation be prepared and introduced in November on the basis of option one of the working group ( News, 31 May) will take place on Monday 8 July.

Mr Fittall thought that, in the wake of the fall of the November measure, there was a general desire, even among those who could not accept the ministry of women bishops, to avoid a protracted process ending in legislative failure again: "One train crash is extremely bad; two really would be unacceptable."

Saturday 6 July will be largely dedicated to facilitated discussions about women bishops with members divided into 24 groups of 20, each combining those who had voted for and against the November measure. The Synod would not be sitting during this time and members of the public or press would not be admitted.

The Synod will also debate safeguarding, after the reports from the Chichester diocesan Commissaries (News, 10 May). A motion will be brought asking Synod to endorse an "unreserved apology" from the Archbishops for "the failure of its systems to protect children, young people and adults from physical and sexual abuse inflicted by its clergy and others; and for the failure to listen properly to those so abused."

The motion will also invite the House of Bishops and the Archbishops' Council to "pursue as a matter of urgency" the enhancement of the Church's safeguarding arrangements with final approval of the necessary legislation within the lifetime of this Synod. The final report of the Commissaries warned that the law of the Church of England was "presently not in line with the rest of the civil law of employment," and called for "urgent consideration" to be given to amending the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 to permit the compulsory suspension of accused clerics.

On Monday, the Synod will vote on the proposed Yorkshire Diocesan Reorganisation Scheme (News, 10 May). This will be the last opportunity to halt the scheme, which Wakefield diocese opposes.

On Tuesday, the Synod will consider recommendations from the Business Committee based on a report from the elections review group. This includes a potential reconsideration of the allocation of seats between York and Canterbury and a proposal to reduce the number of universities seats. The Synod will also debate recommendations from the Business Committe concerning the electorate for the House of Laity (the Committee believes that a new electoral college would be better than the present system) and online voting (it is proposed that the nominations process for 2015 be conducted by email).

The agendas and papers for the July group of sessions can be read here.

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