The General Synod meeting in York next month will have something
of a morning-after-the-night-before feel to it.
It will be the first group of sessions since last November's
narrow vote to reject the Draft Bishops
and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure
News, 23 November); and the first since Dr Philip Giddings
survived the subsequent no-confidence vote on his chairmanship of
the House of Laity at an extraordinary meeting of the House (
News, 18 January).
With this in mind, the Business Committee has taken the "very
unusual" step of devoting most of the Saturday to facilitated
discussions, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury's new Director for
Reconciliation, Dr David Porter; along with a plenary session, the
format of which "is still being creatively worked on even as we
speak", the Secretary General, William Fittall, said last Friday.
Both will be held behind closed doors.
Mr Fittall played down suggestions that the discussions were
secret, saying that the "entirely unminuted and entirely informal"
discussions were about "preparation, conversation, and
exploration". He said that the discussions were "not like the
wartime Parliament, when Parliament went into secret session".
The Synod's Chief Legal Adviser, Stephen Slack, said: "This will
not be a sitting of the Synod, but its members will be engaging in
The start of Synod business on Friday will introduce a number of
new faces, beginning with the Bishop of Skálholt, in the
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland, the Rt Revd Kristján Valur
Ingólfsson, who will deliver ecumenical greetings.
The new Prolocutor of the Convocation of York, who is the
Archdeacon of Rochdale, the Ven. Cherry Vann, will be introduced,
after the by-election caused by the consecration of Canon Glyn
Webster as Bishop of Beverley.
And the Synod will be asked to confirm the appointments of Dr
Jacqui Philips as Clerk to the Synod; Margaret Swinson, who will
chair the Appointments Committee; John Spence as a member of the
Archbishops' Council; and Dr Jonathan Spencer as chairman of the
Archbishop Welby will attend his first Synod as Archbishop of
Canterbury and deliver his first presidential
address; before Synod members have the opportunity to hear
answers to their questions.
The official business on Saturday, after the facilitated
discussions, is a take-note debate on a report detailing progress
on meeting the challenges for the Quinquennium,
after a report by the Archbishops' Council and House of Bishops
delivered in January 2011.
On Sunday, after Synod members attend the sung eucharist in York
Minster, the Synod will move to legislation, with a debate and
approval vote on new Draft Faculty
Jurisdiction Rules. The new rules will replace three
existing statutory instruments: the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules
2000, the Faculty Jurisdiction (Injunctions and Restoration Orders)
Rules 1992, and the Faculty Jurisdiction (Care of Places of
Worship) Rules 2000.
The new rules contain simplified procedures and changes to take
account of recent case law, including statutory provision for the
common-law right of chancellors to dispense with public notices in
particular cases, such as where security might be an issue; or to
grant an interim faculty.
The Draft Church of England (Miscellaneous
Provisions) Measure, described by Mr
Slack as the "longest and most substantial ever", returns to the
Synod for its revision stage.
Synod members will have a chance to address
safeguarding in the Church, with
a motion prepared by the Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham, the
Rt Revd Paul Butler, in response to the reports by the Archbishop
of Canterbury's Commissaries on Chichester diocese.
Bishop Butler will ask the Synod to endorse the "unreserved
apology" given by the Archbishops for the C of E's "failure . . .
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 also calls for new legislation to be approved "in the
lifetime of this Synod", and for new safeguarding arrangements to
be pursued "as a matter of urgency".
On Sunday evening, the Synod will debate a motion on
welfare reform and the Church,
proposed by the Mission and Public Affairs Council. The motion
decries the "misleading characterisation of all welfare recipients
as 'scroungers'", and affirms "the need for a renewed settlement
between the State, the Churches and civil society".
On Monday morning, the formal deliberations on women
bishops begin. The Synod will be asked to "reaffirm its
commitment to admitting women to the episcopate asa matter of
urgency". A motion proposed by the House of Bishops asks the Synod
to commit itself to the Bishops' preferred option of the simplest
possible legislation (see here for more details); and asks for draft
legislation along those lines to be prepared for first
consideration in November.
The Bishops' preferred option contains a requirement for
provision for opponents to be included either within a declaration
by the House of Bishops or by an Act of Synod. Mr Fittall explained
that there was no difference in the legal effect of these; but "an
Act of Synod has ownership by the whole Synod and could only be
changed by the whole Synod, whereas a declaration from the House is
what the House of Bishops at any particular time decides to do.
"The Bishops are proceeding on the basis that they will produce
a declaration unless the Synod says 'We'd rather take it
The draft scheme to dissolve the dioceses of Bradford, Ripon
& Leeds, and Wakefield and replace them with a new diocese, to
be known as the diocese of West Yorkshire & the
News, 8 March), will be debated on the Monday afternoon.
This is the first scheme to come to the Synod from the Dioceses
Commission, and its passage cannot be taken for granted. The
diocesan synods of Bradford and Ripon & Leeds endorsed the
proposals; but the Wakefield diocesan synod rejected the scheme.
This means that it comes to the General Synod only because the
Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, has given permission for it do
In a statement, Dr Sentamu says: "It does not follow from my
decision that the draft scheme will be made. But it does mean that,
rather than the process coming to an end at this point, the General
Synod will be able to form its own view of the merits of the draft
scheme, and hear and assess arguments that will no doubt be put to
it from a range of different perspectives."
If the Synod approves the scheme, it will be asked to approve a
resolution setting up a transitional vacancy-in-see committee to
select the first Bishop of Leeds. An Order in Council would be the
next step; and then different parts of the scheme would come into
effect at different times, in a process of transition.
Further items of legislative business include changes to the
elections for members of the House of Clergy,
including revisions to the universities constituency, and to remove
the statutory proportions between the number of representatives
from York and Canterbury.
The Synod will also be asked to request legislative proposals
from the Business Committee for the setting up of an
electoral college to elect members of the House of
Laity - taking this responsibility away from lay
deanery-synod members, on whom it currently falls. Further
proposals are for nominations to the General Synod to be undertaken
by email by 2015; and for elections to be held online by 2020.
The Synod will debate the annual reports of the
Archbishops' Council and the Church Commissioners, and will be
asked to authorise the Archbishops' Council's spending plans for
The full agenda can be read here.
Women bishops: Hand-to-hand, or hand in hand?
Women bishops: New attempt at concensus
Women bishops: All for one (almost)
Women bishops: This is the best option on offer
Women bishops: Not the way to trust