THE General Synod decided not to set up a review of its own
Moving a diocesan-synod motion calling for the review,
Anirban Roy (London) quoted a statement by a group
of survivors of clerical abuse which had been read out at last
July's meeting in York, during a debate about safeguarding
"It is an indication of where the Church of England is, in
hearing the voices of those who have been caused irreparable harm
within the Church, that survivors are not allowed to speak for
He pointed out that 360 people voted in the safeguarding debate,
while 425 voted in the debate on women in the episcopate: "One in
seven of those in this room think that safeguarding is less
important than women in the episcopate."
He called for a change in the way that the Synod did business,
and "a way to lose our parliamentary model". The Synod was not
representative of society, he said.
Emma Forward (Exeter) said that she would turn
30 in 2014, her ninth year of being on the Synod. In eight of those
years, she had been the youngest woman on the Synod The vast
majority of young people were in full-time work or education, and
might not have flexibility about taking leave. This excluded them
from serving on committees. They might not remain within one
diocese for the duration of a Synod, or have the means to travel to
diocesan and deanery synod; and might have a young family.
The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas
Holtam, cited statistics that suggested that "being on Synod is not
of much interest." The Synod needed to catch up with parishes and
deaneries, which had "got the message some time ago that we need to
be a mission-shaped Church".
Prudence Dailey (Oxford) expressed worry that
the Synod might come up with a procedure to "sanitise and mask" its
divisions, but "that would not be honest." One feature of the Synod
was that "the Establishment does not always get its own way." In
contrast, in diocesan synods, there was often "fairly bland"
Tim Hind (Bath & Wells) said that he was
cautiously in favour of Mr Roy's motion, but urged the Synod to
consider carefully what it was seeking to achieve. "We don't want
to waste too much time fixing problems we have now, only to find
the problems underneath have changed in a few months' time."
The Revd Steven Saxby (Chelmsford) said that he
wanted to abolish the General Synod completely. "People ask me what
it is like, and I say 'It's awful.'" He wished that the Synod were
more relational, theological, and inspirational.
Samuel Margrave (Coventry) raised the issue of
the cost of reform. "This report does Synod and the Church down.
There are lots of positive relationships here, and Synod really
isn't that complicated."
Canon Matthew Baynes (Worcester) spoke to an
amendment seeking to "identify and introduce accountabilities to
ensure that a properly balanced and appropriate understanding and
representation of the needs and opinions of the whole Church is
reflected in Synod's deliberations and decisions".
Prebendary David Houlding (London) recalled a
tip from his mentor, who told him: "If you live by the Synod, you
will die by the Synod." The parliamentary model was no longer fit
for purpose. Canon Sue Booys (Oxford) said: "Are
we broken, or do we need the attention of an engineer with a good
can of oil?" The Business Committee had met Archbishop Welby and
the panel of chairs, and were "rediscovering a proper use of the
tools we already have".
Canon Suzanne Sheriff (York) was concerned
about the lack of regional accents. "Synod seems like a very London
way of doing things." The Revd Dr Philip Plyming
(Guildford) thought that the Synod was not broken, but needed
reform; but not through the creation of a costly committee.
Gerald O'Brien (Rochester) said that the Synod
was in "cloud-cuckoo-land" if it thought that it was not
representative of the wider Church. "The problem is that this Synod
is too representative of the Church of England." he said. The
amendment proposed by Canon Baynes was lost.
Prebendary Stephen Lynas (Bath & Wells)
disagreed strongly with the suggestion that the Synod operated a
parliamentary model. Unlike the House of Commons, "We sit in
circles and smile at each other."
Canon Simon Killwick (Manchester) argued that
setting up a "complex parliamentary-style review", which would take
years, was "the wrong way of achieving action".
Canon Peter Spiers (Liverpool) said that, 15
years ago, he would have supported the motion. He had helped set up
a User-Friendly Synod Group in 2000, which had achieved changes,
including the introduction of electronic voting. "If we change our
values, then Synod will change."
The motion "That this Synod request the Archbishops' Council and
the Business Committee to set in motion a review of the workings of
the Synod and to propose alternatives to the parliamentary model
currently used" was lost.