ARMED-FORCES covenants were the subject of a motion carried by
the Synod on Monday morning, with the aim of improving pastoral
care of those currently and formerly in the Forces.
The debate began with a presentation from the
Bishop at Lambeth, the Rt Revd Nigel Stock, who is
also the Bishop to the Forces. He said that the Synod debate was
about how the Church "might best respond to those who are part of
what is often referred to as the Armed Forces community", and
particularly the Armed Forces Covenant as a means of response.
"At its most basic, it is about the duty of care owed by society
to those who put themselves in harm's way in defence of society, or
in undertaking duties at the direction of the democratically
The Covenant has been codified in the Armed Forces Act, Bishop
Stock said. "This means that the Government recognises the duty of
care that it owes to the Armed Forces community, past and present."
The Armed Forces Act included an "opportunity for wider society to
contribute". Some 400 local authorities had signed community
covenants, and 100 firms or businesses had signed corporate
covenants, he said.
"There will be Forces families living in their local community
'outside the wire'." Much could be said about the pastoral and
spiritual support provided by military chaplains, but the chaplains
had asked him to point out that "this is not a debate about them.
This is about the wider support in the community of those whom they
Philip Fletcher (Archbishops' Council), who
chairs the Mission and Public Affairs Council, explained why the
motion was being put before the Synod.
"Members of the Armed Forces, and the army in particular, are no
longer to be based outside the UK or in remote barracks, as used to
be the case. They will be much more obviously part of the wider
community," he said. The spiritual and pastoral needs of the Armed
Forces community must "become a shared responsibility, involving
both the chaplains to the Armed Forces and also the wider Church.
To make this possible, the Church will need to understand the
complex needs of the Armed Forces community so that we can take our
part with the chaplains . . . in providing long-term pastoral care
to military families."
The Ven.Jonathan Chaffey
(Service Chaplains) said that returning to civilian life in the UK
after armed service was a "clash between two different, highly
contrasting worlds . . . leaving behind intense experiences, strong
community, and physical or mental scars of their experiences".
Signing a corporate covenant would reinforce the good work already
happening, and provide fresh impetus for more.
The Revd Sue Rose (Bath & Wells), herself a
Navy wife, asked whether it was possible for parochial clergy to be
told when there were service personnel and their families living in
their parish, as it was sometimes hard to know.
Peter Bruinvels (Guildford) moved his
amendment, which, he said, merely clarified the position of
community covenants, now signed by almost every local
The amendment was clearly carried.
The Dean of Portsmouth, the Very Revd David
Brindley (Southern Deans), said that his only hesitation about
supporting the motion was whether it actually meant anything in
Lt Gemma Winterton (Service Chaplains) said
that her church had been supportive of her during her service in
Afghanistan. Her commitment to the Navy meant, however, that she
was away often. "I have been told I'm not committing as a
Christian, because I'm not on the rota for the Sunday school, or
coffee after the service."
The Revd Charles Razzall (Chester) drew the
Synod's attention to those working in the defence industries, and
in the intelligence services: "We must try to encourage business to
provide the right opportunities for those who find it difficult to
The Revd Ruth Hind (West Yorkshire & the
Dales)requested that the briefing be made to all parish clergy.
Some of the Forces' spiritual needs would be met by their
chaplains, but "that does not mean the rest of us have nothing to
contribute." The Covenant should not be interpreted as
"unconditional support for the Armed Forces". It was "not
appropriate for the Church to be a cheerleader to the Forces".
The Revd Ian Wheatley (Service Chaplains) said
that Forces families felt "isolated". The Church had a "golden
opportunity to connect with military families, helping them build
up the body of Christ".
The Revd Paul Cartwright (West Yorkshire &
the Dales)said that the Covenant required action as well as words.
He urged bishops to identify someone who could champion the
Covenant in the dioceses.
Canon Simon Butler (Southwark)suggested that
there had been an "enormous change in public attitudes" towards the
Forces since the late 1980s. There was a danger that we "use the
language of heroism too easily". The romanticisation of service
"diminishes its importance in society, and reduces the humanity of
those serving to mere ciphers".
The Dean of St Paul's, the Very Revd Dr David
Ison (Southern Deans), said that, two weeks previously, his son had
come back from flying helicopters, while five of his colleagues had
come home dead. The Forces were "sent out to do our dirty work. . .
Let's love, recognise, and honour them."
The motion was carried by 393 to 2 with 3 recorded abstentions.
That this Synod, believing that the commitment of those that
serve in the Armed Forces demands a reciprocal obligation from the
Nation to ensure that they and their families are not
(a) ask dioceses to reflect on the Armed Forces Covenant and
to consider signing Community Covenants, where not already signed,
and Corporate Covenants, setting out how they can meet both the
pastoral and spiritual needs of the Armed Forces Community,
including serving personnel, regulars and reservists, and military
families located in their own diocesan area;
(b) invite the Archbishops' Council to sign a Corporate
Armed Forces Covenant setting out how it will provide pastoral and
spiritual support for the Armed Forces Community, including serving
personnel, regulars and reservists, and military families;
(c) ask the Archbishops' Council to report to Synod in the
next quinquennium on the implications of the recommendations set
out in The Church and the Armed Forces Covenant (GS