THE next General Synod meeting in York, from 11 to 15 July, is
the most important, at least on women's ordination, for 20 years,
the Synod's secretary general, William Fittall, told the media at a
briefing in Church House last Friday. "Not since 11 November 1992
has the future of the Church of England turned so sharply on a
single vote," he said.
Women bishops was the subject shaping the agenda for this group
of sessions at the University of York; and 14 July 2014 would
complete a very long process, he said. A new document from the
Archbishops of Canterbury and York reported what had been decided
at the House of Bishops in May regarding arrangements for
consecration, and the need for a headship bishop.
He declined to speculate about what would happen if the draft
legislation failed to receive final approval, but said that, if it
did, the earliest that the canon could be promulged, and thus
become law, would be at the General Synod meeting provisionally
scheduled for 17 November. If it happened then, the Crown
Nominations Commission would then be free to consider women for
nomination to diocesan bishoprics.
The process for nomination to Southwell & Nottingham would
not be concluded until after that date, and there were already
other vacancies - such as the sees of Gloucester, Newcastle, and
Oxford - that would not be considered until after that date. But,
in answer to a reporter's question whether vacancies were being
held open, he said: "No stockpiling is going on at the moment."
(Suffragan appointments would continue to lie in the hands of
diocesan bishops, after consultation, names going to the Prime
Minister via the Archbishop of the province.)
The Synod meeting begins on the Friday afternoon with
introductions, and the welcoming of Anglican and ecumenical guests,
including Dr Irmgard Schwaetzer, president of the
Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), who will greet the Synod at
the invitation of the two Archbishops, mindful of the coming
centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.
After the usual reports on the progress of measures and
statutory instruments, and on the agenda, the Synod will be asked
to make appointments to the Archbishops' Council
of Mary Chapman, Philip Fletcher, and the Revd Dr Rosalyn
The Synod will then move on to the women-bishops business: the
Business Committee's report on the Article 8 reference to the
dioceses, the final drafting, of the Draft Bishops and
Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure and Draft
Amending Canon no. 33. It will also debate the first
consideration of the Safeguarding and Clergy Discipline
Measure and the associated Amending Canon No. 34, which
give effect to proposals developed in response to the reports of
the Chichester commissaries and ap-proved by the Synod in
The aim is to make it easier to make complaints in respect of
cases of historic abuse, reduce the potential for abuse, carry out
risk assessments, and disqualify churchwardens and other others. It
also requires clergy and officials to have "due regard" to
safeguarding policies. Representatives of survivor groups will be
welcomed in the gallery, and they will be holding a fringe meeting
for Synod members in the evening.
Draft Amending Canon No. 35 will also receive
first consideration. This originated in a Southwell &
Nottingham diocesan motion, and is about relaxing the current
position on who can administer (distribute) holy communion. This
was legislation that suggested the possible shape of things to
come, the Legal Adviser, Stephen Slack, told reporters: a move
towards simpler Measures that left detail to be settled by
Regulations made in the Synod.
After worship and dinner, the Synod will have its usual session
of Questions answered from the platform.
On Saturday, the Bishops will consider the draft women-bishops
legislation under Article 7 of the Synod's Constitution. The
morning's business in full Synod begins with the Archbishop
of York's presidential address. Amendments to standing
orders can be taken next, but these will be debated only if due
notice is given or amendments have to be taken.
Further legislative business, to be taken on Saturday morning,
includes the enactment of Amending Canon No. 31; the revision and
remaining stages of the Draft Church of England (Pensions)
(Amendment) Measure; "fairly modest" changes to
synodical elections, first debated last July; the
revision of the Draft Care of Churches and Ecclesias-tical
Jurisdiction (Amendment) Measure, part of the
simplification of the faculty system; the Payments to the
Churches Conservation Trust Order; legal officers'
fees; and the revision of the Draft Church of
England (Ecclesiastical Property) Measure, relaxing
arrangements for PCCs and parish trusts in relation to
The first item on the agenda after lunch is a presentation by
the well-known American pastor and activist the Revd Jim
Wallis, a keynote speaker personally invited by Dr Sentamu
to address the Synod on "The (Un)common Good" as part of the
Synod's work on the quinquennial theme of the common
good. This will be followed by group work. Synod members
will then return after 5 p.m. to debate a motion on the subject
from the Mission and Public Affairs Council.
After worship and dinner, the Synod will take a private member's
motion from the Revd Christopher Hobbs seeking to relax the
requirements of Canon B8 on the vesture of the
ministers during the time of divine service.
On Sunday morning, the Synod will join the congregation of York
Minster for the sung eucharist at 10 a.m. In the
afternoon, it will receive a presentation on the
Archbishops' Council's annual report, unless the
Convocations and/or House of Laity claim an Article 7 reference of
the draft women-bishops legislation, in which case the full Synod
will not resume until 4 p.m., and the presentation will be deferred
to Tuesday morning.
The Synod will then give first consideration to the drafts of
the additional baptismal texts in
accessible language, which finished their six-month trial
period in parishes at Easter, and have since been discussed by the
House of Bishops. The texts now provide for simple baptismal
promises, including "I turn away from sin," "I reject evil," "I
turn to Christ," and "I give my life to him." After the signing
with the cross, the congregation joins in saying, "Stand bravely
with him [Christ]. Fight against the power of evil, and remain
faithful to Christ to the end of your life."
There are two short alternative forms of prayer over the
baptismal water: one is an explicit blessing of it, while the other
says: "Now send your Spirit, that those who are washed in this
water may share Christ's death and resurrection, and find true
freedom as your children, risen with Christ for ever." The words at
"the commission" are not prescribed, only the subjects to be
Although its official launch is not till 1 October, there will
then be a presentation about the Churches' Mutual Credit
Union by its president, Canon Antony MacRow-Wood, and CEO
designate, Hilary Sams, followed by evening worship.
After dinner, the Synod will take financial
business, including the Archbishops' Council's budget, the
proposed apportionment of the Councils' costs to the dioceses for
2015, and the Church Commissioners' annual report.
On Monday, after morning worship, there will be a presentation
by the new Bishop to the Forces, the Rt Revd Nigel Stock, on
the Armed Forces Covenant and Commun-ity
Covenants, based on a report fom the Mission and Public Affairs
Council, together with a motion from Philip Fletcher, who chairsit,
inviting community bodies, churches, and others to join the
initiative that offers pastoral care to members of the armed forces
and their community.
Then the long-awaited final-approval debates on the
women-bishops legislation follow no later than 11.15, together with
the debate on final approval, affirmation, and proclamation of the
Draft Act of Synod Rescinding the Episcopal Ministry Act of
Synod 1993. This batch of business has been timetabled
potentially to continue into the afternoon until 6.15, because at
this final-approval stage any Synod member who wishes to speak may
do so, though the time-limit on individual speeches can be reduced
from the chair.
The Synod will then take a motion from Guildford diocesan synod
concerning the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta in
2015, drawing attention to its declaration that the English Church
and all the citizens shall be free, encouraging celebrations of the
anniversary, and making links between the Bishops' part in the
formulation and implementation of the Charter, and "the continued
engagement of the Church in transforming community at national,
regional and local level" - mentioning foodbanks and other
practical expressions of this.
After evening worship and dinner, the Synod will then receive
presentations about the CHARM rental scheme for
the retired clergy, and the Audit Committee's annual
On Tuesday morning, legislative business resumes, and there may
be an opportunity to take a diocesan-synod motion from Bradford
(now part of West Yorkshire & the Dales) asking the Mission and
Public Affairs Council to do some work on the spare-room
subsidy, sometimes referred to as the "bedroom tax", and
The last item is farewells.