THE heart of the General Synod's next group of sessions, on
10-12 February, will be discussion of the raft of reports released
this week aimed at reforming the institutional life of the Church
After an introduction to the wide-ranging programme of
reorganisation on Tuesday 10 February, members will spend Wednesday
morning in groups of their choice, examining various reports in
detail, before four debates that afternoon on the main themes of
the potential changes.
The first area of discussion will be discipleship, covered in
the report Developing Discipleship from a group led by the Bishop
of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft. Then, the Synod will look at
"resourcing the future" and ministerial education, covered in two
reports on how the Church's central funds are distributed and how
training of priests and lay leaders should be paid for.
Next, the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, will
move a motion that follows his task force's report on simplifying
the C of E's procedures. Finally, the Synod will debate funding,
including the proposal in a report on intergenerational equity to
dip into the Church Commissioners' capital reserves to pay for a
prospective drive for more clergy.
At a press briefing on Friday, the Secretary General of the
Synod William Fittall, said that, while only the Commissioners
could decide whether to pursue this course of action, they would
almost certainly not do it unless the Synod asked them to.
The meeting will begin on Tuesday morning with an address from
the Archbishop of the Chaldean diocese of Erbil, in Iraq, the Most
Revd Bashar Warda, who has been helping to co-ordinate the
humanitarian relief efforts for refugees from Islamic State in his
The priest who will by February have become the first woman
bishop in the Church of England, the Revd Libby Lane, will also be
present on Tuesday to report on an "immersion experience" in India
undertaken by the participant women observers in the House of
Other legislative business on the agenda includes revision of a
new Measure that tightens the rules on safeguarding children and
vulnerable adults, on the Thursday morning.
The proposed simpler alternative texts for the Common Worship
baptism service will also be debated. The new texts, which had been
criticised by the Bishop Broadbent, among others, as "baptism lite"
(News, 10 January 2014), have been tweaked by the business
committee. There remains no mention of the Devil, but turning away
from "sin" has been restored, and candidates are still to be asked
whether they reject "evil".
A private member's motion on introducing legislation to
authorise the clergy to use the Church's burial service for those
who have killed themselves will also be debated. According to canon
law, those who have taken their own life while of sound mind, as
well as the unbaptised and excommunicate, can only be buried using
alternative services, not the normal services in either the Book of
Common Prayer or Common Worship.
Canon Michael Parsons, who is moving the motion, conceded in a
note that this prohibition was scarcely known and almost
universally ignored, but argued that it would be pastorally helpful
to amend the law.