Synod to tackle raft of reports in small groups

16 January 2015

GEOFF CRAWFORD

Voting: members of the General Synod inside Church House, in Westminster, at the last group of sessions in November

Voting: members of the General Synod inside Church House, in Westminster, at the last group of sessions in November

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 of England.

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 diocese.

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 Bishops.

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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.

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