MOTIONS calling for urgent action to address climate change will
be at the heart of the next sessions of the General Synod, which
meets five months before a landmark international summit in
The meeting, from 10 to 13 July in York, will be the last for
the current membership. Elections for the next quinquennium take
place in the autumn.
In York, the Synod will be asked not only to urge governments to
tackle global warming, but to put the Church's own house in
"The environment theme is a big one for obvious reasons," the
General Secretary of the Synod, William Fittall, said at a press
conference about the agenda on Friday. He referred to summit in
Paris in December at which 196 countries will meet to sign a new
climate-change agreement. He also mentioned the recent reform of
the Church's own investment policies (News, 1
Asked to contrast the Synod's response to climate change and the
encyclical published by the Vatican this week, Mr Fittall said that
"you would struggle to put a cigarette paper between [them]".
On Monday 13 July, a motion entitled "Combating Climate Change:
the Paris Summit and the Mission of the Church" will be moved by
the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtham, who chairs
the Environment Working Group.
It urges governments to agree "long-term pathways to a
low-carbon future" and calls on the Synod to endorse the World
Bank's call for ending fossil-fuel subsidies.
The motion also seeks to implement some of the proposals made by
the Bishops' Climate Change Network convened by the Archbishop of
Cape Town earlier this year (
News, 2 April), including the development of new
"ecotheological resources", and a fast at the beginning of each
month "for climate justice".
The second motion, moved in the afternoon by the Bishop of
Manchester, Dr David Walker, relates to climate change and
It affirms the national investment bodies' disinvestment from
thermal coal or the production of oil from tar sands, and calls on
them to "engage robustly with companies and policy-makers on the
need to act to support the transition to a low-carbon economy, and
where necessary, use the threat of disinvestment from companies as
a key lever for change."
Before the two debates, the Synod will spend an hour-and-a-half
doing group work on the environment.
Another noteworthy debate will take place on the Saturday, when
Canon Simon Killwick will move a private members' motion on senior
leadership. Signed by 119 people (the method whereby a motion
secures a place on the agenda), it reflected many members'
dissatisfaction with the lack of debate on the so-called Green
report, Mr Fittall said.
Canon Killwick's motion calls for a debate on the related Faith
and Order Commission report Senior Leadership: a resource for
reflection, which had been commissioned by General Synod in 2009,
took five years to complete, and was never presented to the Synod.
A background paper from Canon Killwick refers to its being given
the "long-grass treatment", and asks whether the Church is "in
danger now of replacing medieval prince-bishops with 21st-century
The legislative business on the York agenda includes final
approval of the draft safeguarding legislation, which gives bishops
increased powers to suspend those deemed to present a risk, and to
direct that priests undergo a risk assessment.
Mr Fittall noted that part of the reason for the 5.3 per cent
increase in national expenditure was the "huge" expansion of
safeguarding resources. In 2014 the Archbishops' Council budgeted
to spend £44,500 in this area. This will increase more than
twelvefold to £557,500 in 2016. This was "absolutely necessary and
unavoidable" given that it was an "absolute priority to put
survivors first", Mr Fittall said.
A new set of faculty jurisdiction rules, described by Mr Fittall
as the "first fruits" of the simplification review, are also up for
approval, as are rules excepting certain property transactions by
PCCs from the normal requirement for diocesan consent. On Sunday,
the Synod will be asked to give final approval to the additional
texts for holy baptism in accessible language.
Asked about the Bishop of Willesden's recent description of the
General Synod as "very out of date" (News, 24
April), Mr Fittall said that some people had in previous
decades regarded it as "the Promised Land", believing that it would
be "the engine room" for reform. This was "a rather odd notion", he
said. Growth and tackling long-term decline would not be achieved
through the Synod.