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Debates and groups will tackle reports on reform

23 January 2015


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

AT THE heart of the next group of sessions of the General Synod, on 10-12 February, will be discussion of the reports released this week which seek to reform 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 the next morning of the three-day meeting in small groups, examining the various reports in detail, be- fore 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. The Synod will then look at "resourcing the future", and ministerial education, covered in two reports on how the Church's central funds are distributed, and how the 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 in simplifying the C of E's bureaucracy and 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 General Synod, William Fittall, said that, while only the Commissioners could decide whether to pursue this course of action, they would almost certainly not do so unless the Synod asked them to.

The group of sessions will begin on Tuesday morning with an address from the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Irbil, 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 C of E, the Revd Libby Lane, will also be present on Tuesday to report back on an "immersion experience" in India undertaken by the House of Bishops' participant women observers.

Other legislative business on the agenda includes, on Thursday morning, revision of a new measure that tightens the rules on safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.

The proposed alternative simpler baptism service will also be debated. The new text, which had been criticised by Bishop Broadbent, among others, as "baptism lite", has 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 if they reject "evil".

A private member's motion on introducing legislation to permit the clergy to use the Church's burial service for those who have killed themselves will also be debated. Canon law states that those who have taken their own life while of sound mind, as well as the unbaptised and excommunicated, may be buried using only alternative services, not the normal services in either the Book of Common Prayer or Common Worship.

Canon Michael Parsons, who is moving the motion, concedes in a note that this prohibition is scarcely known and almost universally ignored, but argues that it would be pastorally helpful to amend the law.


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