Reform, sex talks, and Kirk on Synod’s agenda
Colder snap: Alumree and Strathbaarn Parish church, in Perthshire, earlier this monthCredit: PA
Colder snap: Alumree and Strathbaarn Parish church, in Perthshire, earlier this month
SHARED conversations on sexuality, the Reform and Renewal programme, and ecumenical relations with the Church of Scotland are all on the agenda for the General Synod’s next group of sessions.
On the first day, Monday, members will hear a presentation from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s director of reconciliation, David Porter, on the sexuality conversations, which are due to finish in March.
As the conversations have not generated a report or any recommendations per se, the Synod will not be debating their outcome, the General Secretary of the Synod, William Nye, said at a press conference last week.
“The conversations are not leading to a series of reports; people are participating in a process to enable understanding, relationships, disagreement, and perhaps agreement,” he said.
There will then be an opportunity to ask questions about the discussions, which have attracted both praise and criticism from participants (News, 30 January, 24 July 2015).
At July’s meeting of the Synod, members themselves would take part in their own conversations on sexuality, he also said.
The Reform and Renewal programme will also take up a significant part of the meeting. On Monday, the Synod will consider legislative proposals that have come out of the Simplification task group, and on Wednesday the leaders of the other groups will give presentations on their work.
Much of the simplification proposals will be uncontroversial, although plans to reduce the compensation paid to priests who lose office because of pastoral reorganisation could attract debate, the chief legal adviser to the Synod, Stephen Slack said.
He also said that a new process to enable the Archbishops’ Council to repeal and amend Church legislation without the full synodical procedure would be discussed, allowing the Church to begin modernising the 1400 pages of Church law that has accumulated over the years.
On the Wednesday afternoon, there will be two debates, on Resourcing Ministerial Education — which proposes a recruitment drive to increase the number of clergy by 50 per cent — and Resourcing the Future — a plan to shake up the way central church funds are distributed, and to borrow from the future by temporarily dipping into the Church Commissioners’ reserves.
There will also be time set aside for the Columba Declaration — a proposed agreement between the Established Church in England and the Kirk in Scotland, which was announced late last year (News, 1 January).
The agreement has been sharply criticised for marginalising the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC). The SEC’s Primus, the Most Revd David Chillingworth, said that Scottish Episcopalians had been "deeply hurt" by the Columba Declaration, and that it would cause problems in their relationship with Anglicans south of the border (News, 8 January).
Mr Nye said that since the Declaration had been publicised, the Church had taken steps to “join up a little more those partners who have been involved”, including the SEC, which had been an observer to the talks with the Kirk from the start.
“Perhaps at Christmas and New Year’s not everybody realised that but we have since had many conversations with the SEC to get more understanding of both the process and the nature of the report.”
On Tuesday afternoon, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Very Revd Dr Angus Morrison, will give a presentation on the report from the joint working group. The Synod will then debate the report. The General Assembly will discuss the Declaration in May.
Archbishop Welby will also deliver his own reflections on the recent Primates’ Meeting in Canterbury, during his presidential address (News, 15 January).
After the Synod breaks into small groups on Tuesday morning to discuss evangelism, Archbishop Welby will give a presentation, to be followed by a debate on a report produced by the Evangelism task group, which he chairs.
Diocesan-synod motions on parochial fees and the impact of welfare sanctions on benefit claimants will also be discussed.