Other business of the General Synod in York

by
14 July 2017

Vesture canon; CNC review; Budget; Archbishops’ Council; Laity elections; Business Committee; Pensions; Farewells

Sam Atkins

Vesture canon

 

FINAL approval was given to Draft Amending Canon 36, which amends Canon B8 to permit clergy to dispense with canonical vesture during times of divine service.

Moving the report of the steering committee on the final drafting of the two canons, the Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, said on Friday afternoon that the committee wished to bring only one special amendment to the draft amending canon on clergy vesture.

One of the provisions in the draft canon was that clergy need not robe or vest at baptisms if they had the consent of the person concerned – the candidate, parents, or godparents. This had previously been amended by the revision committee to dispense with the need to obtain the consent of the person concerned if the baptism was taking place in the context of divine worship on a Sunday and that was the normal practice in the parish.

Dr Smith proposed a special amendment to remove the words “on a Sunday” so that permission would not be required from the person concerned at any time when the baptism was taking place in the context of worship where that was the standard practice.

He said that the steering committee had been asked to consider the use of gender-neutral terms. The committee felt that “the issue of gender-neutral language is one that relates to the whole body of canons, not just these two,” Dr Smith said. “It was not something, therefore, that the Steering Committee thought it was in its remit to resolve.”

The only speaker in the debate, the Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Andrew Watson, acknowledged that the subject of clergy vesture “may seem unimportant” compared with other things on the Synod agenda. But he welcomed the change, which, he said, “was not an argument for beating our chasubles into chinos”.

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He said that the changes were about hospitality. “The principle of hospitality means that we don’t serve a bird in a bird in a bird when a vegetarian comes to dinner, just as the principle of respect means that we don’t stride into a mosque without first removing our shoes.”

Quoting 1 Corinthians 9, the Bishop said: “‘The message of the cross is offensive enough already’ was Paul’s perspective here; so moving any unnecessary grounds for offence is part of the task of evangelism.”

Dr Smith agreed.

The Synod took note of the report and approved the special amendment.

The Draft Amending Canons were “Article 7 Business”, because they contained “provisions touching doctrinal formulae or the services or ceremonies of the Church of England or the administration of the Sacraments or sacred rites thereof”, and, in accordance with the Standing Orders of the Synod, the drafts were remitted to the House of Bishops.

The business was adjourned until Monday morning. When it resumed, Dr Smith explained that these amendments were introduced to give effect to two resolutions passed in last quinquennium. Synod had asked that the Canons be amended so that forms of vestures prescribed become optional rather than mandatory. The new wording made it clear that the minister seeking to wear something other than surplice or alb with scarf or stole would have to ascertain, by consultation with the PCC, that doing so would be beneficial. This was to ensure that “due weight” was given to acceptability according to the laity.

The minister must refer the matter to the bishop if this requirement was not met. Although the legislative process dated back to 2014, he felt that it had enabled “substantial improvement”, and the result was one with which the “whole breadth of the C of E” could agree.

The Revd James Dudley-Smith (Bath & Wells) approved of what had been agreed. It was his hope and expectation that the clergy would minister with “charity and consideration” for those affected by their ministry. “There will be a bit more choice for me, but it’s a choice about how best to serve others.”

The Revd Dr Andrew Atherstone (Oxford) supported the amendment as a “permissive measure to an already permissive canon”. He reminded the Synod of a speech made on the topic by the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir John Arbuthnot, in 1964, in which he spoke of tolerance. He said: “rigid uniformity is dangerous, since one half of the C of E is saying to the other half, ‘We don’t want it in our parishes; so you can’t have it in yours.’”

He said: “Let’s support the revisions which simply increase that breadth of an already permissive canon.”

The Archdeacon of London, the Ven. Luke Miller (London), said that he had had concerns, but it was “now in a much better place”. He had been worried, given that priests were sometimes asked to dress for themed weddings, and “under that sort of pressure that would have undermined mission and led us not to the solemnity of divine worship, but into places of even deeper foolishness than sometimes people find ourselves in anyway.”

For those concerned about safeguarding, he pointed out that many people, such as churchwardens, did not wear robes. He argued that vesture, like any uniform, reduced the individuality of the person wearing it, and allowed them to focus on God.

The Revd Alistair McHaffie (Blackburn) spoke of the “new informality” in society, and noted that, while Archbishops of Canterbury had once worn “sensible black shoes”, they now could be seen wearing “a pair of blue trainers”. (Archbishop Welby said that they were “walking shoes”.)

The Revd Bill Braviner (Durham) spoke on humility. He had come across occasions where families for particular pastoral offices would “dearly have loved the clergy officiating to have been robed” but the tradition of the parish was otherwise. He was pleading with clergy who preferred to robe, and those who did not, to be “open” to the alternative, “when it’s best for the mission of the Church” — a “two-way humility”.

The Revd Dr Mark Chapman (Oxford) said that it was important to remember what a canon was for: “a point of last resort when people fall out with one another”.

The Revd Paul Ayers (Leeds) wished to offer a “slight note of caution”, asking about the reference to ministers’ having to consult with their PCC about whether their choice of vestment was acceptable. “Acceptable to whom?” He had taken the view that “if it says C of E on the label it should be C of E in the bottle, and parishioners have a right to expect Anglican worship in their parish churches. . .

”Sometimes, one reason why some parishioners don’t go to church can be because of the people that do, and the way they conduct matters.” He was slightly concerned that these changes could be “a recipe for a lot of pointless controversy and argument in PCCs, and that the minister may have undue dominance”.

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Canon Rosie Harper (Oxford) observed that the Synod had heard only from men during the debate on “clergy frocks”. Was this significant?

The canon received a two-thirds majority in all Houses: Bishops 18-3; Clergy 104-5 with four recorded abstentions; Laity 116-8 with seven recorded abstentions.

 

 

 

CNC review

 

A PRESENTATION on the interim report on the review of the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC) was given on Sunday afternoon, followed by a Q&A.

The Revd Professor Oliver O’Donovan, who is chairing the review group, spoke on behalf of the review committee, on the election of new central members. The way in which the Synod approached elections to the CNC would have a “deep effect”, he said, on the viability of CNC, and would “strengthen or possibly weaken public confidence in its operations”.

Discernment was a forward-looking process, he said. The CNC was not appointed to decide which of the candidates had been the best archdeacon or priest, but which would be the right bishop.

“The Holy Spirit leads and guides Christ’s Church. It is the task of those who nominate to follow that leading.” To do that was always to go somewhere new, not apply a familiar formula. “Members of CNC have to be above all open to possibility that the bishop they find will be a bishop they had never heard of or thought of before.”

They discerned this together. “When members arrive at the CNC with minds already made up, their preferred bishop already selected and in their pocket, then the whole process becomes subverted and very difficult indeed.”

Electing members of the CNC required a different approach from other elections. There were tasks that required “tough negotiators or an ability to argue, to push hard on questions of principle”. This task, however, “requires something different: it is not a role for the hammer and tongs. It requires imagination that picks up well and quickly on other people’s meaning, and requires patience that does not have to have the answer straight away, but can wait on the Holy Spirit to make an unclear picture clear.”

Such electors had to understand people: to know what they were looking at when they considered candidates. “They will want to achieve a good result, to be sure; but they will want to achieve it, wherever possible, through a genuine consensus of mutual understanding.”

Another member of the review group, the Revd Professor Morwenna Ludlow, of the University of Exeter, then spoke on the CNC’s being representative of the Church as a whole. “It means that, together, the elected CNC members should be able to bring the whole life and vision of the Church to bear on the process of discernment.”

She spoke of the “formation of various organised groups in Synod. If an elected member of the CNC comes from a particular grouping, she is likely to come to the task of discernment from a certain perspective; her views will have a certain kind of foundation.” The task was “to build out from that foundation, opening themselves and their particular perspectives up to the prompting of the Spirit”.

The Synod was not choosing CNC members to represent particular groups, but to represent the whole Church. The review group had heard testimony from several people who believed that their concerns were not being represented by the CNC as well as they could be. “The idea that the CNC should be representative of various groupings in Synod has come to overshadow the idea that the CNC is representative of the whole Church. . . One could not come up with a mathematically fair way of ensuring that all the interest groups were represented on one CNC.”

But the review group was aware that the task of CNC was “a difficult and an exposed one”, and it had heard that “trust has sometimes become strained. . . You need to have confidence that the CNC members represent the whole Church; you need to be confident that they will participate in a corporate process of discernment.

“The task of being a CNC member involves personal maturity, fortitude, and integrity; these can only be found in those who are prayerfully open to the Spirit as they approach the task. When this is not possible, the whole Church suffers; when it is, there may be both surprising and enriching results.”

The Revd Dr Andrew Atherstone (Oxford) asked, in the wake of revelations from the Church in Wales, about how Synod members could make use of the Freedom of Information Act to hold the CNC to account. Would the review group’s report include “a rigorous theology of transparency and secrecy”?

Professor Ludlow said that a considerable amount of time had been spent on the question of trust.

Adrian Greenwood (Southwark) wondered how to respond when one of the six central members could not attend a meeting. Could a better system be devised? Perhaps electing more than six?

Professor O’Donovan offered assurance that this was being considered and that the report would comment on it.

Canon David Banting (Chelmsford) spoke of the “sorry and shameful circumstances in which the recent first choice candidate for Sheffield was left with no option but to withdraw his acceptance”. How should “concerns or protests” about a CNC proposal or decision be appropriately expressed?

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Professor O’Donovan said that events in Sheffield had been considered by the review group. “I think it’s not clear to us that the process within the CNC can be impugned as a result of that outcome. . . Nothing that we were told made us feel that the CNC had not worked on this occasion or not done what it should have done.”

David Ashton (Leeds) said that he was considering putting himself forward for election, but would find it “rather difficult to sell myself in 100 words”.

Professor Ludlow said that the review group wished to articulate that it was “not asking for lists of personal qualities, but people open to the prompting of the Spirit, who are able to express an openness to working with one another, and to represent the whole Church as fully and imaginatively as they can”.

Gavin Oldham (Oxford) spoke of the two-year vacancy-in-see in Oxford diocese. This had been a long time for the Bishop of Dorchester to hold the reins. Might the group consider a “bishop without portfolio” who could hold the reins instead?

Professor O’Donovan agreed that the process here had been “exceptionally slow for various reasons”. But the question of provision was not one for the CNC.

John Spence (Archbishops’ Council) spoke of being accountable for money invested. The CNC was making decisions about the investment of people. He asked what it was doing to “assess the success of appointments you have made, as measured by the impact people have achieved against goals settled?”

Fr Thomas Seville CR (Religious Communities) said that he was not in the business world, but raised a question, “whether, if one invests in people, quantitative modes of assessment are always the best ones”.

Canon Judith Maltby (University of Oxford) asked how members were inducted into the CNC.

Professor O’Donovan said that this was “critical” to ensure that people knew the direction they were going in, to avoid wasting precious time.

Canon Sue Booys (Oxford) asked whether the group had considered the role, value, and impact of the interview in the CNC process.

Professor O’Donovan said that the interview had “added a new dimension” that was appreciated, but that it was “not always easy for those who are being interviewed”. The review group would not wish to see the decision to introduce an interview reversed. “But there is work to be done as to how it can be made simply more effective and more satisfying for all those involved.”

Jayne Ozanne (Oxford) raised the issue of trust and openness. Had the group considered appointing rather than electing members?

Professor Ludlow said that the group was “asking Synod to think imaginatively and openly about ways of ensuring whoever is appointed is in touch with a wide range of voices for whom they can be an advocate. . . Although there is good reason for wanting membership of CNC to be more diverse, there are also ways of representing voices that can be done with creativity and integrity.”

 

Budget

 

THE Archbishops’ Council’s budget was introduced by John Spence, who chairs the Finance Committee.

In 2018, the Council would have responsibility for spending £104.7 million, of which £24.8 million would go to lower-income communities and £15.2 million in “transition funding” as dioceses were “weaned off” the Darlow funding, and £24.8 million would be spent on Strategic Development Funding (SDF), he said.

Then £39.9 million would be spent across Votes 1-5. Already, £20 million has been awarded to 15 projects since 1 January 2017, taking the total to 32 projects, and £74 million would be allocated to SDF in 2017-19. He emphasised that monitoring and reviewing the impact of projects would continue.

“We have to make sure that we work on evidence; that we do have that strategic alignment at all times, and that we must carry on monitoring and reviewing the impact . . . It is a radically different departure for the C of E, and is being approached with the amount of care that should be devoted to it.”

He looked forward to the day when all dioceses had successfully applied for such funding.

Turning to Votes 1-5, he explained that 80 per cent of the £39.9-million budget (which had increased by 5.8 per cent) would be funded from the apportionment requested from dioceses. This was driven by evangelism and Renewal and Reform. To limit the increase in apportionment to three per cent, the Council has drawn £850,000 from the capital of its Church and Community Fund.

Since 2005, Vote 1 had gone up by a small amount every year, but that was set to change. The operating budget had gone up by only 0.1 per cent, but, “as the Government has learned, austerity can only go on for so long.”

The Council was implementing the synodical commitment to its grant to support the clergy-retirement housing scheme by five per cent a year until 2020. Thereafter, the plan was that it would go up only in line with inflation. Overall, the growth in the apportionment had been less than the increase in the cost of living.

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Discussing Vote 1, he showed how the total numbers in ordinand training were set to grow. Next year, the cost of this would go up from £14.1 to £15.2 million. The increases over subsequent years were “big numbers”.

“We need to continue investing,” he said. “We cannot carry on drawing down on capital; so we need to develop funding streams to overcome that.” There was not only the increase in ordinands to fund, but the cost of curacies, and several bishops were “already talking to us about that”.

He urged people not to worry. “The role of the Archbishop’s Council . . . is to ensure that finance does not become a barrier to ambition.” There would be dialogue with all partners about this. The report said: “As the Council’s ability to moderate apportionment increases by using its own resources is limited the Church Commissioners understand that, if the ordinand growth rate is sustained, we will want to have dialogue with them in order to unlock sufficient funding towards the costs of pre-ordination training, and potentially curacy costs in addition to the support they already provide in other areas.”

The Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Andrew Watson, spoke on the increase in ordinands. Of these, 25 per cent were young, five per cent were BAME, and, “for the first time, the number of women being accepted for stipendiary ministry almost matches the number of men”.

It was “not that the Church is dumbing down its selection process, or succumbing to some kind of grade inflation”. It was the result of the recognition of prayer, training, and “developing a culture of vocation” as a key task for every parish and chaplaincy. He had been asked whether it was “a blip or a trend”, and didn’t know the answer, but was “extremely hopeful. . . I can see no reason why it shouldn’t increase by another ten per cent next year on the way to 50 per cent by 2020 and beyond.”

But there was already a problem. Many dioceses were “wrestling imaginatively” with the question of how to fund extra curacies. But “talk of an 11-per-cent apportionment rise in Section 20 of the report would be catastrophic to the whole enterprise”.

He was already aware of dioceses effectively planning a cap on ordinand numbers either through “poorly resourced vocation teams” or “a noble but mistaken commitment to guarantee curacies for all their local candidates”.

There were diocesan boards of finance which were “overstretched to breaking-point”. He welcomed the suggestion of dialogue with the Church Commissioners, but urged dialogue to begin “today, and not when further evidence of growth [in ordinands] is established. . . Artificially delaying the start of the conversation might well in itself stifle further growth rather than releasing it.”

The potential rise of 50 per cent in ordinand numbers could “never be described as ‘business as usual’”.

Keith Cawdron (Liverpool) also referred to paragraphs 20 and 21, in which there was a “forward look” in terms of extra ordinands, but suggested that this apportionment was unsustainable. He had been assured that the Archbishops’ Council would support the Church Commissioners. “Let us start this discussion now,” he urged.

A bigger concern was the “bipolarity” of expenditure of the Archbishops’ Council budget, which should not increase, he said. The Church Commissioners had previously supplemented the Archbishops’ Council and become over-extended, and had had to restructure finances. He did not want this repeated. “I am concerned it may feel too easy,” he said.

He urged Mr Spence to start the discussion now, and repeal the idea that the Church Commissioners were a “magic money tree” that would solve the problem. There was no new money, he warned.

The Revd Charles Read (Norwich) had once been in a meeting with the Ministry Division in which there was a proposal regarding where students went for ordination training. He asked what the theological mandate was for a market approach, and was told: “The Ministry Division does not deal with theological input.” It was still true that some ordinands had a choice of where to train, where others did not. None of the TEIs felt financially secure and stable today, Mr Read said. This needed to be addressed.

Mr Spence agreed, and said that he had had meetings with TEI principles, but that training and selection was not an issue for the Archbishops’ Council budget. The last thing he wanted to hear was of caps on ordinands. “Formal applications will be made”, he told the Synod, “once this budget had been agreed.”

Canon Giles Goddard (Southwark) said, that three years ago, the Synod had voted for a motion that had led to the creation of an environment working group. He was concerned that, in paragraph 53 on Mission and Public Affairs, there was no mention of the environment, and paragraph 55, on church buildings, contained a single mention.

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“It feels as though we are not joined up as a Church,” he said. The reducing of hours of the environment officer to two days a week, and the scrapping the church buildings post was a worry. The environment should be prioritised, and policies reinvigorated.

Philip Blinkhorn (Manchester) was sure that overall expenditure on safeguarding would increase, as had been predicted. He questioned whether so many provisions, and staff, should be given to the dioceses rather than nationally.

The Revd Dr Patrick Richmond (Norwich) asked about the financial challenges facing dioceses. He wondered what sort of help had been given in the past year and whether this had affected the budget. A deficit budget could be transformed to a surplus budget in some dioceses where vacancies hadn’t been filled, he said.

Dioceses were struggling to place clerics in different parishes because clergy were less willing to move. Could Mr Spence give guidance on this? Would dioceses be able to release housing, and exchange liquid assets for fixed assets, or were there other hidden costs?

Mr Spence explained that the environment officer was appointed on a freelance basis, and there were references to environments elsewhere. On safeguarding, he agreed that more spending should not necessarily be seen as better spending. It would be good for the Synod to take stock of the balance between sustaining diocesan and central stability. While the Archbishops’ Council was responding to dioceses’ wanting to restore the number of ordinands and encouraging lay people, the model was not so easy to implement.

Angela Scott (Rochester) asked whether there was specific money for licensed lay ministry, or did the budget concern only ordinands?

Tim Hind (Bath & Wells) asked whether Votes 3, 4, and 5 could be merged together, and the motion presented better in three separate votes rather than five.

Elizabeth Paver (Sheffield) asked whether the Archbishops’ Council would consider working with the National Society on audits on church schools. Church schools were all “suffering greatly” for lack of staff, affecting the quality of education, she said.

Mr Spence said that there was no money set aside for lay training, which was a diocesan responsibility. He agreed that he would like to see a greater visibility of schools and education.

The Synod approved the Archbishops’ Council’s Budget (Votes 1-5): £15,246,952 for training for ministry; £17,562,244 for national church responsibilities; £1,244,024 for grants and provisions; and £806,167 for mission-agency clergy-pension contributions; and £4,805,985 for the CHARM scheme.

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Then Synod went on to approve the proposals set out in the Table of Apportionment for diocesan contributions.

 

Archbishops’ Council

 

A PRESENTATION and Q&A on the Archbishops’ Council’s annual report was held on Monday afternoon.

Mary Chapman (Archbishops’ Council) said that, as always, the primary sources of the Council’s funding were the Church Commissioners and the dioceses through the apportionment. What was received from the Church Commissioners is mostly redistributed to the dioceses, she explained, while what was received through the apportionment is used to fund the work of the Council.

“We are deeply grateful for the generosity and sacrificial giving of church members, and the partnership of the Church Commissioners and their wonderful stewardship of our historic resources.” The lion’s share of the Council’s spending went towards selecting and resourcing for public ministry, with Renewal and Reform the central emphasis.

The Revd Dr Ian Paul (Southwell & Nottingham), another member of the Council, took over the presentation to run through the main activities of the Council. One of the key priorities was encouraging spiritual and numerical growth, he said. This had also involved research and developing training materials.

Other changes were building on last year’s report on lay leadership, Setting God’s People Free, and piloting new funding arrangements for ministerial education. There had also been a significant amount of time and money spent on safeguarding, both improving the national approach and continuing to respond to “some grievous failures from the past”.

The Council had also been “contributing to the common good” by supporting the Archbishops, and working with the House of Bishops, and with the Bishops in the House of Lords. “We’ve been enabling them to speak in the public square and Parliament on a whole range of issues, from child poverty, Sunday trading, gambling, modern slavery and human trafficking, social cohesion, and refugees.”

The Church continued to be a “leading agent” in the provision of primary and secondary education, Dr Paul said, and the National Society was still hoping to achieve a “proportionate share” of the new wave of free schools and academies. Another important set of assets were church buildings. Cathedrals were benefiting from the Government’s First World War centenary fund, and the Council had raised and distributed a further £600,000 for church buildings.

“A key part of our partnership is providing practical and financial support to the dioceses,” Dr Paul said. The Council had invested in schemes to cut costs for churches, such as centralised parish buying, and has also invested in digital communications, revising the Church of England website, and more training in a varieties of areas. For instance, the Daily Prayer app now had 12,000 monthly users, enough to fill St Paul’s five times over.

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Finally, strategic development funding had taken off in 2016, awarding £7.8 million and set to hand out three times more in 2017.

Mrs Chapman said that the Council had created new objectives for itself up to 2020, but “Let’s not kid ourselves. . . It doesn’t lie within the Council’s gift to bring about this scale of changes. . . . But if every person and organisation in the Church of England plays their part, through the infinite grace of God we will see the renewal we need so that more people will come to know the love of God.”

The name of Jesus only appeared in the annual report twice, said James Cary (Bath & Wells). “Although the activities are excellent, we need to remember that we need these things in the name of Jesus.” He wanted future reports “to give the name of the Lord Jesus slightly greater prominence to remind us why we do these activities”.

In response, Dr Paul said that the name of Jesus was implicit in the genre of the reports. “We talk about discipleship. Do we need to say that they are disciples of Jesus? We talk about evangelism. Do we need to articulate that this is evangelism so that they may come to faith in Jesus? I am not sure that is necessary,” he said.

The Revd Dr Patrick Richmond (Norwich) was concerned that the report had “lost its strategic focus on youth”. He described “the challenge of passing on our faith to younger generations” as being “highly significant”, and he wanted to know why this hadn’t been mentioned in the report where it had been before.

Dr Paul replied that the Archbishops’ Council was “very aware” of the importance of youth evangelism. The Council had been looking, in particular, at the work being done by Anglican and other groups in universities, and there had been “a very animated discussion” about proposals for the C of E to play a “facilitation and co-ordinating role”.

The system confused Gavin Oldham (Oxford), who wanted consideration to be given to “more engagement in mutual support” by twinning donor and recipient “dioceses, deaneries, parishes, and — in due course — cathedrals”.

Mrs Chapman spoke of ways in whcih this was already happening, including planned-giving initiatives, learning networks, and the peer-review process, where “dioceses . . . are getting ideas about who they may turn to, to draw on good examples of what is going on”.

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Direct diocese-to-diocese financial support was “more complex and needs thinking through”.

The Secretary General, William Nye, in response to a question about IT and data security from Philip French (Rochester), said that the NCIs had protected themselves from the recent Ransomware attacks. But he couldn’t guarantee that they wouldn’t be hit during the next attack. “Data security is an area where we can never be sure we have got things right,” he said. “That is why it is on the risk register.”

Work was taking place to prepare guidance for parishes on new data-protection regulations that were due to come into force next May.

The advice given to dioceses as they applied for strategic development funding was challenged by Penny Allen (Lichfield). In light of the number of applications that were rejected, she wanted to know whether the panel was “satisfied with the level of advice given to parishes”.

Mrs Chapman replied that she would be more worried “if every proposal got through, particularly on first application. . . We want to be sure that we are applying criteria rigorously; but we want every diocese and eventually every application to succeed.”

Canon Sally Gaze (Norwich) wanted to know whether the performance-outcome indicators that accompaned grants “contain robust ways of measuring things like conversions and the number of unchurched and non-church people participating”.

Mr Nyte said that the Archbishops’ Council’s staff, supported by external advisers, were preparing “a sensible range of indicators that are measurable”. This was a “work in progress that will be reviewed”.

The Synod took note of the report.

 

Laity elections

 

THE General Synod debated a report on its Elections Review Group, and then had a presentation about how the House of Laity should be elected, in which various members were put up to argue for the various options, before members were invited to take part in a referendum.

The Chair of the Business Committee, Canon Sue Booys (Oxford), introduced the report of the Business Committee on the work of the Elections Review Group, whose task could be described as “sorting out the odd black socks which scatter around your sock drawer”.

The main reform proposed is moving to online elections for the next Synod election in 2020. It would be a challenge to pass the relevant legislation and have the system tested in diocesan elections by 2020, but Canon Booys said that it was possible. The new system would also save money in the long term, she said.

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“We know that not everyone has an email address nor access to the internet; so we will have to ensure it’s possible to participate in the old pen-and-paper manner.”

Dioceses, however, needed to be imaginative and persuasive in encouraging people to participate online rather than opt back to pen and paper.

Prudence Dailey (Oxford) said that she was pleased to hear that the needs of older people who couldn’t use the internet would be taken into account. “These people aren’t stupid: they’re just old,” she said. She also raised concerns about diocesan officials’ and even bishops’ lobbying in favour of, and briefing against, candidates during elections.

David Lamming (St Edmundsbury & Ipswich) spoke of the imbalance in representation between the two provinces, York and Canterbury. For instance, the diocese of Carlisle had 17,600 people on its electoral rolls and was given four members in the House of Laity, while his diocese, with 20,000 people on electoral rolls, had only three members in the House of Laity. “It seems to me that’s an unfair imbalance; it can be corrected,” he said.

Carolyn Graham (Guildford) raised the issue of potentially offensive material appearing on diocesan websites as part of online hustings responses. She recounted a story of how Sara, an LGBT Christian but not a Synod voter, stumbled across a response on the diocesan website from an online hustings which suggested LGBT people were a danger to children. “It’s not appropriate to censor candidates’ responses, but it’s also important the Church is a place where [LGBT people] know they will feel safe and accepted.”

Unlike traditional hustings, anyone could stumble across an online hustings comment by accident, maybe even through a search engine. Could online hustings responses perhaps be emailed directly to the electors, or placed on a password-protect part of the diocesan website instead, she asked.

The Revd Peter Kay (St Albans) said that one of the “great glories” of the Church was its diversity, and many of the “most committed and wonderful saints” did not have computers or email addresses. The Business Committee and Elections Review Group needed not to underestimate the challenge of ensuring that these people could still take part in online elections.

The Prolocutor of the Lower House of the Convocation of Canterbury, Canon Simon Butler (Southwark), reminded Mr Lamming that the question of representation and imbalances between the provinces had been addressed in the last quinquennium. “It raises the question, as we do these processes, how we keep the corporate memory, so we don’t come back in five years’ time and hear Mr Lamming’s speech on the lips of the next speaker who has discovered this discrepancy,” he said, “so we don’t have the same argument and come to what, I imagine, will be the same conclusion again.”

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Tim Hind (Bath & Wells) said that it was important not just to change the way elections were held, but also to provide appropriate support and information about the changes for electors and candidates. “It doesn’t matter if we go for universal suffrage or some form of electoral college. What is most important is that people are informed.”

Hannah Grivell (Derby) had been waiting for online elections for years, and suggested that the Government should make the same move for the General Election. There had been a “massive increase” in young people on the Synod, even though the young were sometimes counted as under-50s. There were things to be done, such as moving things online, and holding events at weekends so that annual leave did not have to be taken. There had to be provisions for those who could not use the internet, or who might be blind, she said, but she hoped that online voting and hustings were the way forward.

Dr John Mason (Chester) referred to paragraph 26 of the report on making addresses available online. In the last quinquennium, some had had the resources to do this, which, he argued, had been an unfair advantage. There would always be an element of paper in the election; would there be a provision for this?

Canon Booys suggesting a computer coffee evening, or other encouragements. There was no intention to force people who had a preference and desire to vote in the paper form to move online.

The Synod took note of the report.

Clive Scowen (London) said that a review of elections had been conducted, and recommendations had been reviewed and brought to Synod in the last quinquennium. “This is unfinished business.”

Anne Foreman (Exeter) argued in favour of the current system. She was not opposed to change, but wanted to increase the level of turnout, which she said could be done with the current system. Filling vacancies on the diocesan synod had had its day, she argued. More “open and user-friendly deaneries” had the needs of parishes at the fore. As for the link with the Synod, electors had a responsibility to report back.

“Do not burden our diocesan secretaries with implementing new systems, but work to better the current system.”

Philip French (Rochester) argued for a new system. The current system had been defined by Bridge 20 years ago, and it was “high time” for change. Diocesan synods varied in their commitments and processes, and he did not want to make the role of electors a “side project”, when they might have run out of old jobs. The current system was “fundamentally flawed”, since the Synod was predominately white, middle-aged, and middle-class.

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The time had come to elect in proportion to the size of electoral roles, Mr Scowen argued. Bridge had suggested one elector for every role, but, with electronic voting, a higher number, such as ten for every one role, could lead to a wider range of participation. The qualification for electors would be the same, he argued.

The advantages were that it was “demonstrably” fair; every voter would have been elected to that role; those elected would be church members rather than committee or synodical people; a wider range of people were likely to participate, such as busy professional lay people, young, and BAME people, who might otherwise be “repelled” by the synodical culture. Similarly, electors would not be ex officio; the system would allow fair representation without being “swamped” by Synod members.

Canon Paul Harbord (Sheffield) said that the Synod and the Church were making progress with simplification agenda, and, while it might be “attractive” to elect people with the sole task of electing the laity, this might be more complex than simple. It would add “another level” to the governing process, he argued. In his experience as a parish priest, persuading people to become officers in the church could be “very difficult”, and who would they be? Surely, they would be those who had been the deanery-synod representatives, which was what the Synod already had.

Debrah McIsaac (Salisbury) suggested that the best option was to franchise the elected members of the PCC, who had a range of responsibilities in church life, and who on whom what happened at the Synod had an impact. It was not fair to say that churchwardens, for example, were not interested in wider church affairs, she argued; rather, electing churchwardens would form a “direct link” between the PCC and the Synod. There was an opportunity to have a separate electorate, too. PCC members were adept at responding to the congregation, representing the gospel in context.

Mrs Foreman suggested that the option for PCC members would be complex, and could be less representative than the status quo. She wondered what the relationship was between the PCC and the diocesan office, since the commitment on the PCC was parochial. The deanery or diocesan synod might not be on their radar, and, therefore, PCC members might not have the levels of commitment required. Parishes with small electoral rolls would also have a disproportionately high number of electors.

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Putting the case for the electorate to be drawn from the lay members of diocesan synods, Mr Harbord indicated his lack of enthusiasm by joking that “When a solicitor appears before me in the magistrates’ court and says ‘My client has instructed me to say . . .’, it is a fair indication that the advocate, left to themselves, would not say anything of the kind, and is only doing their advocacy on sufferance or for the many.

“I am almost tempted to say: ‘The Elections Review Group have instructed me to say that there is a case to be put forward for election to the House of Laity by lay members of diocesan synods — although this proposition received no support from the previous Electoral Review Group or the Business Committee.’”

Despite his lack of enthusiasm, he did, however, put forward a positive case, arguing that “lay members of diocesan synods are likely, by their interest and participation at that level of the synodical process, to have a very good grasp of issues facing the Church and relevant to the elections to the House of Laity.”

He also indicated that the electorate would be smaller, leading to elections that were “easier and cheaper to administer.”

Putting the contrary case, Canon Joyce Jones (Leeds) said that she could make her contribution with “perhaps . . . a little more conviction”. Not all churches had members who served on the diocesan synods; so those congregations would not be represented by the electorate. “If diocesan-synod members were to be the electorate to the General Synod, they would be two steps removed from ordinary people in the pews rather than one step, as deanery-synod members are.”

The final of the five options put forward in the non-binding advisory ballot was that the electorate be composed of all members of church electoral rolls. Putting the case for this option, Mr French said that the Church already had “genuine universal franchise” in the elections of churchwardens.

This was not being suggested as the electorate, he said, but the more restricted electoral rolls: “two per cent of the population, around one million people — less dauntingly, around 25,000 per diocese.

“There is an important compelling legitimacy to this method. It would be fair and would be seen to be fair, rather than relying on any form of direct election. It would connect the General Synod to the whole Church, opening up opportunities to mobilise young people who are not already in diocesan or deanery synodical structures, and would encourage a more diverse membership.”

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The opposite case was put forward by Mr Scowen who set out “three serious objections” to a “superficially attractive” option. He expressed concern that this would open up the electorate to “people who do not attend church and play no part in its life. . . If confining the electorate to diocesan-synod members sets the commitment bar too high, I suggest that this approach takes it far too low.”

He was also concerned about “abuse and manipulation by pressure groups”, who could try to pack electoral rolls” with supporters of their particular cause. He also thought that the current system of voluntary electoral-roll officers was “not fit for purpose”, and said that parishes might be “unable to find somebody suitable” for the new role.

After the presentation on the five proposals, the panel members replied to questions by Synod members.

Responding to Adrian Greenwood (Southwark), Mr Scowen said that, if the Electoral Review Group wanted to propose changes, they would ask the Archbishops’ Council to bring forward proposals. The Church Representation Rules contained a provision for the Synod to be able to amend the electoral system by means of rules that would not have to go through the usual legislative process.

In response to the Dean of Guernsey, the Very Revd Tim Barker (Channel Islands), who said that churches in the Channel Islands did not have PCCs, asked whether the group had considered using churchwardens as the electorate, Mr Scowen said that the options being reported on today were the options reported on by the previous Elections Review Group. “I don’t think that they considered churchwardens,” he said. “They certainly didn’t report on this.”

He said that the use of churchwardens had been mentioned in the previous debate, but the new group “felt it important to the complete work” that the earlier group had started.

He said that there were “downsides” to using churchwardens as the electorate”, not least that they were “not representative”.

Mr Scowen told Mr Hind that church electoral-roll officers had “an enduring duty” to remove people from the register if they no longer qualified for inclusion.

Mr Kay was intrigued about the “proportionality” of using PCC members. His church had a PCC with 25 members, while a colleague in the neighbouring benefice had a joint PCC with a dozen members.

Ms McIsaac told him that this was already an issue, because “there are many parishes that do not take up the number of permitted seats” on deanery synods.

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Sarah Tupling (Deaf Anglicans Together) was concerned that the three representatives of Deaf Anglicans Together had observed a meeting of the House of Laity but, as non-voting members of the Synod, could not be involved. She asked: “Do you think there would be a possibility for deaf Anglicans to take part in elections in the House of Laity?”

Mr Scowen told her that it was “open for any member of any church to stand for election to the deanery synods and they would be eligible to be an elector under any of the systems we have been talking about this morning.”

Commenting on some of the arguments used against some of the proposals, the Revd Dr Jason Roach (London) asked: “If we are deciding whether something is more complex or more just, which one do we put first?”

Mr Scowen agreed that “justice should trump complexity”, but “clearly there is a balance; and something that is impossibly complex as to be unworkable, actually isn’t just either.”

Responding to a question from Valerie Hallard (Carlisle), Mr Scowen confirmed that deanery-synod members would still have a vote if the option to use PCC members as the electorate was chosen, because “they are elected by the APCM. There is no problem of deanery-synod members’ being excluded.”

He told the Revd Eleanor Robertshaw (Sheffield) that an electoral college elected at APCMs need not cause lots of by-elections in the case of deaths of members of the college. In normal circumstances, the vacancy could be filled the following year. But deaths in the year of elections would require by-elections to be held.

Gavin Oldham (Oxford) said that he was “intrigued” by the option of giving the vote to members of church electoral rolls, and said that it “could be a major evangelistic opportunity”.

Mr Scowen replied: “Let’s all pray for revival and have an electoral roll of many, many thousands.” But, on a more negative note, he said: “I don’t think that giving a vote to electoral-roll members will, in itself, bring people to Christ. But I may be wrong.”

The five options were set out on a ballot papers that had been left on members’ seats. They had been asked to order their preferences using the single transferable vote in a “non-binding advisory referendum” and post them in a ballot box in the Synod members’ information room. The results would be considered at the next meeting of the Elections Review Group.

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Business Committee

 

INTRODUCING the debate on the Business Committee’s report, its chair, Canon Sue Booys (Oxford), referred to the revised code of conduct for Synod members, which is currently subject to consultation. This had been produced by drawing together existing policy as well as “responding to concerns about Synod members towards one another”. It was a first draft, “which is intended to be voluntary”. There would be no meeting in November.

There was sustained applause for Nick Hills, who supports the committee, at this his final Synod.

Jayne Ozanne (Oxford) commended the committee for its ongoing work on changing the culture of the Synod. “Many watch how we conduct our business with incredulity,” she said. She spoke of being subjected to “very upsetting personal and public attacks on myself and at times my family by fellow Synod members over the past few months”, and welcomed the section concerning social media.

She wanted to make some suggestions. The code should be extended to discussion in the media. She was also concerned that there was no mechanism for sanctions for lay members who “wilfully flout it”. Could they adopt a similar mechanism to that which applied to fringe meetings and displays: Synod members should be asked to show consent to the code by email?

“It is a great privilege to serve on Synod, and one that comes with significant responsibility. However, where there is responsibility, there should always be accountability, and where missing I believe we owe it to the good of all to establish it.”

Andrea Minichiello Williams (Chichester), saying that she had a point of order, suggested that some of what Ms Ozanne had referred to as attacks might pertain to some of the communications that she had sent out in recent days. She said that it was not she or Christian Concern who put out information concerning Ms Ozanne in the public domain. The information was in the public domain because Ms Ozanne’s Facebook was open, where she had “promoted her relationship”.

There were boos and calls for Mrs Minichiello Williams to resign, and the speech was ruled not a point of order.

Tim Hind (Bath & Wells) said that it was “absolutely wonderful” that evangelism was on the agenda, including in workshops. “But I noticed very little in the press complaining about the lack of evangelism in the C of E. What I have noticed are two abiding issues. Do we need to have workshops that help us to address those abiding issues? He also noted that the Archbishops’ Council had had training on unconscious bias. He wondered whether this might be extended to all members of Synod.

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Keith Cawdron (Liverpool) spoke about Clause 1 in the Draft Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure, which gave new powers to the Church Commissioners to provide new funds to the Archbishops’ Council. This was a “permanent and significant change” that required a debate in the Synod and “the full legislative procedure”.

He argued: “It is important that something like this should be presented and justified to Synod.”

Lorna Ashworth (Chichester) said that the agenda was “fundamentally flawed”. It lacked a framework for the correct interpretation of the words used. Discussions on ministry in a multifaith society “must be sourced from a clear and faithful understanding of what the gospel actually is. As the Established Church, we have a responsibility to clearly proclaim the message of God unashamed and unafraid, hell or high water. As a corporate body I think we have become unable to articulate the saving message of Jesus Christ. . . Without this message we do not teach the true gospel, and people do not get saved.”

She continued: “Until we have a House of Bishops full of shepherds who stand only for the truth . . . our work can only offer confusion and plurality to a lost and dying world.”

She had hope, however, that “the power of the one true living God” could come to the rescue. Should the Established Church continue to fail, there was “another way”. She praised the “foresight” of GAFCON, which had appointed Canon Andy Lines as a missionary Bishop. A man who “I deeply respect and admire. . . Can I suggest he would have been a more appropriate ecumenical guest?”

Nigel Bacon (Lincoln) said that he was particularly interested in the lay report Serving Together, from the Ministry Council. Would it not be helpful to be given an early opportunity to consider the “more foundational” laity report Setting God’s People Free, rather than wait until July 2018 for the former, he asked.

Peter Adams (St Albans) welcomed the committee’s report but said that it contained an “imbalance”, since the Synod would be debating sexuality for three-and-a-half days, compared with 45 minutes on eccumenical relationships. The nation was challenged by more issues than these, he said, and the Church should have a stronger voice, and more positive stories, on its interfaith work. His amendment would remind the world how the Church could challenge hatred. He asked the Synod to give the debate the priority it needed.

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Canon Deborah Flach (Europe) thanked the Synod for scrapping evening sessions (until 10 p.m.), but referred to paragraph nine of the report, which suggested that Synod members spend more time together; it would make sense, therefore, that dioceses ate together, and were not put in separate dining rooms for the duration of the Synod.

The Revd Tiffer Robinson (St Edmundsbury & Ipswich) was grateful that his school-admissions motion was on the agenda, but was not happy with how it had been referred to. His motion was about a structural disadvantage, not simply about clergy children.

Mary Durlacher (Chelmsford) asked that the Synod not follow the suggestions for a code of conduct. The Synod must be free to say what it thought, she said, and a private motion laid open debate to bad tempers. “Freedom of speech is terribly important, and saying it in love is, too,” she finished.

Canon Sally Gaze (Norwich) appreciated what had been said about conduct. She noted that there were noises of unhappiness and booing when members were speaking, and suggested that the Synod would “feel better” if the only sound or emotions were applause at the end of a speech.

Responding, Canon Booys said that all members had a responsibility to take care of one another, and not just friends. “That is what good disagreement is about,” she said. But members were elected, and therefore could not be removed.

The Synod took note of the report.

 

Pensions

 

THE Synod approved the Draft Pensions (Pre-Consolidation) Measure unanimously.

The steering committee had made one drafting amendment to the Draft Pensions (Pre-Consolidation) Measure to clarify the application of the Measure in the diocese in Europe, the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, told the Synod on Saturday morning.

Canon Deborah Flach (Europe) asked whether a provision in the Measure enabling the trustees to transfer the Widows and Dependants Pension Fund to the Funded Scheme could result in a loss of benefits to clergy widows and widowers.

Bishop Langstaff said that “there would be no watering down of the benefits for those who are members of the fund. The benefits would be paid out of the whole pensions fund because the two would be merged.”

After the Synod took note of the report, Bishop Langstaff explained that the Measure was “a prelude to something else”. This Measure contained a number of moderate amendments to pave the way for “a major consolidation Measure”.

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If the Synod gave final approval to the draft Measure, a new single draft Pensions Measure to consolidate all of the C of E’s existing pensions legislation would be brought to the Synod next February.

Brian Wilson (Southwark), a member of the Pensions Board, clarified the position of the Widows and Orphans Fund. “If this motion was not passed, either the money in that fund would run out before the last widow or orphan died; or the last widow or orphan surviving would bag the lot,” he said.

Voting was: 21 bishops, 109 clergy, and 123 laity in favour. There were no recorded abstentions.

 

Farewells

 

THE Archbishop of Canterbury led two farewells: first, to the Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Mike Hill, who, he said, had a “refreshing sense of energy” and an “immense impact below the radar” in the Anglican Communion.

After beginning work in the printing industry, Bishop Hill had married Anthea in 1973 shortly after embarking on ordained ministry. Impressive church growth as a parish priest followed until he became first a rural dean, and then an archdeacon, in the diocese of Oxford in the 1980s.

Archbishop Welby made special mention of Bishop Hill’s part in building bridges with the Anglican Church in Uganda, and paid tribute to his and his wife Anthea’s resilience in coping with a severe car accident and serious injuries. “Mike has contributed much over the years as a respected member of the House of Lords, and also as a pastoral voice to many of the other members of the House,” Archbishop Welby said.

He then bade farewell to the Bishop at Lambeth, the Rt Revd Nigel Stock. Archbishop Welby recounted Bishop Stock’s curacy in Northumbria at the height of the coal industry’s collapse, and then five years working in Papua New Guinea. He returned to work his way up through the Church of England before becoming Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich in 2007.

“We have tried every source for his work in the north-east of England, and found only disappointing accounts of upright, dedicated, hard-working, and effective ministry.” The affection with which he was held in the diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich could be measured by the volume of “vituperative correspondence” that Archbishop Welby had received after he poached Bishop Stock to become Bishop at Lambeth in 2013, he said.

“To say he is liked and will be profoundly missed at Lambeth is an understatement. He is universally held in respect and profound affection, as is [his wife,] Caroline.”

Noting his enthusiasm for machines, Archbishop Welby said that as Bishop to the Forces Bishop Stock had been allowed to drive tanks and fly in Navy helicopters. And he had once celebrated the eucharist at Lambeth Palace with the Community of St Anselm in Pidgin English, learnt while he was in Papua New Guinea. “Me sorry me bugger up” had been the first line of the confession, faithfully repeated by the Community, many of whom did not speak English as a first language.

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