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General Synod: ecumenical relations and other legislative business

Bishops to give detailed guidance on ecumenical partnerships


The Archdeacon of Southwark, Dr Jane Steen

The Archdeacon of Southwark, Dr Jane Steen

THE Draft Ecumenical Relations Measure and Draft Amending Canon No. 38 returned to the Synod on Friday afternoon for final drafting.

The Archdeacon of Southwark, the Ven. Dr Jane Steen (Southwark), introduced the debate on behalf of the steering committee. She said that the Measure took into account the new power of bishops to designate partner Churches at diocesan level. She took the Synod through the amendments to the Measure, before moving the motion.

Philip French (Rochester) had taken part in a partnership between the C of E and the United Reformed Church. He supported the idea of the Measure, in that it would make it easier to create ecumenical partnerships, but the wording was a matter of concern: the approach of the C of E could come across as “arrogant and overbearing”. He urged the House of Bishops to take care in taking this Measure forward. Responding, Dr Steen said that the wording was for legislative purposes only.

The business was carried and commended to the House of Bishops.

Final approval was given to the Measure and Amending Canon No. 38 on Monday morning.

They had been brought to the Synod, Dr Steen said, as part of the reform being carried out by the simplification task group. The original, much longer Measure had been divided up to enable the Synod to scrutinise the separate legislation within it. The change had also increased the profile of ecumenical relations.

The existing legislation had been carried in 1988, she said, and had fostered relationships with partner Churches, allowing these Churches to participate in worship, and establish formal relations on the mission agenda. But the ecumenical Measure needed updating.

Under the new canon, any Church that administered rites of holy baptism and holy communion could be designated as a partner Church by the bishop of that diocese, she explained. The canon was not prescriptive in its language, but was a general framework that set boundaries. Details would be set out in guidance from the House of Bishops.

This would include a provision to allow members of the Salvation Army to preach at a Church of England service, and for ministers of Trinitarian Churches to preach and read prayers in C of E services. “It presents the canonical provisions in a way that is easier to follow.”

It was welcomed by the Revd Lisa Battye (Manchester), who had prayed that the Trinitarian Churches might be united. “We love our land, but we cannot re-evangelise without the denominations that are springing up around us. . . Please look for bishops to designate with new partners, including Methodists.”

The diocese in Europe approved the Measure, Canon Deborah Flach (Europe) said, because it clarified and simplified the work that the diocese had been doing with colleagues and sister Churches.

The Revd Beverley Hollins (Peterborough) said that the update was very welcome. She looked forward to seeing the code of practice, which she hoped would enable ecumenism to “truly live out the prayer of our Lord that we might be one”.

The Ecumenical Relations Measure received final approval: Bishops 22 nem. con.; Clergy 84-2; and Laity 95 nem. con., with 4 recorded abstentions.

Amending Canon No. 38 received final approval: Bishops 23 nem. con.; Clergy 88-2; Laity 107 nem. con., with 3 recorded abstentions.

The Synod then voted to adopt the petition for the Royal Assent.


Miscellaneous Provisions (funerals)

THE SYNOD gave final approval to one Draft Miscellaneous Provisions Measure, and began consideration of a second.

The Draft Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure was given final drafting and final approval. Among its provisions is the omission of the first rubric in the BCP Burial of the Dead (which states that that order of service may not be used if the deceased is unbaptised, excommunicate, or a suicide of sound mind). The canon relating to this was amended last year (General Synod, 14 July 2017).

Josile Munro (London), who chairs the steering committee, told the Synod that the matters were uncontroversial, but not unimportant. The Church Commissioners currently had no power to fund the mission of the Church. One new clause would create a new power for the Commissioners to provide grants from the Archbishops’ Council. Another would make it easier for funeral directors to find a Church of England officiant, since there was currently no provision for a licensed lay person or other minister to conduct a funeral service at a cemetery or crematorium. “These will make a real difference to the mission and work of the Church of England.”

The Dean of the Arches and Auditor, the Rt Worshipful Charles George QC, questioned the language of “binding” in Clause 7.

Andrew Williams (Coventry) welcomed the “excellent changes” to the provision of funerals which allowed bereaved families to choose who they wished to conduct the service.

Final approval was given: Bishops 23, Clergy 105, Laity 124, nem. con.


Miscellaneous provisions (rights to officiate)

FIRST consideration was given to the Draft Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Measure.

Introducing the debate, the Archdeacon of Knowsley and Sefton, the Ven. Peter Spiers (Liverpool), said that it would do various things. It would allow a bishop to ordain a member of a religious community into holy orders. He said that it would allow for a national register of clergy, as recommended by the independent Peter Ball review, through the Archbishops’ Council, which would allow for a member of the public to discover if someone had the right to officiate.

The Measure would also attempt to reduce court fees in bringing a case to an ecclesiastical court, allowing for fees to be waived in certain situations, Archdeacon Spiers said. Clause 4 would allow the Cathedrals Fabric Commission or a cathedral fabric advisory committee to change approval for a cathedral’s building work, for example, if it was made in error. He said that Clause 5 provided a measure to allow cathedrals to build on disused burial grounds, because some cathedrals were unable to use land in their precincts.

The Draft Measure would permit a PCC to appoint its own inspector to carry out a quinquennial inspection, Archdeacon Spiers said. Clause 7 allowed a service register to be permitted in an electronic form; Clause 8 changed the definition of records to exclude anything attached to the fabric of a place of worship; and Clause 9 allowed the Church Commissioners to delegate to another officer. Clause 10 would set the maximum term of a member of a diocesan advisory board at two successive terms. The Church Buildings Council would have the power to reauthorise a person in a particular case to override this, he said.

Clause 11 amended the constitution of the General Synod to update language, and replace the terms “Prolocutor and Pro-Prolocutor” with “Chair and Vice-Chair”.

The Dean of the Arches, the Rt Worshipful Charles George QC, welcomed the Measure, and the filling of loopholes by it. While it was plainly desirable to allow for fees for ecclesiastical courts to be waived, it did not seem fair for registrars or officers of the court to make up the shortfall; rather, it should fall to dioceses. There should be legislation addressing this on the face of the Measure.

Sir Tony Baldry (Oxford), who chairs the Church Buildings Council, said that opening up the ability of experts to do quinquennial inspections was very important, and current legislation raised the threat of judicial review. The Church did need to modernise the system. A balance needed to be found between allowing members of DACs to continue using their expertise, and allowing committees to become “secret gardens” that were “impenetrable”.

Nigel Bacon (Lincoln) said that the contents of the Measure look sensible, but some areas need to be strengthened. As a Reader, he said, he should be held to the same high standards as the clergy. He urged the Synod to support Readers’ being included in a national clergy register.

The Archdeacon of Southwark, the Ven. Dr Jane Steen (Southwark), said that the Archdeacons on the General Synod were not of one mind on the Measure. She wanted Clauses 6 and 10 removed, to allow for more consultation.

The Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, reminded the Synod that his Amending Canon on religious communities went hand in hand with this Measure. He urged the Synod to support it.

Alison Fisher (Leeds) said that she was delighted that the term “chairman” was deemed outdated.

Dr Jamie Harrison (Durham) said that he was delighted about two movements into modernity, especially with a national clergy register. As a GP, he knew the benefits of a national register, he said. “It stabilises the system.” He also encouraged the idea of a register for Readers. He was pleased that the term “Prolocutor” was being looked at.

A personal interest on DACs was expressed by the Revd Tim Goode (Southwark). Each PCC was unique in its make-up, he said, and DACs provided unbiased advice and continuity of vision. The responsibility of oversight for quinquennial inspections should lie with the diocese, not be devolved to the parish.

The Draft Measure was committed to the revision committee. 


Property and pensions

PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARK WOODWARD AND DANIEL EASTONThe Vicar General of Canterbury, the Revd Timothy BridenTHE Draft Church Property Measure and Draft Church of England Pensions Measure both received final approval on Monday.

The Vicar General of Canterbury, the Rt Worshipful Timothy Briden, said that the work of consolidation was very important to keep church law up to date and digestible. The Property Measure would be a “considerable help to those who dealt with the property interests of the Church”, replacing a “patchwork” of legislation.

More than half the clergy were now in receipt of pensions, he confirmed, and the clergy would find themselves taking a growing interest in this Measure. Substantive changes to the law were required, including a correction to an error in lump-sum payment rules, and a disqualification from the Pensions Board of those unfit to act under the secular regulatory regime.

David Lamming (St Edmundsbury & Ipswich) said that the Measures showed that the Synod was making use of the Legislative Reform Measure within two months of its passing.

Penny Allen (Lichfield) welcomed these Measures. The Property Measure on dispersal of land was “critically important at the moment”. In her area, HS2 was arriving, and redundant churches were being disposed of. It would help the Church to respond to these challenges.

The synod took note of the report, and went on to vote for final approval:

Church Property Measure: Bishops 25, Clergy 104, Laity 126, nem. con.

Church of England Pensions Measure: Bishops 24, Clergy 106, Laity 129, nem. con.


Standing orders

IN THE debate on the Synod’s own Standing Orders, it was agreed that 25 members must stand for an amendment to be debated if the mover of the motion did not support it. It was also agreed that the chair should have the power to bring about the closure of business, with the Synod’s permission. This would not stop members from moving the closure of a debate, but would allow the chair to avoid waiting for a motion for closure. John Freeman (Chester) supported the amendment, and extended his thanks to all chairs who had supported his motions for closure over the years. Mr Freeman was told that there was no “redundancy payment”.

Read a report of every General Synod presentation and debate from York 2018, here

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