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General Synod: news in brief

16 February 2018

Ecumenism, spending, taking funerals, bell-ringing — and cancelling the General Synod

Geoff Crawford/Church Times

Synod members vote by a show of hands

Synod members vote by a show of hands

Ecumenism, spending, taking funerals, bell-ringing — and cancelling the General Synod. THE General Synod took legislative business on Friday afternoon.

Amending Canons no. 36 (which amends existing provision relating to vesture) and 37 (which amends existing provision relating to the use of the burial service in special cases) were promulged.

The Synod then completed the revision stage of the Draft Ecumenical Relations Measure.

Professor Joyce Hill (Leeds) explained that the revision committee had decided to split the previous draft Measure and amending canon into two, so that the more cumbersome and complex revisions to the Church Representation Rules could be dealt with later, without holding up other matters. The provisions before the Synod related to ecumenical relations.

Professor Hill then laid out the handful of small technical changes made since they received first consideration last year, including how bishops established the consent of an incumbent or PCC before setting up a local ecumenical partnership, and provision relating to Salvation Army ministers’ preaching at C of E services.

Penny Allen (Lichfield) said that she had been surprised to discover legislation coming though now that covered things that the local ecumenical partnership with which she was familiar had been doing for years. She welcomed the Measure.

After a short debate, a successful amendment by the Archdeacon of Southwark, the Ven. Jane Steen (Southwark), and the exclusion of the Isle of Man from the draft Measure, it was committed to the steering committee for revision and drafting.


THE Synod then went on to complete the revision stage of the Draft Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure, which touched upon spending, funerals, cancelling or moving Synod groups of sessions, and bell-ringing.

Introducing it, the Archdeacon of Oxford, the Ven. Martin Gorick (Oxford), described the draft Measure as “a lot more exciting” than its title suggested.

For the first time, the surplus in the Church Commissioners’ general fund could be applied to anything to progress the work of the Church, through grants to the Archbishops’ Council. The revision committee was satisfied that this would not mean untrammelled funds; it had rejected the proposal for a sunset clause.

Clause 4 would allow clergy not tied to the parochial system to officiate at funerals, which the committee supported. Archdeacon Gorick rejected an amendment by Keith Cawdron (Liverpool) to require goodwill from the parish priest to allow it to go ahead; but supported the idea that the officiant should inform the parish priest. (Later in the debate, the Cawdron amendment lapsed.)

On Clause 9, Mr Gorick said that committee had addressed the powers of cancellation of the Synod, and agreed that they should be shared by the six officers of the Synod (the Archbishops, the Prolocutors, and the Chair and Vice-Chair of the House of Laity). He moved that the Synod take note of the report.

The Dean of the Arches, the Rt Worshipful Charles George, said that Miscellaneous Provisions Measures had some similarities to doctoral theses: “Important, but dry as dust.” He thanked the committee. He spoke of Clause 7, on provincial courts, saying that the Provinces of Canterbury and York had similar but different systems, and set out the way in which they worked. He urged support for Clause 7 in its revised form, and the whole Measure.

Canon Sally Gaze (Norwich) said that, while she was listening to the presentation, she wondered whether the committee had forgotten lay ministers who could officiate at funerals, and proposed an amendment to this effect.

The Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, who is also the deputy chairman of the Church Commissioners, reminded the Synod that the change to the general fund would not generate any extra money: it would just allow greater freedom to spend it over a wider range of purposes.

The Synod took note of the revision committee’s report.

Prebendary Simon Cawdell (Hereford) moved under Standing Order 60 that the Measure be returned to the committee for a further revision stage. He wished to do this so that it could include provisions to do with the silencing of church bells by council noise-abatement orders.

Referring to a recent case in Sandwich, Prebendary Cawdell said that it was vital to give the Synod a chance to register its views on the seriousness of this issue, and to strengthen the hand of those who were in liaison with the Government to protect this much-loved tradition.

The steering group resisted the move. Striking the careful balance between protecting bell-ringing and respecting neighbours’ concerns could be done only by the Government and Parliament. A further revision stage would delay the Measure’s final approval until 2019.

Despite expressions of sympathy for Prebendary Cawdell’s cause, the motion was lost.

Clive Scowen (London) said that he had officiated at two funerals as a Reader, “both of which would have been unlawful”. Lay ministers should be able to officiate at funerals, if so desired by the family, but obviously should operate under the supervision of the clergy from whom they had their licence. He asked the steering committee to think about his amendment carefully.

Canon Jennifer Tomlinson (Chelmsford) spoke of the difficulties that hospital chaplains had, particularly in the case of a baby. She wondered whether it was possible at final drafting to address this issue.

Adrian Greenwood (Southwark) said that the clause as it stood was “ambiguous”, and asked what would happen if an incumbent said “no” to a minister’s officiating at a funeral.

Geoffrey Hine (Carlisle), another Reader, said that he served in six parishes that were currently vacant. He had conducted 30 funerals in the past 18 months, and wanted the steering committee to take note of this.

The steering committee welcomed these points.

Further debate concerned responsibility for the cancellation or moving of the General Synod, and the advertising of pastoral schemes.


Petition to change name of the See of Richmond. THE Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, moved a petition to change the name of the see of Richmond to the see of Kirkstall.

He described how people in Leeds struggled to make the connection between Richmond and the city of Leeds, assuming that the Bishop of Richmond was “based in Richmond and for Richmond”. The name of the see was misleading, and the motion was an act of missional tidying up that would “remove an obstacle in the public perception, and enable the Bishop to drive mission in Leeds without the inhibition of a title that does not make sense on the ground”.

Professor Michael Clarke, who chairs the Dioceses Commission, spoke strongly in support of the motion. The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, hoped that the Synod would give the motion a “great endorsement”, although “Kirkstall” would take some getting used to as “Richmond trips off the tongue very easily”.

The motion, that the petition “to Her Majesty in Council” for the name change be approved, was carried overwhelmingly.


Vote to retain Margaret Swinson as chair of the appointments committee. THERE was an overwhelming vote to retain Margaret Swinson as chair of the appointments committee for a second five-year term. The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, called her an “exceptional individual”. Elizabeth Paver (Sheffield) said that she was in awe of MrsSwinson’s “encyclopaedic knowledge” of the Church.

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