General Synod: miscellaneous provisions

by
01 March 2019

GEOFF CRAWFORD

The General Synod in London

The General Synod in London

THE Draft Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Measure and Draft Amending Canon No. 41 completed their revision stage.

Introducing the debate, Carl Fender (Lincoln) said that Clause 1 of the Measure concerned the relationship between Bishops and religious orders; Clause 2 concerned which lay people could be included in the register. It was decided that there should be a first phase for clergy, and then a second phase for laity.

In Clause 3, the committee had accepted the inclusion of the amendment to allow lay people to conduct a funeral service. Clause 4 dealt with the Fees Advisory Commission. Clause 6 dealt with burial at cathedrals, and took note of previous cathedral legislation. Clause 7 was intended to allow PCCs to make their own appointment for quinquennial inspections. Clause 8 dealt with electronic and written records, and the committee accepted a submission from the national church institutions on using electronic records for research.

Clause 9 dealt with parochial records. Clause 10 was delegation to officers through the Cathedrals Fabric Commission. Clause 11 was concerned with membership of diocesan advisory committees (DACs), and limits on successive terms of membership. Clause 12 was about the validity of leases, and Clause 13 dealt with the replacement of outdated terms in the Synod constitution. He moved that the Synod take note of the report.

The Prolocutor of the House of Clergy, Canon Simon Butler (Southwark), spoke of the doctrine of marriage, in relation to Clause 6. He asked whether “spouse” referred the Church’s understanding, or the civil one.

The Vicar General of York, His Honour Judge Peter Collier, said that he realised that the canon referred to chancellors of the diocese, and so went back to check the previous Measure. He said that the 1969 Canon was based on the 1963 ecclesiastical law, which used exclusionary language. The 2016 version had gender-inclusive language, and he urged the committee to revise the canon to make it gender neutral. He said this was not controversial. This might raise questions about other canons, however.

Dr John Mason (Chester) sought clarifications. He said that the Measure introduced new definitions of relative, and asked for these to be clarified. He asked whether the amending canon would define permanently how things were recorded.

Dr Chris Angus (Carlisle) referred to the reduction and changing of fees. He said there should be better amendments so that these canons were not just dumped on a diocesan board of finance.

Mr Fender said that the definition in the Measure did not include same-sex marriage. He said there was a judicial interpretation of brother and half-brother, but the secular world would have a slightly different interpretation of it. In response to Mr Angus, he said that the reduction and exemption of fees would come out of the pocket of the registrar or chancellor, and this was felt to be the most appropriate way of dealing with this issue, and it would affect only a small number of cases.

The Synod took note of the report.

The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent (Southern Suffragans), said that his amendment related to a national register for the C of E. It was an obvious thing that needed to be done to keep track of the clergy. This was then extended to authorised lay ministers, he said. Readers and LLMs should be included, but a whole list of other lay people held authority and could be included. It would require bishops to produce a list of people who were so authorised at some point, he said.

His amendment sought to make clear that the register needed to deal with clergy first, but then explicit power needed to be given to the Archbishops’ Council to decide which class of lay people should be included next. Rather than let it loose as it was, he wanted to make it clear that the Archbishops’ Council could decide.

Archdeacon Spiers accepted the amendment, and Nigel Bacon (Lincoln) supported it.

David Kemp (Canterbury) counselled against a register of lay people as a national project. He said, coming from a large parish, that there were a lot of people to be trained for safeguarding, some 30 Readers, but there was always something that went wrong.

The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, suggested, from his experience in Chelmsford diocese, a distinction between those who held a bishop’s licence and those who did not. This was a “sensible place to draw the line”.

The amendment was carried.

Prebendary Simon Cawdell (Hereford) said that he could not be the only one who had heard that the word “spouse” referred only to the ecclesiastical definition. He said that it could have a negative impact on the Church in the future if same-sex partners were not included. He asked whether the steering committee could take a very long and hard look at this to define “spouse” for this Measure as it was done under civil law.

Archdeacon Spiers said that it could be brought back to Synod in July with that amendment.

Keith Cawdron (Liverpool) invited Synod to vote against Clause 11 as bureaucratic and unnecessary. There should not be a limit on consecutive membership of the DAC, and this was too much like legislative minutiae. This was how Synod used to do things. He wondered what the DAC would make of the fact that it would only be able to look at membership in this very specific circumstance. This measure would only make things more complicated. He spoke of how members of the DAC are currently appointed. After every term, members of the DAC were reappointed, not serving a successive term. The current procedure should continue.

Sir Tony Baldry (Oxford) urged the Synod to stick with the clause as drafted: DACs were advisory bodies, and benefited from the ecclesiastical exemption. They shouldn’t become self-perpetuating secret gardens. The Church needed to ensure that DACs remained robustly objective, and open to encouraging newer and younger people as members.

David Kemp (Canterbury) said that in Canterbury diocese there were increasing concerns about the level of parish share. People said that diocesan bureaucracy should be cut, and any extra administration could be bad.

David Lamming (St Edmundsbury & Ipswich) said that the diocesan synod would not be interested in appointing members of the DAC for a third term, and would just rubber stamp it. He wondered whether the right course would be to refuse this particular clause and send it back to the steering committee.

Martin Kingston (Gloucester) argued that the turnover in DACs was extremely important in its effects on the ground.

The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, agreed with Mr Kingston and spoke of Sir Tony’s insight and experience, particularly of working closely with the former Bishop of London Lord Chartres in securing buildings. The Church should be securing succession planning. Fresh blood would be very helpful on DACs.

The Vicar General of Canterbury, Chancellor Timothy Briden, wanted to echo Dr Sentamu and Sir Tony. The clause was well written and balanced. DACs needed to be equipped to deal with future changes. He had been involved concerning the placing of telecommunication equipment in churches, and alternative uses, such as churches as post offices. It was important to have representation on the DAC of people who were at the forefront of these developments.

The clause was not deleted.

 

AMENDING CANON No. 38, which received final approval last July, was made, promulged, and executed, having received the royal assent. It amends Canons B43 and Canon B44, concerning relations with other Churches and local ecumenical projects.

 

Click here to read about other General Synod debates and motions

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