General Synod to prioritise youth violence

28 June 2019

The Synod meets in York next week. Adam Becket looks at the agenda

TOO often, church doors are left shut, Canon Rosemarie Mallett said on Friday, as she urged congregations to make them into safe havens for young people facing a rise in youth violence.

Canon Mallett, who is Vicar of St John’s, Angell Town, in Brixton, London, will introduce a debate to be held on Saturday during the next General Synod meeting (Friday to Tuesday 5-9 July). She said that Brixton had been “blighted” by knife crime, and that she had seen “too many deaths”.

In contrast with the Synod’s February meeting (News, 1 February), there was going to be no particular focus on evangelism or any other single issue, the secretary general of the Synod, William Nye, said during a media briefing on Friday.

Instead, there would be a focus on issues such as serious youth violence (News, 21 June), and a debate on the interchangeability of ordained ministries between the C of E and the Methodist Church (News, 21 June), together with a presentation explaining how extra money was to be provided for training those entering the priesthood.

Mr Nye said that the debate on youth violence would be an important element of the July agenda.

Canon Mallett will call on the National Church Institutions to “recognise the opportunity the Church of England has to contribute to understanding of serious youth violence and strategies to prevent it, and to make available resources for those affected”.

“Churches on the ground have found themselves engaged and involved” in combating youth violence, she said. But, “too often, doors are shut.”

“We must work with other organisations to find the best way to support young people in our parishes and our schools, and to be part of the solution to the challenges — not only of serious youth violence, but the whole issue of young people who fall through the system.

“One way that churches can help is to provide safe havens for young people. This isn’t necessarily about running youth clubs. In many cases, this may simply be providing a place where they can go, relax, and feel safe, especially during the period immediately after school hours, when flashpoints can occur.”

Schools were also important in this, Canon Mallett said, and C of E schools would be told to monitor and measure exclusions, to “reduce off-rolling as much as possible”.

Clergy and church leaders also needed to be given training and resources to help them to “be aware of the signs of vulnerability”, she said.

When asked whether the Church was moving into the space left by services that the state had previously supplied, Canon Mallett said: “I could not sit here and not say that there have been closures in youth clubs and provision in my local area, and Lambeth, and other boroughs, because we know that there have been funding cuts into local councils. One of the areas that has been affected is youth work. But, even before the cuts, the Church was already working with local agencies to still see itself as being a safe haven. . . We are not playing the same role as the State.”

 

Intercommunion with the Methodist Church

ON SUNDAY, the Synod will debate whether eucharistic presidency by Methodist presbyters not ordained by bishops in the historic episcopate can be “gladly borne” as a “temporary anomaly”.

Speaking on Friday, Mr Nye said that it was “premature” to hypothesise about what might happen if the Mission and Ministry in Covenant motion was not carried, and he would not be drawn into predicting what the Synod would decide. “The report that the Faith and Order bodies have put together . . . does say that this is a real challenge for our two bodies, because we’ve been working on this for a very long time, and we have a covenant between ourselves, and we are two bodies with a shared history. It does pose questions about approaches to ecumenism. It’s a significant issue, but I don’t want to predict debates.”

Asked whether it would be a problem if the Methodist Conference moved towards same-sex marriage, Mr Nye said that the relationship between the Churches “has much more to it than individual issues”.

 

Legislation

ON FRIDAY, Monday, and Tuesday, the Synod will deal with legislative business, such as the Draft Amending Canon No. 40, which deals with religious communities (News, 13 July 2018).

The Chief Legal Adviser to the Synod, Alexander McGregor, said: “It is the first canonical provision in respect of religious communities’ being made since the dissolution of the monasteries. It will provide for there to be an approved list of official Church of England religious communities.”

There will also be a return to the topic of cathedral governance, after the report on the matter was passed last year (News, 13 July 2018).

Other legislation dealt with the simplification of old canons; for example, a change to the patronage legislation, which was “over-elaborate”, Mr McGregor said.

 

Sexuality

AS IN July 2018, and February this year, there will be presentations about the work on sexuality commissioned by the House of Bishops in 2017 (News, 30 June 2017).

There will be further seminars and workshops on Living in Love and Faith (LLF) and the Pastoral Advisory Group’s activities on Saturday afternoon, as last year. Mr Nye joked that this year it would not be interrupted by the football (News, 13 July).

The LLF workshops are: “Where Are We?”, “Who Are We?”, and “How Do We Hear God?”. There is also an LLF Bible-study session.

 

Addresses and presentations by guests

FRIDAY afternoon starts with an address by the Bishop of Ribe, the Rt Revd Elof Westergaard, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark.

The President of the Mothers’ Union Worldwide, Sheran Harper, will give a presentation later that day.

Mr Nye said that this was notable, as Ms Harper, an Anglican, was the head of four million members across the world.

 

Safeguarding and Clergy Wellbeing

SAFEGUARDING has been given a more prominent position at this year’s meeting. A dedicated slot for questions on safeguarding matters has been created on Sunday afternoon.

The Lead Bishop for Safeguarding, the Bishop of Bath & Wells, the Rt Revd Peter Hancock, will also be delivering a presentation.

The safeguarding issues are being presented on Sunday so as not to clash with the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) hearings into the C of E, which will be running concurrently.

Clergy Well-being will be dealt with on Saturday morning. The motion is that Synod will adopt the covenant set out in the well-being report, and that it could be made an Act of Synod in February of next year.

The report sayd: “The care and well-being of the clergy is crucial to the health of the Church at worship, in mission, and in pastoral care. Healthy, fulfilled, maturing, joyful clergy who feel valued and supported are an enormous gift to the Church of God. . .

“At the same time, there has been growing concern at the pressures on today’s clergy, which, at its most acute, can give rise to burnout, with all its associate personal ramifications for the individuals concerned, and financial and practical implications for the mission of God’s Church.”

A further preview of the Synod can be found here.

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