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General Synod digest: Farewells

21 February 2020

Madeleine Davies, Hattie Williams, Adam Becket, and Tim Wyatt report from the General Synod in London


The Worshipful Charles George QC

The Worshipful Charles George QC

THE Synod closed with farewells.

Dr Jamie Harrison (Durham) led the farewells to Chris Palmer, secretary of the Corporation of the Church House. This was a step-change after a long career in the Royal Navy, Dr Harrison noted. He had overseen a significant increase in the Church House’s investments to charity, as well as a programme of improvements to the facilities.

The First Church Estates Com­missioner, Loretta Minghella, spoke warmly of Dame Caroline Spelman, the former Second Church Estates Commissioner. Ms Minghella said that Dame Caroline had brought statecraft to her post, through her experience as Secretary of State for the Environment, and chair of the Conservative Party. Referring to her time in office, and her resignation as an MP, Ms Minghella said: “Caroline has, in many ways, modelled a sacrificial life in public service.” The Synod stood to applaud. Ms Minghella also paid tribute to Simon Stanley, of the Church’s parliamentary office.

The Archbishop of Canterbury paid tribute to the Dean of the Arches, the Rt Worshipful Charles George QC. He had been involved in the first case under the Human Rights Act which came to the House of Lords in 2004, and had given advice on how the PCC was not a public body. Archbishop Welby gave later examples of the part played by the Dean of the Arches in ecclesiastical cases. He was the first Dean of the Arches to be chosen after advertising the vacancy and applica­tion; Archbishop Welby said that the faculty process was now simpler, thanks to him. “Many of us will miss him as a wise counsel.”

The Archbishop then spoke of the retiring Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, who was currently travel­ling outside the UK to see the effects of climate change.

Archbishop Welby said that he was reminded of the words of the prophet Ezekiel: “We are a rebellious house.” He had been Archbishop of York since 2005, and had had an impact on the life of the Church in too many ways to recount — both by “making us laugh and annoying us profoundly”.

No other Archbishop in the past few centuries had shared in the “ecu­menism of suffering”, Archbishop Welby said, reminding the Synod of Dr Sentamu’s persecution and torture in Uganda before he fled to the UK. His missionary and evan­gelistic action had set an extraord­inary precedent — more than any other Archbishop since before the Norman Conquest, Archbishop Welby suggested.

Like all good prophets, his leader­ship left many feeling uncom­fortable and asking questions, and the Church needed more of this. He had personal experience of racism, and, with his retirement, the Church was losing a “visible re­­minder of what we need to do”.

The diocesan bishops would now be more monochrome and look less like the nation. Both he himself and the whole C of E would miss him, Archbishop Welby concluded. “Thank you for being you, and being obedient to your call.”

Archbishop Welby’s speech was followed by a prolonged standing ovation and cheers.

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