ON MONDAY evening, the General Synod took note of the report from the Business Committee. Introducing it, Canon Sue Booys (Oxford), who chairs the committee, noted that this Synod was both unusual and historic, as it was the first one to meet remotely.
The priority, she said, had been to schedule urgent and necessary business, given that there had been no July meeting because of the pandemic: hence, safeguarding, Archbishops’ Council budget, and completing legislative business would take up most of the session.
To create space for this, there were no diocesan or Private Members’ Motions on the agenda. There were also scheduled breaks between the main items of business.
Tim Hind (Bath & Wells) asked whether there could be a debate in future on the merits of using “architectural insignificance” as a missional virtue when it came to redundant churches.
Jayne Ozanne (Oxford) said that she would “reluctantly” vote against the agenda owing to the lack of a debate on the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) resources. There had not been a chance for “open and honest debate” on sexuality since the project began in 2017, she said, and many of those who had sought election for the current quinquennium had done so in the hope that they could contribute on this topic. Instead, the Synod had been kept on a “tight leash”.
The debate had instead spilled over into public videos, such as that released by the Church of England Evangelical Council and Christian Concern (CEEC), which she described as “offensive and highly damaging to members of the LGBT community” (News, 20 November). This had done more damage than any Synod debate could, she said. She asked whether time could be found before the end of the quinquennium for a “proper debate” on sexuality.
Sam Margrave (Coventry) expressed shock that the Synod had been given only 30 minutes to discuss the future of the C of E, in comparison with the three days that the Archbishops’ working group had spent on the topic. “I feel like we are being sidelined,” he said. There should also be more time carved out for the vision and strategy of the C of E, including, perhaps, a special three-day session of the Synod.
The Revd Paul Benfield (Blackburn) would not take note of the report, he said, as it was a “normal agenda for a physical meeting”, and did not solely tackle the essential business carried over from July, such as the budget for the Archbishops’ Council. This Synod should have been used only for necessary legislative business rather than as an “irrelevant talking shop, wasting a lot of time and money”.
Penny Allen (Lichfield) asked whether movers of motions could indicate early on if they would be prepared to accept amendments, to shorten unnecessary debates. She also said that there had not been enough time to digest the LLF resources to hold a proper debate on them before the Synod began. There should also be space made for a lengthy consideration of the finances of dioceses and the future of the Church, because of the pandemic.
Peter Adams (St Albans) asked whether Synod staff could use apps allowing for three-dimensional virtual gatherings, to accommodate the fringe events and casual conversations that happened at normal Synod sessions.
Canon David Banting (Chelmsford) asked for plenty of time to be given in both February’s and July’s Synod for the report into the fallout from the failed appointment of the Bishop of Burnley to the see of Sheffield in 2017.
David Lamming (St Edmundsbury & Ipswich) urged members to take legislative business more seriously and not leave it to those particularly interested in legal matters. He hoped that attendance at this week’s debates would be better
The Synod voted by 179 to 56, with 24 recorded abstentions, to take note of the report.
Click here for more reports from the November General Synod, held via Zoom last week