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Meeting of Synod in July hangs in the balance

09 April 2020

Sam Atkins/Church Times

The General Synod meets in York in July 2019

The General Synod meets in York in July 2019

THE coronavirus has already put paid to dozens of church events, including the Lambeth Conference in August (News, 27 March). But no decision has yet been made about the General Synod, which is due to meet one month earlier.

A spokeswoman for the Church of England said on Monday that “discussions and consultations” were ongoing about the meeting, scheduled for 10 to 14 July at the University of York.

The constitution of the Synod does not allow for any kind of virtual meeting. If the York sessions do not take place, all legislation and debate will be postponed, it is presumed, until November.

Provisional November dates for a London meeting are agreed by the Synod for each year long in advance, in the event that there is more business than can be completed in February and July. Sometimes these are not used, but this year they would have been, for the inauguration of a new Synod, at least. The Coronavirus Act, rushed through Parliament last month, provides, however, for synodical elections to be postponed.

The long-awaited Living in Love and Faith project on sexuality was expected to report back just before the Synod’s summer group of sessions.

The pandemic has also prompted the cancellation and postponement of other Churches’ governing assemblies.

The planned meeting in April of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales has been cancelled All business has been transferred to the next scheduled meeting in September. The Church has also had to cancel many of its plans to mark its centenary, including a visit by the Archbishop of Canterbury this month. It hopes to reschedule this visit for another time.

The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church, due to be held in Edinburgh in mid-June, was postponed several weeks ago. A church spokesman said that a new date would not be chosen until it was clear how long the restrictions on public gatherings would be in place.

The Church of Ireland was intending to hold its General Synod in Dublin from 7 to 9 May, but cancelled these plans last week. It has transferred its venue booking to May 2022, and, in the mean time, is considering rescheduling this year’s Synod meeting to later this year, contingent on public-health advice.

Also affected is the Methodist Conference, due to meet in Telford in June. Discussions are under way about whether to try to conduct its business online.

Discussion of God in Love Unites Us, the latest milestone in the Methodist Church’s debate on marriage and sexuality (News, 5 July 2019), will be put back until next year.

The Quakers have postponed their Yearly Meeting, for which hundreds would have come from Britain and across the world, in August. Its clerk, Clare Scott Booth, said that the cancellation, the first since 1668, was a time of sorrow.

“We have met uninterruptedly in this spirit . . . through times of war and pestilence. However, we find ourselves now in unprecedented times,” she said.

Discussions about holding the Meeting later this year continue.

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