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General Synod digest: unhappiness over three-year time limit on deanery synod

16 July 2021
YouTube/Church of England

Clive Scowen, introducing the revised Church Representation Rules

Clive Scowen, introducing the revised Church Representation Rules

ON SUNDAY, the General Synod addressed the unhappiness that had been generated earlier about a plan to impose a three-year time limit on those serving on a deanery synod.

A consultation on the topic had generated 928 responses, Clive Scowen (London) said, of which more than 600 had favoured abandoning any limit, although a significant number also wished to allow individual APCMs to introduce a limit should they choose, and it was this facility that was included in the final motion. The majority of speakers told of the struggle to find people willing and able to join in church governance above the parish level.

One dissenting voice came from Prebendary Stephen Lynas (Bath & Wells), who spoke of the inconsistency with other representative posts, where the Synod agreed with the need to “bring in fresh blood” and “improve diversity”. It was necessary to be able to remove people who had done their time, he said.

Stephen Hofmeyr (Guildford) disagreed, pointing to a parallel inconsistency: there was no time limit imposed on the clergy who serve on the deanery synod; so clergy should listen to the dominant view of the laity and support the resolution, he said.

Mr Scowen, replying, suggested that a time limit might be helpful in places where people were queuing up to represent their parish on the deanery synod. That was by no means the case in many parts of the country, however. The resolution was about empowering the local church.

In an amendment to the Clergy Representation Rules, Dr Jamie Harrison (Durham), who chairs the House of Laity, sought to remove the qualification that any lay person seeking to stand for the next General Synod must have received holy communion on at least three occasions in the 12 months to 12 July. The rule was an impediment to any person who had been shielding because of Covid, or lived in a parish where communion had been restricted.

Sam Margrave (Coventry) said that he had just managed his third communion, thanks to a midweek visit by the Bishop of Ebbsfleet. Other existing members admitted that they would be caught by this rule were it not changed.

The Synod voted 273 in favour of the amendment, 11 against, with seven abstentions.

For this to come into force for this year’s Synod elections, the legislation needed to be put before Parliament on Wednesday.

In a vote by Houses, the amended resolution received the necessary two-thirds majorities with ease: Bishops 25-1, with one recorded abstention; Clergy 127-4, with one recorded abstention; Laity 143-22.

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