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July Synod agenda: first look at clergy disciplinary reform

25 June 2021

Church Times/Geoff Crawford

The General Synod meeting in Church House, Westminster, before the pandemic

The General Synod meeting in Church House, Westminster, before the pandemic

THE General Synod will get its first chance to debate a replacement for the discredited Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) at its next group of sessions, starting on 9 July.

The agenda for the four-day online meeting is tightly packed, as this is the last group of sessions of the quinquennium. Fresh elections for clergy, laity, and suffragan bishops (diocesan bishops are members ex officio) to serve in the next five-year term will take place over the summer and early autumn.

Briefing papers for the July group of sessions were published on Thursday. Besides CDM reform, there are very few full-blown debates. Instead, this meeting follows the recent pattern of a series of presentations about ongoing work. Synod members will be able to respond to these as time on the agenda allows.

Among the topics for such presentations are the Vision and Strategy work being carried out under the chairmanship of the Archbishop of York, together with the related Transforming Effectiveness work; Living in Love and Faith, the supposed Church-wide debate on sexuality and identity; the housing crisis; safeguarding; investments and climate change; and the setting up of the Racial Justice Commission.

One new piece of work, again in the form of a presentation, is a review of the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011, the legislation under which parishes can be amalgamated and benefices disbanded. There will also be a debate about reforms to the Crown Nominations Commission, the body that selects new diocesan bishops; and one private member’s motion has been allowed on to the agenda: an ancient request for a review of events surrounding the ill-fated nomination of the Rt Revd Philip North to the see of Sheffield, used here to prompt a review of the workings of the Five Guiding Principles, introduced in 2014 to protect and affirm those who are unable to accept the ministry of women bishops.

The Synod’s meeting begins at 12.30 p.m. on Friday 9 July. After a presidential address by the Archbishop of York and the customary report by the Business Committee on the agenda, there will be a presentation on the Racial Justice Commission. The report From Lament to Action (News, 22 April) will be debated at in the next Synod. Legislative business is peppered through the agenda.

The main issue on Friday afternoon is the proposed reforms to the process of choosing bishops, outlined in the Responsible Representation report (News, 24 April) to introduce greater democracy and diversity.

This is followed by an update from the National Investing Bodies on their approach to climate change. This is accompanied by the second glossy report in a week, designed to counter pressure to disinvest from fossil fuels by outlining the amount of effort that the Commissioners, the Pensions Board, and the CCLA have been putting into persuading companies to comply with environmental benchmarks.

There is news about the appointment of a new body to oversee the next stage in relations with the Methodist Church, followed by at least 75 minutes devoted to members’ questions.

On Saturday morning, after a presentation by the Archbishops’ Council and the Church Commissioners (News, 15 June), the Synod has formally to approve the national church budget for 2022. Then comes the chance to agree changes over how Synod seats are apportioned for the next quinquennium, followed by a presentation on safeguarding (see separate story).

The afternoon has an update on the progress of Living in Love and Faith, the debate on sexuality and identity that has been severely disrupted by Covid. There is also a first opportunity to debate issued brought up in the Archbishops’ housing report Coming Home (News, 21 February).

Sunday afternoon is the opportunity for the Synod to discuss the proposed replacement of the Clergy Discipline Measure (see separate story). The debate will be prefaced by a presentation by the outgoing Bishop at Lambeth, the Rt Revd Tim Thornton, who has chaired the working group formulating the new proposals. He argues that the process has thrown up deeper questions about the nature of ordained ministry which the Church would do well to address.

On Monday morning, Synod members are given an opportunity to discuss the revision of the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011, in a paper written by Dr Eve Poole, the outgoing Third Church Estates Commissioner, to whom falls the task of overseeing pastoral reorganisation. If the Synod approves her paper, it will trigger an eight-week consultation period.

Next comes the latest update from the Vision and Strategy working group, together with news about the Transforming Effectiveness programme, both attempts to make the Church more proactive in the face of expected financial and staffing shortages but also missional opportunities over the next decade.

On Monday afternoon, the Five Guiding Principles come under the spotlight, attached to a private member’s motion tabled in 2017 by David Lamming to request a review after the failed nomination of Bishop North to the see of Sheffield earlier that year (News, 9 March 2017) (see separate story). After formal farewells to prominent members, the Synod is prorogued and dissolved at 7 p.m.

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