NEWLY elected members of the General Synod’s House of Laity — around 120 in number and 60 per cent of its total — bring “wide experience and fresh eyes”, Dr Jamie Harrison, of Durham diocese, has said. He was re-elected, unopposed, as Chair of the House, a position that he has held since 2015.
Those whom he had met so far were committed to seeing the Church flourish, particularly at local level; and he commended the resilience of those returning after some tough, pandemic-related times. But he regretted that “some of our strongest former members of the House were not re-elected, particularly those from an ethnic-minority setting.
“I am committed to seeking co-option to the House as soon as is practicable for five folk from a UK Minority Ethnic/Global Majority Heritage background. More widely, I do think we have gained in diversity, although the age profile is still older than it might be.”
Making decisions over five years was “far too long for some, and for others, far too short”, he said on Tuesday. “The House of Laity has a track record of being cautious, wanting to check that legislation is well scrutinised and that it does not have the effect of driving some out of the Church. But this can risk unhelpful delay.
“My prayer is that, together, we can explore the ‘Six Pastoral Principles for Living Well Together’, produced by the Pastoral Advisory Group (PAG), of which I was a member. Being on the PAG was transformative for me, and opened up new possibilities and understandings. That doesn’t mean I don’t hold personal views, but I trust I have a new openness to the views of others.”
The principles could be applied to Living in Love and Faith, Save the Parish, Vision and Strategy, and the Governance Review: “I think they are a gift to the Church and that does give me hope,” he said.
As the Synod worked through the implications of Vision and Strategy, it needed to find ways of supporting the Archbishop of York, besides offering a focused critique,” he said. “Seeing church communities of missionary disciples, meeting in a range of ways, and welcoming folk who are younger and more diverse is something we can all support. But how to do that, fund it, decide what it might look like on the ground, and deliver it is the challenge.”
In a personal capacity, he remained dedicated to moving forward “with ever greater focus and speed” in the area of safeguarding. Dr Harrison is a trustee of Safe Spaces, a service providing advice and support to those suffering, or who have suffered, at the hands of the Church. He also links to the work of the Interim Support Scheme for victims and survivors, and to the group seeking to design the “very necessary” Redress Scheme.
There are four candidates for the post of vice-chair: Alison Coulter (Winchester), Adrian Greenwood (Southwark), Dr Rachel Jepson (Birmingham), and Clive Scowen (London). Ballot papers are for return by Friday 10 December, and the count is on Monday 13 December.
Synod digest, pages 23-26