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Current General Synod, bowing out, still has a lot on its plate

27 May 2021

A timetable for the five-day meeting (9 to 13 July) was published on Wednesday

Geoff Crawford/Church Times

Synod members raise their hands to vote in Church House, Westminster, in February 2020 — the last time they held a full group of sessions in person

Synod members raise their hands to vote in Church House, Westminster, in February 2020 — the last time they held a full group of sessions in per...

THE General Synod will meet in person at Church House, Westminster, in London, in July, for its last group of sessions before elections are held. A timetable for the five-day meeting (9 to 13 July) was published on Wednesday.

A press release from Church House notes that, by this point, the fourth and final stage of the Government’s roadmap to lifting restrictions imposed during the pandemic will have passed. But a contingency plan to revert to meeting online is in place, in case restrictions remain in place. A hybrid meeting has been ruled out.

A packed agenda has been prepared. There will be further discussion of Vision and Strategy — the ten-year plan for the Church introduced to the Synod by the Archbishop of York in November (News, 27 November 2020). Since it was first aired, the extent of the challenges facing the Church has been set out in a discussion paper circulated to all bishops and diocesan secretaries in January. Perspectives on Money, People and Buildings warned that declining income, accelerated by the pandemic, meant that dioceses were facing “indiscriminate cuts” to clergy posts, undermining the Church of England’s attempts at strategic reform (News, 5 February 2021).

The disparities in the level of historic assets owned by dioceses will be explored when the Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Pete Wilcox, moves a motion requesting legislation to enable dioceses to share their riches with one another (News, 27 May). There is also a diocesan-synod motion from Leeds on the “wealth gap”.

A raft of presentations has been prepared, on climate change, bereavement, and funerals during the pandemic (Features, 13 November 2020), Living in Love and Faith, and the Church’s response to the housing crisis, after the publication of the report of the Archbishops’ commission on the subject (News, 26 March).

On the first day, members will receive an update on the Racial Justice Commission, after the recommendations of the Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce last month (News, 22 April 2021). Among the recommendations that the Archbishops pledged to implement immediately is to work with the Synod to co-opt ten ethnic-minority candidates for the next quinquennium with full voting rights.

Members of the Synod will also hear proposals for legislation to replace the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 (News, 28 May), on the Monday, and will spend time in small groups reflecting on how members’ engagement with the Living in Love and Faith process over the past four years can be handed on to the new Synod.

Seven years after the Synod voted to open up the episcopate to women (News, 18 July 2014), there will be a report from the Implementation and Dialogue Group established by the Archbishops in 2018 to review how the House of Bishops’ Declaration and Five Guiding Principles — which accompanied the Measure — are being understood, implemented, and received in the Church (News, 9 February 2018). It was set up after resistance to Bishop Philip North’s nomination to the see of Sheffield (News, 17 March 2017), from which the Bishop withdrew. There will also be a private member’s motion on the Five Guiding Principles

The agenda includes the appointment of a body to oversee the next stage of the Anglican Methodist Covenant, after a 2019 vote to “move at a more measured pace” on the plan for achieving interchangeability of ministries and intercommunion with the Methodist Church (News, 7 July 2019).

There will also be a report on safeguarding. Other business includes the implementation of the recommendations of “Responsible Representation”, the review of the electoral processes to the Crown Nominations Commission (News, 30 April 2021), and a report from the review of clergy remuneration

The usual venue for Synod’s summer meeting — the University of York — is unavailable, owing to the pandemic (News, 14 May), for external events.

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