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General Synod digest: other business in brief

30 April 2021

Prince Philip in 2013

Prince Philip in 2013

Royal condolences

THE Archbishop of Canterbury led the expression of condolences to the Queen, on behalf of the Synod, following the death of Prince Philip on 9 April.

“All of us were struck by the image of Her Majesty the Queen, sitting by herself and alone, bowed in deep and profound prayer,” he said. “The example of Her Majesty through this period of bereavement has been extraordinary.” A formal motion was carried, by 277 nem. con. with one recorded abstention:

That this Synod request that the Presidents convey to Her Majesty the heartfelt sympathy of the Archbishops, Bishops, Clergy and Laity of the General Synod of the Church of England on the death of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, assuring Her Majesty of the honour in which his memory will be held by them and of their prayers for Her Majesty and all the Royal Family.

Meeting in person

THE next group of sessions was planned to take place in person at the University of York, in July; but this might change if the pandemic situation fluctuated, the new chair of the Business Committee, the first from the House of Laity, Robert Hammond (Chelmsford), told the General Synod on Friday afternoon when he introduced its report. Mr Hammond said that, at the moment, it was not possible to have hybrid sessions (online and in-person) in York.

The Synod took note of the report by 278-1, with 13 recorded abstentions.


Lincoln error

LINCOLN diocese had realised that the figures of eligible electors which had been collated in July 2019 for the elections were incorrect: they had been overstated by more than 4000, the General Synod heard on Saturday afternoon.

The chair of the Business Committee, Robert Hammond, introduced a simple motion to tweak the allocation of seats for the General Synod elections due later this year. This change would mean that seats for three dioceses would be redistributed differently: Lincoln would lose two seats, down to three; Exeter would go up to five from four; and London would rise to 12 seats from 11.

This was a serious matter, Philip French (Rochester) said: Lincoln’s six-per-cent increase in reported figures should have been spotted, he said, given that the entire Southern Province as a whole declined by 11 per cent.

The motion was carried by 256-1 with four recorded abstentions.


Voting methods

THE Business Committee is still “learning as we go along” with regard to running a remote formal meeting of Synod. The chairman, Robert Hammond (Chelmsford) requested permission for the use of simple votes via a Zoom poll for procedural motions. In a normal session, these would be done by a show of hands. Having to use the Crystal interactive system every time for these was slowing business down, he said. Canon Jonathan Alderton-Ford (St Edmundsbury & Ipswich) identified the difficulty of raising a point of order in the Chat facility. Stuart Fyfe (Carlisle) drew attention to the “slightly iffy nature of Zoom polls” which on occasions did not pop up on the screen. The Archdeacon of Leeds, the Ven. Paul Ayers (Leeds) emphasised the need to see what the percentage of votes was. A necessary three-quarters majority was achieved in support of the Standing Orders suspension: 270-4, with two recorded abstentions.



THE General Synod approved two appointments.

Clive Mather was re-appointed as Chair of the Pensions Board in a motion moved by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Amendments to the Church of England Pensions Measure earlier in the sessions had allowed the Archbishops to appoint a new board in July 2021 and consequently to appoint its chair.

Archbishop Welby wanted to commend Mr Mather’s reappointment “unhesitatingly and with warmth”. He had led the board to its extra impact on ethical investment, “transformed its approach to its beneficiaries”, and led it through the legislative process Synod had just approved.

Dr Jamie Harrison (Durham), Chair of the House of Laity, praised Mr Mather’s “generosity of heart and spirit”. John Spence (Archbishops’ Council) commended the “quiet challenge” that characterised Mr Mather’s work. His contribution to wider thinking was “hugely appreciated.”

The motion was carried by 301 nem. con. with one recorded abstention: 

That the appointment of Mr Clive Mather as Chair of the Church of England Pensions Board for a further term expiring on 30 April 2024 be approved.


DAME Caroline Spelman was appointed Chair of the Dioceses Commission. It was, the Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, said, “at a kairos moment for the Church of England as it begins to emerge from the pandemic and begins to shape its new future. Dame Caroline will have an important part to play.”

He described Dame Caroline, formerly Second Church Estates Commissioner, as “a distinguished parliamentarian” with an understanding of the Church of England and “love and commitment to it and to the gospel. She will help us chart a new roadmap to guide it into the future.” He also paid tribute to the previous “tireless” chair, Professor Michael Clarke, who had retired on health grounds, for steering the committee in the interim “with great faithfulness”.

Elizabeth Paver (Sheffield) described Dame Caroline as “a friend and champion of the Synod”. She was warmly welcomed by Gavin Oldham (Oxford). Tim Hind (Bath & Wells) also welcomed the appointment, but sought assurance that the process of discernment had been fully documented. Peter Bruinvels (Guildford) praised Dame Caroline’s confidence, discretion, and serenity.

The Commission’s largest recent project had been the creation of the diocese of Leeds in 2014. The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, looked forward to supporting the Commission, and hoped that learning would come from what had happened in Leeds. David Lamming (St Edsmundsbury & Ipswich) and the Revd Charles Read (Norwich) gave strong endorsement.

The Archbishop of York’s motion was carried by 302 nem. con. with four recorded abstentions: 

That the appointment of Dame Caroline Spelman as Chair of the Dioceses Commission for a term expiring on 30 April 2022 be approved.


CANON Paul Cartwright (Leeds) and the Archdeacon of Halifax, the Ven. Dr Anne Dawtry (Leeds) introduced Canon Joyce Jones as the new Prolocutor of the Lower House of the Convocation of York, who succeeds Canon Christopher Newlands. The Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, expressed delight at her election.

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