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General Synod digest: divergent views expressed on members’ code of conduct

15 July 2022
Sam Atkins/Church Times

The chair of the committee, Robert Hammond (Chelmsford)

The chair of the committee, Robert Hammond (Chelmsford)

Business Committee

DIVERGENT views on whether the General Synod should make its code of conduct for its members enforceable were heard on Friday afternoon, in a take-note debate on the Business Committee’s report.

The chair of the committee, Robert Hammond (Chelmsford), said that it was “good to be back in York” for an “in-person Synod with some hybrid elements”.

He highlighted some items in the agenda, and asked members to adhere to the code of conduct, quoting Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians: “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is celebrated, all rejoice with it.”

Synod members were invited to express their thoughts on whether the code of conduct should be made enforceable, and opportunities would be provided to give feedback to the Business Committee.

Alison Coulter (Winchester) welcomed revision of the code of conduct, but said that she was “wary” of making it enforceable.

Jayne Ozanne (Oxford) took a different view: “clear lines” were necessary, to tackle “homophobic abuse, some from members here. . . We constantly appeal for love and understanding,” Ms Ozanne said, “but the ones who suffer are those of us who are LGBT.”

Sam Atkins/Church TimesJayne Ozanne (Oxford) took

The Synod also heard a plea from Dr Cathy Rhodes (Sheffield) to ensure that it was “practising what it preaches” on climate change, and asked the Committee to consider how “eco General Synod” could be achieved.

Dr Rhodes spoke of her experience as an NHS doctor on a maternity ward, and how this had informed her approach to the climate emergency. “You don’t wait to take action, because every second counts, because it is an emergency,” she said. Visibly moved, Ms Rhodes said: “Every person here knows and loves a young person who will live out their lives in the world we leave behind.”

She concluded: “I urge Synod to lead by example.”

Responding, Mr Hammond agreed that it was “absolutely the right thing to do, to practise what we preach”, and that the Committee would engage with the General Synod’s environment group to “see how we can make this a reality”.

Several members used called for greater brevity and succinctness to be adopted in the business of Synod.

The Revd Barry Hill (Leicester) noted that the Synod papers this year totalled almost 1000 pages. “If someone preached a sermon the length of our papers, it would take something like 83 hours,” he said. He also noted an increase in the number of questions submitted. “If the Church grew as rapidly as the number of questions asked of it, we’d be in a very different place indeed.” His plea for greater brevity, both in questions and in the drafting of Synod papers, was not, he said, to make the lives of members easier, but to “make Synod more accessible”.

Canon Andrew Cornes (Chichester) also urged members to ask questions succinctly, and to consider whether supplementary questions were always necessary.

Sam Atkins/Church TimesSam Margrave (Coventry)

Before the debate, Sam Margrave (Coventry) made use of a little-known provision in Standing Order 43 to present two petitions. He was afforded two minutes for the presentation of each petition, during which interruptions or replies were not permitted.

Mr Margrave’s first petition called for an independent investigation of alleged “gaming of the system and fraudulent behaviour by bishops, DDOs, and others”, which, he said, had led to “conservatives” facing “disadvantage in the vocations, ordination, and recruitment process”.

“Traditionalists present evidence of entryism and suggest pulpits are being used for a political platform,” he said.

The second petition, he said, was presented “on behalf of those who are unhappy at the treatment of Calvin Robinson, and have lost faith in the Church of England”.

Last month, Mr Robinson alleged that the diocese of London had blocked his ordination by withdrawing the offer of a curacy (News, 27 May). A statement from the diocese at the time said: “In this instance, it is felt that there is no suitable option available that London can currently offer.”

Mr Margrave told the Synod that it was necessary to investigate the issue.

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