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General Synod digest: PCC membership to be reviewed by the Business Committee

15 July 2022

Sam Atkins/Church Times

General Synod members attend to a debate

General Synod members attend to a debate

PCC eligibility

THE General Synod’s Business Committee is to review the requirements for PCC membership and entry on an electoral roll.

The original motion from the diocese of Canterbury called for a review by the Archbishops’ Council. Introducing the motion on Monday evening, David Kemp (Canterbury) said that the requirement that parochial church councillors be “communicants” sometimes made it difficult for Fresh Expressions churches, especially if they were non-eucharistic. He also said that electoral-roll forms were too complicated, and were “clearly designed with middle-aged, middle-class” parishioners in mind, which was not the reality in many churches.

Sandra Turner (Chelmsford) spoke in favour of the motion, and explained how the reforms might have helped her church community, when a group of newcomers who were “vehemently opposed to the ministry and mission” of the church were able to take places on the PCC.

The Revd Matthew Beer (Lichfield), resisting the motion, said that it would be preferable to “make these vitally important expressions of church eucharistic”.

Holly Adams (Canterbury), contributing through Zoom, said that she wished she were giving her maiden speech on a “sexier topic”, but that it was vital that the Church had a “default that is inclusive rather than exclusive” when it came to non-eucharistic communities. Ms Adams said that, in her experience in one of the most deprived areas of Kent, the electoral-roll form was prohibitively inaccessible to many.

Clive Scowen (London) moved an amendment on behalf of the Elections Review Committee, a Business Committee sub-committee, which he chairs. This was to conduct the review in place of the Archbishops’ Council. “A review is an open process,” he said. On the motion, he said: “It seems to me entirely appropriate for it to be the norm that those involved in the governance of our Church should be participating in its sacramental life.”

Mr Kemp accepted the amendment, but it was opposed by Peter Adams (St Albans), who said: “At the heart of the motion is the mission of the Church . . . and as such it belongs in the Archbishops’ Council, not in the Business Committee, which is more about process.”

The amendment was carried by a show of hands, despite both Archbishops’ voting for the review to be conducted by the Council.

A further amendment was moved by the Archdeacon of Ludlow, the Ven. Fiona Gibson (Hereford), which asked the review to consider the spiritual aspect of PCC membership, which should be held “by those who habitually attend public worship”. “PCC membership involves exercising spiritual leadership,” she said, and as such this parameter was necessary.

Again, Mr Kemp was content to accept the amendment.

James Cary (Bath & Wells), a Synod representative on the Archbishops’ Council, used a cricket analogy to emphasise the importance of entrusting the governance of churches, including fresh expressions, to the right people. “If you’re running a village cricket club, would you ask people to run it who don’t ultimately like cricket?” he asked.

Robin Lunn (Worcester) was in favour of the amendment and the original motion, and emphasised that the Synod was voting for a review, not — at this point — for any substantive change.

The Archdeacon of London, the Ven. Luke Miller (London), supported the amendment, and said that it was important that the Church should be “hardwired for growth”. He also emphasised the importance of keeping the sacrament central to the life of the Church.

The amendment was accepted by a show of hands. Two more were then proposed by Amanda Robbie (Lichfield), the first of which served to expand the scope of the review, while the second drew attention to safeguarding concerns about the Church Representation Rules.

Both amendments were carried after short debates. The Revd Timothy Norwood (Oxford), speaking in favour of the first, said that it would help the Church to “engage properly with new congregations”.

Mary Talbot (Europe) was also in favour of the first, telling the Synod that, to many people who attended the Anglican Church in Geneva, who “don’t even know what an Anglican church is”, the electoral-roll forms could be “absolute gobbledegook”.

Canon Simon Butler (Southwark) was “grateful” for the second amendment, as it would help to ensure “safe recruitment” on to PCCs.

The Archdeacon of Leeds, the Ven. Paul Ayers (Leeds), wondered whether the review could be widened further to consider whether there should be a code of conduct for members of PCCs.

Debate on the main motion continued. In one of the most rapturously received speeches of this meeting of the Synod, the Revd Dr Tom Woolford (Blackburn), realising that he was running out of time, stood at the microphone in comic indecision about how best to truncate his speech. “In seeking to more fully embrace Messy Church, this review risks making what we define as a church messy. . . That was that good line that I wanted to finish with,” he finally concluded.

Adrian Greenwood (Southwark) suggested that any changes that the review made could be included within a Miscellaneous Provisions Measure to adopt them more quickly. Pat Hawkins (Lichfield) was the final speaker, and yoked her voice with those who sought to remind the Synod of the centrality of the sacrament in the life of the Church as well as “in mission terms”.

The motion was carried.

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