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C of E Youth Council ‘choked to death’ by underfunding, Synod hears

18 February 2022

iStock

THE Church of England’s now defunct Youth Council (CEYC) was “choked to death by a rigid system that continuously financially and systematically limits youth and children’s work”, the body’s former co-ordinator has said.

Edward Cox, who worked on the council as an intern for two years, until August 2019, made his comments after the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, explained to the General Synod last week why the council was disbanded (General Synod digest: questions).

Bishop Butler explained that the council of 16- to 25-year-olds had “decided to disband” in 2019 “after long and thoughtful discussions amongst its own core leadership group and diminishing membership”.

Three two-year places at the Synod were reserved for members of the council, who met twice a year and made interventions in Synod debates on climate change, racial justice, and the vote to ban conversion therapy.

Responding last week to a question from a Synod member, Jayne Ozanne (Oxford), “Why has General Synod’s Youth Council been abolished?”, Bishop Butler replied: “CEYC recognised that it was not attracting viable numbers — despite the fact that the National Society had funded an intern to try and add internal organisational capacity. It was not ‘abolished’.”

A second Synod member, Dr Janette Allotey (Chester), asked what plans existed for a successor to the council, “to ensure that the voices of young members of church are heard at General Synod”. Bishop Butler, speaking on behalf of the Presidents of the Archbishops’ Council, said: “Our hope was that we could identify a different way to provide representation at Synod, but this has not proven possible during the course of the pandemic.”

He said that they were, however, open to suggestions, and noted that many dioceses involve young people through their own youth councils. Some of the 250 under-18s in the national younger leadership groups run by the Church’s Education Office had played a part at November’s Synod meeting, he said, but they could not play a representative part, because they were not elected.

In his comments on Twitter, Mr Cox argued that that the council had been “chronically under-funded and ill-supported by the C of E structure”. He wrote that the council had suffered from a “lack of consistency in how youth and children’s work was viewed across Dioceses”. Noting that the council had a budget of only £6800, Mr Cox said that when he had presented at a budget meeting a “thorough” report of how much more was needed, and what it would be used for, he was told “No”. “The decision had clearly already been made,” he said.

Ms Ozanne asked Bishop Butler in a supplementary question why the budget request from “the person tasked with making the CEYC a success” had been “refused”. As the Church Times went to press, he had not responded to her question.

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