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Porn, but not Pride, on General Synod’s York agenda

23 June 2022

Sam Atkins/Church Times

General Synod members relax between sessions during the meeting in York, in July 2019

General Synod members relax between sessions during the meeting in York, in July 2019

MOTIONS on net zero, future spending, and access to pornography will all be debated at next month’s meeting of the General Synod, but a proposal to ban the Pride flag from churches will not be on the agenda this time.

The agenda and accompanying papers for this group of sessions were released on Thursday morning. The gathering will be held in York from 8 to 12 July. Virtual access will be available for members who are unable to attend in person.

At a press briefing, the Secretary General of the General Synod, William Nye, outlined some of the main business, which includes discussions on how the next Archbishop of Canterbury is to be selected (News, 18 February).

A decision will be sought on the make-up of the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC). The proposals to be debated would increase the involvement of the Anglican Communion in this decision, at the expense of a diminished influence for representatives from the diocese of Canterbury.

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, took part in the briefing to speak about the “Routemap to Net Zero Carbon by 2030”. The development of the plan was instigated by the General Synod’s decision, in February 2020, to commit the C of E to being carbon-neutral within ten years (News, 12 February 2020).

Bishop Usher, who is the lead bishop on the environment, said that the next decade would be “crucial”.

“This is not legislation; this is voluntary plan, but we hope that many of our parishes, dioceses, other institutions and schools, will actively get behind it,” he said.

Bishop Usher conceded that hitting net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 was an “almighty challenge”, though he noted that seven per cent of churches were already operating at this level.

The Revd Jo Winn-Smith (Guildford) outlined the rationale of a motion calling on the Government to pass a law requiring pornography websites to put age-verification systems in place.

The Government announced plans to introduce such measures in the Queen’s Speech last month (News, 10 May). The point of the Synod’s carrying a motion was to “maintain pressure on the parliamentary process, because this was supposed to become the law back in 2019”, Ms Winn-Smith said.

“This is something we can all unite around: protecting children and young people. We acknowledge it’s not a silver bullet, but, rather, a package of measures that need to be implemented to safeguard them.”

Synod members will have an opportunity to scrutinise and add amendments to a motion to adopt spending plans for the next triennium, announced last month, which represent an increase of almost one third: from £930 million to £1.2 billion per year from 2023 to 2025 (News, 11 May).

Changes to the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) are another item on the agenda. A report from the CDM Implementation Group will be brought to the Synod (News, 24 June). If it wins approval, the Archbishops’ Council will then bring forward legislation to be considered in February.

The Implementation Group recommends that the CDM be amended to distinguish between “grievances” that do not constitute “misconduct” or “serious misconduct”, and can be settled without embarking on a disciplinary process.


AMID discussion of the motions that would be debated, Mr Nye confirmed one that definitely would not, at least for now: the private member’s motion that would call on bishops to state that “support for Pride (including use of the rainbow flag and participation in Pride events) is incompatible with the Christian faith” (News, 9 June).

The motion, from Sam Margrave (Coventry), was described by Jayne Ozanne (Oxford), who campaigns on LGBT+ issues, as “incredibly offensive and intentionally divisive”

On Wednesday, Mr Nye explained that the motion would need to attract 100 signatures of support before it was considered for debate by the Business Committee. The General Synod in February 2023 was, therefore, the “earliest it could be considered”, Mr Nye said.

He also suggested that the committee might not schedule a private motion if it “clashes” with a piece of official business. “If, for example, there is likely to be significant official business on Living in Love and Faith in February 2022, the Business Committee might take the view that it didn’t think there ought to be other private members’ motions on related subjects in the same group of sessions.”

Mr Nye emphasised that he had no say in such matters, but that it was the Business Committee, comprising nine elected members, which made such decisions.

Living in Love and Faith (LLF) is a survey of attitudes and approaches to sexuality. The 18-month consultation phase ended in May (News, 6 May).

No formal motion relating to LLF will be debated in York, but members will have the chance to participate in group discussion of the issues

Mr Nye set out the process, which would involve the College of Bishops’ “reflecting on what has been reported” during the LLF consultation, and “praying and discerning what might arise from that.”

He expected that there would then be “some kind of further report, or document, or resource, produced by the bishops in time for the February Synod”.

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