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General Synod digest: Carl Hughes appointed to Archbishops’ Council

14 July 2023
Sam Atkins/Church Times

Carl Hughes, the new chair of the Archbishops’ Council Finance Committee, on Friday afternoon

Carl Hughes, the new chair of the Archbishops’ Council Finance Committee, on Friday afternoon

THE appointment of Carl Hughes (Southwark) as the new Chair of the Archbishops’ Council Finance Committee, to succeed John Spence, was approved by the General Synod on a show of hands on Friday afternoon.

The Archbishop of Canterbury commended Mr Hughes’s wide experience, in the energy and resources sectors in particular. He would serve “in a thoughtful and considered way, listening to and speaking and contributing to the mission of the Church, using his talents in the service of Christ, for the furthering of the Kingdom of God”.

Mr Spence said of Mr Hughes: “He is so good it’s scary,” and described him as “thorough in his analysis” and “a left-field thinker”. This was the Synod’s “optimal chance to take forward a bundle of such talent. I beg you to appoint him so that I can have a rest.”

Canon Simon Butler (Southwark) acknowledged that he and Mr Hughes would probably vote very differently on things, but would set aside differences of opinion. He warmly supported the appointment, but did question why Mr Hughes wanted to join the Council at this time.

“This is a difficult time — it’s been shocking to see the way social media has spoken, as a body and as individuals,” he said. “I have witnessed the Archbishops’ Council ‘othered’, as evil and wicked and against the good of the Church. . . This is simply unfair. We’re all in this together.”

Dr Cathy Rhodes (Sheffield) wanted to clarify whether Mr Hughes was still a non-executive director of the petroleum company Enquest. (He later responded that he had served two terms of three years, and had stood down at the AGM in June in line with corporate practice.)

Jayne Ozanne (Oxord) said she would abstain. In six years on the Council, she had sometimes seen it working well, sometimes “abysmally”. She and Mr Hughes would have very different views, but she took particular issue with his support of a letter to the Secretary of State opposing the ban on conversion therapy. I raised a question mark concerning his ability to be independent on those issues, she warned, where the core value had to be safeguarding.

The Revd Robert Thompson (London) had found Canon Butler’s comments unhelpful: “Unless we can name these things in a robust way, there’s no point.”

Gabriel Chui (Liverpool), a new member, observed a tendency for people who had been on the Synod for a long time to “hijack it”. This matter was about competency.

Responding to the debate, Archbishop Welby referred to Mr Hughes’s stance on conversion therapy. “The Church of England’s position is entirely clear,” he said. “Personal opinions do not override the stated policy of the Synod.”.

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