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General Synod digest: final approval given to housekeeping provisions

14 July 2023

Sam Atkins/Church Times

Stephen Hofmeyr KC (Guildford)

Stephen Hofmeyr KC (Guildford)

THE General Synod gave final approval on Saturday afternoon to a draft Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure and Amending Canon No. 43.

The business included 22 provisions regarding the Synod, ecclesiastical offices and jurisdiction, church property, representation rules, and bodies such as the Church Commissioners and Pensions Board. Some amendments were consequent on the demise of the late Queen.

Stephen Hofmeyr KC (Guildford) described the provisions as a “potpourri of pieces of information, each one important”. The “heavy lifting” had been done at the revision stage in February (Synod, 17 February).

The Synod took note of the report, before Mr Hofmeyr then went through the provisions in detail.

The clauses that most engaged members related to hybrid meetings, now permitted on a permanent basis, and the prohibition of dealing thus with Article 7 or 8 business, i.e. business “touching doctrinal formulae or the services or ceremonies of the Church of England or the administration of the sacraments or sacred rights thereof”, and any “Measure or Canon providing for permanent changes in the services of baptism or Holy Communion or in the Ordinal”.

Mr Hofmeyer and his team received much praise. Peter Bruinvels (Guildford) said that the Synod “had been listened to”. Sarah Tupling (Deaf Anglicans) warmly commended the team for the clarity of the report and the care that had been taken over the work. She wanted to keep the Synod’s mind on hybrid meetings, particularly in relation to the needs of deaf people: could there be two BSL interpreters, one in the chamber and one working online?

Canon Valerie Plumb (Oxford), via Zoom, reflected on the meaning of being “present”, either on the screen or sitting next to someone. “It is a disability issue. It does work,” she said. “Be mindful, Synod. Do it for the reasons that are on your heart rather than whether it’s just practical.”

The Bishop of Woolwich, Dr Karowei Dorgu (Southern Suffragans), in his maiden speech, thanked God for the technology that enabled hybrid meetings. “For a Church that is wanting to be younger, diverse, inclusive, and giving more access, this is a wonderful day for us.” He pointed out: “It’s also very good for the environment and for our health — saving many tons of carbon.”

Rosemary Wilson (Southwark) described the report as “a really brilliant document”, but sought clarification on clause 17, relating to varying the eligibility of people as PCC members. “Are we saying it’s OK to be part of a PCC and not be a Christian?”

Canon Dana Delap (Gloucester) took Canon Plumb’s “present is present” comment as a reminder that “We need to talk about Holy Communion and see if hybrid Holy Communion is possible.” The Bishops’ promised response from 2020 on this was still awaited.

Final approval of the draft Measure was given by: Bishops 20 nem. con., with one recorded abstention; Clergy 123 nem. con., with three recorded abstentions; Laity 146-1, with five recorded abstentions.

Amending Canon No. 43 was given final approval by: Bishops 19 nem. con., with one recorded abstention; Clergy 119 nem. con., with one recorded abstention; Laity 151-1, with one recorded abstention.

Amending Canon No. 42, having received the Royal Assent after final approval in February, was made, promulged, and executed.

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