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General Synod digest: Abusive language of members rebuked in Business Committee

24 November 2023

Geoff Crawford/Church Times

The chair of the Business Committee, Robert Hammond (Chelmsford)

The chair of the Business Committee, Robert Hammond (Chelmsford)

AMONG the thousands of comments about the conduct of the General Synod received by the Business Committee in a survey issued at the end of the July sessions in York, were complaints about the behaviour of Synod members, the chair of the committee, Robert Hammond (Chelmsford), reported on Monday afternoon.

Introducing his committee’s report, he told members that some members’ conduct was “deemed not in line with the behaviours expected of a Christian body”.

One member had received a warning that their behaviour had breached the code of conduct that all members were expected to abide by. The report said: “It is important that robust debate should not spill over into abusive language, and Synod members should be able to disagree well.”

Mr Hammond told members: “Be careful what you say and how you say it. . . Your ‘robust argument’ may be seen as bullying by some.” He also urged prolific users of social media to pay attention to what was being said in the chamber rather than to their X (Twitter) feeds and WhatsApp messages. A formal structure for dealing with complaints was being contemplated.

Two sessions of questions had been scheduled to accommodate an influx on the topic of LLF. He acknowledged that the Business Committee had underestimated the time needed in February for the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) debate and reiterated that the November session was only ever used for pressing business. He confirmed that the next meeting, also in London, was to be a five-day session over a weekend, from 23 to 27 February.

In the short debate that followed, Canon Andrew Cornes (Chichester) told the Synod that the great councils of the Church had always hammered out their differences with gentleness, “speaking the truth in love”.

Fr Thomas Seville CR (Religious Communities) said that there was an urgent need for courtesy: the behaviour surrounding LLF was worse than in the debate about women in the episcopate, he suggested.

The Synod took note of the report.

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