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Disinvestment, same-sex blessings, and safeguarding on Synod agenda for July

23 June 2023

Full details and papers for York meeting released

Sam Atkins/Church Times

Members arrive for last year’s meeting of the General Synod in York

Members arrive for last year’s meeting of the General Synod in York

PRESENTATIONS will be made on fossil-fuel disinvestment, Living in Love and Faith (LLF), and safeguarding at next month’s General Synod meeting in York. Details of the agenda were published on Thursday afternoon.

The Synod will meet from 7 to 11 July at the University of York, and worship, as customary in York, in the Minster on the Sunday morning.

On Friday, after an address by the Archbishop of York and a speaker from the Anglican Communion, the Synod will consider a private member’s motion from Sam Wilson, a lay representative of the diocese of Chester, on the creation of a Youth Synod (Letters, 23 June).

Also on Friday afternoon, legislation pertaining to the level of fees paid to church lawyers (News, 15 July 2022) will be brought for approval, together with a proposal to allow churches to keep their service registers in an electronic form.

The Synod will then be asked to approve the appointment of Carl Hughes as the new chair of the Archbishops’ Council’s finance committee (News, 31 March).

Then Questions: members have until 27 June to submit themWritten answers will be released before the meeting, and members will have two sessions in which to ask follow-up questions, on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.

More legislative business will face members first thing on Saturday morning: a Miscellaneous Provisions Measure, and an Amending Canon 43 (Miscellaneous Provisions), which, among other things, makes canonical amendments that follow upon the demise of Queen Elizabeth II (News, 8 September 2022).

In the first of several items on the agenda that concern safeguarding, Synod will be asked to enact an amendment to Canon C 30, which creates the post of diocesan safeguarding officers, who will have more power than the existing advisers (News, 17 February).

Before lunch, the Synod will hear a report from the Church Commissioners and the Pensions Board, outlining the reasons behind their decision, announced on Thursday, to disinvest from various fossil-fuel companies (News, 22 June).

In 2018, the Synod instructed the investment bodies to sell their holdings in fossil-fuel companies by 2023 unless they were on a path to net zero carbon emissions (News, 13 July 2018).

A diocesan-synod motion from Worcester will be debated on Saturday afternoon. It concerns the part that faith can play in the rehabilitation of prisoners, and calls for each diocese to nominate a link person to work with the probation services.

The remainder of Saturday’s sessions will be taken up by an update on the implementation of the LLF process. Details were outlined in a paper published on Thursday (News, 23 June).

On Thursday, at a press conference, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, said that the delay in developing substantial proposals for new pastoral guidance, along with measures for those who opposed the introduction of blessings for same-sex couples, was because the Bishops had been “listening”, and this would “always take a little bit more time”.

She said that the Bishops were “on track for November”, when the Synod is expected to meet in London.

 

SUNDAY afternoon’s session will start with another presentation likely to exercise members, this time on “developments relating to the Independent Safeguarding Board”.

The Synod had initially been expected to hear a presentation from the members of the Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB), after disputes about its independence and leadership (News, 24 May).

On Wednesday, however, it was announced that two of the three members of the ISB had been sacked, and the Board had been disbanded. The Archbishops’ Council spoke of a “breakdown” in its relationship with the two members (News, 21 June).

The Synod’s (and Council’s) secretary-general, William Nye, confirmed on Thursday that a representative from the Archbishops’ Council would make a presentation on the situation, and face questions from Synod members (News, 22 June).

After a further presentation on plans for a redress scheme for survivors of church-based abuse (News, 20 June), the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, will move a motion that the Synod welcomes the steps taken, and “acknowledge and deeply regret the safeguarding failures of the Church of England and especially their effect on victims and survivors, noting the vital importance of their voice in the Church’s ongoing safeguarding work”.

A private member’s motion from the Revd Robert Thompson (London) calling for an independent inquiry into “the allegations of abuse and cover-up within the Soul Survivor network” has not been scheduled for debate at the July meeting, despite attracting more than 100 signatures since it was tabled last month (News, 31 May).

Time permitting, another diocesan motion, from Oxford, will be debated on the Sunday afternoon, calling on the Church of England at all levels to implement measures to protect the environment and support the people most immediately at risk from climate breakdown.

Later that evening, the Synod will debate proposed reforms to the national church institutions (NCIs) and the governance structures of the C of E, after attempts to consider the changes were curtailed at February’s group of sessions owing to the overrunning of the LLF debate (News, 17 February).

The Monday morning brings consideration of the Archbishops’ Council’s annual report, and motions to approve the budget and proposed apportionment for 2024.

On the Monday afternoon, the Synod will take its first look at the proposed Clergy Conduct Measure (CMM), which has been drafted to replace the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM), after changes were agreed in outline last year (News, 15 July 2022).

The draft Measure was published on Thursday, and includes a distinction between “grievances” and cases of “misconduct”, besides reinstating deposition from Holy Orders (unfrocking) as an ecclesiastical penalty. This latter change is partly in response to a recommendation of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

In further legislative business, the Synod will vote on changes to the rules concerning PCC elections.

After a motion to “affirm the parish system as a central component of the mixed ecology as we seek to offer a living and contextually-appropriate expression of church for every person in England”, the Synod will consider a report on the Mission and Pastoral Measure, which includes provision for a “breathing space” before church buildings earmarked for closure can be sold (News, 23 June).

Before departing on the Tuesday afternoon, the Synod will consider two final matters of legislative business, on pensions and safeguarding reviews, before another diocesan motion, from Blackburn, which seeks to abolish fees for weddings, “to demonstrate the Church’s commitment to marriage and pastoral care”.

The final order of business will be to consider a presentation on the Synod complaints process, which has been the subject of debate at previous meetings (News, 15 July 2022).

A paper has been issued by the Business Committee setting out issues with, and options for, a more formal Synod complaints process. The document is available on the Church of England website, with the full collection of papers for this group of sessions.


Read more on the General Synod in this week’s Comment section

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