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 General Synod Report 9 July 2005

Report on business from the General Synod at York University

Saturday 9th July 2005




Group work


Legislative Business
i. Further Miscellaneous Provisions Measure: Final Drafting and Final Approval
ii. Clergy Discipline Measure Code of Practice
iii. Clergy Discipline Measure Rules
iv. Fees Orders
v. Approval of petition renaming the See of Southwell


Formation for Ministry in a Learning Church: Follow-up to the Hind Report
Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill: Report by the Mission and Public Affairs Council


Communion before Confirmation: Report by the Board of Education


Synod members met at the start of business in study groups to discuss matters related to stewardship and giving.

The formal business of the morning consisted of legislative business including the an uncontroversial Miscellaneous Provisions Measure.

Synod next considered the Code of Practice and Rules to go with the Clergy Discipline Measure. The Measure, though authorised by Parliament had been awaiting the roles ond code before being implemented. It does not cover issues to do with Doctrine or Liturgy and most of the code and rules cover the procedures to be followed. One issue which was raised is that Bishops cannot in the contemporary environment exercise pastoral care and discipline at the same time. Given that both of these things are supposed to be part of Christian ministry this is a serious problem and presumably applies within the parish as well.

The Synod also had a brief debate about a change of name for Southwell Diocese. Many people have little idea of where Southwell is, and it is not infrequently confused with Southwark. The new name will be the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham. A similar change took place not long ago to change the Diocese of Ripon to Ripon and Leeds.

Having got through business fairly early the Synod began consideration of some changes to standing orders. This issue has proved quite controversial but Synod did not get to these points immediately.
One of the key issues is the way in which amendments are handled. There has been a strong feeling that members were using amendments as an excuse to get to speak and sometimes members place a lot of amendments which seem to detract from the substantial debate. The remedy proposed is that an amendment has to have some support (10 signatures say) before being submitted. This will not be a problem for those in well-organised party groups but may disadvantage more independently minded, or new, members. One of person who is perceived as having placed a lot of amendments in the past is Tom Sutcliffe from Southwark Diocese. Mr Sutcliffe has submitted around 20 amendments to this motion on amendments! These will be taken on Monday.

Early afternoon discussion concerned Theological Education.
These matters have been rumbling on for several years following the production of the Hind report which made some radical proposals which were watered down and many of the proposals which got through have not been implemented.
There is continuing dis-ease with the whole enterprise. There were several amendments several by evangelicals, which called into question whether the present proposals could really work. Only a minor one of these got through but a more significant one gained the support of nearly half the laity. The Synod accepted the report in the end but some of the warning shots had been fired.

It was announced that after Friday’s debate on the Ordinal the House of Bishops had made some changes to the ordination services before final approval. These are clearly designed to head off a revolt which may see the whole package rejected.
The Bishops have inserted:
- a stronger expectation that there will be a confession
- a brief petition for unity
- a much stronger form of words at the giving of the Bible
- a change to the introduction to the service of Consecration of Bishops
Both the Convocations (Canterbury and York Clergy) and the House of Laity have invoked their right for separate discussion prior to the Final Approval debate on Monday all of which will take place late on Sunday night.

Final business of the afternoon was an important report on assisted dying and suicide. In the light of forthcoming legislation this is clearly an important issue and there was strong endorsement of the report which rejects the governments proposals. Only one person voted against the report. What did not surface so clearly is the underlying reasons as to why in the UK (and as was remarked, more so in places like Holland) a one-time generally Christian shaped nation has now rejected the Christian ethic in relation to the sanctity of life.

The evening debate was on a report regarding the admission of children to communion before confirmation. A review had been conducted into the practice since the introduction of guidelines in 1997. The review had revealed that at present roughly one in ten parishes admit children to communion before confirmation. The impression was that on average 3-4 children take communion in each of these churches.
The proposal is to move from guidelines to introduce some regulations. One of the biggest issues with this is that one of the regulations requires that if a child is admitted to communion in one parish then they should be admitted in any parish. This is already in force in the guidelines but will have much stronger force in a regulation.
Many evangelical churches admit children to communion on the basis that baptism is the rite of admission into the covenant community and therefore they should be allowed to take communion. The more classical evangelical view, represented by the Book of Common Prayer, is that the seriousness of the warnings about taking the sacrement in an unworthy manner are such that children should generally wait until they have a clear faith themselves and show evidence of understanding the seriousness of what they are taking part in.

The regulations will be put before the General Synod in November under Canon B15A(1c).
This debate was, supposedly, not about the draft regulations, but about how the guidelines are being implemented and the lessons learnt from that.

David Phillips
General Synod Representative, St. Albans Diocese
General Secretary, Church Society

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