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 General Synod Report 11 February 2008

Report on business from the General Synod at Church House, Westminster Monday 11 February 2008

Separate meetings of the House of Laity and the House of Clergy were held to discuss the proposals to transfer parsonage which forms part of the Terms of Service Legislation.

The Synod Group of Sessions began at 3.15 with a prolonged standing ovation for the Archbishop of Canterbury who was chairing the first business. The Synod is packed and there are a large number of pres both inside and outside the chamber to hear the Presidential Address.

Details of the progress of legislation was given.

The Archbishop of Canterbury gave his Presidential Address speaking about three subjects. Before he spoke he was given a prolonged standing ovation by the majority of Synod members, indicating that whatever he says the Synod is not going to take issue with him.

First he addressed the furore surrounding his comments on Sharia law. He asserted that what he had said had been misrepresented but apologised for not making himself clear. He also stated that the Church of England has a role in representing all faiths in England. In the face of the pressure of secularism this has some legitimacy but everything depends upon how far this is taken. It is clear from the reaction to his comments last week that people feel he has gone too far in seeing it as his role to promote religious pluralism and Islam in particular in the interests of preserving religious freedoms in general.

The Archbishop went on to speak about the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe and the conflict there between the supporters of the government who have severed ties with the wider Anglican church.

He also spoke about the purpose of the Lambeth Conference and reiterated that it is not going to make as many decisions as in the past. Its primary purpose is intended to be for discussion and fellowship. He also stated his view that people must keep talking together whatever their views. This is one of the fundamentals of the liberal agenda which can sound very sensible but is used to over-ride Biblical teaching that we should not have fellowship with those who are teaching or practising gross error. What it indicates is that as long as Rowan Williams is Archbishop of Canterbury there is only one outcome to the sexuality debate and we will go on talking together until everyone agrees that what God has declared unacceptable has been accepted by all.

At 4pm the Synod turned to its customary debate on the Agenda. This is always a bit of a game as members try to make substantial points when all they are really allowed to do is discuss what is on or not on the agenda without rehearsing any arguments in relation to motions that are, or are not, on the agenda. The chairman seemed particularly harsh today in clamping down on those trying to make speeches except, of course, Bishops.

There were 84 questions tabled which began to be answered just before 5pm. These cover a wide range of subjects and some jousting took place over one particular theological college, on the lack of speed in bringing forward legislation to consecrate women as Bishops and the force of the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993.

It was stated that it is unlikely that final approval for Women Bishops will be given during the lifetime of this Synod (up to July 2010) because of all the legislative steps still to be taken, even if everyone agrees in the end.

It was also stated that the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod (which is supposed to protect both 'integrities' over women as presbyters) has no real force in the Church and is clearly not working when it comes to senior appointments. Everyone knows this, but it is important to remember because any provision when it comes to Women Bishops for those who believe it to be contrary to the will of God must be in legislation, otherwise it will be equally worthless.

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