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 General Synod Report 5 July 2008

Report on business from the General Synod at York University Saturday 5 July 2008

First business of the day was the Manchester Report on possible legislative provision for those who cannot accept women bishops if the decision is made to go ahead and consecrate them.

It was simply a "take note" debate, therefore no-one voted against and it was conducted calmly. Most speakers seemed to recognise the need for provision but the question is what level of provision. The more important debate will be on Monday afternoon.

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, gave his presidential address.  During the course of this he gave a warm commendation of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the wake of criticism of the latter at the recent Global Anglican Futures Conference in Jerusalem.  Sentamu spoke about the fact that the Church is not made of perfect people but of those who are imperfect and how we ought not therefore to be seeking to turn other people out.  This is all very well but ignores the rather obvious fact that discipline is a mark of a true Church and indeed that later in the afternoon the Synod would be asked to approve legislation which allows clergy to be turned out of their office.  Therefore it is not a matter of whether there should be discipline but on what grounds.

Synod debated the Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Measure.  There was an initial debate on the report of the Revision Committee.  Then followed several amendments most of which went through without debate but one was put to a vote because it appears to allow an exceptional circumstance in which a Priest-in-Charge could be removed from office without the proper procedures being followed.  This was nevertheless passed by Synod.

The Final Approval debate then took place and the Measure was passed with only minimal opposition from Clergy and Laity.  The Measure will now pass to Parliament and the work on Regulations and Codes of Practice will begin to be put to General Synod next year.  Once enacted this will mark the beginning of the end of the ancient practice of clergy freehold and introduce a new concept of Common Tenure which the Measure, Regulations, Codes, use and abuse will define.

There was a brief debate on an amendment to the Pensions Measure.

The Synod considered three broad changes under two pieces of business to the involvement of the Crown in appointments.  For each item of business the Archbishop of York read out a statement from the Queen stating that she was content for the Synod to make a decision in these matters.

The first change relates to the appointment of Suffragan Bishops.  The existing system requires that two names be submitted although for the past century it has been the understanding that the Prime Minister would advise the Queen to opt for the first.  In line with the practice for Diocesan Bishops it is proposed that only one name  be submitted, a request which came from the Prime Minister.  Two people will be chosen but only one name put with the second as a fall-back if for some reason the first declines.

The second change relates to those parishes where the Queen, Lord Chancellor or Prince of Wales are the patron.  Apparently this amounts to 8% of all parishes.  Parish representatives have no formal say in these appointments and the proposed change will give them formal rights. However, it became clear that unlike other parishes presentation does not lapse to the Archbishop after 9 months.  Therefore, whereas in most parishes the reps are only consulted after the 9 month deadline in the case of Crown livings it appears that they will have a perpetual power of veto.

The third change relates to patronage when an incumbent is made a Diocesan Bishop (patronage currently passes to the crown) or the exercise of Bishop’s patronage during a vacancy in See (which also passes to the crown).  In the former case the patronage will remain with the normal patrons and in the latter another Bishop or someone else will be designated to exercise the patronage.

Final business of the afternoon was the Vacancy in See Regulations.  Mostly this was tidying up the regulations but one matter related to the composition of the Diocesan reps on the Crown Nominations Committee for the appointment of a Bishop. The concern is that in some cases all the clergy places from the Diocese (at most 3) are taken by senior staff and it was stated that in 2 of the last 5 appointments this had been the case.  In some Dioceses senior staff (Suffragan Bishops, Archdeacons and the Dean) can make up a substantial part of the Vacancy in See Committee.  An amendment was passed, despite resistance from some Bishops, to ensure that no more than one member of senior staff could be appointed.

The evening was taken up with an uneventful report on Reader ministry.


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