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 General Synod Report 11 July 2010

Report on business from the General Synod at York University, Sunday 11 July 2010

Sunday at General Synod

Terms of Service
Two items of business relating to the new Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Measure were considered.  The first were changes to the Regulations, the second the Directions.

There were a number of minor amendments to the Regulations and three more substantial ones the final of which was introduced by way of an amendment to the amendments by Bishop Pete Broadbent.

First, the existing regulations make no provision to initiate a capability procedure against a Diocesan Bishop of Archbishop. This anomaly was therefore rectified.
Secondly, there were potential problems of clergy being appointed to Common Tenure posts, and thus permanently, but who were from overseas and found after a period of time that they did not have permission to remain in the UK.  This has also been rectified by allowing the post to be terminated in these circumstances.
Thirdly, Pete Broadbent drew attention to a growing number of posts, particularly but by no means exclusively in London, where clergy are employed by a PCC but are not office holders.  Such people may be Assistant Curates, perhaps a senior clergyman taking a more general role later in ministry and so on.  The amendment, which was accepted without any dissent, allows for a degree of regulation to these posts but without frustrating their use.  Unamended the legislation will require people to transfer to Common Tenure but the post would then become unlimited in time. If the PCC then stops the funding after a fixed period, as agreed, the Diocese might have to continue to pay the minister.
The new arrangement will mean that the Bishop, Diocese, PCC and clergyman will be required to enter into a legal binding agreement regarding funding the post, housing etc.  Under these circumstances the person will be on Common Tenure but with qualifications.

As amended the amendments to the Regulations, and the Directions were passed unamended.  There was some confusion when the Bishop of Hull understandably did not spot that there were motions both to introduce the amendments and then to actually pass them and so he began his speech on the Directions too soon in the process.   It was a little time before someone spotted this.

The new Directions concern such things as Maternity and Paternity Leave.  The Archbishops Council will produce guidance based on employment practice but Dioceses will have to come up with a particular policy.  Clergy, however, because they are Office Holders and not employees continue to have a duty to make all reasonable steps to make provision for the duties of the office even if they are sick or on leave etc.  If the person fails to take these reasonable steps the leave can be refused.

Our Fellowship in the Gospel
A debate on a report regarding conversations with the Church of Scotland.

Review of Constitutions
A previous report to do away with most of the Boards and Councils had been rejected by General Synod because they would be replaced by designated Bishops and a few folk to consult.  The revised proposals retain the elected element of the Boards and Councils but in line with much of the business this Synod a reduction in size (roughly 30%) to save money.

Deanery Synods
The original motion, from Coventry Diocese, was to permit Deanery Synods to be incorporated and to take a much more prominent role.  This was deleted and replaced by a more modest and flexible proposal for the Archbishops’ Council to bring back some definite proposals for legislation.  There has been a definite trend in many places to focus on Deaneries rather than parishes, which is often to the detriment of distinctive theological convictions.  However, as many speakers indicated, the reason for this shift is to do with declining congregations and declining clergy numbers.

Annual Reports
Presentations of the annual reports of the Archbishops’ Council and Church Commissioners.

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