on business from the General Synod at Church House
16th November 2005
Business on the second, and final,
day of the Synod began with prayers followed by the Loyal Address to Her Majesty
the Queen and a Presidential Address by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Archbishop, in a speech devoid of any Scripture, spoke about various
matters, including the divisions that currently beset the Anglican
Communion. One of his chief pieces of advice was that those who disagree
should establish links in order to help our mutual understanding. This
sounds find and dandy but when the disagreement is over fundamental
issues (like sexual conduct) how does it compare with the commands
of God? In His Word God advocates separation from error, not trying
to grow in mutual understanding. (eg. 1 Cor 5.9-11, Rev 2.20, 2 John
10, 2 Thes 3.6, Tit 3.10)
On the Consecration of Women Bishops Williams advocated again a structural
provision for those who disagree with it. He described this approach
as facilitating ‘interactive pluralism’. The relevant section
of the address is included at the bottom for reference.
First business was a debate on the Draft
Dioceses, Pastoral and Mission Measure. This Measure will do various things including making it much
easier to reorganise Dioceses, close churches and start new mission
initiatives. This legislation now passes to a Revision Committee and
it appeared that many who spoke were angling to be appointed to it.
Synod members can make submissions, which the Committee has to consider.
Others submission can be made but the Committee is under no obligation
to consider them.
There followed a brief debate on new regulations concerning the admission
of baptised children to Holy Communion. Guidelines had been introduced
several years ago but aim is now to put these into regulations. This
was passed with about 20 votes against. The matter will now be taken
up by the House of Bishops.
The Bishop of Rochester asked whether the regulations would force child
communion into becoming a normative practice. The response appears
to have been that it will not make the practice normative since parishes
can refuse to adopt it. However, this appears to be contradicted by
Section 10 of the regulations in which the expectation is that if a
child has taken communion in one parish they can take it in all.
Conservation Trust looks after 335 churches which are
of architectural or historic interest but are no longer used for public
worship. Synod was asked to discuss payments to the Trust. By and large
the feeling is that the Trust does a good job but that if the nation
wishes these buildings to be preserved more financial assistance should
be given. There was a suggestion that perhaps an hundred of the buildings
could be disposed of.
The Trust makes considerable effort to ensure that the buildings are
not just monuments but are used as much as possible for community purposes.
The cost of the CCT is around £12million for the 3 years from
April 2006. 70% if this is met by the government with the remainder
upto £1.3m per year being paid by the Church Commissioners. It
was this that the Synod was asked to approve.
The Government used to pay 40% but this was increased to 70% as compensation
when the Church suddenly had to pay Council tax on all clergy houses.
The afternoon began with a discussion of the Clergy
Terms of Service – Property
Issues report. This proposes that clergy houses be transferred from
the benefice (ie. Owned by the Incumbent) to the Diocesan Patronage
Board. An amendment which would have taken the guts out of the report
was defeated but was so close that there had to be a count and then
a division of the whole Synod. The final motion was passed but with
sufficiently strong views against to suggest that the proposal could
have a rough ride when legislation is finally brought.
Final business was question time with a remarkably small number of
questions. Only a few were raised about Civil Partnerships which might
have been expected to have been more prominent.
This brief Synod closed at around 6pm although there were hustings
for some of the key elected posts to be voted on in the next few weeks.
Excerpt from Rowan Williams’ Presidential
Everyone knows the threats that face us, internally
and internationally, over divisions in the Communion. We are painfully
aware of the quarrels over sexuality, and the tensions and complications
around how we handle the question of women’s ordination as bishops. I suggest
two considerations for us. The sexuality debate is infinitely complicated
by high levels of mutual ignorance and anxiety between ‘North’ and ‘South’,
and by perceptions, not always unfair, about the uncritical use of
power and influence by older and wealthier churches. If every member
of this Synod made a commitment to make contact with someone in another
province who is not likely to share their view, we might at least
move away from demeaning caricatures on both sides. Similarly, in
regard to women bishops, I suggest that we make some individual commitments.
When my diocese in Wales was discussing women priests a decade ago,
we arranged prayer partnerships between people on opposing sides,
on the basis that we should need some ingrained habits of shared
prayer and patience if we were going to carry on a common Christian
life after a divisive vote. Are Synod members ready to undertake
such a commitment and to commend it to the Church at large? And,
in relation to the detail of the discussion on women bishops, let
me simply say that I still passionately believe it is wholly worthwhile
to seek for a structure that will allow what I have been calling ‘interactive
pluralism’ in one or two recent lectures on politics – sorry
about the jargon – that is, a situation in which difference
is publicly acknowledged and given space, but not regarded as an
excuse for ‘ghettoisation’ or exclusion from a serious
degree of shared work, shared resources and mutual responsibility.