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Thursday, 9 February 2006

Questions, Questions - (2) 9Feb2006

What is the value of the man/woman-hours churchwardens, PCCs, fabric committees, clergy, and other volunteers spend on church buildings up and down the land? How much subsidy do churches get by comparison to other arts or heritage sites?

+London introduced this debate with aplomb, partly based around another excellently presented report ‘Building Faith in our Future’, and included the answers to these, and many other statistics. Numbers attending the debate were not as low as can be for the last afternoon, because of what was next on the agenda. Whilst an unfair assumption against the presenters of the debate, it did mean that more people were able to participate in, and hear a great debate about important issues. We know the church is the people not the buildings, - but sometimes even our church buildings speak eloquently about God. I suspect the debate will pick up few headlines; but it ought to.

Synod had let the Business Committee know in no uncertain terms what its mind was about the placing of Questions at the very end of the agenda, earlier in the week. In fact the Business Committee then allowed for some of the questions - specifically those in relation the Church Commissioners selling the freehold to some properties, including the Octavia Hill estates - to be taken earlier after all. They have been widely reported on.

There are legal responsibilities on trustees of a charity - but there are also responsibilities to individuals, and to the reputation of the Church of God. Sometimes we get things wrong. This may be one of them. The assets committee of the Church Commissioners are, we were informed, answerable to no one else. This may change…

And then on to the rest of the Questions. These have to be submitted in advance, written. Without being re-read, just the prepared answers are presented by chairs various committees etc. There is the opportunity at that point to add up to two supplementary questions verbally.

A fast and furious skirmish takes place; subtly worded questions, carefully crafted answers, and suddenly with the supplementaries, a new chink of information sometimes falls out unexpectedly. The chairing has to be quite severe - and even then the questions rarely all get covered. Ones not covered verbally are presented immediately afterwards online in written answer form. The full transcript of Questions, as with all the minutes, will appear in time.

There is often a thank you at the end of session - and then Synod is formally prorogued (closed) by ++R with a blessing. We won’t be back at Church House for a year, as major renovations are taking place. No more voting by going through lobbies. Let’s hope the new seating is more comfortable, as I doubt the 3-4 hour debates will have been completely replaced!

Alastair GS101

1 comment:

Simon said...

What's bizarre about Questions, or rather about Answers is this.
The press are provided with a complete set of printed Answers as the session starts. This document obviously has to exist in electronic form first. Yet it is not made available on the website at the time. Sure, there are very minor differences in oral delivery of the answers, but hardly anything of substance. And this paper document is not provided to synod members. A copy of it is posted on the board, which when Questions is not the last item on the last day means that members can go and look at it.

At least this time the Answers not reached have been posted within 48 hours. In November this did not happen until about 28 November.

But why on earth not post the document that exists on the day?