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Tuesday, 7 February 2006

Seeds in Holy Ground, and the how much water to water them - (3) 7Feb2006

OK, a linking of two agenda items with all the eloquence of an over-enthusiastic hospital radio DJ; but three important reports & debates helped lift Synod’s eyes a bit higher than it’s collective navel, as some of the Synod debates might appear to.

First the excellently presented report on Rural Churches (do have a look at GS Misc 803 if you can find it - it appears not to be inline yet [edit: possibly because Church House Publishing are selling; order here], but another link is via GS1603; filled with lively stories, it is much more than a glossy advert. ‘All Synod reports should be like this in future’ one member encouraged: if only they could manage to do so with the Pastoral Measure, quips back the presenting bishop). The chamber was graced by the presence of folk from Westminster’s ‘other place’, and a very clear message was passed through the Synod to the Government at National, regional & local level.

Not much on farming in this report, one bishop noted - but we were reminded that the previous three Synod debates on the countryside were very farming oriented, and this one was picking up on other areas of life in the countryside, and especially where the church is the foundation, and key sustaining structure in many rural communities.

The report on Anglican & Baptist conversations, ‘Pushing the boundaries of unity’ (GS Misc 801) actually took quite a fresh look at discussions between these two denominations. Historically there is much traffic between members of these two churches, as both many of the contributors to the debate, and this correspondent, can testify to. Fortunately it was about much more than ‘how much water, and when’.

We were reminded that even Anglican practise can be very diverse; and at least one contributor suggesting sprinkling of babies followed by adult immersion services, went further than even most Baptists now do, concluding that only one baptism is needed.

It was good to have a number of the key Baptist contributors to, and supporters of the report in the chamber; and they received the clear assurance of Synod’s desire that these conversations remain not only ongoing at the national level, but be commended to active discussion at the local level too, in both denominations. Are we closer to getting in to the baptistery with the Baptists than we are to gathering around the communion table with Roman Catholics?

The final debate of the afternoon picked up on ‘Mutual Expectations: The Church of England and Church Colleges/Universities’ (GS 1601). Interesting to see the change in perception, that many of these colleges no longer feel as on the edge as they did some years ago. The Church schools are well known nationally, the Church colleges by and large are not. And now, as there are other colleges re-branded as universities, and not to demean them in any way, there are even Church Universities too.

One member encouraged the Report writers to go further than just dwell on the warmth of ethos and values, asking that it be ‘hotted up’, especially in areas of truth, in the name of the one who is Truth. How are priorities in higher education to be given the same Christian basis that schools have. Distinctiveness is a theme - and we were reminded we did not need to be different to be distinctive.

This report, as the two before it, were warmly welcomed by the Synod, and commended. Important issues sometimes do not have the glitz or cachet that other agenda items appear to have; but this in no way diminishes their significance. I haven’t the writing skills to satisfactorily showcase all these issues: but how good it is for the Church, that the Synod that represents it, is thoroughly informed, widely respected, and so effectively and professionally served by Synod members in its support for the church’s work and mission.

Alastair GS101

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