Saturday was dominated by two subjects: - the consecration of women to the episcopate, and the legislative agenda of the Church of England.
The Archbishop of York speaking on behalf of the majority of the House of Bishops invited Synod explicitly ‘to reach a view about whether admitting women to the episcopate in the church of England would be theologically justified’ And whether it would ‘welcome and affirm’ such a view. From the debate one sensed that for many, the theology behind this issue had been debated over several decades and that many of the current objections from ecumenical partners were flawed. Voting was by houses and although the motion was passed in all houses it just failed to achieve a two thirds majority in the House of Laity by 3 votes, a requirement later on in the process on this issue.
The rest of the day was spent the Diocese, Pastoral and Mission Measure. This is designed to provide in the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury ‘a principles and careful loosening of structures’ to improve the Church’s ability to respond to mission opportunities. The Measure includes new provision for diocesan re-organisation and more flexible procedures for pastoral re-organisation and the closure of churches no longer required for worship. Of particular interest was its provision of a legal framework, with minimum bureaucracy, for mission initiatives. The Synod recognised its considerable implications and opportunities for parishes, patrons and cooperation with other churches.
The draft Church of England Marriage Measure, designed to extend the range of places where people can be married in the Church of England, was well received by Synod and was sent to its revision stage. Whereas Synod had previously agreed that people could get married in a church where they had a ‘demonstrable connection’, they agreed that this should be changed to a ‘qualifying connection’. This would include their, or their relative’s, past residence in the parish or their past involvement in the church. There were expressions of concern about possible excessive demands on ‘pretty’ churches, but also ones of delight about opportunities for parishes to work together and of the relaxing of the current inflexible rules. The preliminaries of banns, common licence or special licence would be retained.
Tuesday, 13 February 2007