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Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Wrapping up synod - (a) 10July2007

Tuesday morning had some important, though rather tedious looking business: Archbishops' Council budget, and Final Approval of the Marriage Measure (the freeing up of who/where is "on track to be law by the early summer next year" said Dean Nairn-Briggs).

Incidentally, this General Synod page has links to all the documents related to this synod - and also to the notes of 'business done' at each session, and audio clip links of the debates. In time, the full text will also be available (à la Hansard).

So what reflections on July's General Synod?

Well, global eyes were on the Synod this year, with concerns that the Anglican Communion was in danger of splitting. Groups from the more conservative end such as Anglican Mainstream, and the more progressive or liberal end such as Changing Attitude, held quite a number of fringe meetings, and most groups had a few guests present for synod members to meet and chat to.

Many reports are available in the press (for example, lots of links via Thinking Anglicans). I was interested that Ruth Gledhill in her behind the front page Times blog of the happenings seemed to conclude that not much happened here and synod appeared to have become a bit mediocre. Well I suppose if you are waiting to report the big split, then a large deal of consensus might not make as exciting copy.

But for the CofE, and for the Communion, I suspect the fact that there was not so much fire or ginger in these particular debates, shows less a willingness to flame opponents, and more of an attitude of maturity and koinonia than we are used to hearing from synod members, and the from the constituencies some of them represent.

Once again, people I spoke to, said they had come intending to vote one way, but hearing people's reasoning in debate, were challenged to look afresh, and then vote consensually.

Ironically, one of the other pieces of synod business this time may mitigate against that, and give the divides and schisms that Ruth and the journalists were looking for. From next February, it is expected that synod will be voting electronically. This means that in future, where some synod members are currently aware of the debated issues, but undecided on how to vote, seeing others hands go up can help move one way - or indeed sometimes the opposite! With electronic voting, unless there is some sort of live on-screen swingometer, members will have no idea how others have voted (until the log of votes is published!).

I am keen on the way that having electronic voting will speed things up; but I am not sure that it will necessarily really give a better idea of 'what synod members really think'. The Bible study at the beginning of synod, on 1 Corinthians, helped ground synod members on images of 'body' and 'family'. Perhaps, surprisingly, synod appears to have been moved to be and act a bit more as the Pauline passages indicated. Perhaps, unexpectedly, the Spirit of God moved, and synod with it.

Alastair GS101

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