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Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Reformation of Synod?

@TheChurchMouse asked me to do a guest post for the inauguration of the new General Synod, and it was published a couple of hours before the inauguration service in Westminster Abbey.

Dame Mary Tanner: photo by David Michael Morris

However, as Dame Mary Tanner started preaching, I started to wonder if she had been looking over my shoulder (and - should she have even noticed my post - she may have wondered if I had got hold of an illicit copy of her sermon script in advance - full copy legitimately available here now). Have a look...

She started by highlighting what an inspired solution Synodical government has been:
Synodical government was a visionary initiative. It established definitively the voice of the laity in the governance of our Church, providing a place where laity and clergy, together with the bishops, meet to discern, to express consensus and to legislate.

She then went on to recognise that synod itself is now in need of reformation:
we know that our synodical system is – and probably always will be, like the institution of the Church itself – in need of reform and renewal. English parliamentary processes can have a negative effect, tending to polarisation, parties divided against one another, a culture of winners and losers. Thank goodness the call to the Synod – ‘decide’ – now replaces the former absurd practice of a bewigged lawyer crying ‘divide’ – just when the Synod was testing for consensus, testing for the mind of Christ.

- It was almost word-for-word what I had also written. I was encouraged to think that she, and others, share some of the thoughts I have been thinking too. And you cannot get more up-front than the sermon at the inauguration of Synod.

Mary Tanner starts by looking at the Jerusalem Council as her prime Biblical model for inspiration. It led her on - amongst many other things, to suggest:
Synod structures and procedures may need reforming. But perhaps what is most needed is for each of us to look at ourselves. We need to get hold at a deeper level of how costly listening can be. It is by listening with creative imaginations, not afraid of silence, that we form a space in which the Holy Spirit can lead us beyond polarisation to the place where we know that we need one another...

Towards the end of her sermon, Dame Mary said:
The most important thing you do is not the production of Measures, Acts of Synod, or Codes of Practice, important as these are, but the gathering together around the Lord’s Table to receive food for the synodical journeying.
Strive always to listen to one another with charity and generosity, and listen deep in the silence to the one who walks with you on the way, so that you too may say, like those at the Council of Jerusalem, ‘It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us’.

So, there is Mary Tanner’s challenge to this 9th General Synod. In his introductory welcome to the Queen, and just before she also spoke to Synod, ++Rowan Williams observed that this was the first Synod that there were no longer any remaining members of the earlier Church Assembly present. Except for her majesty, that is - who has seen Synods, and Archbishops of Canterbury come, and go. The Queen’s speech also included words helping Synod look forward:
The opening of a new Synod is a moment when we can all give thanks for the witness of those who have gone before, and pray for wisdom as you seek to balance change and continuity in the decisions that lie ahead of you.  ...
The new Synod will have many issues to resolve to ensure that the Church of England remains equipped for the effective pursuit of its mission and ministry. Some will, no doubt, involve difficult, even painful, choices. But Christian history suggests that times of growth and spiritual vigour have often coincided with periods of challenge and testing.  What matters is holding firmly to the need to communicate the gospel with joy and conviction in our society.

I have already outlined some of the areas and ways I think we could see Synod start to move - I am hoping to see some of these begin to take shape, so that we may all the better fulfil the role that the Queen has reminded us is the calling of Synod.

Alastair Cutting 96 Chichester

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

To Covenant, or not to Covenant?

Wednesday morning’s headlining agenda item is on whether the Church of England should join in with the Anglican Communion Covenant.

Well, who wouldn’t want to be a part of the Anglican Communion? (Only Anglicans of course need bother to answer that question...). Yet, there are some who clearly think the Covenant is not a good thing. Why, and how to vote at this stage?

As the Anglican church spread across the globe, different provinces of the communion started to develop, to make better sense of governing the church more locally (did you know that New Zealand and Australia were both originally included in the diocese of Calcutta, in India!)

So there are many different Anglican provinces, all gathered under the banner of the Anglican Communion. However, what happens when one province does something that other provinces find is un-Anglican, is an innovation that it impairs communion? Like, perhaps, ordaining a bishop in an active gay relationship? Other brands/examples are also available...

Some provinces then asked that there be some mechanism whereby different provinces can: sign up to be a something to be a part of the Anglican Communion. That something to sign up to, is the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant.

However, within the covenant, there are some ‘if this; then there may be a consequence that...’ situations. It is this part of the covenant that some are objecting to, as they feel the Covenant is perhaps being formed in to a stick to beat naughty provinces with. That, some consider is also un-Anglican.

Just as there is a Say No to the Covenant lobby, who feel it is restrictive and inhibiting; there are also other provinces who I understand feel that the lines drawn and sanctions outlined are not strong enough. Some want it less restrictive - some want it more so. That in itself implies the Covenant may have something of the ‘middle way’ about it.

So how to vote on it? Well, it is clear a number of other provinces are watching what the Church of England does about the Covenant before showing their own hand. We should not consider that the CofE is ‘equal, but more equal’ than others. It seems clear though, that without the CofE signing up to the Covenant, it is difficult to see what its purpose might be.

This particular debate is not the General Synod’s final say on the Covenant. Rather, what is proposed today is that the Covenant is then be passed to the dioceses for debate, before coming back to the General Synod for final agreement after that. I have some questions and misgivings about the text; but I certainly want to include the dioceses within the debate. So I will certainly be voting for the motion at this stage.

Alastair Cutting 96 Chichester

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Dramas at Synod

Arriving as a newbie at Synod can be quite frightening. So many people, procedures; standing orders, and members standing to contend with.

As part of the induction for new members, a dramatised and light-hearted example of a synod debate, with full commentary, helped members to understand synodical processes. When I first joined synod 5 years ago, I found a similar presentation very helpful, and many new members I have spoken to found this one similarly so.

Actually, it was such a useful case-study in debating procedure, that I managed to procure a copy of the script, and the permission to publish it. It may well be an aid to Diocesan Synod members too, especially the Chairs of House of Laity and Clergy.

Here are a couple of snippets:

Margery Kempe: Margery Kempe, Norwich, 1438. Mr. Chair, I am delighted to move this motion in my name. The Joint Ecumenical commission for motherhood and apple pie has spent the last two years considering both motherhood and apple pie from a variety of angles, as detailed in GS 1592…

Narrator: You will have noticed that she correctly started her speech by addressing the Chair. All speeches should be addressed to the Chair: only the person in the Chair addresses the Synod directly. After the opening speech the debate will be opened up to members... [etc.]


Narrator: Let’s hear how the first speaker gets on.

Hilda of Whitby: Hilda of Whitby, Religious Communities, 680. There are two points I want to make. First, in GS 1592 paragraph 23…

Narrator: Now this is good start – short, sharp, focused and directly to the point.

HW: … I could say more, but as the amber light has come on, I would say in conclusion that my main points are these … [etc.]

Other participants include (!):
Thomas Aquinas, Julian of Norwich, Catherine Parr, Hieronymous Bosch & Richard Hooker

Download the full sketch here, or continue reading it below the fold:

Alastair Cutting 96 Chichester

Is Synod Fit For Purpose?

The Church Mouse invited me to write a guest post on his famous blog, and you can find it here: http://j.mp/ChMouse.

Mouse starts:
Synod reform: Guest Post from Synod Member Alastair Cutting

There are some who feel, and I am amongst them, that doing church business in this way may not be the best. The General Synod has served well since its introduction in the 1970s, but is it fit for purpose now?

On the inauguration of the new Synod, Mouse is delighted to kick off a conversation about how General Synod could be reformed with a guest post from General Synod number 96, Alastair Cutting.

Read more here.

Alastair Cutting 96 Chichester

All Aboard For The New Quinquennium!

So - here we are again. I'm writing this in my room at the monastery where I have stayed for London Synods for the last 5 years. It's 8.00am, and shortly I will head off to join the security queues to get into Westminster Abbey for the inaugural service of the 8th General Synod of the Church of England. Five years ago I was nervous and excited, and a bit daunted at the prospect of what I had found myself part of. Five years on, it's the same feelings all over again - but not entirely for the same reasons. The nerves are still there, but no longer because I don't know what to expect - instead it's because now I do know what might well be round the corner, and some of the choices that we are going to have to make are nerve-racking indeed. I'm excited, too - but again not so much because I don't know what's coming. Instead it's because I know that I will be meeting old friends once again and making new ones - and also, of course, because I find the process and business of the way organisations like Synod work endlessly fascinating.

But I'm also still daunted. Despite the fact that Synod seems (and, lets face it, often is) not particularly relevant to everyday life in the C. of E., there are times when what is said and done here can have far-reaching effects. There have been times over the last five years when I have been acutely aware that particular debates and decisions had the potential to do an enormous amount of damage to the way we relate to each other - both on a personal and an institutional level. It's the same again this time round. No doubt I will end up having more to say about Wednesday's big matter (the Covenant, that is) in places where I can be a little less objective than I feel I ought to be here - but it's enough to say for now that despite the lack of wider focus on it, Wednesday's debate is a very big deal.

So. The ship is about to sail. We are being launched in a couple of hours time by our Supreme Governor on another five year mission. I wonder where we will get to this time around...

Chichester 289

Monday, 22 November 2010

New Quinquennium

Members old and new of General Synod have been gathering for the start of this new session. Monday has mainly included background and preliminary work for new members, including a light-hearted practise debate and voting procedures. I have asked about the possibility of sharing the 'script', as it helps people understand the debating processes, and may be of use members of diocesan synods also.

Tomorrow starts with the Inauguration Service in Westminster Abbey at 10:40am, followed by the Queen's speech (and briefly one each by the two Archbishops) before lunch. The afternoon kicks of with the Presidential Address from Archbishop Rowan, and then a debate on the Big Society. Outline agenda is available here; and all other papers and agenda here.

New members of General Synod are reminded they may join and contribute to this blog by emailing synod @ mac.com with a request to do so.

Alastair Cutting 96 Chichester

Monday, 18 October 2010

Coping with (electoral) rejection

So, that's great for all those who were elected - what about those who weren't?

There were hundreds of candidates across the country who stood in the General Synod elections who were not elected. In some places - notably London, there were up to 5 people standing for each place. That's a large attrition rate, often with painful personal implications.

So, if you stood, but did not get in, I just wanted to say thank you.

For what it's worth, I have been there before (I stood in 2000 and wasn't elected), and so I know something of what it feels like to make yourself vulnerable by offering to stand, creating the election address, and then awaiting the results of the electorate...

Do not be too downhearted!  Don't start thinking that is the only indication of people's confidence in you. It is difficult to see (even from the detailed results) the full extent of people's support for you - only three of those I voted for in my top 6 candidates were elected in our clergy election: so be assured that others have faith even in candidates who do not get elected.

I encourage you to think about continuing to support the church, and perhaps standing again in future. See what you can learn from those who did get elected this time; from their election addresses, and how they have become known across the diocese.

And if there are things that you think could be done a little differently next time elections are held in your diocese, please do suggest them - for example some dioceses had candidates election addresses, and even sometimes video of candidates online; or held real or 'virtual' hustings. (Bishop Alan in particular was asking for a more enlightened way of trying to do our elections. And that was before the results came out. Including his not getting elected this time either.)

So thanks again for your support by standing; please continue your interest and involvement in your parish, deanery and diocese. And please support those who were elected. Come and sit in on some of the General Synod's coming sessions: in London in Nov & February, and in York in July. All sessions are always open to non-synod members too.

Alastair Cutting (Chichester Diocese)

Friday, 15 October 2010

The New General Synod

So, all across the country, excited new members of General Synod have been elected all this week! (Well, I guess the fact that you are reading this blog makes you & me the sort of people that probably consider synod elections exciting...) The official list is here; Peter Owen's helpful unofficial one is here.

So what happens next? Well, each diocese will be returning to Church House Westminster the official results from the elections.

New members will need the dates of General Synod meetings - but just so you have the immediate ones:

22 - 24 November for the Inauguration of new Synod in London, starting with a service in Westminster Abbey in the presence of the Supreme Governor, the Queen, who will then address the new synod back in the chamber at Church House immediately afterwards.

Synod then also meets in London again from the 7-11 of February; and in York 8-12 July, based in the university in York.

One of the other things new blog-savvy members of synod will of course want to do is to have the facility to contribute to this Synod Blog. Any member sending an email to synod@mac.com with 'Add to Synod blog' in the subject line will be included as a blog author.

And if you didn't get elected to synod, sorry - but at least you can celebrate with all the time you have saved. Dave Walker has a Press Release that you may also be able to use:

Alastair Cutting (Chichester Diocese)

Sunday, 10 October 2010

General Synod results are (coming) in

So, the polling stations for General Synod are closed (actually, it was a postal vote, but Friday 8 October was the last day for votes to arrive).

Election counting - credit link Reuters
Counting takes place this week; different diocese are holding counts on different days - Liverpool on Monday 11 October I gather, Chichester on Thursday 14.

In fact, some results are in already, the Channel Islands for example, and some in Chester. The definitive independent resource for membership lists etc comes from Peter Owen's page of Synod members. Expect to see the empty boxes on his grid populated with new members over coming days. (To help Peter keep his list up-to-date, please email him results here.) Peter also feeds a lot of synod data into the Thinking Anglican's posts related to General Synod.

What will be hard to discern at this stage, I suspect, is how the new synod will be likely to vote on key upcoming votes - like the annual parochial fees?? Only kidding...

Alastair Cutting

Monday, 13 September 2010

Online Election General Synod Addresses/Statements


A number of folks have put their Election Addresses/Statements/Manifestos online. This page lists those that we have been informed of.

** If you are voting, please also see our post about voting too: Voting for General Synod, or General Custard.**

We will add any links to addresses online mailed to synod @ mac.com, or added in the comments below, for others to be able to access them quickly.

The prize for online- efficiency goes to the Diocese of Bath & Wells and Gloucester though, for not only having all their B&W Candidates papers and Gloucester papers on the diocesan website, but B&W are also holding an Online Hustings, up until 6 October.

Names are in alphabetical order of surname, within each house & diocese (where known):
Non-Diocesan candidates, including Suffragan Bishops, towards the bottom:

Friday, 10 September 2010

Voting for General Synod, or General Custard

So, the date for confirmation of General Synod candidates is now passed, and all over England you can hear the clicking of computer keyboards and the scratching of quill-pens as candidates fine-tune their election addresses, or statements. These go to all members of Deanery Synods, the electorate for most constituencies.

Voting is by the Single Transferable Voting system; General Synod being one of the few national organisations using it for their elections. So what is STV, and how does it work? - Well the subtleties of it are way beyond my explanations; but in short, it's not just a 'put a cross in a box'. The principle is that it preserves the voters' wishes for subsequent candidates, if your first choice candidate is not elected at the first count. 

So if you have a list of 15 candidates on the ballot voting form, you don't just vote for your favourite 1. For a start, there may be 6 places to be filled (your milage may vary). 

So, Yellow Custard, or Chocolate Custard? 
If there are several Chocolate Custard fans standing for Synod, and you wish to support them, rather than the Yellow Custard fans, then for a start you must vote for them - all of them. But if there are only 5 ChocCustards, and 6 places available, then what? Well, YellowCustards may not be your favourites - but they may, in your opinion be better on Synod than the Marmite fans. So there could be advantages in making sure in general that all custard fans are ranked higher on your voting slip than the Marmiters.

Someone else has tried to summarise the principles as set out below. Me? I'm voting for the Marmiters.

  • If you have a vote, we would encourage you to use your vote fully for these candidates if you feel you can. 
  • Numbering the candidates consecutively in your order of preference is the best way of ensuring that those you want to get elected do get elected.  
  • It makes a big difference to go on voting down the preferences with a second and third and fourth choice and so on.   
  • In the past some candidates from (insert 'party' of your choice...) have failed to get elected because voters only gave a first vote, whereas some subsequent votes (second and third choices etc) would have helped some candidates get over the finishing line.   
  • The single transferable vote system which is used works in such a way that the later preferences you give in no way detract from those candidates to whom you have given earlier preferences.

Ballot papers for voting will be coming out in a week or so. Happy voting, voters!

Monday, 23 August 2010

Nothing New...

... under the sun. (Eccles 1:9)

Whilst hunting around for synod-relayed material, I came across a link to the site : newsynod.org.uk.

It appeared to have been set up in preparation for the 2000-2005 synod elections (hence nothing new under the sun, here).

Sadly, the site is no longer active - or at least I didn't think so. It now appears to link to a fancy dress outfitters. Wondering what that is trying to say...

Alastair Cutting

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Election Addresses


You're thinking of standing for General Synod? Good.

So you have made the first moves, by getting the relevant forms from your Diocesan Office, and have an appropriate proposer and seconder? Not yet? Then you have until 3 September (a little earlier in some dioceses - do check) to get the forms in - it's not too late yet!

Then there is the whole thing of the Election Address or Personal Statement, which all candidates get a chance to make on a side or two of A4. What should you put in it? And what should you leave off?!

(Image borrowed from London, Canada's 2010 election site)

This blog doesn't have definitive answers, and I hope that people will contribute suggestions and observations in comments below. However, here are some starters for 10.

Firstly, remember who your constituency are - for lay members, it is all the lay members of all the deanery synods from your diocese. For clergy, it is those who are incumbents, and those who hold a bishop's license. They are who you are writing this for.

Key things for an address - it should be:
  • personable
  • memorable (there will be a lot of others for electors to read thru!)
  • honest
What about the 'Big Issues' likely to come up in this next quinquennium Synod? The obvious ones are likely to be Women in the Episcopate, the Anglican Covenant; and perhaps gay clergy/bishops and same-sex marriage. So, should candidates declare their hand, their opinions?

In the past candidates sometimes tried to disguise their opinions, or conceal where they stood on some of the key issues likely to come up. Electors would usually just like to know what your opinions are, if they are to vote for you, so making your position clear can only help them decide.

Having said that, it is important to try to do so in a way that will not alienate too many of those who disagree with your perspective. In most dioceses, there aren't enough of any single 'constituency' of opinion to make a partisan approach alone work all the way to being elected.

What else?? Perhaps add something about what your hopes are for the next session of Synod, and maybe how that ties in with things in your home diocese too. What are your hopes for the national Church of England, and it's General Synod? How do you want to see God at work in the church? Are there any particular issues you would like to make part of your focus, things that you are in a particularly strong or unique position to be able to deliver? Make sure people understand that you are not one of those candidates to be left off their voting list by accident.

To photo or not to photo? Unless you are exceptionally well known across the whole diocese, a photo of you helps remind some of those voting who you are. It's not vital, but helps clarify they have the right person in mind! Kissing babies? Careful there, unless they are your own...

Here's hoping for everyone's electioneering to the glory of God (you hadn't forgotten God at the heart of this had you?), and your part within it. Who knows, perhaps if you don't get elected this time, it may help you in becoming more involved in supporting and working with your diocese, deanery and parish in the meantime; as well as establishing a foundation for you in future!

Lesley Fellowes has a list of top ten tips in writing synod election addresses - unfortunately I fear her post is as a result of reading people's election addresses; and it is too late for this time around. The addresses are all published and circulated. They might be useful points for hustings though...

Bishop Alan also has some observations after being at a couple of hustings.

Alastair Cutting

Saturday, 17 July 2010

The General Synod is dead - long live the General Synod

So, at Her Majesty's instruction, the General Synod of 2005-2010 was dissolved on 13 July. A final Communion Service was held, and Synod 'prorogued' by the Archbishop of York.

The General Synod is dead; for which, some may rejoice. But only for as long as it takes to elect a new synod; and the new General Synod takes up it's place in November.

So who will be on it? Apart from the Diocesan bishops, who get places ex-officio, most will be elected over the coming months. The General Synod has a special site set up with details who can stand, both laity and clergy, and what being a member entails, and who the electorate are: http://www.generalsynodelections2010.org/

The site has a link to a video on YouTube:

There is also a downloadable leaflet from the site, with further details:

Official CofE leaflet
Some dioceses have also produced a leaflet of their own. This is the one from Chichester Diocese, and downloadable from their dedicated page too, or directly as a pdf by clicking the image below.

Chichester General Synod Election Leaflet
The contributors to this blog would encourage all who are eligible to consider standing. The timetable for the elections, which are by proportional representation by single transferable vote, is in the table below. Contact your local CofE Diocesan office for local details.

General Synod Election Timetable 2010

1Notification to electors of the election timetable to be followed in the diocese and issue of nomination papersNot later than Tuesday 20th July
2Notification of the validity of any nominationAs soon as any nomination is received
3Closing date for nominationsFriday 3rd September
4Issue of voting papers Friday 17th September
5Closing date for return of voting papers Friday 8th October
6Day of the countMonday 11th, Tuesday 12th, Wednesday 13th, or Thursday 14th October
7Names and addresses of those elected and result sheet to be sent to the diocesan bishop, the Clerk to the Synod, every candidate and to the Election ScrutineerNot later than the fourth working day after the date of the declaration of the result
8The new General Synod is convened by the Queen at a service in Westminster Abbey22nd-24th November

Justin & others & I have enjoyed contributing to the synodical chatter in the ether in the last 5 years, and hope that we helped to add to both your understanding of synodical processes, and to your enjoyment of synod.

If either of us are deemed electable by November, and you are elected too, please consider joining us on the blog, by emailing us at synod@mac.com, and putting 'Add to Synod Blog' in the subject line. If neither of us is elected - please someone take on the role of sharing Synod news in this way.

Thanks, & blessings.

Alastair (no longer Chichester 101)

Thursday, 15 July 2010

So, what happened at Synod?

Actually, there was quite a lot apart from Women Bishops on Synod's agenda (see further down on this) - you can see the full gamut of things covered here on the General Synod pages of the CofE web site.

Photo:Lorne Campbell/Guzelian, 

These included the very diverse:

  • A discussion on the agenda for synod, known as the Business Committee report
  • Reviewing terms of office for Archbishops' Council elected members
  • Accepting the new 'pillar lectionary' to run in parallel with the main lectionary
  • Endorsing the recent update on pensions, and everything that goes with approving the instruments
  • The lively 'Questions' session
  • The presidential address by ++Sentamu
  • The draft budget for the Archbishops' Council for 2011
  • Establishing a new Faith & Order Commission, incorporating aspects of the previous 'Faith & Order Advisory Group', the House of Bishops Theological Group, and the Council for Christian Unity.
  • Links with the Church of Scotland 
  • Reviews of the Constitution
  • A debate considering giving legal status to deaneries to aid mission & ministry
  • Receiving the Church Commissioners Annual Report
  • Receiving an Amending Canon - formally changes one of the Canons of the CofE - see photo
  • Directions relating to Terms of Service for clergy
  • Richard Moy's PMM establishing a 'library' of online resources for Fresh Expressions-style and other services/communities
  • Adjusting the rules of qualifying connection for weddings in parishes within a united benefice
  • Oh, and there was something on Women Bishops

Some of the most exciting and animated debates were the Fresh Expressions resources, and giving legal status to Deaneries debates. Both demonstrated considerable vitality and hope from local church communities across the country.

As to the Women Bishops material: There have been many headlines, there  much spilt virtual ink on many tweets and blogs.

Looking back, so what happened? Well I found the commentaries by two Synod members, the
Bishop of London, from a more conservative background, and the
Bishop of Norwich, from a more liberal background, from here, contrasting and helpful.
Bishop of Ebbsfleet, one of the 'flying bishops' in place for clergy opposed to the ordination of women, leaves his comments here - he is one of those, if reports are to be believed, most likely to take up the Personal Ordinariate offer from the Pope.

Justin Brett, has another helpful post here on the Church Mouse's site, on how the headlines were rather misleading.

So what happens next? When will there be Women Bishops?
Steady on, this is the Church of England. Synod has now asked for the proposals to be sent to the dioceses to discuss, over the next year or so. Then in 2012, if the majority of dioceses are in favour, it returns to General Synod, not for changing, but for ratification.

What hurdles might there be? Well, an all new General Synod is about to be elected in the church's own version of a General Election. This takes place over the Autumn, and will be the subject of the next post on this site.

If the rumours are to be believed, the new House of Laity may not give quite the 2/3 majority support that the legislation requires. Certainly, conservative, catholic, evangelical, liberal, and central groups are all beginning to electioneer, and canvass for potential membership of the new Synod.

If and when the legislation comes to the Synod in about 2012, it needs to pass by at least 2/3 majority in each house. If it gets that, it then has to go to parliament, not for changing, again, but for ratification - or potentially being sent back. The indications if it is fairly clearly for women bishops, without too many limitations on their authority and responsibility, it should receive fair-wind. Then it will need Royal assent, and then the appointment of a woman, before the likelihood of anyone being consecrated as the Church of England's first woman bishop, in potentially in 2014/15. So, the main item on the agenda has a while still to run...

Alastair, Chichester 101

Monday, 12 July 2010

Synod: updates on the blogs

At the start of the quinquennium 5 years ago, getting information out from synod as quickly as possible was much harder, and this blog was one way to try and fulfil that purpose.

In the July 2008 women bishop's debate, Justin was getting the votes on amendments out on this blog within seconds - this was the fastest place with the news.

Twitter has rather over ridden that now, as comments are now streaming constantly
The live Twitter feed is also available on the panel to the right here>>>

There is even a (not wholly compatible, we'll see what we can do about that) audio feed provided by Premier as well
Peter Owen & Simon Sarmiento keep us up-to-date with documents and sources and press news on Thinking Anglicans

So much for the instant, the immediate responses to what is going on in the synod chamber. But how about the slightly more considered 'lay' (as opposed to press/news) commentaries? That is where the blogs can help us. They are all very individual, but help add to the bigger picture. here is a list of some of the ones we know of - let us know of others and we will add them to the list:

Edwin Barnes: http://www.theanglocatholic.com/
Nick Baines: http://nickbaines.wordpress.com/
Mark Beach: http://rugbyrector.blogspot.com/
Justin Brett: http://dodgyliberal.blogspot.com/
Church Times: http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/blog_home.asp?id=50222
Maggie Dawn: http://maggidawn.com/
Lesley Fellows: http://revdlesley.blogspot.com/
Kathryn Fleming: http://goodinparts.blogspot.com/
Jerry Fletcher: http://jeremyfletcher.wordpress.com/
Scott Gunn: http://www.sevenwholedays.org/

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Lots of reasons to vote against the Archbishops amendment

So the Archbishops, without speaking to any other group, just days before Synod, come up with a new amendment to the Women Bishops legislation.

Most Synod members I was in touch with before gathering in York, were variously bemused, confused, annoyed or just downright livid. Why? Two main reasons. Firstly, it rather runs rough-shod over the work of the Steering Committee, who had taken months reviewing every-which option, and then it did something different. Secondly, and more importantly for me personally, it seemed to 'deliver' to nobody.

(photo: JoanaHard)

The archbishops' amendment firstly seemed to be re-introducing at least a degree of transference of responsibility and/or authority, in having 'co-ordinaries'. This must in some ways be perceived as taking away from the authority of potential women bishops in the future.

This adjustment was introduced - presumably - for the benefit of the traditionalist catholic members of the church. However, this is precisely the group that would least accept the diminution of any bishop's authority, responsibility, or jurisdiction. So it doesn't seem to suit either of the key parties it seeks to support, so appears completely unfit for purpose.

As a member of the synod who has been in favour of ordaining women to the episcopate, and voted for that; but (and not only because I am from the diocese of Chichester) I have also tried to take particular care to support those who find the ministry of women in the episcopate hard/impossible to accept.

In the run-up to synod, most of my reading and conversing led me to think that, despite it's significant sponsors, I was going to vote against the archbishops' amendment.

However, a number of things made me start to change my mind. I was aware that though this amendment didn't satisfy everybody; actually neither did any of the other amendments either, nor the measure itself; and synod needed al least something workable. The archbishops were giving an opportunity for a way forward that perhaps tried to inflict the least pain possible if people rallied around it.

Reports suggesting that the CofE was creating yet another fudge portrayed the whole debate in a more negative way than struck me as the reality. Mark Beach's blog also perceived this not very clean solution as being a rather more Anglican way of doing things. So here it is. Flawed, incomplete, compromised. But perhaps also gracious, enabling, and hopeful.

I had earlier spoken with a bishop for whom nothing less than separate dioceses would do (the first option that was rejected in debate) - but later I found that he was prepared to shift significant ground, and re-consider the archbishops' amendment as maybe a workable solution. He had been prepared for the sake of the Gospel and the church to move to a much more central position. Another bishop, who we have heard lobbying at other times for the simple 'single-clause measure', also spoke privately and and in debate about this perhaps being a real way forward. Here possibly was a solution that was both Catholic and Reformed - rather like, well, the Church of England.

The voting (now widely reported elsewhere: For: B25/C85/L106; Against: B15/C90/L86; Abs: B0/C5/L4; amendment passed in house of bishops and laity, but lost in the house of clergy, so lost overall) actually recorded an overall total number of votes in favour - but being recorded by houses, was lost - just like a crucial vote in 2008. And no house had a 2/3 majority, which is what will be required in a final vote.

I didn't like the way that this proposal still hints at women bishops having to be prepared to share some of their authority - but actually, in a diocese like mine, where none of the bishops will personally ordain women to the priesthood, under this proposal such a non-ordaining bishop would also have to share some of their authority.

That's why, against my original intention, and weighing all the reasons why I should have voted against the amendment, I actually voted for it, and am pleased to let the record show it. It is part of being a loyal Anglican; not un-thinking, kowtowing, or in blind obeisance; but for the sake of God's kingdom and it's traditional catholic, conservative evangelical and women episcopal members.

Monday's continuation of this debate will have more to tell us - this story is not yet finished...

Alastair, Chichester 101 (slightly apologising for a more personal and opinionated submission than I usually seek to post)

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

All Those Amendments...

Justin has posted a very helpful explanation of how and why most of the amendments work, and how they will affect the proposed women bishops legislation on his blog. His theology - by self proclamation - may be both dodgy and liberal; but his insight in to the synod's debating process is insightful and illuminating.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Here we go again...

Another July, another trip to York, and another huge debate about Women Bishops. Before I was elected to Synod in the Autumn of 2005 I went up to York in the July to see the Women Bishops debate, and get an idea of what Synod was like. And now, five years later...

Of course, women bishops are not the only topic of discussion at York - you can find a copy of the full agenda here or a brief digest here - but revision of the legislation will take up a large amount of this last Synod meeting. Alastair has already posted a link to the Revision Committee Report and the Draft Measure, and all the amendments are now in. This document tells you the order in which they will be debated, and Peter Owen of Thinking Anglicans has written a very useful summary of what they all mean here.

So what else is on the Agenda? There are a number of amendments to the Clergy Pension Scheme - you can find them all listed with the rest of the Synod Papers here - which are summarised in a general Clergy Pensions Report. The Diocesan Synod Motion about Deanery Synods that Alastair had hoped would be discussed in February is firmly on the Agenda this time round - he might be writing more about that in due course. There is also another bit of structural change that could be interesting. There is a proposal to appoint a Faith and Order Commission to replace the Faith and Order Advisory Group (FOAG), The House of Bishops Theological Group, and the Doctrine Commission (which has not met for several years). Sensible streamlined government, one would suspect, but the new group will be, like its predecessors, an entirely appointed body. I would expect some rumblings at least as to why Synod does not have a greater say in who is part of it, given that Synod has at least played a part in setting it up. There is, of course, a report - and you can read it here.

So, presuming you have nothing better to do, how can you join in the fun? Hopefully the Twitter feed from York will be entertaining. You can follow me, Alastair, Pete Broadbent and others individually - and of course the GeneralSynod twitter identity that feeds tweets directly from this blog. You can also use the #synod hashtag, and tweets mentioning "synod" show up live in the panel to the right in this window. There will also, no doubt, be some live blogging going on here and elsewhere. The Church Mouse has kindly invited me to do a guest post again, and as usual there will be some less objective stuff going up here. There should also be a live audio feed available via Premier Radio, although at the time of writing I am not too sure how to find it. On the other hand, England are probably losing a cricket match somewhere too...

On a final and more serious note, as ever there are aspects of this Synod that will be very difficult for some of us, and we would all be grateful for your prayers. Please pray especially for those who feel themselves to be under attack for their beliefs over the next few days, and for all of us that we can be open both to the Holy Spirit and to each other as we try to figure out where the Church of England goes next.

(GS 373)

Monday, 10 May 2010

Seeing through clouds

So, the Revision Committee have produced their document on Women Bishops in preparation for July's General Synod.

A key feature is what Bishop Pete Broadbent calls 'monoepiscopy' (one Diocesan Bishop having authority in the Diocese) - as quoted by the Church Mouse.

Bishop David Hamid has a great word cloud from the report, which I blatantly link to here.

How will synod members, and those even further removed from the process of the debate, be able to see anything through the clouds I wonder?

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Some Synodical Sweeping-Up

So, that's it for another five months or so - Church House is preparing for the next conference, and the Synod staff breathe a short sigh of relief before the preparations start for York in July. Needless to say, the process is beginning of picking over the bones of what we did and didn't do in the course of last week. My own musings have been kindly hosted by the Church Mouse here so I won't bore you with them again. Also on the Church Mouse's blog is a very good summary of what he sees as major events of the Synod. In case you want the official version, you can find links to lists of decisions and audio of the debates here on the Church of England website.

One thing that has been interesting over the last few days has been the increasing use of Twitter. As Alastair and I were two of those who spent a lot of time up in the gallery 'tweeting' it was rather gratifying to see this blog post about the possible future and benefits of social media in a forum like General Synod. These days, a broadband connection has the potential to get you right to the heart of an extraordinary variety of events.

Anyway, that's about it for now. It only remains to add a huge thank you to all those people who have followed us, read the blog and prayed for us over the last few days. Thank you all for sustaining us during what could have been a very difficult week.

(GS 373)

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

ACNA debate

So, the much-trailed debate on what sort of relationship the CofE can have with ACNA, triggered by Lorna Ashworth's private member's motion, took place thus afternoon.

Many wiser words are recorded elsewhere - but I was left reflecting on what was going on here. That is to say, who can we be friends with. And especially, whether you can be friends with two friends, who are not any longer friends with each other.

I was also trying to work out was what was being asked for here - potentially being in communion with two different churches within the same Anglican province, was a new precident or not - that may have had more significance on the result of the debate.

I found the answer - yes we already do have places where there are more than one group of Anglicans on the same patch. Europe for one - where the CofE diocese of Gibraltar in Europe overlaps with a the European wing of - oh yes - The Episcopal Church, TEC.

Thanks to Ruth Gledhill for the interview/pic

Alastair GS101

++Rowan : archbishop, theologian, preacher

Dr Williams is a gifted and acknowledged academician - who can turn out a book on Dostoevsky in a brief sabbatical! Yet, his work is sometimes is often so rich and dense that the ordinary man or woman on the street to understand. Shucks - his academic work is hard for the ordinary cleric - certainly this one - to understand too!

Then there are the times that the Archbishop of Canterbury makes speeches from one of his many formal roles. There are times when these carefully crafted speeches are so subtly worded that again things are not so immediately clear to listeners.

And then there is Rowan’s preaching. What struck me, as he spoke briefly in this morning’s Synod Communion service, is how eloquent he is in preaching. In fact it was more than that - animated, lively, speaking freely, God-focussed, passionately, hardly taking his eyes off the members of the congregation.

To me ++Rowan looks more at ease preaching (- particularly in less formal settings), and is easier to understand, than in most of the other situations we hear from him. “Papa don’t preach”?? No way - “Preach, man Preach”.

(Wished I had taken a photo myself - but it was in the middle of a service...)

Alastair GS101

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

In praise of the Rowan Williams sound-bite

Archbishop Rowan's presidential address is widely available on the net already - in fact it was up almost as soon as he finished speaking - so I won't bore you with a blow-by-blow. You can read the text here or in a number of other places. However, here a couple of fragments that I wanted to record.

"Not all goods are comparable in a fallen world"

"Christian freedom is freedom from isolation - to be free is to be free for relation"

"The other we meet is the person he or she is, not the person we have created in our fantasies"

He's not always the easiest speaker to follow, but the effort is almost always worthwhile - and rewarded by small delights like the fragments above.

(GS 373)

Democracy and Legislation

I noticed an interesting phenomenon in Synod this morning during the legislative business. One set of amendments was put forward to the Code of Practice associated with the clergy discipline measure by one of the lay members from Salisbury Diocese, who happens to be a lawyer. His arguments were technical, but seemed to me to make good sense. Nevertheless two of the three were not debated at all by Synod. This is because amendments to legislative business in these circumstances are only debated if 40 members in the Chamber stand to show that they want a debate - and in this circumstance 40 members did not stand. There are good reasons why this rule is in place - it makes it more difficult to subject legislation to death by a thousand amendments, for example - but there are times when I wonder about the wisdom of it

The sequence goes that the proposer of the amendment has his five minutes, and then one of the sponsors of the legislation to be amended can get up and issue a rebuttal. Only then does the Chairman ask if 40 members will stand for the amendment to be debated. Now, in the case of these amendments we had a lawyer standing up saying that there was a potential legal problem with the code of practice - immediately followed by a bishop (who to my knowledge has no legal training) saying that there was no legal problem without bothering to address the concerns that were raised. And it was mid-morning, and synod was bored and sparsely populated, so only about 20 people stood. But here's the thing - those twenty members included all the synod members whom I know to be lawyers. I wonder what it was that they wanted to say. It could have been that they were all going to agree with the bishop, but I would still have liked to hear them.

And that goes back to my title, I suppose. Legislation is often - but not always - rather technical and more than a little dry. Lawyers often don't manage to make it any more accessible. Elected representitives are not always elected for their ability to unravel legal arguments - or even stay awake for them - and so it is that when confronted with a legal argument and a bishop saying it's all OK they go with the bishop. There isn't an answer to this, of course - and in this case I have no idea who was correct anyway. Still, it brings to mind the old adage that democracy is not always the best way of governing - it's just that all the other options happen to be worse.

GS 373

Live Synod Twitter stream

There is now a live feed of Twitter comments that include 'Synod' in them on the sidebar at the right.

Twitter is very ephemoral - but very immediate. Bliog posts necessarily take longer to create, and are possibly more considered. It hink the two run well together in helping show what General Synod is up to.

Alastair Cutting; GS 101

Monday, 8 February 2010

Opening of Synod, and where are the Women Bishops?

Usually the first day of Synod includes a plan of what is to come.

There are the expected welcomes and introductions, and usualy something from the Business Committee (who set the order and the agenda for Synod meetings).

So no Women Bishops debate this February. The Bishop of Manchester's Legislative drafting group had just too many people to hear from, and too many individual submissions to be able to come to this synod with legislation his time around.

The Bishop of Manchester was timetabled to give an update - most of which Ruth Gledhill was able to post about even before the words came out of his mouth. The Business Committee decided to prevent any discussion or even questions following the presentation, which I thought was a shame, but would probably have been some of the 'same old, same old' speeches, with no immediate way of concluding - so perhaps they were right.

However, this has triggered two things in my mind. After the Pope Benedict XVI signalled the Apostolic Constitution last October, Bishop Andrew Burnham suggested that the Feast of the Chair of St Peter (22 February) as a suitable day for clergy and parishes to "make an initial decisions" as to whether they wanted 'go' or not. That of course, on an earlier understanding of the debate timetable, would have come immediaely after discussions at this February Synod. The synical in me wondered if it would have allowed dramatic taking their ball away if the debate had not gone in the way they wanted. So now, with no extra debate, what wil the 'decisions' on 22 Feb be? I am guessing much less portentous.

Curious also that Reform should have used the start day of Synod to get publicity for their 'Warning to Synod' (dated 8 Feb) over women bishops. And after being on the go since late 2007, the number of clergy signatories on this is reported as, well, 50. (Recent church stats reveal over 12,000 licensed clergy, and a further 4,500 active retired clergy.)

Alastair GS 101

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Feb 2010 Synod

Justin has already reminded us about the start of the next sitting of Synod, with links to the material.

He has aso been flirting with the Church Mouse, and has One and Two posts there with more background on next week's agenda.

Last year's February Synod was the first that had Twittering added to the live blogging (Bishop Pete Broadbent signed up and started twittering from within the chamber, and the Archbishop of York now also tweets) - look out for Synod or #synod tags next week to see what is happening. If it works, I think that the rss feeds from this blog should show up on the GenSyn tweets, and Justin and I will be tweeting too. Tweet back to us...

Along with material here on the General Synod blog, there is much on Thinking Anglicans, Ruth Gledhill, Church Mouse and others I have accidentally failed to list, and then linked on from them.

As to subject material this time around, I'm glad that Women Bishop's isn't being debated (though there will be an 'update'); but it is only postponing the inevitable difficult debates until July, the last sitting of the current Synod.

Much air-time/newsprint so far on Lorna Ashworth's 'Lets be friends with the Anglican Church in North America' motion. I am worried by two things around this debate: by schismatics, which ACNA, with perhaps good reason, are; and by being in communion with some who act in a way that seems like they are out of communion with me, whilst others who are out of communion, seem closer to the agreed theology and doctrine of the Church of England of which I am a part.

Practically the final debate of this session is on what legal status Deaneries have, and as our local deanery has been working around this for a number of years, I will be interested in the direction of this debate being introduced by the Coventry diocese - I may even try to get to speak. So no sneaking off early from synod for me then...

Alastair Cutting GS101

Monday, 11 January 2010

Happy New Year

While most of us are still crawling out of our snowdrifts and attempting to return to normality, almost unnoticed the outline Synod agenda for February has appeared. You can access it here, and in due course the full agenda and more paperwork will appear on this page.

There are several items of interest on it - both in terms of presence and absence. Notable for its absence is any legislation concerning the consecration of women as bishops. Given the smoke signals over the last few months this is no real surprise, but I doubt that whoever is doing the presentation mentioned in the outline agenda will get an easy ride. Present we have no less than four Private Member's Motions (all pedants please feel to comment on the position of the apostrophe) at least two of which might cause something of a stir. It will be interesting to see the reaction to the motions calling for recognition of ACNA and equal pension provisions for clergy widows/widowers and surviviors of civil partnerships. There might also be some controversy over the TV coverage of religious issues.

Also present is a large amount of legislative business (a symptom of the fact that we are drawing near to the end of the quinquennium) and four Diocesan Synod motions. I am not sure about the background to any of these, and no doubt more will appear in due course, but Manchester's motion about the compatibility of Science and Christian Belief could provoke some debate, and I am intrigued by Chelmsford's 'Confidence in the Bible' motion. In fact, the more I think about that particular title, the more I wonder...

Justin (GS 373)