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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