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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)