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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

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