on business from the General Synod at York University Saturday 7 July 2007
After group discussion Synod discussed further the Marriage Measure. This was in fact a further revision stage and the progress of changes to the original proposals has been quite confusing.
The Measure is concerned to change the criteria under which people may be married in a particular church. In debate in July 2006 and in subsequent submissions synod members seemed to indicate that the proposals were too broad and therefore the Revision Committee set up attempted to narrow the criteria. However, in February a number of attempts were made to have matters looked at afresh and two of these succeeded. Such were the extent of the concerns that the Revision Committee decided to reconsider all the matters raised and indeed they received a number of new submissions.
In this debate there were therefore a number of attempts to reopen some of the matters the Revision Committee had not accepted. However all these lapsed, failing to get 40 people to ensure the debate on them continued.
The most exciting business of the morning was the parochial fees order! This doesn't normally provoke much debate but there was an amendment tabled regarding the fees for the interment of ashes. The proposal was to increae the fee by 10% but an amendment was put to increase it quite a bit more to be exactly one half of the fees for a burial in the churchyard. The voting on this was so close that a division of the Synod was required (no electronic voting yet). The result was that the amendment was passed by 112 votes to 97.
There was no time left for consideration of Standing Orders.
After lunch the Synod considered pensions. The Church is faced with an ever increasing pension bill in line with other occupations. After debate and considering various options at this stage and previously the Synod voted to continue with a defined benefit scheme, keeping pension tied to national minimum stipend and imposing an inflationary cap of 3.5%.
Simon Bessant then introduced a debate on possible military action against Iran. After Simon spoke to the motion Chris Sugden moved a procedural motion for next business on the basis that matters in Iran are at a delicate stage for the Anglican Church. There was some debate on the procedural motion and a close vote necessitated a division of the Synod. The end result was that Synod voted to move to next business by 113 votes to 96.
With time to spare the Synod returned to look at changes to the Standing Orders. These mainly concern the introduction of electronic voting but there also appear to be some other matters which could have a significant impact on the way Synod works.
Final business of the afternoon was a presentation on hospitality prior to the Lambeth Conference 2008. The intention is that each visiting Bishop will arrive a few days early, be met at the airport, taken to a hosting Diocese and given time to relax, prepare, minister and meet folk. What was not said, of course, was the prospect that large numbers of the 800 Bishops able to attend would not be there.
The evening began with a presentation from the Liturgical Commission followed by a debate on a report called Transforming Worship. The Bishop of Wakefield reminded the Synod that the 20th Century had seen a dramatic change in worship in almost all denominations driven by the ecumenical movement. This is why (not that he said it) modern worship is largely unreformed.
The cynic will say that having put a lot of effort into Common Worship, which is now complete, the Liturgical Commission needs a job. The plan is that they, and everyone else, should embark on the processes outlined in Transforming Worship. There seemed to be an assumption that worship is an experience, rather a life lived for God.
Business continues tomorrow afternoon with consideration of a debate on An Anglican Covenant.