on business from the General Synod at York University Monday 9 July 2007
The Archbishop of York delivered his Presidential Address at the start of today’s business. He spoke on the theme of fear, and how fear can stop people from going forward with God. He drew under this theme the present troubles in the Anglican Communion asserting that the fear of division is paralysing the Communion. He also spoke about the fear of terrorism and said that we should not speak of radical and moderate Muslims, but rather of those who use the Q’uran for political aims. He did not explain how this understanding meshed with history.
There followed a presentation of the Annual Report of the Church Commissioners. Until relatively recently the Synod did not receive regular reports because the Commissioners are responsible to Parliament. It appears that from now on there will be an annual report. However, there can be no debate on this, but a question and answer session followed.
It was asserted that over the last decade whilst average wages have grown by 4.2% per annum the Commissioners assets have grown in value by 10.7% p.a. which amounts to around £300 million per annum. The growth for 2006 was better than this. Likewise the Commissioners have outperformed comparable funds.
The large rural portfolio of the commissioners was commented on. The commissioners believe that as food prices continue to increase (6% across the world) driven by higher imports in to China and India, so these rural assets will provide an increasing benefit.
After the presentation there was a Private Members’ motion calling for a review into the work of the Commissioners and in particular to make it more accountable to the General Synod.
The remaining item of business for the morning was a report on disability and in particular issues facing disabled clergy.
Most of the afternoon was taken up by consideration of the report Talent and Calling. This report, the product of a committee chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling, has to some extent been taken over by the recent government Green Paper which proposes to reduce the role of the Prime Minister’s office in Church appointments. This directly impacted on a number, though by no means all, of the proposals in the report. It also led to a slightly confusing debate. Rather than the customary take note vote followed by a resolution to implement there was a presentation by Sir Joseph and then a resolution put by the Bishop of Leicester taking into account the Green Paper. There were seven amendments, two of which were carried and overall the debate took almost three hours.
Because of this changed focus many of the recommendations in the report got very little mention in the debate. The two amendments passed, from the Bishop of London and the Bishop of Chichester, also concerned the detail of how the government proposals would be engaged with. The Archbishops’ Council will now have to consider how to take forward the proposals of Talent and Calling whilst also responding to the Green Paper and possibly preparing for a very different senior appointments process.
The report acknowledged that whether deliberately or otherwise there has been some degree of discrimination against conservative evangelicals and traditional catholics. It proposed to address this in part by monitoring the inclusion of such when considering senior post, amongst other things. Paul Collier, from Southwark Diocese, attempted to have this provision removed. What is disturbing is that Collier is a member of the Crown Nominations Committee. The Synod rejected his amendment but there were a significant number of people in favour of it.
With the two amendments the final motion went through with only one vote against.
Synod then returned to consideration of its standing orders before receiving a presentation on the work of the Church Army.
The evening debate was a Private Members’ Motion regarding the making more widely available the details of the ethical investment strategy of the Church Commissioners and others.