on business from the General Synod at York University Tuesday 8 July 2008
The first business of the final morning of Synod was a motion on Anglican Governance. The Guildford Diocesan Synod asked for a report exploring the relationship between various bodies in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion in terms of how decisions are made. This is no bad thing since it is very difficult for anyone to get to the bottom of it all. However, it was clear from some of the contributions to the debate that a report is merely the starting point and that what they really want is to change.
Most often spoken of was the desire that Bishops should be more involved in governance. In this respect it was notable that the one body which the motion does not mention is Parliament. It may seem absurd today that Parliament should be the final decision making body in relation to the Church of England but the history is that it was thus the elected representatives of the people who exercised final government and in particular ensured that the Bishops were accountable. In an episcopal church there will always be a pressure to give more power to Bishops and this is evident in both the Roman Church and in other Anglican churches. To prevent this the Church needs a strong elected lay representation in governance which the General Synod does not really provide.
The motion was agreed and we will await the outcome.
The other significant business of the day was the approval of the Budget. As was remarked in the debate this is a bit of a non-debate since, despite being so important, there is really no opportunity to do anything but approve it.
This year’s budget represents both good news and bad news. Bad news because despite dipping into reserves Dioceses are going to be asked on average to increate the amount they give by 6.5%. However, the good news is that the great bulk of this increase is due to an increase in the number of clergy in training which is very necessary given the declining numbers overall. But there is more bad news because concern was expressed that it is far from clear that the Church is going to be able to employ all the clergy being trained because the financial problems facing the Church at every level are beginning to bite. The excuse given for pastoral reorganization in recent years has been the declining numbers of clergy and this has particularly been used to keep quiet those parishes which could afford to pay their own clergy, but this has never been the full picture, finance is getting tighter. Most dioceses are only keeping going by selling off historic assets and if the doom mongers are right we may soon see clergy unable to get a job. Nevertheless this could turn out to be good news because it will drive home the need for parishes to finance the ministry they enjoy if they are to continue to enjoy it, a link which few in the Church of England make