on business from the General Synod at York University, Friday 10 July 2009
The July Group of Sessions of the General Synod began this afternoon at 3.30pm with the customary welcomes, progress or statutory instruments and report of the business committee.
The appointments to the Archbishops’ Council did not go without incident. With little time for debate only two speakers had been heard when closure was proposed on the debate. However, the Synod rejected this, on a count using the electronic handsets, so that debate continued. There were speakers unhappy with the mechanism by which Synod is merely invited to endorse the decision of the Archbishops on the appointed places and that it has little real say in the role. However, the appointments and that of the Chair of the Audit Committee were approved.
The chamber thinned out a little for the next item a debate on a stewardship report entitled “Giving for Life”. The report was generally well received although it was obvious from the debate itself that even amongst the elected representatives at General Synod the discipline of Christian giving does not rate particularly highly.
The report and motion call on members to give 5% of their income to the Church. This figure is not new and in the past it has been understood to be part of a recommendation that members at least match the Old Testament standard of a tithe of which at least half should go to the Church. It was pointed out that if members of the Church of England actually fulfilled this goal then the Church would have a further £300 million per year to spend on its ministry.
In the course of the debate the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds aluded to the number of unplaced curate this year. He stated that at 3% there was a smaller proportion that normal but that as things stand at present Dioceses are struggling and had not committed to taking as many Curates next year.
Clive Scowen had put three amendments. The first two of these were not opposed and had been accepted by the time the main debate had to be adjourned.
The Bishop of Guildford introduced the discussion material on the old ARCIC (Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission) report Life in Christ. There is to be no debate on this, but rather discussion in small groups. Questions had been provided to initiate discussion. The report concerns the issue of moral theology.
The Bishop outlines some of the strengths and weaknesses of the report particularly drawing attention on the move away form a focus on particular acts and towards the life of a whole person in communion with Christ.
There was also a brief comment by a representative of the Roman Catholic Church.
Amongst the various questions to which answers were given were a series on the attitude of the House of Bishops to the new Anglican Province in North America. Although the House has done nothing and appears not to have had any discussion on the development Bishop Tom Wright did reveal that a theological work group had had an initial look at the Canons and Constitution of ACNA with a view to ultimately reporting to the House.
The Bishop of Chichester also revealed that the Doctrine Commission is in abeyance. Whether this is because the Church of England no longer does doctrine, or to avoid having to discuss their reports he did not say.
Another question was asked about the possibility of establishing a Clergy Professional Association in the light of the new Terms of Service legislation. A working party has been working on this on behalf of the Convocations and any such body will need to be independent of the Archbishops Council and funded by clergy.
In response to a question about the proposals to amend the 1701 Act of Settlement which had been discussed in the House of Commons the Secretary General spoke about discussions with the government. Whilst the government wished to remove what it considers to be discrimination in the Act they had been unwilling to do so because of both the complexity and because they considered that it would be impossible to achieve without disestablishing the Church of England. Changing the Act would allow the monarch to marry a Roman Catholic but the laws of that Church would therefore impact on the monarch and future monarchs such that they could not be the supreme governor of the Church of England.
There were about 60 of the 75 questions answered at a fairly pedestrian pace although quite a few of these were only for written replies.
Business tomorrow morning will concentrate on legislation.