on business from the General Synod at York University, Sunday 12 July 2009
Sunday at General Synod
Business on a Sunday at Synod begins after lunch and today it began with consideration of a report called Opening the Doors. The report has a subtitle that explains more accurately the subject – Ministry with people with learning difficulties and people on the autistic spectrum. Synod members were apparently provided with a DVD, which is also available to be shown to PCCs in order to consider how churches can take account of the matters raised. In addition there was encouragement given to Dioceses appointing an officer to oversee such ministry which is all very worthy but is in danger of adding yet another post to the central structures of a Diocese when there is a need to concentrate more ministry in parishes and allows the parishes to tackle such matters themselves.
A debate on Review of Constitutions may not sound very exciting but turned out to be quite lively. The Archbishops Council, on the recommendation of senior Church House staff had brought forward proposals to replace most of the existing boards and councils. The idea was to have a lead spokesperson on each area with a group of advisors and a furher group who would meet once a year to review their work. For Synod members who are accustomed to electing and serving on the existing boards and councils this was always going to be a red rag to a bull. Indeed, whilst it may be more cost effective (although this is not clear) and more responsive to issues it is feared that there will be far less accountability and far fewer people, most those who are unelected, involved.
In addition the Archbishops Council itself had been split on the matter so that some of its members spoke against and Dr Philip Giddings put one of those motions which replaces every word after “That this Synod” thereby wrecking the original motion. The Archbishop of York unwisely tried to intervene against the amendment, which served to irritate some people and the amendment was carried with quite a large majority. This will lead to a proper review of the workings of the boards and councils and will hopefully lead to savings and better working without removing democracy and accountability.
Synod was treated to a second wrecking amendment of the afternoon this time from Dr Christina Baxter who had been on the receiving end, as the proposer of the main motion in the previous debate.
A parish in Bradford Diocese had been concerned as many are about parish amalgamations due to reducing numbers of clergy and the fact that there has not been any apparent reduction in the numbers of Bishops, Archdeacons and Cathedral staff. This led eventually to a motion from the Bradford Diocesan Synod. Unfortunately the motion was a bit narrowly focussed and thus was completely replaced by two amendments. The resulting motion should lead to some action, though that remains to be seen, but also encourages reflection on whether we need fewer Bishops, or whether we need more Bishops but paid less and with different roles. The Orthodox representative reminded members of the practice of the early Church where Bishops were local pastors, and the same argument has been made by evangelicals many times. It is possible that such a review may impact on legislation to consecrate women as bishops.