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General Synod of the Church of England July 2003 Group of Sessions
11 to 15 July 2003
by Peter Owen
Member of the House of Laity of General Synod from the diocese of Liverpool
27 July 2003
Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of the Clergy
Introducing these guidelines, Canon Hugh Wilcox said that they had been prepared by the clergy for the clergy, but a first draft had been widely circulated. They were not draft canon law and could not be set in stone. Synod commended the Guidelines overwhelmingly.
The two Convocations (the clergy members of Synod from the two provinces) later approved the Guidelines. The main concern in their debates was how the secular courts would view guideline 7.2, which starts "There can be no disclosure of what is confessed to a priest." and the uncertainty of what was the confessional and what wasn't.
Draft Stipends (Cessation of Special Payments) Measure
In November 2002 Synod discussed guaranteed annuities and other related payments made by the Church Commissioners. Although this money (nearly £5 million per year) supports clergy stipends its distribution takes no account of need. Synod now had before it a draft measure to abolish these special payments and redirect the money to selective support so that only the more needy dioceses would receive any. After a short debate the draft measure was sent for revision in committee.
Legal Officers (Annual Fees) Order 2003
Diocesan registrars are currently paid a retainer for the work they do, and this is set annually by Synod. For many years the Fees Advisory Commission (FAC), which recommends the level of the retainer, has told Synod that the registrars are underpaid. This year the FAC recommended an inflation increase. During the year they had set up a working party to consider how the retainer should be determined in future; this had recommended that the work required and the payment should be determined by local negotiation. The FAC would consult with stakeholders and report back to Synod in due course.
The Fees Order itself attracted criticism in the debate, because the inflation increase (1.6%) was based on prices only, rather than on the rather higher combination of wages and prices (3%) used in the past. The order was carried by 138 votes to 82.
Choosing Diocesan Bishops
(i) Crown Appointments/Nominations Commission
After two adjournments in previous meetings (November 2002 and February 2003), Synod finally made a decision on how many members a diocese should elect to the Crown Appointments Commission (or Crown Nominations Commission as Synod decided to rename it). It will be six, and they will join the eight permanent members (the two archbishops, and three clergy and three laity elected by Synod members).
The Revd Stephen Trott proposed (as he had in November 2002) that the number of diocesan members should be increased from four to eight, whilst Alan Cooper moved an amendment to this and argued for what he called the "Anglican middle way", in other words six. There were then two votes, one in favour of amending Mr Trott's motion by changing eight to six, and then a second one in favour of the amended motion.
There were two motions to prevent members of the Archbishops' Council and suffragan bishops from being elected to the Crown Nomination Commission, but these were both defeated, by 129 to 116 and 130 to 108 respectively.
(ii) Vacancy in See Committees
Synod also considered a number of amendments to the Vacancy in See Committees Regulations. There is one of these committees in each diocese, and it has the responsibility of drawing up a diocesan statement of need, and electing the diocesan members of the Crown Nominations Commission, when a new diocesan bishop is sought. Amongst the proposed changes, the most important were arrangements to ensure that members were more aware of their responsibilities, and a requirement that there be at least two meetings. At present there is often only one. Lee Humby proposed an amendment that at least half those elected by the committee to the Crown Nominations Commission should be lay, and this was accepted by Synod, along with all the other proposed changes.
Called to Act Justly: A Challenge to Include Minority Ethnic People in the Life of the Church of England
This was a debate on a report from the Stephen Lawrence follow up group. The report reflected on the meaning of institutional racism, suggested that there is a theological acknowledgement of the structural nature of sin, and provided a more detailed understanding of minority ethnic people's participation within the Church of England than had been possible in earlier reports.
Introducing the debate, the Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin said that the sin of racism was not purely an individual matter, but also a structural one. There was a need to include some awareness of "ministering in a multi-cultural environment" in theological training, and measures were needed to ensure that minority-ethnic young people did not feel marginalized and to encourage ethnic-minority vocations.
Several other members spoke of the need to nurture leadership among ethnic minorities and of the small proportion of ethnic-minority readers and clergy.
At the end of the debate Synod passed the motion below nem con.
That this Synod
(a) affirm its commitment to continue tackling the challenge of institutional racism within the Church of England and providing a prophetic voice in addressing the issues of racial injustice;
(b) commend the report Called to Act Justly and invite bishops and their dioceses to consider its implications for their ministry, witness and work for racial justice;
(c) endorse the recommendations in Section VII of Called to Act Justly and ask the Archbishops' Council to report on progress in implementation within the next three years; and
(d) recommend that Bishops, in consultation with the Ministry Division introduce racial awareness/cultural diversity training as a standard requirement for all clergy, accredited ministers, and diocesan officers and staff.
An Anglican/Methodist Covenant
In July 2002 General Synod and the Methodist Conference debated a proposed covenant, with the intention that it should be discussed in the two churches and brought back for a vote in July 2003. Opening the debate at Synod, the chair of the Council for Christian Unity (the Bishop of Peterborough) said that the Covenant would "create a new friendship and fellowship between our two churches, and provide a framework for collaboration in mission in all areas of church life". Dudley Coates, the Methodist Church representative on Synod, said that 72% of the Methodist Conference had voted in favour of the Covenant. Issues raised in its debate included the opening of ministry to both women and men, and the importance of mutuality. Although some members of Synod expressed their reservations on such matters as the Eucharist and lay presidency, the following motion was passed by 336 votes to 32.
That this Synod
(a) approve the Covenant, consisting of a preamble, Affirmations and Commitments, set out in paragraph 194 of An Anglican-Methodist Covenant (GS 1409) and reproduced as Appendix A of GS 1409;
(b) encourage the dioceses, deaneries and parishes of the Church of England to implement the Covenant in conjunction with their Methodist counterparts and in consultation with partner churches where appropriate; and
(c) authorise the setting up of a joint implementation commission, having the membership and terms of reference described in Appendix E of GS 1513, to monitor and promote the implementation of the Covenant.
Synod then moved on to two following motions. The first, from the diocese of Newcastle, asked for the Joint Implementation Commission to bring forward recommendations by July 2005 for the resolution of outstanding obstacles to organic unity, but this was defeated as members did not want to tie the process down with time limits.
The second, from the diocese of Southwark, read
That this Synod, having voted in favour of the Anglican-Methodist covenant, believe that such a covenant entails a movement towards the interchangeability of presbyteral ministries, and request the Joint Implementation Commission to bring forward recommendations in order to bring about that change.
and was moved by the Bishop of Woolwich, who said that the Covenant had no practical content and there was a need for action. In reply the Bishop of Peterborough said that he thought the Covenant did have real substance, and that many Methodists would find it difficult to interchange ministries while the C of E did not have women bishops. However the motion was carried by 137 votes to 119.
In February 2003 Synod considered a set of alternative collects, simpler than those in Common Worship, and sent them to a revision committee. Introducing a debate on the committee's work, the Bishop of Sheffield said that of the 63 collects, four had been replaced, and 33 amended. The most contentious word in the whole set was "Magi" and everybody appeared to want to change it to "wise men". The committee had decided to stick with "Magi" because Matthew had deliberately chosen an exotic word, and these officials of the Persian court were not necessarily wise and not necessarily men. After a short debate the Synod took note of the revision committee's report.
The collects will now be referred to the House of Bishops before returning to Synod for final approval. The revised text of these collects can be downloaded from here as a 54 kB Word document.
Proposing a motion from the diocese of Lichfield, the Archdeacon of Salop said that his experience had taught him that pastoral care was the most important aspect of priestly ministry. It was an inseparable partner of evangelism. But the Church of England was in danger of neglecting this Christ-like and Christ-given ministry because of its attention to other tasks and priorities. Other members spoke of the stress not only on the parochial clergy, but on bishops and archbishops too, of the need to remember those in need of pastoral care, and of other sources of care such as the Samaritans. The motion below was passed nem con.
That this Synod:
(a) is concerned that the increased pressures on bishops, clergy and laity is impairing the provision of pastoral care in the dioceses and across the parishes;
(b) re-affirm the essential importance of pastoral care in the ordained and lay ministries of the Church of England; and
(c) wish to encourage and resource the development of the shared pastoral responsibility and ministry of bishops, clergy and laity.
Introducing a debate on embryo research, the Bishop of Norwich said that it sometimes appeared that the sophistication of medical science was not always matched by an equally sophisticated understanding of human psychology or interest in ethical reasoning. There was a tendency to say that what we can do is what we may do, or even ought to do. It was easy to regard embryos as less than partners in the human family. But treating human life with reverence was not the same as regarding every fertilized egg as inviolable, and many were lost naturally.
The Archbishop of Canterbury said that he did not believe in the sanctity of life, but in the sanctity of living individuals. The idea of creating an individual for another purpose was incompatible with the Christian theology that each living individual was an end in itself. Other speakers spoke of the difficulty of drawing the line between what was or was not permissible, and of the different ways in which theologians and gynaecologists, or men and women saw the subject.
At the end of the debate Synod passed the motion below by 339 votes to nil.
That this Synod
(a) affirm the sanctity of the human embryo and therefore the need to treat it with profound respect;
(b) recognise that there are different but principled and sincerely held views among Christians on the morality of embryo research;
(c) welcome the paper Embryo Research: some Christian Perspectives (GS 1511) as a helpful contribution to Christian reflection and debate on issues relating to the status of the embryo and its therapeutic potential;
(d) call upon members of the Church of England to continue to engage with the scientific community, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, and Her Majesty's Government so as to ensure the ethical imperatives in embryo research are never forgotten; and
(e) ask the Mission and Public Affairs Council to provide a list of resource publications and possible speakers to assist moral and theological reflection on this issue.
The Archbishop of Canterbury gave a presidential address to the Synod on the Monday morning. It is well worth reading in full, so there is no summary here. You can read it here or here.
A Future for Church Buildings
Introducing a debate on a report from the Church Heritage Forum, the Bishop of London spoke of the daunting future that the Church was facing in coping with its built heritage. In the next five years at least £750 million would be needed to repair church buildings, and at most £250 million would be available as grants. The Church cared for a large part of the community's cultural inheritance in a cost-effective way. "I shall continue to say it again until every child in the land acknowledges it as an evident fact, that the Church of England is in financial terms the most disestablished Church in Western Europe". For example, the Evangelical Church in Germany received four billion euros from church tax in 2001.
Some other speakers were somewhat sceptical about state aid. In France, where the churches were state-maintained, they looked unloved. Tourist authorities in England rarely recognized churches, and architectural authorities were often unhelpful when parishes wanted to adapt their buildings. On the other hand the Church was making a major contribution to tourism and economic activity.
The motion below was passed by 262 votes to two.
That this Synod
(a) recognise the desirability of developing a strategy to seek a new and stronger partnership with Government and other bodies in respect of cathedral and church buildings, based on an understanding of the wide contribution which these buildings, and the social, cultural and educational work carried out in them, make to the nation's life; and
(b) accordingly request the Church Heritage Forum and the Cathedral and Church Buildings Division to proceed with the production and submission of a report to Government and other bodies, as recommended in the Report, and with the implementation of the other recommendations set out in paragraph 82 of the Report, with the aim of enhancing that understanding and seeking such a new partnership, whilst at the same time seeking to simplify in accordance with Key Issue 4, paragraph 46 the present system of faculty controls.
Formation for Ministry Within a Learning Church
The proposed future shape of ministerial training in the Church of England was the subject of a presentation on the Saturday afternoon by the Bishop of Chichester (the Rt Revd John Hind). He had chaired a working party which had produced one of the physically largest reports (200 A4 pages) considered by Synod in recent years. You can download it, and the separately published summary, from here. The report proposed flexible pathways through training. The Church of England uses 13 theological colleges (mainly providing full-time residential training) and 12 regional courses (providing part-time non-residential training). 19 dioceses have a recognized OLM (ordained local ministry) scheme, and all 44 provide CME (continuing ministerial education) and reader training. Many of these providers were very small indeed, which compromised quality. The report proposed setting up eight regional training partnerships. This should produce more cost-efficiency, and allow more money to be spent on additional training in the four years after ordination and on theological research. Savings were proposed by reducing the amount spent on family support for ordinands in full-time training.
On the Tuesday afternoon Synod had its opportunity to debate the report. Introducing the debate, Bishop Hind said that the group's commitment to offering a vision of formation for ministry within a learning church had resulted in four themes: theology for all, life-long learning, partnership and flexibility.
Many reservations were expressed in the debate: the reduction in residential places, the amount of study proposed for curates, the way the proposals were designed for people in their 30s with time for the education-for-discipleship programme and not for those in their 20s with no spare time, the apparent ideological opposition to residential training, the possible loss of different traditions.
The Archbishop of Canterbury said that, although he had mixed feelings, he wanted to accept the report. He rejected a proposal for further consultation as this was unlikely to produce anything new.
Others spoke favourable of recommendations: the countrywide initiative for the formative education of lay people, clergy and laity studying together, the decision to grasp the problem of the many unsustainably small colleges and courses.
A number of amendments were passed, changing the details of the recommendations, but with these provisos, Synod voted to accept the report.
Sharing the Good News with Children
This was a debate on the Church of England's Children's Strategy drawn up by the Archbishops' Council. The strategy involved four key areas:
Introducing the debate, the chair of the Board of Education (the Bishop of Portsmouth) said that the Church had dated expectations of children. It was encouraging that there were more than a million children and young people in Church of England schools, and, on a good Sunday, more than 400,000 in its churches. But the children in church were often invisible, and the work done with them was often poor. The starting point of the strategy was the recognition that "we have much to learn from the children".
Other speakers agreed that children and young people had to be listened to and involved. Some asked whether the strategy went far enough; perhaps national funding for initiatives was needed. But at the end of the debate, Synod gave its support to the strategy by passing this motion:
That this Synod
(a) endorse the four key areas of the proposed National Children's Strategy;
(b) call on the Church in the dioceses, deaneries and parishes to be actively involved in the implementation of the National Children's Strategy and make full use of the excellent teaching and training material that has already been developed by and in conjunction with other denominations; and
(c) ask the Archbishops' Council to monitor the implementation of the National Children's Strategy and to give a report on progress before the end of the current quinquennium.
On the final morning of Synod, the Archdeacon of Malmesbury introduced his private member's motion to simplify Faculty Jurisdiction. This system allows the Church of England to control changes and repairs to its own church buildings, and the Church is exempt from much secular control. However the Archdeacon said that the system was too restrictive, and faculty permission was often required for works that would not need approval under secular, local authority control.
Quite a few Synod members were not convinced that relaxing controls would be a good idea. One proposed an amendment urging those responsible to operate the present system in as simple and straightforward a way as possible, but this was defeated.
At the end of the debate the vote on a show of hands was too close for the result to be certain, and the chair called for a division of the whole Synod. So members trooped through the doors to be counted, and the motion was defeated by only one vote - 176 for and 177 against.
Much of the final morning was devoted to finance, starting with a joint presentation by Shaun Farrell (Financial Secretary to the Archbishops' Council), and Christopher Daws (Financial and Deputy Secretary of the Church Commissioners). The Church costs the equivalent of £17 per parishioner per week, a total of £850 million in 2001. In 1993 stipends cost £157 million, of which the Commissioners contributed 39%; in 2001 they cost £176 million, but the Commissioners contribution had fallen to 16%. There had been a massive switch of funding from national level to the parishes, amounting to £90 million per year between 1992 and 2003.
The First Church Estates Commissioner (Andreas Whittam Smith) introduced a debate on the strategic financial review that the Commissioners were about to carry out. After paying pensions the Commissioners had about £60 million to spend. £25 million went on bishops and cathedrals, £3.5 million on parish mission and funding, and the rest on parish ministry support. Although the Commissioners were legally obliged to support bishops and cathedrals, the amount was not specified. The review would consider how the total should be allocated, and he wanted the views of a wider group that the Commissioners themselves.
Finally Synod agreed the Archbishops' Council's budget for 2004, and how it should be apportioned between dioceses.
|Vote||2003 apportionment (£)||2004 apportionment (£)||increase over 2003|
|1: Ordination Training||9,090,071||9,049,298||-0.45%|
|2: National Church Responsibilities||9,228,360||9,228,360||0.00%|
|3: Grants and Contributions to other organizations||1,194,229||1,194,229||0.00%|
|4: Mission Agencies Pensions||550,000||675,000||22.73%|
These are net figures. Including income from sources other than the apportionment on the dioceses, the gross budget of the Council in 2004 is £25.9 million.
Meeting of the House of Laity
Clergy Conditions of Service
Following the debate in February 2003 on the employment status of clergy the Archbishops' Council set up a working party to review this. Their first interim report was discussed at separate meetings of the clergy and laity.
The interim report recommends that the rights conferred by Section 23 of the Employment Relations Act 1999 should be granted to the clergy (except for a few which are not applicable, such as the right not to work on Sunday), and that the clergy should have access to the secular Employment Tribunals, rather than the Church attempting to set up its own equivalent. The report says that giving these rights to the clergy could be done by amending ecclesiastical law (and leaving the clergy as office-holders) or by introducing contracts of employment.
Speaking to the House of Laity, the chair of the working party, Professor David McClean, said that some clergy had suffered from bad human-resources practices. Giving access to employment tribunals would involve substantial legal and cultural change for the Church. In response to a question he said that the other side of the question - the obligations of the clergy - would be covered in the subsequent work of the working party.
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