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General Synod of the Church of England – July 2002 Group of Sessions
5 to 9 July 2002

by Peter Owen
Member of the House of Laity of General Synod from the diocese of Liverpool
20 July 2002

Size and composition of General Synod

In July 2001 Synod looked at its own size and composition, and made some recommendations to change these. The Business Committee subsequently felt that some of these decisions were not completely clear. Before introducing legislation to make the changes, the Committee came back to Synod with a motion expressing what it thought Synod intended. Several members took this as an opportunity to re-open some other matters by submitting amendments.

At present there are 571 Synod members. In 2001 Synod voted against a recommendation to reduce its size to a range of 480-490 (plus appointees). Now, did this mean that Synod wanted to keep its present size, or did it want a reduction, but to some other figure? This time there were two proposals: a reduction by between one quarter and one third of its present size, or a size no greater than 500. Although some members were concerned that a smaller Synod would be less representative, the general view now was that at a time of falling congregations and financial cuts there had to be a reduction. The first proposal, though, was defeated as too extreme, but the second (a size no greater than 500) was accepted.

One item not explicitly considered in 2001 was a proposal to include representation of retired clergy, who at present cannot stand for election to General Synod, or vote in the elections. This time Synod did consider the matter and decided not to add such representation.

In 2001 Synod voted to reduce the representation of archdeacons from one per diocese to a total of only nine (the same as the number of suffragan bishops) and to keep a special constituency for Deans and Provosts of 15. The Business Committee asked now for explicit endorsement of these figures. Synod members proposed several amendments to change the figures. The first to be considered simply said that the numbers should be reviewed. This was accepted as members felt that it was best to let those preparing the legislation propose precise numbers.

A follow-on motion was proposed to give formal General Synod observer status to a number of members from the Church of England Youth Council which is being established, and this was passed after a short debate.

That this Synod welcome the progress being made towards establishing a Church of England Youth Council and invite the Standing Orders Committee to prepare an appropriate Standing Order, on a similar basis to Standing order 113, to enable a number of the Council's members to be afforded formal General Synod observer status, for further approval by this Synod.

Shapes of the Church to Come

This item started with a bible study on Acts 2:41-end led by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He found five features of the early church with a lesson for today.

The archbishop's bible study was followed by an address by the Bishop of Rochester (Michael Nazir-Ali). He said that since the passing of the National Institutions Measure, it had been felt that the Church as a whole needs to gather around a common agenda and answer the question, "How are we to be Church, what are we to do and how are we to do it?" Everywhere around us we hear the 'melancholy, long, withdrawing roar' of the sea of faith: while some churches continue to enjoy a vigorous life, there is less and less knowledge of the Christian faith in the population at large. The excuse of a 'multi-faith society' is used to marginalize all religion and especially to remove Christianity from the public arena. In such a situation, the Church has to be both responsive and flexible: it must make connections with leading contemporary values such as dignity, freedom and the suspicion of any authority which is merely imposed and not commended by argument or character. Indeed, Christians must, again and again, point out the origins of such values in Christian faith. It will be increasingly necessary, however, for Christian communities and Church leaders to be prophetic when there is a failure of justice or compassion and when excessive individualism erodes community or family life.

We will have to be flexible about the structures and patterns of church life. In our terms this means affirming both congregations and cells, building better relationships with our neighbours in Europe and learning from the world-wide church.

Ministry has to be about the recognition and enabling of the variety of gifts which is to be found in every Christian community. This has immediate implications for worship. In many urban, suburban and even rural settings no one kind of pattern will be suitable for all:- Some will want contemporary music (two words, three chords and fifteen minutes!), others traditional (where mystery takes precedence over comprehension!). Some will want the depth and resonance of Elizabethan English, others the immediacy of the language as it is spoken today. It is a particular challenge for clergy and lay leaders in our parishes to make sure that all parts of the community are reached by the Gospel in ways that are affirming and not alienating.

Visibility is not enough, of course. We need to be a welcoming people, making sure that those who come through our doors are helped to worship and to deepen their experience of God. Not only do we welcome those who come to us, we reach out to those in the community who see no reason to come to church. It is urgent for us today to discover where people are gathering, whether it is a supermarket, a boot-sale or a gym, and to make sure that there is an effective Christian presence there. Sometimes, this will be high-profile in terms of a service or similar event but, at other times, it may just be the opportunity for a quiet word, the passing on of a book or a tape of music. Whatever we do, the twin aspects of mission, Embassy and Hospitality, must ever be held together.

We must invest in growth and opportunity, wherever and whenever they occur. This is not to deny our responsibility for work in 'difficult' areas but the resources for this will come if we are able to disciple and to motivate those who can give of their time, talents or money.

Whatever the future of our relationship with the State, we cannot forget our mission to the whole nation and to each community. Old ways of being 'church' need to be made more effective and we need to try new ways of being church. The presence of a church building and even of a worshipping community inside that building are simply not enough.

The full text of the bishop's speech is here.

Regionalisation and the Church

On Ascension Day 2002 the British Government published its white paper on the future of the eight English regions outside London. There has long been a regional tier of government in England but it has been largely invisible, particularly because, unlike Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London, there are no elected assemblies or parliaments. One of the Government's proposals is that if there is sufficient public interest in a region then a referendum will be held to decide whether to set up an elected assembly.

Introducing a debate on how to respond to the Government's proposals, the Bishop of Durham (Michael Turnbull) said that the question of English devolution was a natural progression, and that it was important that the churches and other faith communities were a powerful and ubiquitous presence in every locality.

Many synod members complained that the current regions were too large and grouped areas of the country that did not naturally belong together and some questioned whether there should be regional government at all. Two amendments to the motion before Synod were carried to express concern about the size and shape of the regions, but the amended motion below was then passed by 264 votes to 67.

That this Synod, noting the growing strength of regional institutions in England and proposals for their further development:

(a) affirm the contribution made by the Churches to social and economic progress in the English regions and, specifically, the involvement of several dioceses and ecumenical bodies in such fora as the existing Regional Chambers;

(b) recognise the importance of decision making being close to those affected and being open, accessible and accountable, but is concerned that the size of certain proposed regions will make this difficult;

(c) support the principle that prior to any referendum on the creation of an assembly, people in that region are given the opportunity to express a view on the appropriateness of the regional boundaries;

(d) request the Board for Social Responsibility to respond to the White Paper Your Region, Your Choice: Revitalising the English Regions in the light of this debate; and

(e) encourage the Archbishops' Council and the House of Bishops to consider how far the Church of England should adapt its own structures in the light of the growing significance or regions in England and to report by July 2003.

Fees for Legal Officers

Each July Synod is asked to agree the fees to be paid to legal officers (ie the diocesan and provincial registrars) and to ecclesiastical judges in the following year. The recommendations of the Fees Advisory Commission (FAC) are usually agreed without debate, but this year Andreas Whittam Smith, the new First Church Estates Commissioner, asked for a debate on the legal officers fees. For some years the FAC has argued that these fees are too low and has proposed an above inflation increase. Mr Whittam Smith asked Synod to think carefully before voting for the increase. He wanted the Church Commissioners' staff to analyse the work that registrars did, so that Synod could make an informed decision in November.

In response the Vicar-General of York (Chancellor Thomas Coningsby) argued that there was not time for a review before November, and the Bishop of Manchester said that the registrars' work was of critical importance. One member of the FAC said that he had queried the traditional method of calculating the fees and suggested that each diocese should negotiate the fee with its own registrar.

The FAC recommendations were then accepted by Synod by 182 votes to 120.

Christian Witness in a Plural Society

A private member's motion from Canon George Kavoor (Birmingham) gave Synod the opportunity to debate sharing the gospel with all people of all faiths or none. Proposing his motion, Canon Kavoor spoke of the shock and disbelief of overseas students from the Anglican Communion at empty churches with a steadily greying membership and the agonizing testimony of converts made to feel that all faiths were legitimate. He said that his motion was not about Christian arrogance but about inviting people to make a considered response in faith to God's gracious invitation and affirming the finality and sufficiency of the revelation in Jesus Christ.

Other members of Synod were in general agreement, although one member opposed the motion by saying that what was needed was faiths travelling together for the sake of the world's future and that passing the motion would undermine this. A number of amendments were carried and the amended motion below was carried by 301 votes to 10.

That this Synod, whilst valuing and affirming the importance of cultural and religious diversity, is convinced that the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ is for all and must be shared with all, including people from other faiths or of no faith, and that to do anything else would be to institutionalise discrimination; and to this end, this Synod should:

(a) recommend parishes to approach the Partners for World Mission mission agencies to help make links with the World Church, especially with those people and places which might stimulate witness within a multi-faith environment;

(b) encourage the Board of Mission and the Ministry Division through the theological colleges and courses to educate the Church concerning these issues; and

(c) urge all Christians to encourage sensitive and positive sharing of faith with people of all faiths and none, whilst being willing to learn from and be enriched by people of other faiths.

An Anglican-Methodist Covenant

Formal conversations were set up by the Methodist Church of Great Britain and the Church of England in 1997-98 to seek to draw up an agreement, in the form of a Common Statement, including a Declaration of affirmations and commitments. The Common Statement was published in December 2001. It included the history of the two churches and a description of the churches today, spoke of healing memories and growing together, and sharing in God's mission. It includes an account of the differences between (and within) the two churches and proposes a covenant which begins

We, the Methodist Church of Great Britain and the Church of England, on the basis of our shared history, our full agreement in the apostolic faith, our shared theological understandings of the nature and mission of the Church and of its ministry and oversight, and our agreement on the goal of full visible unity, as set out in the previous sections of our Common Statement, hereby make the following Covenant in the form of interdependent Acknowledgements and Commitments. We do so both in a spirit of penitence for all that human sinfulness and narrowness of vision have contributed to our past divisions, believing that we have been impoverished through our separation and that our witness to the gospel has been weakened accordingly, and in a spirit of thanksgiving and joy for the convergence in faith and collaboration in mission that we have experienced in recent years.

and continues with a series of Affirmations and Commitments, of which the first is "We affirm one another's churches as true churches belonging to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ and as truly participating in the apostolic mission of the whole people of God." The full text of the covenant can be found here. The Methodist Conference voted on 1 July to ask Methodist Districts and Circuits to study the report and vote on whether to approve the Covenant and on 6 July Synod asked dioceses to do the same.

In a presentation before the synod debate, the Bishop of Bristol (Barry Rogerson), the Anglican co-chairman of the Anglican-Methodist Conversations said that the process of visible unity was "nothing less than the call of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." The situation had changed significantly since the failure of the 1972 unity scheme, but it was important to "recognize that we have been in mutual exile, and that, in our coming together, we shall be a different place from where we parted." He spoke of the significant convergence on the sharing of the dominical sacraments of baptism and eucharist and unresolved tensions over the ordination of women to the episcopate.

Introducing the debate the Bishop of Peterborough (Ian Cundy) said that the process might seem slow but, after the failure of the scheme in 1972, the need now was for a steady step-by-step process. The Covenant required the two churches to recognize that they have come from a common source and need to come together again. However, Synod was not being asked now to decide on the merits of the Covenant, but to start a process of study and evaluation.

In the debate speakers emphasized that this was a covenant and not a scheme. It endorsed a process of growing together. The statement was honest about dividing points. Theologically, the differences within the two churches were as great as those between them. The Archbishop of York was disappointed that the formal conversations had not made more progress. He had hoped that the conversations might have moved further into unresolved areas such as whether the ministry of oversight should be open to women and whether those not ordained to the presbyterate should be given permission to preside at the eucharist. Jane Gore-Booth was concerned that without copies of the full report, diocesan synod members might be led to think that the Methodist eucharist was "the same as ours".

At the end of the debate the motion below was put to the vote, and passed by 334 votes to 11.

That this Synod

(a) request Diocesan Synods to promote the study of the Common Statement An Anglican-Methodist Covenant in the dioceses, to debate the motion:

"That this Synod approve the Anglican-Methodist Covenant, consisting of a pre-amble and mutual Affirmations and Commitments, set out in paragraph of the Common Statement."

And to report the outcome of that debate (with voting figures) to the Council for Christian Unity by 31 May 2003; and

(b) request the British and Irish Anglican Churches; the Lutheran Churches of the communion of Porvoo churches; the Old Catholic Churches; the United Reformed Church; other ecumenical partners with whom the Church of England is in dialogue; the appropriate bodies within Churches Together in England and Churches Together in Britain and Ireland; and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations to study and comment on An Anglican-Methodist Covenant to the Council for Christian Unity by 31 May 2003.

Urban Renaissance and the Church Urban Fund

In the first of two related debates the Bishop of Leicester (Tim Stevens) introduced a paper The Urban Renaissance and the Church of England from the Urban Bishops' Panel. The paper drew attention to some practical proposals. Fewer new clergy were seeking to engage in urban priority areas and the panel wanted to challenge training institutions, selection processes and ministerial formation procedures to equip the Church. The panel was concerned about finance; there should be a serious commitment to mutuality between dioceses. Finally the urban bishops endorsed the establishment of an urban-resource unit.

Two speakers from rural dioceses said that rural areas were as much in need of support as urban areas but the motion below was passed by Synod.

That this Synod

(a) commend The Urban Renaissance and the Church of England to the Dioceses and to the wider Church for further study;

(b) renew the Church of England's commitment to its mission and ministry in urban areas, through a sustainable and dynamic Christian presence and witness;

(c) request the Archbishops' Council to respond to the opportunities and concerns outlined in the document, particularly the need for a wider review of the Church of England's urban mission on the twentieth anniversary of Faith in the City in 2005; and

(d) request the Archbishops' Council to draw up proposals for mutual financial dependence between dioceses and the support of those which include the neediest communities.

The second debate was on the report Resourcing Urban Ministry and Mission: Plans and proposals for the Church Urban Fund 2002-2010. Dr Philip Giddings opened by saying that the debate should focus on how CUF could help to shape the Church's mission and ministry in urban areas. Since a critical review of the Fund in 2000 it had improved its relationships with central church structures and the dioceses. Unless further substantial funds were raised the Fund would run out of money in 2007, and the Archbishops' Council wanted Synod's views on the matter before bringing specific proposals in two years' time. The following motion was passed.

That this Synod:

(a) welcome the proposals by the Trustees of the Church Urban Fund in GS Misc 674 for the development of the Fund in 2002-2010; and

(b) invite the Trustees to develop - in consultation with the Archbishops' Council, the Urban Bishops' Panel and dioceses - proposals for a fund-raising campaign to secure the Fund's longer term future and to report through the Council to Synod on them.

Women Bishops

In response to a motion passed by Synod in July 2000 Synod the House of Bishops set up a working party on Women in the Episcopate. This began its work in April 2001 and presented a progress report to Synod. The working party is still working on the first stage of its work, an examination of the theology of the episcopate.

Introducing the progress report the chairman of the working party, the Bishop of Rochester (Michael Nazir-Ali), spoke of episcope (oversight) and the emergence of the three-fold order of ministry. Some Churches, such as the Mother Church in Jerusalem itself, seem to have been headed by a single person, albeit with a college of presbyters and deacons and with the 'consent of the whole Church' (Acts 15:22). Others, like the Western Churches and the Church in Egypt, seem to have been more 'presbyteral' in character at the very beginning and only gradually did a president among the presbyters emerge. It is beyond question that some of the leaders of the house churches in the New Testament, such as Chloe (1 Corinthians 1:11), Nympha (Colossians 4:15) and possibly Lydia (Acts 16:14f), were women. The Working Party has also concentrated on relevant texts, such as 1 Corinthians 11-14 and the very difficult 1 Timothy 2:11-15, with the help of Professor Anthony Thiselton and the Bishop of Lewes.

The working party has also had to reflect on women in society generally. They have tried to come to an understanding of women and men in creation which respects both their difference and their common creation in the image of God as well as their common mission in God's World (Genesis 26-28). Their views are likely to be rooted in which they see as more important: the common mission of men and women or the distinction in role which comes from difference in gender.

The working party will next look at the role of women in the sub-apostolic and later Church and also consider some ecumenical material at greater depth and they intend to revisit the Eames Report.

The full text of the Bishop of Rochester's speech is here.

Another member of the working party, Vivienne Faull, the Provost of Leicester, said that writing theology by committee was difficult and, some felt, slow. She said that it had been an "extraordinary experience (I could put it more strongly)", to sit in a group and be told that she was mistaken in her vocation. There had been frank discussion of profound theological differences and she wondered how these could be held together.

Geoffrey Rowell, the Bishop in Europe, said that any change must be firmly rooted in scripture. Work needed to be done on Jesus choosing men as the twelve. Cardinal Ratzinger had said to him that there was a difference in ordaining women to the priesthood and to the episcopate and warned against this further step. Canon Professor John Barton asked how far the working party had studied women bishops in the Porvoo churches. "We are always looking over our shoulder at Rome. We need to look over our other shoulder."


Michael Chamberlain, the chairman of the Finance Committee of the Archbishops' Council, introduced a debate on the Councils' proposed budget for 2003. This continued the policy of a freeze in cash terms on the part of the budget allocated to the national church. The increase in the training budget was 0.6% and the overall increase in the net apportionment on dioceses was 0.8%. The budget was agreed by Synod.

Appointment of Bishops

In November 2001 the Bishop of Woolwich (Colin Buchanan) proposed the following motion on behalf of Southwark Diocesan Synod.

That this Synod seek a reform in the method of appointing bishops in the Church of England so as to detach the process from any involvement with Downing Street and the Monarchy and to provide for a more participatory and open Church procedure than is currently possible.

(Details of how bishops are appointed in England can be found here.) The debate ran out of time in November and was resumed in this group of sessions. The Bishop of Worcester (Peter Selby) said that no appointments system can exclude the work of the Holy Spirit or the effect of human sin. Any system would be judged by what it said about our understanding of the Church in the world. Dr Selby ended by describing the present system as "wrong in principle, politically dangerous, ecumenically embarrassing, and theologically indefensible."

Two speakers said that legislation to repeal the Appointment of Bishops Act would cost £120,000 and claimed that this would be a waste of money. Other speakers said the debate was really about disestablishment, and since they supported establishment they urged Synod members to vote against the motion. Only one further speaker in favour of the motion was called, and at the end of the debate the motion was overwhelmingly defeated on a show of hands.

Marriage Law Review

In November 2001 Synod discussed possible changes to the law governing marriages in the Church of England, and on 22 January 2002 the British Government published Civil Registration: Vital Change, a white paper setting out its proposals to change the civil registration system. For marriages the Government is proposing to introduce a celebrant-based model which would move the emphasis in civil law from the place of marriage to the person conducting the marriage. The arrangements proposed would allow the Churches similar flexibility. Following the November debate a group of bishops led by the Bishop of London (Richard Chartres) was asked to raise issues of concern with the Government and to make further recommendations in the light of the White Paper.

The group proposes to introduce greater flexibility in where Church of England marriages can take place by introducing a concept of demonstrable connection. For example a couple could be married in the parish church of the parents on one of them. The group also recommends that this concept should be extended to non-parochial places of worship, for example schools or college chapels.

The group also considers that there are circumstances in which a marriage according to the rites of the Church of England could properly be solemnized in a place other that a place of worship. This is occasionally permitted now by use of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Special Licence. The group believes that permission should be granted more freely, but to ensure consistency it recommends that the Special Licence procedure should continue to be used.

Although the Government wants all marriages to be registered by the civil registrar it has agreed to accept a joint system of church/state preliminaries with the Bishops' Group. The minister would collect the relevant information from the couple and forward it to the registrar. The registrar would check its accuracy and display it publicly. If all was well, the registrar would enter the information on the computerized civil registration system and issue a schedule to the couple which would allow the marriage to go ahead. After the ceremony the minister would inform the registrar who would then register the marriage.

Introducing a debate on the group's report, the Bishop of London said that the starting point was a determination to be faithful to Christian teaching about marriage. The group believed that the most appropriate place to be married was a place of worship, but it wanted to make the procedures as simple as possible and to remove some of the obstacles to a couple's marrying in a church with which they had a demonstrable connection but which was not their parish church. He said that in exceptional circumstances marriages should be allowed in venues other than places of worship, for example at a hospital bedside. But certain places would not be appropriate for marriage according to Church of England rites. "That, in my personal opinion, means no marriages on bouncy castles," said the Bishop.

The Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich (Richard Lewis) welcomed the report and said that for the first time the Synod would have control over the Church's regulations and not have to go to some higher authority. Other speakers were generally in favour, although one was less strict about marriages other than in places of worship, and appeared to suggest that runners might be allowed to marry while running a marathon.

At the end of the debate Synod passed the following motion.

That this Synod:

(a) welcome the Report's proposals for a positive response from the Church that is faithful to its theological and pastoral understanding of ministry, and that fully recognises the mission opportunities presented by the proposals on marriage in the Government White Paper Civil Registration: Vital Change;

(b) endorse the recommendations in the report; and

(c) request the Archbishops' Council and the Business Committee to establish a Working Group to take forward, in consultation with the House of Bishops, the process of:-

(i) working together with Government Departments in the outworking of the White Paper, and in particular in securing legislation to amend or replace the relevant provisions of the Marriage Act 1949 in accordance with the recommendations in the report:

(ii) in the light of (i), preparing draft legislation and other material for submission to the Synod to implement those recommendations in the Report which require action by the Synod; and

(iii) initiating proposals to implement the other recommendations in the Report and the proposed new legislation on marriage, including support for clergy and parishes.


Opening a debate on the Holy Land, the Bishop of Guildford (John Gladwin) said that suicide bombings and the sending of troops into camps and homes would not lead to peace. West Bank violence was a symbol of a deeper malaise, the Israeli occupation. Any just and lasting solution must address the reality of Palestinian refugees and the problem that Israel felt alone in the Middle East. The Government and its European partners must stay engaged and the Church should nurture the Alexandria initiative. (See here or here for the text of the First Alexandria Declaration of the Religious leaders of the Holy Land.)

The Archbishop of Canterbury said that "We must be even-handed" and "Nothing justifies the killing of innocent people". He spoke of his visit in August 2001 when he was asked to convene the meeting of religious leaders. Although they lived only ten miles apart they could meet only in Alexandria. The Archbishop said urged members to support and encourage Christians in the Holy Land, support and encourage Jewish friends, support Jerusalem 2000, keep pressure on public leaders (particularly Americans) and pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Christopher Herbert, the Bishop of St Albans and chairman of the Council of Christians and Jews said that Christians bore grave responsibility for the way Jews had been received, and stereotyping continued today.

Synod then carried the following motion.

That this Synod, led by its Christian faith and understanding and praying for the peace of Israel/Palestine, in the belief that Christians, Jews and Muslims are called to live together in peace and fellowship, based upon a common understanding of security and justice:

(a) express profound sorrow and dismay at the escalation of violence in Israel/Palestine and the untold human suffering that this has inflicted upon its people;

(b) understand that the root causes of the present conflict include Israel's illegal occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and its continued support of settlements in these areas;

(c) call upon the Israeli Government to withdraw from the Occupied Territories in compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolutions and at the same time upon the Palestinian Authority to condemn suicide bombing;

(d) welcome the Alexandria Declaration by religious leaders and urge all parties to work together in implementing it;

(e) urge the quartet comprising Russia, the European Union, United States and the United Nations, to use economic and diplomatic influence to uphold United Nations Security Council Resolutions, which provide justice for Palestinians and security for Israel, by working towards a viable two state solution which guarantees the principles of pluralism, good governance, and a respect for human rights; and

(f) request dioceses to renew and strengthen bonds of Christian fellowship with the Churches in Israel/Palestine by participating in pilgrimages, encouraging encounters with the 'living stones', and by exploring various expressions of solidarity with the indigenous Christian communities.

Marriage in Church after Divorce

Under English law Anglican clergy are not obliged to conduct the marriage of a divorced person with a former spouse still living, or to make their church available for other clergy to conduct such a marriage. Resolutions passed by the Convocations of Canterbury and of York say that clergy should not allow the use of the marriage service in the case of anyone with a former partner still living. However clergy have the right under civil law to conduct such services and many do so, often with the support of their bishops. In 2000 a group commissioned by the House of Bishops published a report marriage in church after divorce (the Winchester report) in which they recommended that the Church of England should recognize that "there are circumstances in which a divorced person may be married in church during the lifetime of a former partner". The group also recommended that the convocation resolutions should be repealed and that national pastoral criteria, principles and procedures should be drawn up outlining the process by which further marriages could take place in church. These recommendations have been discussed in dioceses and although all accepted the principle many were not happy with the proposals for deciding who should be allowed a further marriage in church.

The House of Bishops has also consulted the Synod's Legal Officers. Their advice was that implementation of the Winchester proposals would not require any change to the Canons. However, they also advised that since the clergy have the right under civil law to conduct further marriages, neither a resolution nor act of Synod, nor a Canon, can lawfully take that responsibility away from them, either by requiring them to apply certain principles or to accept the decision of a third party (such as the bishop or a tribunal). Only an Act of Parliament or a Measure (which would also require parliamentary approval) could do this. Although the Winchester Report had recommended that clergy should be obliged to take advice, it had also said that the final decision should rest with the parish priest. The House of Bishops accepted that individual clergy must make the decision, and in view of the legal opinion the House now proposed to issue advice (but nothing stronger) to the clergy.

Introducing the House of Bishops' report Marriage in Church after Divorce to Synod, the Bishop of Winchester (Michael Scott-Joynt) said that he believed that it contained the most workable proposals available to the Synod. The House remained firmly convinced that marriage should be entered into only as a lifelong vocation but accepted that further marriage in church after divorce should sometimes be allowed.

Clergy vary in their views from those who are never prepared to conduct a further marriage to those who agree in most cases, and this wide range was apparent in the debate. Some would solve the problem by introducing universal civil marriage; others would leave the decision to the couple, although keeping the right of individual clergy not to marry divorcees. Finally the following motion was carried by 269 votes to 83.

That this Synod

(a) affirm, in accordance with the doctrine of the Church of England as set out in Canon B30, that marriage should always be undertaken as a "solemn, public and life-long covenant between a man and a woman";

(b) recognise (i) that some marriages regrettably do fail and that the Church's care for couples in that situation should be of paramount importance; and (ii) that there are exceptional circumstances in which a divorced person may be married in Church during the lifetime of a former spouse;

(c) recognise that the decision as to whether or not to solemnise such a marriage in church after divorce rests with the minister (or the officiating cleric if the minister is prepared to allow his/her church or chapel to be used for the marriage); and

(d) invite the House of Bishops to issue the advice contained in Annex 1 of GS 1449.

Synod then voted to start the procedure to repeal the Convocation resolutions.

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