General Synod in July 2011, as it happens (some of it)

July 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’ve not blogged for
a while – and I’ve missed it even if others haven’t. So here I am
again, giving some live reports from General Synod in York. York
sees Synod in a completely different mode. All the rules of debate
remain the same, but it all feels different when you’ve had a late
night drink or eaten breakfast with someone who holds radically
different views to you. We all stay in the colleges of the
university, and you can find yourself meeting some amazing people.
Coming to York when I was first on Synod made the whole thing make
sense for me. And I can remember a brilliant breakfast, when I
found myself hearing about how to play leg-spin with a former
England Cricket Captain – the Bishop of Liverpool. This is the
first York Synod for new members – and I hope they have a lovely
time. We’ve opened with the usual stuff. We’re always addressed
first by an interesting guest. Today it was the leader of the
Orthodox Church in Albania. To be flippant, I loved his title –
‘His Beatitude’. Brilliant. And being serious he spoke carefully
how as a missiologist he worked with the church in ALbania after it
was allowed to exist again after 23 years of being banned, in 1990.
‘Do not worry about the future’ he told us. ‘The future in
Christ’s’. His first words in the ruined cathedral in Tirana were
‘Christ is Risen!’, and this became the watchword of the church
there. It was a humbling start. We also have the chance to say what
really should have been on the agenda – and we had some impassioned
pleas about emergency debates on the Sudan, the House of Lords and
the doctrine of marriage as it relates to Civil Partnerships. These
things are normally gently batted away – we are an ungainly kind of
oil tanker where debates are concerned. But Pete Spiers proposed a
way of getting an emergency debate onto our agenda, and I hope we
can do it some day. Later we have Questions – always lively. But
dinner first – and I hope I meet someone new!

Saturday afternoon: a
domestic matter prevented my hearing much of the Archbishop’s
Presidential Address – but one quote became my gift for the day:
“There is nothing in the world as transforming as a church in
love.” He spoke of his engagement with the church in the Congo, and
reflected that there the church was an agent of healing and
restoration. Too often we can do church in such a way which
reinforces rather than challenges the world in which we live.
Anyway – I had to go after that, and missed the groups that follow.
A pity – I’ve enjoyed such groups before (though I don’t always
look forward to them…) So: this afternoon we do some typical
Synod July work: Legislation. It looks boring – but we need to get
the law right so we can do our mission. We are now doing Marriage
Law – amending some stuff about who can get married where. Some
Fresh Expressions have some complications about this (eg some meet
in places outside the parish which sponsors them). A lawyer is
telling us that the law and such Fresh Expressions don’t
mix…let’s see. 3.30. People were keen for Fresh Expressions to
have appropriate law, but we felt that this particular measure was
not the one to do it in. Now we’re on to which service to call the
Banns in. We’ve decided to say it should be the Principal service –
and any other service should we wish. Now it’s about payments to
the Churches Conservation Trust. Government is reducing its funding
for closed churches. We need to look after them – indeed some of
them get reopened, and all can still speak of God. 2 million
visitors to 341 such churches. We’ve agreed to continue to pay.
Main event now: Parochial Fees. Radical proposal to increase them
substantially to ‘level the playing field’, and stop churches like
mine adding extras for heat and admin. I reckon it’s nearly
ok…but ‘one size fits all’ is almost impossible in the C of E
4.45 Various speakers are saying that the wedding fees are either
too high or too low. Just as I thought. There is greater agreement
about the proposed funeral fees – the one size approach will
penalise rural churches who need to heat themselves in winter.
5.10. It might get voted down! We are voting electronically. And it
has been lost!! The old fees remain in place….and we must start
again. But the new law is in place, so that means that parishes
which charge for some extras will be illegal. Hmmmm.

This might well be the worst of all worlds. But the fault might be with the Measure, done by the previous Synod, not the honest attempt at uniformity which the Bishop of Rochester’s group offered us. Shame, I think.

Saturday evening
A debate about Mission Action Planning. Good for parishes to have Mission Action Plan. But should we have one for the whole of the C of E?

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