General Synod – Tuesday

July 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Morning all. Not started yet, but a little picture gallery for you. A friendly cat, a ubiquitous goose, the Bishop of Newcastle and Synod members on the bridge.

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9.55
The Archbishop of York (recovering from an operation and infection) is in the building, and Synod is pleased to see him Archbishop Rowan has talked of the ‘Sentamu shaped hole’ there has been.

Rowan is now to address us about Christians in the Holy Land – there is a haemhorrage of Christans there, and there’s to be a conference next week. The DVD presentation is powerful – some amazing photos. I hope to spend a month in Jerusalem next year – the appetite is being whetted.

Rowan is speaking: there is a crisis – what should be done. What should we do? The seriousness of the situation of Christians in Isreal and Palestine is serious and not yet fully understood. Rowan says that in certain areas we face the disappearance of historic Christian communities, some of which have been there since the days of our Lord. Christianity is in danger of being a heritage presence only. A fund is being set up, in conjunction with Friends of the Holy Land.

Rowan is keen to say that this is not a political campaign, but a means of supporting our brothers and sisters. But the sensitivities are great – the conference needs to be delivered from platitude, but not plough into the political sand.

On to the Church Commissioners Annual Report. Andreas Whittam-Smith, First Church Estates Commissioner.
2010 was a succesful year, but we should not rest on our laurels. He says that we have handled the old problems well, but will we handle the new ones well? The CCs are now into ‘resilience’ rather than growth, because we live in ‘a world of shocks’.

They are looking for more resilient assets, because:
the financial crisis is not over – there is still over-borrowing. There may even be an American debt default – this is not just about Greece.
there is uncertainty about oil
the pension liability is coming home to roost as clergy retire.

Interesting that it’s this presentation which makes you feel like you are part of  a global discussion – we’ve been taken in a very understated presentation to the heart of the economic and political issues of the day. The Church Commissioners and their fund managers put the Church of England’s money where its mouth is – its a part of mission as well as contributing to our mission in our localities.

On to questions of the Commissioners – I wonder if someone will ask about the sale of some of our social housing? We gained financially but got rid of some of our social influence at eth same time. Old story but Andreas did refer to it himself.

Questions about capital spending to invest in hard pressed communities. Alison Ruoff is now asking about Halal Meat and Sharia Law. We invest in Tesco, which she tells us supports Sharia law by the use of unlabelled Hala meat.

11.00 Now on to Education – celebrating 200 years of the National Society (the C of E had a national education vision decades before the state did) and hundreds of years of involvement before that. How does the church keep a stake in education?
Bishop of Oxford speaking. 3 challenges
– Academies. Who will provide the things once provided by the LEA? It could be the church, if we hold our nerve and are quick on our feet. Schools could have a variety of relationships with the diocese, but we have to be careful that the relationship is not diluted.
-RE is in a real crisis, due to its exclusion from the EBacc. All is still not lost about this, but ‘it’s a close run thing’. RE teacher trainee places are also being cut. RE teaching should be promoted as a Christian vocation.
– Admissions. There has been a review, but not much has changed.

The opportunities are huge and the time is now…he says.

Hard to see how the debate which follows will be anything more than a reaffirmation of our place in the sector, some good stories, some handwringing about the rapid pace of change forced on us by the Government, worry about RE and some proper celebration of the foundations on which we now stand. All is important, and affects me directly (I have 3 church schools and govern a state school which is about to be an Academy). But I’ll only report anything beyond this.

Archimandrite Ephrem (wearing a fetching hat) wants us to ‘beat young Mr Gove into shape. He needs it!’.

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