General Synod Feb 2012 – Monday

February 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

I hope that my public notetaking gives a useful flavour of Synod’s workings. We’ll be under great scrutiny because of the votes on Women Bishops, and I’ll add my bit…The blow by blow stuff will better followed on Twitter – look for #synod, and you can follow me @RevJFletcher

Interesting atmosphere as I sit in the gallery. Feels like an electricity substation, with lots of cracking restrained power, waiting for the big stuff to happen. Can’t imagine what it must have been like in 1992 over Women Priests.

We’ve sent Her Majesty the Queen our best wishes on this day of her accession to the throne. The example she has set puts a lot of what we do into perspective. And we’ve debated the Agenda, which is a chance for people to say what they think we should have been talking about. Gay Marriage, and the Economic situation were favourites, giving an opportunity for a nice joke about Jags in Surrey and Two Jags in the Northern Province.

There’s about to be a debate on Assisted Dying, and then it’s Questions, with some early ones on what has become a controversial proposed restructuring in the Education Dept – where the National Children’s and National Youth Officers posts are to be abolished and replaced by one different post. Doesn’t look good to abolish youth and children…more anon.

The Assisted Dying debate is underway. The ‘Independent Report’ of Lord Falconer was independent of any official process, but was by no means impartial, and should not be taken as being authoritative. So this debate is a delicate balance of not being too frightened of the report and giving it too much importance, but also taking the matter seriously. The Archbishop of Canterbury has just preserved that balance, noting that societies do change their ‘default positions’ on these things, and saying clearly that the sanctity of life is not a position to change. But we are not about prolonging life at all costs, and Ann Williams invited a reflection on the way people ‘play god’ by both taking life before its time and by prolonging it beyond its proper span (my words, not hers) .

There have been good comments about compassion, especially for those whose mental state is an illness too. A former close associate of mine went to Switzerland after a diagnosis, and my first reaction to that news was not condemnation. If this debate gives real weight to the palliative care world and opens up a balanced ethical debate then it will have doen well. Angus Goudie, a Doctor, has reminded us about the spiritual element in suffering, and that with the right care this can be life affirming (again my words not his).

Paula Gooder commends the phrase in the motion about the intrinsic value of every human life, and asks us to reflect on what it is to live well and to die well. Society is often ‘neo-platonic’, in that people think you can split body and soul. Her quick bit of Bible study shows how difficult it is to split body and soul (nephesh in the OT means ‘blood’), and in this wider debate we have something to say about the nature of life. The Bishop of Chelmsford is now reminding up about the Dvorak Cello Concerto, where one of the movements sounds like it is about to end, and then carries on again. That happens when people are dying – something amazing can happen and life becomes affirmed in the final moments of a life.

The debate continued and we approved the motion with no votes against.

Questions: The Bishop of Oxford is defending the re-structuring of the Education Dept. He is effectively saying that the deed is done, though there is a ‘reflection group’ which will help shape the new post which it seems is a done deal. Lots of people are unimpressed…the idea is to use the same amount of funds as now but not to tie it up in employed staff. But that’s hard on the valued staff who are losing their posts as it stand. Unusual for +Oxford to be seen to be on the back foot. The restructuring might be mission driven, but it looks unfair on those doing the job they are asked to do, and doing it with acclaim.

There’s an interesting set of questions about training for ordination. With all the changes in Higher Education Funding, it is proposed that there should be a single validating authority for ordination. Lots of worries that there will be a common curriculum and the diversity of the C of E will be compromised. We are assured that there will be a suite of awards, not a common curriculum.

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