General Synod Tuesday 7 February 2012

February 7, 2012 § 1 Comment

Good morning all. Sporadic updates from Tuesday’s business if you can stand them. Do look at Twitter – #synod

Scroll to the bottom to check at what point I left to go to coffee, or fell asleep.

10.00: we are debating the Fees set for Weddings and Funerals. We agreed last year that there should be a change to the way we do this, and that they should be broadly uniform across the country. We also agreed that they were very low before, and that they should be raised to reflect the work that goes in to them. But when it came to actual figures (last July) we didn’t like the way these principles were applied.

The new proposals are much more flexible, and tread the tightrope between us being the NHS (free at the point of need) and a private hospital (providing services which it is recognised cost money). My own reflection is that there has to be a balance, and that around £400 for the legalities of a wedding is absolutely fine. There is flexibility to vary fees where they need to be, and for the majority of weddings and funerals the church is the least expensive element of the day.

There are lots of amendments seeking to change the figures on offer, so we’ll see.

11.00 We have approved the Fees Amending Order in principle, and rejected an amendment which would have reduced the proposed Wedding fee by 25% or so. We are now on to the proposed burial fees, which have been drastically reduced from the previous ones. The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds has said that we can add ‘extras’ (like a Virger, Sexton and Gravedigger), but the reality is that it is the burial fee which enables PCCs to maintain a ‘living’ churchyard. It sounds like Synod will go with a change, and keep the fee broadly in line with the previous one.

11.10 We have agreed the amendment, and burial fees are to be in line with the previous ones (around £250) rather than the very low figures proposed. There should have been more of a debate somewhere about balancing the right for a parishioner to be buried in a churchyard with the cost of maintaining that churchyard, but the Synod has made it clear that the fees measure should help those of us with churchyards.

11.40. The whole of the Order has now been passed, with only three votes against. This now puts to an end the annual wrangling about numbers. Hopefully we’ll be able to conecentrate on the positive way in which we engage with our pastoral ministry in weddings and funerals, not just about how much they cost.

I went for coffee, then did a radio thing. So I missed stuff about Clergy Discipline and the Diocese in Europe. But nothing remarkable happened.

2.40. We are now having a presentation about the Draft Code of Practice about Women Bishops. It’s really good that we have something to look at, even if it will have to change if the legislation changes. We are allowed to ask questions, and this will set the tone of the substantive debates tomorrow and Thursday. Let’s see.

I will be fascinated to see what is said about the nature of delegation by a Diocesan Bishop. The draft Code speaks profoundly about the authority of a Bishop deriving from their ordination, and this would allow legal delegation even from a Bishop not acceptable to a parish – because that delegation would be legal. I think its a great definition – but it’s the opponents’ view I will need to hear.

Questions: could we not have something more about working together?; can we have more about derivation and delegation?; did the group get examples of good practice from other parts of the Communion? (Answer to this last one was ‘no’ – because nowhere else has a proposed Measure like this, but it would be good to get more examples when we come to implementation.)

If the Working Party didn’t agree, how can the Synod?; (answer – when there’s final legislation there will be an agreed code)…in what way will ‘extra’ Bishops be a part of the Bishop’s staff and wider diocesan life?; (a – there is a recommendation that they play ‘as full a part as possible’) … how does the use of ‘may’ rather than ‘must’, and in what way does the avoidence of ‘must’ guarantee safeguards?; (a – what is there is legally sound and is as robust as it needs to be legally).

How can there be a uniform code if the diocesan arrangements can be ad hoc?; (a – there will be a good family likeness)… in what way does a bishop who has the care of the diocese restrict themselves when delegating if they don’t really have to?; (a – they’ll just have to…but I’m not sure I got all that)… does the code allow a bishop to receive delegation from a bishop they don’t recognise, and allow a bishop to give delegation they don’t want to?  (a – that’s where we are!)

How would the Code be enforced?;  (a – there can be a Judicial Review)…can the Bishop be challenged if an unsuitable Bishop is provided?; (a – ditto)… is there a way that a Diocesan could consider but not follow the code, and could they be disciplined? (a – conscience can still be challenged legally).

Could the selection of ordination candidates be skewed through positive discrimination?;   a – we just need to get it right)…what is the relationship between the cover note from teh Archbishops and the Code?; (a – it indicates the way we could go)… if delegation and derivation are accepted, will it remove the need for co-jusrisdiction? (a – wait and see)

What is the difference between episcopal oversight and episcopal ministry? (a- epsicopal oversight is a tautology! – there is a differentiation between oversight and pastoral ministry); … is the word ‘should’strong enough?; (in the legal world, it is)…can a Bishop delegate to themselves?; (a – there has to be a code for every diocese, and parishes which recognise the ministry of the diocesan would not need to request it).

Are asking too much of Bishops in the height of the bar set to set aside the Code?; (a – the height set for a Judicial review can itself be discussed); could reasons for dissent be included in the Code?; (this can be included in Letters of Request)…what is the place of the oath of canonical allegiance (to a Bishop)?; (no change – ‘in all things lawful’)….what is the role of the emerging Societies (for anglo catholic and evangelical groupings)?; (a – it’s an emerging situation)

Could a further illustrative code be produced if the legislation changes?; (a – probably) …what about the disparity about provision for objecting parishes and the Bishop attending staff meetings, and dioceses with a ‘traditionalist’ Bishop only inviting a Bishop pro women ‘where practicable’ (a – that’s what the Measure says)….will women be involved in approving the Code?; (a – it’s the House of Bishops, and at the moment they are all men!)

The Bishop of St Eds and Ips says finally that the process has been a privilege, and it will be good to start working out in practice.

That’s been splendid…I hope tomorrow will be too.

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§ One Response to General Synod Tuesday 7 February 2012

  • Sue Wallace says:

    As long as there is provision that makes sure that big churches like yours and ours cover our costs which are far greater than the costs involved in a smaller church and that we get to keep those costs, which we need because we’re poor!

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