Monday, 18 January 2010

General Synod - February 2010 - full agenda published

The General Synod of the Church of England will meet in London from 8 to 12 February 2010. The following press release was issued a short time ago.

See our adjoining item for links to online Synod papers.

Full agenda published for February’s General Synod
18 January 2010

Debates on children and young people, mission, TV coverage of religion, science and religious belief, church buildings, relations with the Anglican Church in North America, clergy pensions and legislation feature in sessions of the Church of England’s ‘parliament,’ the General Synod, to be held in London from February 8th to 12th.

Children and young people

Synod will debate the report Going for Growth, on the Board of Education’s new strategy for children and young people. This offers both a theological framework and practical proposals, and is a sequel to the debate at the July 2009 Synod on the major inquiry into childhood commissioned by The Children’s Society, A Good Childhood.


The report and motion from the Mission and Public Affairs Council will follow up the 2004 Synod debate on ‘Mission-shaped Church’ and will encourage action in training and deployment; the making of Bishops’ Mission Orders, and research on the growth of the ‘mixed-economy Church.’ Bishop Graham Cray (Archbishops’ Missioner and Fresh Expressions Team Leader) will give a presentation on the current programme and future plans for Fresh Expressions.

TV coverage of religion and ethics

A Private Member’s Motion from Mr. Nigel Holmes (Carlisle) invites the Synod to ask the BBC and Ofcom to explain why British television marginalises TV coverage of religious and ethical issues.


Synod will be asked to complete several items of legislative business – chiefly the Ecclesiastical Fees (Amendment) Measure, which will put in place a new framework for the making of orders for parochial fees. Synod will also be asked to approve two codes of practice issued by the Archbishops’ Council, which set out the capability and grievance procedures that will apply to the clergy under the new common tenure arrangements.

Clergy pensions

An Archbishops’ Council report sets out the reasons for the proposed changes to the Clergy Pensions Scheme. These include increasing the pension age for future service to 68 and increasing the accrual period for future service to 43 years. There is a separate report on changes being proposed in relation to ill-health retirement.

There is also a Private Member’s Motion from the Revd Mark Bratton (Coventry) which asks the Archbishops’ Council and the Pensions Board to bring forward changes to the pension scheme’s rules, to provide pension benefits for surviving civil partners.

Science and religious belief

Synod will debate a Diocesan Synod Motion from Manchester, expressing concern at the perceived need to choose between the claims of science and belief in God; and urging the House of Bishops to promote a better public understanding of the compatibility of science and Christian belief.

Church buildings

The Cathedrals and Church Buildings Division will give a short presentation on what the Division has achieved since the publication five years ago of Building Faith in our Future, and the challenges that cathedrals and church buildings face today. This will preface a debate on the Ripon and Leeds Diocesan Synod Motion, which seeks to increase substantially the amount of money available for the repair of listed church buildings.

Relations with the Anglican Church in North America

A Private Member’s Motion from Mrs. Lorna Ashworth (Chichester) asks the Synod to express the desire that the Church of England be in communion with the Anglican Church in North America (which includes churches which have separated from The Episcopal Church in the United States, and the Anglican Church of Canada).

Other Private Members Motions and Diocesan Synod Motions

There will be a debate on a Private Members’ Motion from Mr. Tom Benyon (Oxford) which expresses concern about the potentially desensitising and damaging effects on children and young people of computer games containing violent and sexual content; and seeks changes to the classification system for video games and a review of the regulatory system for advertising video games.

There are two other Diocesan Synod Motions. One from Chelmsford asks Synod to request dioceses, deaneries and parishes to adopt some symbol of the Church’s confidence in the Bible for the nation, bearing in mind that 2011 is the 400th anniversary of the Authorised Version of the Bible. The other is from Coventry diocese, which asks for the case for legislation conferring incorporated status on deanery synods to be considered.

Women bishops

The Revision Committee on Women in the Episcopate has reluctantly concluded that it still has too much to undertake in order to conclude its work in time for the February Synod. The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd. Nigel McCulloch, as Chair of the Steering Committee, will make a statement.

Other business

Synod will be addressed by the President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference (the Reverend David Gamble, and Dr. Richard Vautrey) as an expression of the Covenant relationship between the Church of England and the Methodist Church. There will be an opportunity for questions and contributions from the floor.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, will give a Presidential Address. There will also be a presentation on the role of armed forces chaplains in the current military operations overseas.

There is also one item of liturgical business: the Revision Stage of the Additional Weekday Lectionary; and some business relating to Synod’s Standing Orders, and the forthcoming Synod elections.

Communicating Synod

Parishioners can keep in touch with the General Synod while it meets. Background papers and other information will be posted on the Church of England website ahead of the General Synod sessions. A live feed will be available courtesy of Premier Radio (accessible from front page of, and audio files of debates, along with updates on the days’ proceedings will be posted during the sessions.

Posted by Peter Owen on Monday, 18 January 2010 at 11:28am GMT | TrackBack
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If there was ever a time for voices to be heard and heard LOUDLY by people of goodwill against the measure to recognize the Anglican Church of North America, it is NOW. If this measure passes, it would be a good time for the American Episcopal Church to stop all association with the The Church of England and the cowardly Archbishop of Canterbury. A public outcry from clergy and lay persons should be loud and clear.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Monday, 18 January 2010 at 2:55pm GMT


The motion about ACNA is simply a Private Member's Motion. Any such motion that gets at least 100 signatures, and is not behind in numbers by comparision with other PMMs, gets debated.

Many don't get passed, others get amended significantly along the way. The fact that over 100 members want to debate this indicates a significant level of support for the motion, but not that it will pass, nor that it represents the views of the ABC or the Synod Business Committee.

Posted by: David Walker on Monday, 18 January 2010 at 4:53pm GMT

Looks like a really interesting session. The science and belief motion is a good one, hits the nail right on the head.

Posted by: David Keen on Monday, 18 January 2010 at 5:02pm GMT

Wot! Nothing about the Anglican Covenant? I'd have thought it ought to be prominent on the agenda, but it doesn't appear to get a mention - unless it comes up in the ACNA debate. They're not exactly rushing to be the first to sign up.

I do begin to wonder if the best way for the rest of us to handle the Covenant is simply to pop it in the "pending" file until we see if the CofE General Synod (and Crown and Parliament, as necessary) can be persuaded to swallow it. If not, why should the other Provinces bother?

Posted by: David Bayne on Monday, 18 January 2010 at 6:17pm GMT

First, I apologize: I'm not aware of proper nomenclature (for example, the convention of using “+” for priests) for non-clergy members of General Synod. I can't determine whether Ms. Ashford is a layperson or has some other type of standing, such as being an MP. So, please forgive any disrespect I may cause by referring to the GS member in question as "Ms." Also, I gather from Ms. Ashford’s comments that formally adopted measures from General Synod are in some way the law of the land. Is this so?
Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison! God have mercy on us all!
With all due respect, I believe Ms. Ashford shows woeful ignorance of the polity of TEC and the USA! Of course "TEC is not embedded in the life of the nation in anything like the way English parish churches and cathedrals have been." ACNA can't be embedded that way either. It would violate the US Constitution. CofE is an established church. As I understand it, the monarch is the head of the CofE, which gives the monarch huge theoretical power. CofE receives funding and other direct support from the State. If past Episcopalian presidents had tried to force such a thing for the US, they might have been impeached, convicted, and unemployed.
Regarding "the unfair treatment of people who have continued to maintain the Anglican faith in doctrine, practice and worship, and to express their continuing fellowship with them as loyal Anglicans." What gall. I think Episcopalians have just been insulted. As far as I'm concerned, TEC and the people who worship there ARE maintaining the Anglican faith in doctrine, practice, and worship. They just don't do it in a way that pleases ACNA and Ms. Ashford. Too bad.
Regarding lawsuits, what chutzpah! Seize parish property for yourself, then express outrage that TEC wants to hold onto it and is fighting to do so. Oh, the horror!
I fervently pray that all parts of GS 1764 be defeated and cast into utter darkness!

Posted by: peterpi on Monday, 18 January 2010 at 7:00pm GMT


Mrs Ashworth is a lay member of General Synod.

Some historic church buildings receive grants for upkeep (and they get that because they are historic buildings not because they are church buildings) but that is the full extent of state financial support for the Church of England.

Posted by: Peter Owen on Monday, 18 January 2010 at 8:01pm GMT

Regarding the in/compatibility of Christian faith and science:

Christianity is based on the idea that God intervenes in history - 'sent' his Son for example, and definitions that he is divine, and there is a last day.

Science supposes that the universe and world runs itself, with unpredictable outcomes, with catastrophic interludes, and will go on until the sun gobbles up this planet, probably long after we've gone, and the universe expands until it is energy-less and completely distant and cold.

What is the compatibility between Christianity and the scientific explanation?

Posted by: Pluralist on Monday, 18 January 2010 at 8:47pm GMT

Theoretical is the right word! I think if the Queen tried to use her "theoretical" powers there would be an uproar!

I don't think the CofE receives funding or any other form of direct support from the State... Far from it! The CofE is mostly funded through congregational giving, investments, and land and property interests.

But yes, the whole motion is a bit worrying. Fortunately Lorna Ashworth doesn't speak for the whole Church of England!

Posted by: Nick Lincoln on Monday, 18 January 2010 at 9:13pm GMT

Thank you, Nick Lincoln and Peter Owen regarding funding from the State. I thought there was a "church tax" that went towards funding clerical salaries and such for religious entities?
Pluralist, "God" is outside the realm of science. Science is neutral on religion. And I, for one, feel that modern scientific cosmology and evolutionary theory is compatible with Genesis 1. But then, I feel that God created the ground rules -- the laws that science seeks to discover -- wound the Universe up, set off the "Big Bang", and is letting it run on its own. We humans have been given absolute free will. If God is constantly intervening, where is the free will? God as a form of constitutional monarch, if you will, bound by constraints God created.

Posted by: peterpi on Monday, 18 January 2010 at 10:41pm GMT

Conventions for describing lay members of the Synod? Normal usage -- Firstname Lastname, with an appropriate prefix such as Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms or whatever.

As for appending a cross (+) to the name of a priest -- this is almost entirely unknown in Britain and seems to be confined to Americans. Seriously, do you need to know that someone is a member of the clergy? Nothing wrong with referring to a priest as Mr (or whatever) Smith.

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Monday, 18 January 2010 at 10:44pm GMT

Not all the things Ms. Ashworth has written are lies. Some are merely deceitful half-truths.

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 1:18am GMT

"Nothing wrong with referring to a priest as Mr (or whatever) Smith." - Simon Kershaw, on Monday -

Quite right, Simon!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 1:27am GMT

The point about science is that simplicity creates complexity and intelligence. If a God created the ground-rules, then it's a cop out that intelligence creates simplicity that leads to complexity and intelligence. Such deism of a starting-gun God is a cop-out, a cop-out to people who make intercessions too and think something is listening and might respond, for example, for those in Haiti and the rest. A starting gun God is a God of the last gap, and gasp.

Religion and science are incompatible if religion alters itself as science also alters itself, and completely rearranges itself as moments for contemplation and reflection.

Posted by: Pluralist on Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 3:40am GMT


I only know a church tax from Germany where everyone is born either into the Lutheran Protestant or the Roman Catholic faith and automatically pays a percentage of their income tax to the church unless they opt out. But once opted out of church they are no longer entitled to be baptised, married or burried by a priest.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 8:22am GMT

peterpi: no, there is no kind of church tax in the United Kingdom. All the churches are financed out of congregational giving or historic investments; except for church schools, which are funded by the State.

There are many other states in Europe which do allocate a proportion of income tax receipts to the Church, though - Germany, Austria, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Italy and Alsace in France all do so. Concordat Watch estimates that the Spanish RC Church receives 6 billion Euros from the state

Posted by: Fr Mark on Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 8:46am GMT

'Some are merely deceitful half-truths'

... and like half-bricks are able to inflict pain, hurt and damage.

Posted by: kennedy on Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 12:39pm GMT

"I, for one, feel that modern scientific cosmology and evolutionary theory is compatible with Genesis 1."

There are also those many Christians who are quite happy with the idea that Genesis 1 is myth, and does not challenge scientific cosmology in any way whatsoever.

Simon Dawson

Posted by: Simon Dawson on Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 2:31pm GMT

Christianity does not presuppose that "God intervenes in history." Rather that God is the Lord of history. It is intervention only if we and all of creation, including history, are not dependent on God for existence at all. Otherwise, history is the perfect locus for in which God to appear because God is always at work therein "from the beginning".

Posted by: Christopher on Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 2:51pm GMT

In many respects it is a pity there is no Church Tax in England. The Church of England is an established church with a "folk church" ethos but the money situation especially the last 30 years has undermined that a great deal. The result is greater congregationalism, very different pastoral strategies esp over the occasional offices,a greater "sectarianism" and clergy increasingly moving from parson to chaplain of the congregation...this "sectarianism" becomes re-enforcing as the penumbra of occasional C of E worshippers fall away...have you noticed that many churches descibe themselves as Anglican now rather than C of E? I think the financial problems of the C of E are increasingly turning it into just another denomination in England...

Posted by: Perry Butler on Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 4:18pm GMT

Three comments on the science and religion discussion: first, it seems to me that every scientific statement - "The planets move round the Sun in a manner determined by Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation" for example - should be prefaced by the disclaimer "It appears to us now to be as though ... " or, in the case of my example "It appeared to people before the beginnng of the 20th Century to be as though ...". Second, the most puzzling question in science seems to me (as a mathematician) to be captured by the title of Eugene Wigner's famous paper "The unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences" - that is, why do our localised observations and theorising provide models which appear to fit so well with our experience of the natural world from quantum to cosmic scales? Third, I recommend the short story "Unreasonable effectiveness" by Alex Kasman ( for a witty, left-field take on God as creator and humankind's part in it.

Posted by: Leslie Fletcher on Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 7:32pm GMT

"Science supposes that the universe and world runs itself, with unpredictable outcomes, with catastrophic interludes, and will go on until the sun gobbles up this planet, probably long after we've gone, and the universe expands until it is energy-less and completely distant and cold.

What is the compatibility between Christianity and the scientific explanation?"

Well, what comes BEFORE and AFTER your Scientific Grand Theory above, Pluralist? (Such Before & After, being ETERNAL, are hardly mere "gaps"! Yes-yes-yes: I'm aware that it is held that the Big Bang created "time" itself, such that there is no "Before". Being that I don't think we Homo sapiens are really capable of comprehending a notion of "Before Time", I simply discount it as an argument. Self-evidently, "Before Time" fails to satisfy my cognition.)

If The Scientific Grand Theory is *proven* empirically, it's *limited* empirically, also. [I rather think the Period of Empirically-Tested Reality IS "the gap"! ;-/]

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 7:41pm GMT

Every monotheistic religion's concept of God, whether it's Judaism's or Islam’s One God with no parts or divisions or Christianity's Trinity of Father, simultaneous human-God Son, and Holy Spirit, is only a dim approximation of God. I think it can be safely said of all monotheistic religions that our frail human constructs of God don't come close to what God is.
I, for one, do not see God as some anthropomorphic physical being "up there" (wherever “up” is in modern cosmology), watching over the activities of every single human being -- because we're, well, special! We're special because we like to think of ourselves as special and, quite frankly, because we created the holy books that say we’re special. If apes had the same consciousness and thinking abilities as humans, I believe their monotheism would teach that God created ape on the sixth day. To me, God is pure Being, pure Existence. God permeates everything. God isn't above it all. God is “in” all. Complain about the shallowness of George Lucas' "Force" in Star Wars if you wish, but his idea is a lot closer to God than some pure white super-powered humanoid, sitting on a pure white throne, dressed in pure white from head to toe.
Modern science says there is no time before the Big Bang. Monotheistic religions teach that God encompasses time and space: There is no time without God. I for one think there are parallels.
Let science answer the "How", let religion answer the big "Why" questions. Why are we here? Why do we matter? Is this all there is? Why should we be good? Why does misery exist?
I suspect that a significant number of modern scientists are religious. Newton was Christian. Einstein was Jewish. They have no problems reconciling religion and science. Einstein, for one, believed he was discovering God’s rules.
Or do we go back to persecuting modern-day Galileos?

Posted by: peterpi on Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 9:34pm GMT

>Fr Mark
>Concordat Watch estimates that the Spanish RC Church receives 6 billion Euros from the state

6 billion is the headline figure. The actual "church portion of income tax" raised 241 million Euros - i.e., 4% of the total claim of "State support".

The headline figure includes as "going to the Catholic Church":

Salaries of military chaplains and prison chaplains.
Salaries of State employed RE teachers who teach Catholic religion.
Grants to Catholic charities (an option on the tax form).
Funding for private Catholic schools.
Tax exemptions.
Tax relief on charitable donations to the church.
... and a bundle of others.

Most of those go nowhere near the Church (one or two do,to be fair), or go to local congregations.

If we follow that analysis, then all the funding of UK Church of England ethos schools is funding the Church itself - an assertion which is baloney.

The devil is in the detail of the categorisation, as ever, and Concordat Watch is hardly a trustworthy source.


Posted by: Julian on Saturday, 23 January 2010 at 3:52am GMT

_Being that I don't think we Homo sapiens are really capable of comprehending a notion of "Before Time"_

I think it is all too easy. What happens is that we have a point where time begins, and then humans think, "Hum, before that must be a sort of eternity, or everlastingness where God is." It is a made gap.

I don't know what God as the Lord of time is. I know that Christianity, like Judaism, Islam, Bahai have linear time - there is a last day to come, and prophets come in time.

Time is much more mysterious. Michio Kaku showed how a frightened person slows time (people say the subjective understanding of time - and, actually, by that all important experiment, not so).

Posted by: Pluralist on Saturday, 23 January 2010 at 7:43pm GMT
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