Friday, 15 June 2012

Agenda for July 2012 General Synod

The usual pre-synod press release has been issued by the Church of England today, and is copied below. It provides a summary of the business to be transacted, and one item not on the agenda.

I have listed in a separate article the available online papers.

For those interested in the legislation to allow women to be bishops, I draw particular attention to the paper background Q & As which inter alia lists the possible outcomes at the July Synod.

Agenda for July 2012 General Synod
15 June 2012

General Synod meets in July for final stages of women bishops legislation, with an agenda that also includes world mission, church growth, the August 2011 riots, manifesting faith in public life, church schools, Palestine and Israel.

The General Synod will meet at York University from 5.15 p.m. on Friday 6 July until lunchtime on Tuesday 10 July. The meeting will be preceded by meetings of the House of Laity and the Convocations (provincial synods) of Canterbury and York at 2 p.m. on Friday 6 July.

The Agenda provides for the Synod to deal with the final stages of the major legislative process designed to make it possible for women to be bishops in the Church of England while also making some provision for those who, for theological reasons, will not be able to receive their ministry. If the legislation is approved, by simple majorities, by the House of Laity and the Convocations, the way will be clear for it to be presented for final approval on Monday 9 July. As with the women priests legislation in 1992, the whole of the morning and afternoon sittings has been allocated to the Final Approval debates. (See background Q & As).

As in July 2011, part of the Saturday morning has been structured in such a way as to foster a culture of listening and reflection in the Synod. The groups that met last year, each comprising twelve members and led by a bishop, will reflect, in the context of worship, on a Bible passage and on the Church’s contemporary mission.

This will be followed by a debate on the role of mission agencies and on partnership between the Church of England and other churches of the Anglican Communion.

The mission theme will continue on the Saturday evening with a debate on the ‘fresh expressions’ movement, which encourages new ways of being the Church within the contemporary context, in the light of a joint Anglican-Methodist report which considers how these initiatives relate to the doctrinal understanding of what it is to be a church.

Further aspects of the Church of England’s engagement with society - corporately and individually - will be considered on the Sunday and on the Monday. The Synod will debate a report on the Church’s role in local communities in the context of the August 2011 riots and a Private Member’s Motion expressing the conviction that it is the calling of Christians to manifest their faith in public life as well as in private. It will also receive a presentation on the report ‘The Church School of the Future’, which looks at ways in which the Church of England could extend its role in the education system, in the context of the current changes to that system.

On the Sunday afternoon the Synod will be invited to authorize new Eucharistic Prayers for use from 1 September at services at which there are significant numbers of children present - at a Communion service in a church school, for example.

The Synod will also debate a Private Member’s Motion affirming support for the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, for agencies working for justice and peace in the region, and for Palestinian Christians and organizations that work to ensure their continuing presence in the Holy Land.

Other items of legislative business will be taken on the Saturday afternoon. These include the final approval of a draft Measure amending aspects of the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 and of a draft Measure giving the Church Commissioners power to make financial provision for the mission of the growing Diocese in Europe.

The Synod will also receive presentations on the annual reports of the Archbishops’ Council and the Church Commissioners, and will be invited to approve the Council’s budget for 2013. It will debate a Diocesan Synod Motion relating to the size of the committees that elect diocesan representatives to participate in the choosing of diocesan bishops.

If the Synod completes its consideration of the women bishops legislation in July, there will be no need for a third group of sessions in November, and this will therefore be final occasion at which the Archbishop of Canterbury will preside, with the Archbishop of York, at a meeting of the General Synod. Dr Williams will preach at the Eucharist in York Minster on the Sunday morning. The final business for the group of sessions will be a motion, to be moved by the Archbishop of York, expressing the Synod’s gratitude to Dr Williams and offering him and Mrs Williams its best wishes for the future.

One item not on the Agenda for July is the Anglican Communion Covenant. The Business Committee publishes today its report on the voting in the diocesan synods on the draft Act of Synod adopting the Covenant. 18 diocesan synods voted in favour and 26 against, so this draft Act of Synod cannot be presented to the General Synod for final approval. As the report shows, the voting was quite close. The majority of Houses of Clergy (26) voted against, but the majority of Houses of Laity (23) voted in favour. Overall, of the 1516 members of houses of clergy who voted, 732 (48%) voted in favour and 784 (52%) voted against, whereas, of the 1813 members of houses of laity who voted, 960 (53%) voted in favour and 853 (47%) voted against. The Business Committee believes that it would be helpful for members of the Synod to have time to reflect on the position before the Synod debates the report and the Diocesan Synod Motions about the Covenant that have been passed by nine diocesan synods. These will therefore be debated not in July but at the next group of sessions after July.

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 (www.churchofengland.org) ahead of the General Synod sessions.

A live feed will be available courtesy of Premier Radio (accessible from front page www.churchofengland.org), and audio files of debates, along with updates on each day’s proceedings, will be posted during the sessions.

Posted by Peter Owen on Friday, 15 June 2012 at 9:18pm BST | TrackBack
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Comments

"As the report shows, the voting was quite close. The majority of Houses of Clergy (26) voted against, but the majority of Houses of Laity (23) voted in favour. Overall, of the 1516 members of houses of clergy who voted, 732 (48%) voted in favour and 784 (52%) voted against, whereas, of the 1813 members of houses of laity who voted, 960 (53%) voted in favour and 853 (47%) voted against. The Business Committee believes that it would be helpful for members of the Synod to have time to reflect on the position before the Synod debates the report and the Diocesan Synod Motions about the Covenant that have been passed by nine diocesan synods. These will therefore be debated not in July but at the next group of sessions after July." Interesting tally.

Posted by: cseitz on Saturday, 16 June 2012 at 7:47am BST

So here we see the interesting way someone (who might have drafted this document?) presents the outcome of the diocesan votes on the Covenant.

The delay over what to do next till the next group of sessions gives "time to reflect" and the stats get an airing - Hmmm, you just know there is something in the air, don't you?
Rowan is just going to be present in spirit at York, is that correct?

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Saturday, 16 June 2012 at 9:12am BST

Interesting that the Report of the Business Committee deals in some detail with the procedural consequences of Standing Order 94. M'thinks that the House of Bishops is rattled by the response to their 'amemdments'. What on earth were they thinking?

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Saturday, 16 June 2012 at 11:00pm BST

Just read the answers and questions on the women's bishops measures, and I think for a comprehensive inclusive church it offers a balanced way forward.

There has to be some give and take...maybe it should be for future generations to decide whether it needs to be changed.

My one worry is that the impossibilist strand will not be able to recognise male clergy ordained by women bishops. Hence men will know what it is like to be discriminated against.

Will impossibilist clergy agree to be consecrated by Archbishops who have consecrated women priests?..the q and A seems to imply that will not be the case.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Sunday, 17 June 2012 at 8:21am BST

"Overall, of the 1516 members of houses of clergy who voted, 732 (48%) voted in favour and 784 (52%) voted against, whereas, of the 1813 members of houses of laity who voted, 960 (53%) voted in favour and 853 (47%) voted against."

An interesting tally indeed, as it seems to omit abstentions! If I recall rightly, a plurality of the house of laity voted in favour, but were narrowly short of an overall majority. I might go back and check this again, as I could be mistaken. But the overall impression given by these figures is misleading: especially as the abstention vote was quite high in dioceses which voted overwhelmingly to accept the covenant.

Posted by: rjb on Sunday, 17 June 2012 at 2:45pm BST

Okay, having quickly run through the figures again, it looks to me that the covenant squeaked through with the narrowest of all majorities in the house of laity: 50.75% of the vote in favour. That's 951 for, 832 (44.4%) against, and 91 abstentions (~5%). Note that the synod seems to be using different figures from the ones available on the Modern Church website - presumably they have a different count for Oxford!

Posted by: rjb on Sunday, 17 June 2012 at 3:08pm BST

"it looks to me that the covenant squeaked through with the narrowest of all majorities in the house of laity" -- thanks for this.

Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 17 June 2012 at 8:18pm BST

"...a joint Anglican-Methodist report which considers how these initiatives relate to the doctrinal understanding of what it is to be a church."

How nice to see an article (definite or indefinite) attached to the word 'church' once again. Does this mean (gasp!) that the F.E. lark was embarked upon without any thought as to how 'Fresh Expressions of toad-sexing church' might relate to a theology of the Church? Surely not! I mean, we wouldn't put vast amounts of effort, time and money into a consumerist encouraging of the like-minded to band together and separate from other age-groups, classes, traditions and so on without thnking seriously about ecclesiology - would we?

Posted by: david rowett on Sunday, 17 June 2012 at 9:28pm BST

How can anyone countenance continuing with the Covenant idea when it has clearly split the Church down the middle. Can you imagine a scenario where the Covenant was accepted after squeaking through by a bare majority, there would be terrible division, which is exactly what the Covenant is supposed to avoid.

By the way looking at Anglican support for the proposed draconian anti-gay legislation in Uganda, who in their right mind would want to covenant with such people?

Best to drop the idea now, but I suppose that there are those who have vested so much in the idea that they can't leave it alone for sake of losing face.

Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Sunday, 17 June 2012 at 11:18pm BST

As I have argued elsewhere, I think it is clear where this is going. The Covenanters will, in due course, emerge from the smoke-filled backrooms of Church House, Lambeth Palace and the Anglican Communion Office with a draft resolution for General Synod to "affirm" the Covenant despite the defeat in the dioceses and these highly misleading statistics will provide the necessary cover.

There are, of course, a number of problems with the statistics (quite apart from their irrelevance since the matter was submitted to the diocesan synods, not to an aggregate vote of all diocesan synod members). But for me, the most glaring problem is that the results from all dioceses are given equal weight, regardless of how the debate was conducted.

No honest person can argue that the massive "yes" vote in Lichfield (as just one example) constitutes a fair representation of anything, given the manner in which the debate was manipulated.

First, there was the refusal to distribute any material critical of the Covenant in advance of the vote, even rejecting an offer from Covenant opponents to cover conduct the mailing at their own expense.

Then there was a debate so unfairly and unethically conducted it would have made Kim Jong Il blush.

The 90 minutes allocated to the Covenant debate began with a 30 minute presentation by a prominent Covenanter (Bishop Kings of Sherborne). There followed a ten minute speech by the mover of the motion to approve the Draft Act of Synod. Thus 40 minutes of a 90 minute debate had elapsed before anyone critical of the Covenant was permitted to utter a syllable. Even though the remaining 50 minutes saw alternating for and against speeches with a five minute time limit, that still means a 90 minute debate with 65 minutes of speech in favour of the Covenant with only 25 minutes opposed. In what lunatic dystopia is such a debate considered even remotely fair?

This was typical in many (most?) of the dioceses that voted yes. Yet these results in these dioceses, where synod members were deliberately deprived of information, are to be given the same weight as the results from the majority of dioceses where both sides were given a fair(er) hearing.

This affirms the old aphorism, "figures lie and liars figure."

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Monday, 18 June 2012 at 1:24am BST

Women bishops - time for reflection bad; Covenant - time for reflection good. Re the Covenant, in 1932 Gracie Fields scored a hit with a song called "He's dead, but he won't lie down".

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Monday, 18 June 2012 at 1:37am BST

I'm sorry, cseitz, but what point are you making? The Covenant lost, with 26 of the Church's 44 dioceses voting it down. It failed, moreover, notwithstanding the bar for passage having been set, for some reason, at the lowest possible level - a simple majority, as distinct from significantly higher requirement for the women bishops vote, where a 2/3 majority was needed in each diocese for approval. Carping about the outcome of a vote conducted under terms agreed and understood at the outset of the process serves no purpose. The only questionable aspect of the Covenant voting procedure was in those dioceses (Lichfield, for example) where presentations preceding the vote were clearly deliberately skewed in favour of the Covenant.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Monday, 18 June 2012 at 5:22am BST

The "Question & Answer" publication available to the Press, on the issue of the Ordination of Women as Bishops in the Church of England affects to make the case that the House of Bishops Amendments make no difference to the definitive rights of a Woman Bishop to administer her own diocese than those obtaining in the original Draft Measure.

One wonders why, if that were the case, the house of bishops even bothered to make the amendments.

What has actually happened is that, in an attempt to appease the concerns of the Anti-Women lobby, the H.o.B. has subtly altered the tone of the meaning of the word 'Delegation', to mean that the Woman Bishop will be forced to 'delegate' her diocesan episcopal authority to a Male Bishop. Not only that, but the Male Bishop has to be one of those 'pure and undefiled' from any contact with Women's Ordination - in keeping with the endemic discriminatory ethos of the people he will be 'allowed' to minister to in the diocese of a female diocesan whose Orders they do not recognise

These Amendments to the original Draft Measure will, indeed, further entrench the discriminatory ethos against the Ministry of Women in the C.of E.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 18 June 2012 at 12:01pm BST

Like many here, I am curious what the recent report actually portends. It notes that the laity voted in favour. It does not note--probably does not need to--that the Bishops voted overwhelmingly in favour. We'll have to see what the Synod decides to make out of this when the Covenant is discussed. As we have seen (SE Asia, et al), lots of reactions are possible from Synod off its own bat. Does this help you with your question 'monsieur loony rabbit'?

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 18 June 2012 at 2:04pm BST

No

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Monday, 18 June 2012 at 6:50pm BST

We can all breathe a sigh of relief now that only noteworthy thing to say about the whole Covenant fandango is the final voting tally.

Posted by: Andrew on Monday, 18 June 2012 at 8:36pm BST
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