Comments: February General Synod - online papers

My prayers will be offered for the G.S.Report of the House of Bishops on Marriage and Same-Sex Relationships, on Wednesday 15 February. Will this - like other recent meetings on this subject by the H.o.B - be held 'in purdah'? Or will the Press be allowed to report on the proceedings? We in other parts of the Anglican Communion are vitally interested in any positive outcome for the Church of England on this important matter.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 20 January 2017 at 11:42pm GMT

GS 2056 (‘Setting God’s People Free’) is a most interesting read, and one of the most important papers to be supplied by the secretariat for some time. It is worth reading it in conjunction with GS Misc 1150 (the update on R&R).

GS 2056 is about making much greater use of the laity. GS Misc 1150 devotes some space to increasing clerical vocations; whilst it attempts to align with GS 2056 at some points, I cannot help but note the tension between the desire to make more of lay vocations and the anxiety to increase the number of ordinands (by which I assume – though no clarification is supplied – stipendiary clergy).

The problem is this: fewer clergy = more lay control/involvement; more clergy = less lay control/involvement. If the laity are, effectively, running most of the show how can increased numbers of new [stipendiary] clergy be justified? The laity may resent the additional cost, whilst paid clergy may wish to exert control in order to evidence their value added. The risk of ‘power struggles’ (p. 8) can therefore only be alleviated if the great bulk of the projected increase in ordinands are SSMs (which will in turn make the recruitment of clergy from minorities and the young all the more difficult).

Cynics might therefore wonder that when GS 2056 stresses that ‘We are not trying to train up new volunteers to fill the gaps left by declining clergy numbers or make people work even harder to rescue the institutional Church’ it doth protest too much. Either that or the authorities are suffering from some sort of institutional cognitive dissonance.

On p. 17: ‘some laypeople at times feel little better than pew fodder whose task is no more than to give money, receive teaching, sing nicely and comply meekly’. Too true. I spent 15 years attending one parish every Sunday with a regular congregation of between 20 and 30 (a parish where, as the only young person, I received no more than a cursory greeting for the first seven years). I had some hopes of ordination from a very young age, but received no encouragement whatever on the rare occasions the resident priest deigned to talk to me (in de haut en bas manner); indeed, I often felt diminished by these encounters. I became a peripatetic worshipper seven years ago and have now lost any calling to orders (I am 41).

Posted by Froghole at Saturday, 21 January 2017 at 12:22pm GMT

"I often felt diminished by these encounters. I became a peripatetic worshipper seven years ago and have now lost any calling to orders"

I suspect an increasing number of people are called (by God) to peripatetic lay service. Even more than lay service in general peripatetic service is seriously underestimated by the Church and not really understood, particularly by ordinands for whom a geographical tie is of such importance.

Posted by Kate at Saturday, 21 January 2017 at 11:20pm GMT

Without yet having read "Setting God's People Free" a number of things leap out:

Para 1: A great opportunity lies before us. ... It is an opportunity that arguably has not been fully grasped since the days of Wesley.

Of course, it was the Methodists who took the opportunity. The CofE refused to listen and schism followed.

On the term 'free': I searched for a definition and didn't immediately see one. Of the 10 uses of the word 5 are repeats of the title. 2 are in one repeated paragraph which asserts that, if we don't act, then we will never set people free.

There is 1 "free of bias" and 1 "free legal aid".

The only affirmative use of the word is an opening question:
"Will we determine to empower, liberate and disciple the 98% of the Church of England who are not ordained and therefore set them free for fruitful, faithful mission and ministry, influence, leadership and, most importantly, vibrant relationship with Jesus in all of life?"

And, from this initial glance, "we" (when it doesn't refer to the authors) seems to mean clergy - who are to do the empowering. So who or what are lay people to be freed from?

Now to read it and find the answers.

Posted by Paul bagshaw at Sunday, 22 January 2017 at 2:27pm GMT

Another job for the clergy. Quite so, Paul Bagshaw. Another stick for diocesan officials to beat parochial clergy with. I have read the report. Maybe my urban parishes are unusual, but despite my own experience as an enabler and talent spotter in another field, I see no horde of people aching to be set free for ministry. What I see are people working hard to support families and friends with increasingly little spare money or time or energy. Perhaps this is another CoE initiative directed at the suburban Home Counties churches.

Posted by Fr William at Monday, 23 January 2017 at 8:34am GMT

I've skimmed the report but not read it in depth yet, but part of the emphasis seems to be in recognising that lay people have a ministry away from the church, in their work, families, neighbourhoods etc. The focus on 'ministry' is often a focus on 'jobs that need doing to keep the church going'. Expanding that notion to the places people are 7 days a week, rather than confining it to the church, is a good move.

Perhaps the problem is that we have made church life too complex, if there was less to maintain and manage, would we have more freedom? Andrew Brims has done a fascinating analysis of how much time and energy goes into 'delivering' the current way we operate the church which does beg the question 'what could we do instead if we weren't doing all this?'

Posted by David Keen at Monday, 23 January 2017 at 12:47pm GMT

In answer to Father Ron Smith's query on 20 January about GS 2055 (to be published on Friday 27 January), while the 'Group Work' on the afternoon of Wednesday 15 February will, necessarily, be in private, the introduction to the report by the Bishops of Norwich and Willesden (Graham James and Pete Broadbent - chairman and vice-chairman of "the bishops' reflection group on sexuality"), at 'not later than 12.00 noon', and the 'Take Note' debate from 5.30 pm to 7.00 pm, will be in public session and available to view on the 'live stream' which can be accessed via the link on the General Synod home page of the Church of England website.

One correction: GS 2027Y is the report of the revision committee (not the steering committee) on the draft Legislative Reform Measure.

Posted by David Lamming at Wednesday, 25 January 2017 at 6:52pm GMT

I've corrected the entry for GS 2027Y (which does have steering committee as part of the file name!).

Posted by Peter Owen at Thursday, 26 January 2017 at 8:20am GMT

Thanks, Peter. The erroneous heading 'Steering Committee' was on one set of the Revision Committee minutes, until the error was pointed out at the next meeting, so I suspect that there may have been a bit of 'cut and paste' (though the report itself, GS 2027Y, has the correct heading). It can be quite confusing: where a draft measure is not referred by Synod to a revision committee (as, for example, is the case with the draft Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction and Care of Churches Measure - a consolidation measure), it is the Steering Committee who are responsible for final drafting and bringing the matter back to Synod for final approval, so GS 2031Y is, correctly, 'Report of the Steering Committee.'

Posted by David Lamming at Thursday, 26 January 2017 at 10:09am GMT

Froghole: "Either that or the authorities are suffering from some sort of institutional cognitive dissonance."

I'm afraid it would only be news if they weren't.

Posted by DBD at Thursday, 26 January 2017 at 9:42pm GMT
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