A meeting of the House of Bishops took place today Monday 9 November 2020 via Zoom
The House has now reverted to a schedule of monthly meetings with this meeting being the meeting for November.
As one of the first items of substantive business, a series of proposed amendments to the Standing Orders of the House were approved. As a result of recent demands brought on by the pandemic, the House endorsed the proposal for the Secretary of the House to be to be able to call a meeting of the House of Bishops with just 24 hours’ notice in circumstances of special urgency, rather than the current 7 days. The House agreed to two other procedurally related proposals.
The House then discussed the imminent publication and communication around the publication of the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) resources planned for later that day. The House was addressed by Bishop Christopher Cocksworth, Chair of the Living in Love and Faith Co ordinating Group and parties working collaboratively on the launch, including the enabling officer of LLF and the Director of Communications.
The House then received an update on the work of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Housing, Church and Community Commission (HC&C). The update was given by the Bishop of Kensington and Charlie Arbuthnot, the co-authors of an interim report that was shared with the House. The interim report was discussed and the House approved the general direction of travel of the report and agreed to receive the final report in February 2021.
The House then heard from the Bishop of London in her capacity as the Chair of the Recovery Group charged with the Church’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. An overview of the current situation was given with an update on discussions on the Places of Worship Task Group and ongoing negotiations with the Government regarding the opening of churches for public worship. The House agreed that its December meeting will include a more detailed discussion on the regional impact throughout England of the pandemic.
The House was then updated by the Bishop of Huddersfield, (Bishop for Safeguarding) and the Director of Safeguarding on a range of safeguarding matters. The House noted and agreed that progress on the Interim Support Scheme must be made by the end of the year.
The House also received updates from the various works streams operating under the auspices of the Emerging Church Groups.
An overview by the Chair of the Co-ordinating Group, the Bishop of Manchester was followed by reports from the Chair of the Vision and Strategy Group, the Governance Group and the Transforming Effectiveness Group.
The House agreed, as part of the Vision and Strategy Group, to note and prepare for further discussion at the December meeting of the House on a series of proposals replacing the three Quinquennium Goals dating from 2010.
The House also agreed to offer comments and advice on the workplan of the Transforming Effectiveness group with further suggestions and proposals to be tabled at the December meeting. The House agreed to the same for the Governance group.
The Bishop at Lambeth informed the House that there will be a longer detailed decision on Emerging Church at the scheduled two day December meeting of the House.3 Comments
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The Church of England has issued its usual press release (copied below) in advance of this month’s meeting of its General Synod. Also released today are the papers for the Synod meeting; links to them are in my post below.
Church of England to detail Net-Zero bid at first online General Synod
The Church of England has clarified the scope and definition of net-zero following General Synod’s pledge to achieve net-zero by 2030.
Detail was shared with General Synod members today as papers were published for the forthcoming meeting of General Synod, the first full meeting of the Synod to be held remotely.
Today’s environmental publications follow a February 2020 motion setting the Church a target of cutting its carbon emissions year-on-year to reach Net Zero emissions by 2030.
Among other Agenda items, Synod will also debate the recent IICSA report endorsing a motion to urgently implement its recommendations, a response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the Archbishops’ Council budget and proposals for apportionment for 2021.
In legislative business, the Cathedrals Measure will receive its final drafting and approval and there will also be a number of items of Safeguarding legislation as the Church continues its work to strengthen its procedures in this area.
First official remote synod
In response to the challenges presented by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, special changes to Synod rules were approved in October enabling a full meeting to take place online.
This will be the first such official meeting of the Synod to take place online, over three days between Monday 23rd and Wednesday 25th November.
Dioceses and cathedrals consult on net-zero
Despite the unprecedented challenges of Covid-19 during the past nine months, the vast majority of dioceses and cathedrals have responded to a consultation to shape a definition and scoping of net-zero. This has been sent to General Synod members today for information ahead of its November meeting.
Of 35 dioceses and 23 cathedrals that replied, 81% of consultees agreed fully with the definition as now drafted (or with minor variations). Of those who did not fully agree, half still expressed a desire that it should go further.
Among the key details from the papers:
Revd Professor Martin Gainsborough, who moved the 2030 amendment, said that he was “hugely impressed” by the way in which the Environment Working Group has been working since the momentous vote in February.
“The definition of what is included for our net-zero carbon target seems the right one. It is also widely supported, as the consultation process relating to it shows,” he continued.
“It is now absolutely critical that the whole Church commits to this agenda. Of course, aspects of it will be challenging but I am convinced that if we work systematically and work together we can pull this off. What an achievement and what a legacy that would be.”
The Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, the Church of England’s lead bishop for environmental affairs, welcomed the publication of the Synod papers.
He said: “In the months since Synod set its 2030 target for net-zero, despite the unprecedented challenges of Covid-19, parishes, dioceses and cathedrals have demonstrated their urgency by completing the energy footprint tool and participating in a consultation on the scope of net-zero.
“While reaching our target remains a huge challenge and will require prayer and concerted and sustained action, this work moves us closer to having a reliable baseline for our current carbon impacts and a roadmap to achieving net-zero.”
The Church has also rolled out the Energy Footprint Tool, and since April 2020 (following the 2030 target introduction in February) the tool has seen 4,500 churches formally submitting their data or nearly a third of parishes in England. A further 1,500 churches tried the tool but did not submit their data.
The Environmental Working Group will next report back to General Synod in 2022, at which time a detailed roadmap will be reviewed.
Work will continue at all levels in the meantime with a national programme of church energy audits, renewable electricity tariffs through parish buying, ARocha’s Eco Diocese programme, events for Climate Sunday and a series of net-zero carbon webinars which are free for parishes.
The Papers for this month’s meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod are now available online.
Papers with a note of the day scheduled for their consideration are listed below the fold. Synod meets virtually from Monday 23 to Thursday 25 November. They can be downloaded as two zip files.
Synod members reading this might like to note that the deadline for the submission of questions is 12 noon on Wednesday 11 November 2020.0 Comments
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York and a number of senior church leaders are inviting Christians across the nation to participate in the month of prayer as a second lockdown in England comes into force.
Throughout the month, Christians will be encouraged to pray daily for a specific area of national concern, wherever they are, culminating in a collective moment of prayer at 6pm each evening, with cathedrals and churches across the country invited to ring a bell at this time.
Christians will be encouraged to follow a simple seven-day prayer cycle, praying for a specific area each day including the NHS and frontline workers, the bereaved, and those struggling with physical and mental ill-health, and for children and young people.
Prayers and other resources will be shared on social media with the hashtag #PrayerForTheNation.
The prayer call has the support of senior church leaders including Churches Together in England (CTE) Presidents Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales; Pastor Agu Irukwu, the CTE Pentecostal president; His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, and the CTE Orthodox President; and Pete Greig, Founder of 24-7 Prayer International and Senior Leader of Emmaus Road, Guildford. It is also being supported by the Church of England’s House of Bishops.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: “On the brink of this second lockdown we might understandably feel helpless, anxious and vulnerable. And we do what we can to halt the spread of this virus – but we can still feel powerless.
“Is there anything else we can do? Really do?
“Yes. Yes there is. We can pray. Prayer is my first response when I feel out of my depth, when I need help, when I am worried, when I am concerned for those I love.
It is a gift that God gives to all – whether you are a regular pray-er or not – bring your cares and the cares of the nation to God. For God loves and hears and holds. Prayer changes things.”
The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, said: “Prayer changes things. It changes things by inviting God into the room.
“At this challenging time when all of us are fearful and anxious, and when so many are suffering, it is the one thing we can all do.
“We can pray and invite God to change us, giving us the solace, strength and comfort we need for the difficult winter that is ahead of us.
“Let’s pray together at this difficult time.”
A selection of resources to suit Christians from across all denominations and traditions, and those exploring faith at this challenging time, will be made available on the Church of England website to guide prayer during this period.
This includes several newly written prayers for the nation from Archbishop Stephen Cottrell, NT Wright and Pete Greig.
Cathedrals will ring a bell as a call to prayer for the nation throughout the month. The Dean of Lichfield, Adrian Dorber, who is Chair of the Association of English Cathedrals, said:
“We know our cathedrals are places of assurance and inspiration for many people when life is tough and hope is short, and now more than ever, it is important to show our presence and mark each day of this lockdown with prayers, and keep a time each evening to ring our bells as a call to pray for our nation.”
The call to prayer comes as both Archbishops, in a letter issued last weekend, encouraged churches to redouble their efforts to serve their local communities – caring for the elderly and most vulnerable – ahead of the second lockdown.
To find out more information about the invitation to pray visit: churchofengland.org/PrayerForTheNation.22 Comments
Church of England press release
Calm, courage and compassion needed in face of new lockdown – Archbishops
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have invited the nation to join them in prayer, in a message encouraging ‘calm, courageous and compassionate’ responses to the difficulties of the second national lockdown in England.
In an open letter, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby and the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, assure the nation of their prayers. They highlight the love of God for us all in the midst of ‘deeply challenging and difficult’ times facing the country.
“We are writing to share our belief that whoever you are, and whatever you happen to believe, you are loved by God. Beyond measure. We also want you to know that we are praying for you, particularly asking that Christ’s love will comfort us, calm our fears, and lead our nation and our world through this terrible pandemic,” they say.
In the letter, the Archbishops encourage everyone to adopt ‘calm, courageous and compassionate’ responses in the face of the difficulties posed by the lockdown.
“So many of us are holding so much pain – our own and the pain of those we love. We will need to be gentle, kind and patient with each other,” they write.
“In the first wave, we showed we are a nation of compassion and kindness. Let’s dig deep and keep that love for our neighbours strong in this second time of struggle.
Anyone who wishes to do so is invited by the Archbishops to join them in daily prayer at 6pm during lockdown using resources that will be published later today on the Church of England’s website and social media channels.
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Archbishops join interfaith call to PM to allow public worship
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, together with the Bishop of London, have joined national faith leaders in calling on the Government to permit public worship during the forthcoming lockdown in England.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, the faith leaders set out how public worship can play a vital role in supporting social cohesion and mental health and offer “an essential sign of hope”.
They conclude: “We call on government to recognise and support this, and enable us to continue to worship safely, as part of the essential fabric of the nation.”
Read the full letter.18 Comments
This letter from both archbishops and the Bishop of London first appeared on social media this morning. It is now available on the Church of England website in PDF format.
A plain text copy appears below.
To the clergy of the Church of England
1 November 2020
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Greetings to you on this All Saints Day and as we are reminded again that we are indeed part of a universal company of saints.
We are writing to you to set out some of our thinking in the light of the most recent announcement by the Prime Minister. We are very aware that details are still not clear and there is much discussion still to be had about what the impact of the new lockdown will mean. We are also writing to assure you of our prayers for you and our thanks for all you do. We are clear that we do now need to call all Christian people to pray and to do so continually over this next month. In this letter as well as reflection we also set out an invitation to you to join in this call to prayer and to keep both praying and serving our communities.
This is a difficult and challenging time for all of us. We are sure that some of you reading this letter will wish we had made other decisions during the period of the first lockdown, or even challenged the government harder on the decisions it has made. You may be right. However, it is our view that the best way we can serve our nation now is by pouring our energy into doing the things that we can do, which is to pray and to serve. We also dare to hope that we will be kind to each other and that God will give us the courage and humility we need to be faithful witnesses to the gospel of peace.
A second lockdown will be upon us on Thursday. It is going to be different from the first one. The days are getting shorter and colder. We are anxious for ourselves, for those we love, especially those who are vulnerable and elderly, and for our families. We know that this pandemic is having a devastating effect on our economy and on people’s mental health. Thousands of people are dying. The National Health Service is being stretched to the limit. We also know and must continue to bear witness to the fact that the poorest communities in our nation are suffering the most. We are in for a long haul. It is going to be a hard winter.
But this second lockdown will also be different in other ways. There is much that we have learned from the first lockdown and there is much to celebrate and be proud of. Of course we are full of gratitude and respect for the amazing courage and commitment of all key workers especially those working in the NHS. Their contribution is rightly and widely recognised. We also applaud the many creative ways that churches up and down the land have been serving their local communities and working with others to make sure that the hungry are fed and the vulnerable cared for. We have managed to maintain and, in many cases, extend our outreach by streaming worship online and by developing other ways of building community online.
We are grateful for people’s energy, hard work and creativity in making this happen and we hope and pray this will continue. We are grateful that the new guidelines being introduced on Thursday not only allow churches to remain open for private prayer but also enable online worship to be broadcast from the church building. We were cautious about these issues during the first lockdown – perhaps overly so – but in this second lockdown we want to encourage church buildings to remain open for private prayer wherever possible, making sure that their buildings are Covid secure in the ways that we have learned in recent months, and to broadcast services from their church buildings. However, if you do not have the resources or wherewithal to do this, please do not feel that you have failed in any way. The good thing about provision of worship online, is that people can join in from anywhere and therefore we can support each other more easily in this endeavour. Our national digital team will continue to offer training and support and provide national services each week.
However, worship online still means that the people of God do not have access to the sacraments which are so central to our life in Christ. This is a huge loss and since we were not consulted about the lockdown provisions, we fully intend to speak with government about why certain exemptions are made and not others, emphasising the critical role that churches play in every community. The sacramental life of the church cannot be seen as an optional extra. Nor can we separate out our worship from our service, it is always both and not either or.
Nevertheless, we will of course abide by the law and ask you to do the same. We must do all that we can to keep our communities safe and to enable the NHS to manage this crisis. The Recovery Group chaired by the Bishop of London will be issuing specific guidance in the next day or two.
Bearing in mind our primary vocation as the Church of Jesus Christ to pray and to serve we call upon the Church of England to make this month of lockdown a month of prayer. More than anything else, whatever the nation thinks, we know that we are in the faithful hands of the risen Christ who knows our weaknesses, tiredness and struggles and whose steadfast love endures for ever.
Above all we recall people to some of the fundamental spiritual disciplines that shape our Christian life. How we do this is up to each congregation and clergy person. We will publish resources to support you before the first day of lockdown. During the first lockdown we cheered for the NHS every Thursday. During this second lockdown we invite you to fast in a way appropriate to you as well as pray for our nation every Thursday, for its leaders, its health and essential services and all those who suffer.
We thank you for your service and ministry and pray that God will sustain you and encourage you. After consulting the House of Bishops we will be writing a more general letter to the whole nation we serve, a letter expressing the hope we have and calling for courage, calm and compassion.
In one of the climactic passages of the New Testament, Paul says to those who follow Christ that their “love must be genuine, that they hate what is evil and hold fast to what is good.” He asks them to “serve the lord”, exhorting them to “rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.” (See Romans 12.9-12.) None of this is easy. Especially not at the moment. But it is our calling.
Yours in Christ,
The Most Revd & Rt Hon Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Most Revd & Rt Hon Stephen Cottrell
Archbishop of York
The Rt Revd & Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally
Bishop of London87 Comments