General Synod meets at York next month with debates from Ukraine war to online safety
The war in Ukraine, climate change, online safety and the Church of England’s plans to increase its spending on mission and ministry are among a series of issues to be debated by the General Synod next month.
The stage at General Synod in York.
Members of the General Synod will meet at York University in July to debate a range of topics from Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, to protection of children and young people from online pornography.
Other subjects on the agenda include plans by the Church Commissioners to distribute £3.6 billion to the frontline work of the Church of England between 2023 and 2031, announced earlier this year by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.
Further debates will include the route map for churches, dioceses and Cathedrals to achieving net zero carbon by 2030 (see separate press release) and a call for the Church of England to commit to working towards the removal of all remaining barriers to full participation for people with disabilities in the life and ministry of the church.
A Guildford Diocesan Synod motion will urge the Government to pass legislation requiring pornographic websites to have age verification systems preventing access by people under the age of 18.
Members will also debate a Private Member’s Motion opposing assisted suicide and calling for more funding for palliative care.
Other debates include a report outlining a proposed overhaul of legislation governing clergy discipline. There will also be a presentation on safeguarding, and discussion on its future oversight followed by a separate debate.
The General Synod will meet at York University from Friday July 8 to Tuesday July 12. This is the first time the Synod has met in York in person since the pandemic.
Papers for next month’s meeting of the Church of England General Synod are now available online. There is a list (with links and a note of the day scheduled for their debate) in numerical order below the fold.
Although the Archbishops’ Council reported that the ISB proposal was included in their agenda, first here (para 3), and then here (para 7) nothing else was announced until February 2022. We then reported: Recent Church of England Safeguarding reports. This links to GS 2244 which includes as an Annex (starts on page 11 of the PDF) the first report from the Chair of the newly constituted Independent Safeguarding Board. This is worth reading carefully.
The same article also links to Gavin Drake’s follow-on motion which you can read in full here.
The Church Times reported on what happened in debate:
A letter on this topic has been sent to all members of the Archbishops’ Council signed by Martin Sewell, a General Synod member from Rochester diocese, and also by a number of other General Synod members.
The letter itself is contained in a PDF file which can be read here. It is well worth reading this in full.
For more of the background to the formation of the ISB, look here.
There is an online public petition related to this, over here.
What follows is the text of the covering email from Martin Sewell, which summarises the content of the letter.
Dear Archbishops and members of Archbishops’ Council,
I enclose a letter signed by members of General Synod which expresses our concern that Archbishops’ Council has prematurely engaged the newly evolving Independent Safeguarding Board in detailed case work which it is not yet properly authorised or suitably equipped to handle with the independence, resource and competence the role requires. We specifically raise a number of specific questions which we believe need to be urgently addressed by Archbishops’ Council.
After a lengthy and discreditable history of response to complaints in Safeguarding and its associated Clergy Discipline issues, nobody objects to the idea of the Church placing itself under effective outside scrutiny. Some of us have campaigned vigorously for the creation of just such a Board in previous General Synods, and you will recall that the recent February Synod considered a following motion that sought to begin a process to debate and vest the ISB with the very independence responsibility and associated powers that will make the Board the kind of constitutional creature that IICSA had in mind to save us from a repetition of the failures and scandals of the past.
That debate was cut short by a procedural motion, approved by a newly elected Synod comprising 60% new members and the matter was not brought to a conclusion. What exactly the ISB is, and what it can and cannot do, constitutionally and practically, given its low resource and part time nature, remains very much “unfinished Synod business”. In our view General Synod has an important continuing role to ensure the success of the ISB project.
We note with respect and gratitude that both Archbishops opposed the truncation of the debate by the use of a procedural device: it did us no favours and is part of the reason we are in this currently unsatisfactory position today.
When the Chair of the ISB addressed us (and her address to Synod is worth a second hearing by Archbishops’ Council) she was plainly seeking to lower expectation and to emphasise the incremental character of their approach to the role. She told us that its members were assessing and growing their understanding of the role within our complex institution, in what was described as “Phase One” of the project. That limited scope of current activity disappointed some of us, but the opportunity to fully articulate those concerns was denied.
What nobody knew or anticipated from that debate, was that only a few weeks later, the members of the ISB would be offered, and would embrace, responsibility for the devising, timetabling, structuring, implementation and personal execution of the most complex and serious Case Review in the history of the Church, and moreover that they would attempt to do so at speed. The members of the ISB have many qualities and much experience; devising and conducting complex case reviews does not appear to feature within their past skill set. In no other national Institution would such a task be delegated to novices. At the Diocesan Synod at Oxford this weekend it was confirmed that the Dr Martyn Percy Case Review is the first such piece of work the Board and its members will have ever have attempted. This is not the case on which to “cut your teeth”.
Put simply, this is a disaster waiting to happen for the reasons contained in our detailed letter. It is especially troubling if, as we understand, the Percy case is not the only matter pressed upon the ISB at short notice.
The ISB needs to be established with the confidence of all parties, and that is unlikely to be the case given the way these reviews are being hurriedly constructed. There is no shame in having second thoughts which we urge you to undertake without delay, asking the ISB to pause its work in this field whilst our objections are evaluated by all concerned. It is essential that the ISB is established with confidence in its independence, constitution, integrity and competence. That confidence must be built on sure foundations if it is to fulfil the role intended for it. Our questions are designed to help Archbishops’ Council review the problem areas to give the ISB its best opportunity to become what we all want it to be.
We hope Archbishops’ Council will discuss the questions we raise with the same care with which we have formulated them, and that the answers will be made available in good time so that they may be scrutinised at the upcoming General Synod in July.
A South Sudanese bishop who was forced with his family into exile before he was one year old, the Right Revd Anthony Poggo, has been named as the next Secretary General of the Anglican Communion. Bishop Anthony Poggo, the former Bishop of Kajo-Keji in the Episcopal Church of South Sudan, is currently the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Adviser on Anglican Communion Affairs.
Bishop Anthony was selected for his new role by a sub-committee of the Anglican Communion’s Standing Committee following a competitive recruitment process led by external consultants.
He will take up his new role in September, succeeding the Most Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, who steps down after next month’s Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops, which is being held in Canterbury, Kent, from 26 July to 8 August…
Bishops’ letter to The Times on the Rwanda asylum policy
All of the current Lords Spiritual have signed a letter to The Times voicing alarm about the Government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda as early as today.
Whether or not the first deportation flight leaves Britain today for Rwanda, this policy should shame us as a nation. Rwanda is a brave country recovering from catastrophic genocide. The shame is our own, because our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat asylum seekers with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have for centuries. Those to be deported to Rwanda have had no chance to appeal, or reunite with family in Britain. They have had no consideration of their asylum claim, recognition of their medical or other needs, or any attempt to understand their predicament.
Many are desperate people fleeing unspeakable horrors. Many are Iranians, Eritreans and Sudanese citizens, who have an asylum grant rate of at least 88 per cent. These are people Jesus had in mind as he said when we offer hospitality to a stranger, we do it for him. They are the vulnerable that the Old Testament calls us to value. We cannot offer asylum to everyone, but we must not outsource our ethical responsibilities, or discard international law — which protects the right to claim asylum.
We must end the evil trafficking; many churches are involved in fighting this evil. This needs global co-operation across every level of society. To reduce dangerous journeys to the UK we need safe routes: the church will continue to advocate for them. But deportations — and the potential forced return of asylum seekers to their home countries — are not the way. This immoral policy shames Britain.
The Most Rev Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury; the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York; the Right Rev Dame Sarah Mullally, Bishop of London; the Right Rev Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham; the Right Rev David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham; the Right Rev John Inge, Bishop of Worcester; the Right Rev Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry; the Right Rev Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford; the Right Rev James Newcome, Bishop of Carlisle; the Right Rev Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans; the Right Rev Donald Allister, Bishop of Peterborough; the Right Rev Stephen Conway, Bishop of Ely; the Right Rev Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark; the Right Rev Nicholas Baines, Bishop of Leeds; the Right Rev Rachel Treweek, Bishop of Gloucester; the Right Rev Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester; the Right Rev Vivienne Faull, Bishop of Bristol; the Right Rev Libby Lane, Bishop of Derby; the Right Rev Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn; the Right Rev David Walker, Bishop of Manchester; the Right Rev Guli Francis-Dehqani, Bishop of Chelmsford; the Right Rev Robert Atwell, Bishop of Exeter; the Right Rev Andrew Watson, Bishop of Guildford; the Right Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich; the Right Rev Paul Williams, Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham
The full text of this latest decision can be found here.
In paragraph 3, the Deputy Chancellor writes
…In this further judgment I will refrain from reproducing the more tendentious of the written representations I have received. I have borne them firmly in mind; but in a consistory court judgment which may attract more general interest than such judgments usually excite, I have no wish to inflame firmly, and genuinely held, feelings any more than is strictly necessary…
Readers who take the time to read all 27 pages may wonder what might be more tendentious than some of the remarks quoted therein.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has written to the Primates of Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda to tell them that his invitation to bishops from their provinces to attend the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops remains open. In a joint letter with the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Archbishop Justin said: “God calls us to unity and not to conflict so that the world may know he came from the Father. That is the very purpose of the church globally.”
House of Bishops’ Meeting – 6th June 2022
The House of Bishops met on 6 June by Zoom.
Bishop Jill Duff was congratulated on her election as an elected suffragan to the House and Arun Arora was also congratulated on his appointment as Bishop of Kirkstall.
The Bishop of Fulham introduced a paper outlining the importance of Ecumenical texts and the proposal for a new and formalised process for their reception by the Church of England, with a particular emphasis on the role of Bishops as Guardians of the Faith. This follows recommendations by the Anglican Communion ecumenical body, IASCUFO, and the Anglican Consultative Council. The House agreed the approach set out in the paper.
The House then discussed the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) resource tentatively named The Gift of the Church and how the House will be offered opportunities to shape it once a draft version of the resource is shared in the coming weeks. The Gift of the Church is envisaged as an accessible, publicly available learning resource that supplements the LLF Book, and will be an additional resource for the bishops’ discernment process in autumn 2022.
In the past three years, Christ Church has held back from offering commentary on a series of damaging reports regarding its relationship with the former Dean, Dr Martyn Percy. Those reports related to a number of disputes between the institution and its Head of House, the earliest of which dates back to 2017 while the most recent concerned an allegation of sexual harassment made against Dr Percy by Alannah Jeune. During this time, despite attacks on it and its members by supporters of the former Dean, Christ Church has consistently tried to avoid making pronouncements in the hope of avoiding a destructive cycle of claim and counter-claim. The trustees (Christ Church’s Governing Body) have been mindful that they all have both a duty of confidentiality and a general duty to place the charity’s interests above their own and have sought to calm rather than inflame damaging media attention…
The Queen has approved the nomination of The Reverend Canon Arun Arora, Vicar of St Nicholas Church, Durham, and Honorary Canon of Durham Cathedral, to the Suffragan See of Kirkstall, in the Diocese of Leeds.
From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
Published 27 May 2022
The Queen has approved the nomination of The Reverend Canon Arun Arora, Vicar of St Nicholas Church, Durham, and Honorary Canon of Durham Cathedral, to the Suffragan See of Kirkstall, in the Diocese of Leeds, in succession to The Right Reverend Paul Slater following his retirement.
Arun studied Law and Politics at Birmingham University and worked as a solicitor after graduation. He was appointed Bishop’s Press Officer and Diocesan Communications Officer in the Diocese of Birmingham in 2000, and began training for ordained ministry at Cranmer Hall, Durham in 2004. He served his title at St Mark’s, Harrogate, in the former Diocese of Ripon and Leeds, alongside serving as the Director of Communications for the Office of the Archbishop of York. He was ordained Priest in 2008.
In 2010, Arun was appointed Team Leader of Pioneer Ministries, Wolverhampton, in the Diocese of Lichfield. In 2012, he became the Director of Communications for the National Church Institutions. Arun took up his current role as Vicar of St Nicholas Church, Durham, in 2017, and was additionally appointed Honorary Canon of Durham Cathedral in 2021.
The Queen has approved the nomination of The Reverend Canon Robert Saner-Haigh, to the Suffragan See of Penrith, in the Diocese of Carlisle.
From: Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street
Published 27 May 2022
The Queen has approved the nomination of The Reverend Canon Robert Saner-Haigh, Residentiary Canon of Newcastle Cathedral and Director of Mission and Ministry for the Diocese of Newcastle, to the Suffragan See of Penrith, in the Diocese of Carlisle, in succession to The Right Reverend Dr Emma Ineson following her resignation.
Rob was educated at Birmingham University and trained for ministry at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He served his title at St Lawrence, Appleby, in the Diocese of Carlisle, and was ordained Priest in 2006.
Rob was appointed Bishop’s Chaplain and Assistant Priest at St Michael’s, Dalston, with Cumdivock, Raughton Head and Wreay in 2007. Alongside these roles, he also served as Director of Ordinands and Diocesan Initial Ministerial Education Officer. In 2010, Rob was appointed Priest-in-Charge of Holy Trinity, Kendal.
Rob took up his current roles as Residentiary Canon of Newcastle Cathedral and Director of Mission and Ministry for the Diocese of Newcastle in 2020.
Church of England press release
The Church of England’s Independent Safeguarding Board, ISB, has today published its Terms of Reference (see below) to review the handling of safeguarding issues regarding the former Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, Dr Martyn Percy.
The review follows a referral by the Archbishops’ Council and Oxford Diocese to the ISB. As previously stated, the review will not be considering the wider issues between the College and the former Dean.
Statement from Maggie Atkinson, Chair of the ISB:
“Given substantial previous work has been undertaken but solid conclusions now need to be reached, under the scrutiny remit of the ISB we will undertake a review considering all that has previously been done on this case.
“Our aim will be to advise both those directly affected, and the whole of the C of E, where what has previously been done was appropriate and of good quality, and where there have been errors or shortcomings.
“It is particularly important that those who have been caused pain by what has happened, including the former Dean, have their concerns heard and reviewed by an independent body. The ISB was formed to do such work, and to tell both those affected by complex cases such as this, and the wider church, where change is needed.”
“It is well worth a listen to understand misgivings about the way the ISB is approaching this case which in many ways is more complex than the Makin review. That has not been well managed and is already 2 years overdue. Do listen here from 33 minutes: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0007b3r PS if you only want to listen to Kate Blackwell QC on what an independent inquiry comprises it starts at 37:45.”