The General Synod of the Church of England will meet in London from 9 to 13 February 2009. The following press release was issued a short time ago.
NEWS from the Church of England
General Synod: February 2009
Key debates on the international financial crisis, women bishops, the Anglican Covenant, human trafficking, asylum, Anglican-Roman Catholic relations and inter faith relations
Major debates concerning the Church’s ministry and relations with other Churches, the financial crisis and the Church’s engagement with wider society will be on the agenda at the General Synod when it meets at Church House, Westminster from Monday to Friday, 9-13 February. The Synod will be debating a considerable amount of legislative business, including the first consideration stage of the draft women bishops legislation.
The International Financial Crisis
The Synod agenda provides opportunities for members to reflect on the international financial crisis and the recession. On the Tuesday afternoon, Andreas Whittam Smith (First Church Estates Commissioner) will facilitate presentations from and engage in dialogue with Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach and the Rt Revd Peter Selby. This will be an opportunity for the Synod to hear about and discuss with the two speakers the reasons for the crisis and its wider implications.
Brian Griffiths has been Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs International since 1991 and a member of the Board since 2007. He was from 1984 to 1990 Head of Mrs Thatcher’s Policy Unit at No 10 Downing Street. He is the author of a number of books and. since 1997, has been Chairman of the Lambeth Fund. Peter Selby was, until 2007, Bishop of Worcester and a member of the Church Commissioners’ Assets Committee. He has been a member of the Doctrine Commission and has written on the subject of faith and economics.
On the Thursday afternoon there will be a debate, introduced by the Archbishop of York, examining the challenges and opportunities for the Church’s mission and ministry in communities that the international financial crisis and recession presents.
Last July, the Synod agreed that draft legislation be prepared, including special arrangements for those who would not be able to receive the ministry of women as bishops (or priests) in a statutory national code of practice. The Women Bishops Legislative Drafting Group (chaired by the Bishop of Manchester) has completed its work on this basis and the Synod will be giving First Consideration to the draft legislation required to admit women to the episcopate.
It will not be possible to move amendments to the draft legislation at this Group of Sessions; the issue before the Synod will be whether to agree that the draft Measure and draft Amending Canon be referred for consideration by a Revision Committee. (See PR103/08 at http://www.cofe.anglican.org/news/pr10308.html.)
The Churches of the Anglican Communion were asked in March 2008 if they were able, in principle, to commit to the Covenant process and to say if there were any elements which in their view would need extensive change in order to make viable the process of adoption by their Synods. The General Synod will consider a take note motion, moved by the Bishop of Rochester on behalf of the House of Bishops, on a report from the House, to which is attached a draft Church of England response to these questions. The draft response welcomes the direction of travel of the Covenant while flagging up a number of points which still require attention.
Anglican-Roman Catholic Relations
The Synod will be addressed on its first day by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster. His address, together with an introduction by the Archbishop of Canterbury, will provide an opportunity for the Synod to reflect on relations between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church. This will lead to a debate, requested by the Synod, on the report by the Second Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission on Church as Communion.
Inter Faith Relations
The Synod will consider a Private Member’s Motion from Mr Paul Eddy, which asks the House of Bishops to report to the Synod on their understanding of the uniqueness of Christ in a multi-faith society and to offer examples of good practice in sharing the gospel of salvation through Christ alone with people of other faiths and of none.
The Synod will also be considering the inter faith and engagement programme which it launched in July 2005 when it also set up a task group, chaired by the Bishop of Bradford. This second debate provides the Synod with an opportunity to take note of what has been achieved so far and the work that is proposed for the next phase of the Presence and Engagement programme
The Church in Public Life
There are three Diocesan Synod Motions particularly concerned with the Church’s engagement in wider society. The first, from Chester, is wide ranging in its concern about the role of the Church in civic society and asks the divisions of the Archbishops’ Council to report to the Synod on their work to foster a clearer understanding of the Christian faith among the institutions and organizations of society, and to reinforce the claims of the Church to take its place in public life.
The second motion, which has been passed in identical terms by the Newcastle and Winchester Diocesan Synods, urges the Church of England to deplore the continuing evil of human trafficking, to support the work of those who seek to end human trafficking and to rescue those trapped in it, and also to support the implementation of the UK Action Plan on Tackling Human Trafficking, particularly in relation to the 2012 Olympics. The debate will be preceded by a presentation which will include an invited speaker from the United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre.
The motion from the Southwell and Nottingham Diocesan Synod asks the Synod to call on the Government to ensure that the treatment of asylum seekers is just and compassionate. In particular, it calls for the conferring of a right to work on all asylum seekers, and the declaration of an amnesty for legacy cases that predate the Government’s New Asylum Model. It also asks the Government to find a practical and humane remedy to the situation of refused asylum seekers who are unable to return to their country of origin because of personal safety, health or family reasons.
A Private Member’s Motion from Ms Vasantha Gnanadoss asks the House of Bishops to formulate and implement a policy for the Church of England under which clergy, ordinands and such employed lay persons as have duties that require them to speak on behalf of the Church should not be a member of an organization whose constitution, aims, objectives or pronouncements contradict the duty to promote race equality.
Property Issues for the Church
Three motions explore different aspects of the Church’s property and resources.
The Private Member’s Motion from Mr Martin Dales expresses concern about the effect on many parish churches of the sudden and very large rises in water charges for churches in some areas. It asks the Government to remind OFWAT of its obligations to ensure that the water companies adhere to the guidance given in 2000 by the Secretary of State for the Environment not to treat all non-household customers (including places of worship) as if they were businesses.
The Worcester Diocesan Synod Motion calls on the Archbishops’ Council to conduct an urgent review of the Endowments and Glebe Measure and other church legislation, with a view to enabling diocesan bodies and PCCs, in disposing of land, to give weight to environmental as well as financial considerations, particularly in relation to cutting carbon emissions.
A motion passed in the same terms by both the Leicester and Peterborough Diocesan Synods asks the Archbishops’ Council to review and make recommendations for the future sustainability of the Church of England retreat houses, and encourages church bodies to make full use of these resources.
The Archbishop of Canterbury will give a Presidential Address, which will include a reflection on the recent Lambeth Conference.
A report from the Standing Orders Committee proposes some adjustments to the Synod’s procedures. There will also be a presentation on some proposed changes to the constitution of bodies answerable to the Synod through the Archbishops’ Council.
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.cofe.anglican.org) ahead of the General Synod sessions. Audio files of debates, along with updates on the days’ proceedings will be posted during the sessions.