Thinking Anglicans

Transparency of the work of the House of Bishops

One of the papers just released for next month’s meeting of the General Sunod of the Church of England is this one. As a GS Misc paper it is provided for information and not for debate.

  • Transparency of the work of the House of Bishops (GS Misc 1387)

This is an interim report from the House of Bishops Transparency Group. There are four recommendations, listed below, which the covering page states have been approved by the House.

Recommendation 1:
Minutes of all meetings of the House of Bishops should be published on the relevant section of the Church of England website once they have been approved at the subsequent meeting. These should be minutes rather than transcripts.

Recommendation 2:
The House of Bishops will adopt a “maximum transparency” approach so that the analysis and information that the House has had to make decisions will be made available. In particular formal legal advice from the Legal Office or written advice from the Faith and Order Commission and other such groups should be provided to the General Synod as an annex to the relevant GS paper. The agenda for each House of Bishops meeting will be published with the circulation of papers. Papers to the House of Bishops should continue not to be published.

Recommendation 3:
The House of Bishops should continue to meet without public attendance, and should amend its standing orders to be honest that it is doing so, removing the fiction of public participation in Standing Order 13.

Recommendation 4:
The House of Bishops will propose changes to Canon H 3 and potentially other legislation to provide for acting diocesan bishops to vote at meetings of the House and General Synod. In advance of that chairs might ask acting diocesan bishops informally to indicate how they would have voted were they eligible to vote.

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Simon Eyre
Simon Eyre
1 month ago

Overall these recommendations are welcome and an acknowledgement that all was not well particularly in the last couple of years. Whether recommendation 3 is acceptable is debatable. Clearly there will be times when the bishops may need to informally discuss matters in private but I would have thought, as for General Synod, that members of the public should be able to attend any formal meeting of the House of Bishops. It will be interesting to see how these recommendations play out in practice during the remaining 2 years of the current Synod.

T Pott
T Pott
1 month ago

Recommendation 3 is beyond parody. Standing Orders allow public attendance. In the name of transparency they are proposing to change this to ban public attendance. But actually, they claim, they would be more transparent by openly admitting they operate clandestinely, than by the curent “fiction” of pretending they allow public attendance. If there are reasons to operate in secret let them be stated. The argument that they already evade standing orders anyway so they might as well admit it, seems not to acknowledge that they should simply comply with the existing standing orders in the first place. Recommendation 2 begins… Read more »

Maungy Vicar
Maungy Vicar
Reply to  T Pott
1 month ago

At least there appears to be a desire to change and an increasing realisation that there is, or there should be, cognitive dissonance between what is and what there might be. Shades of ‘the Onion’ I think here, or Monty Python.

Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
1 month ago

All this is symptomatic of the bishops spending too much time together. Their first responsibility is to their diocese, and their main collegiate relationship is with their diocesan presbyteral college. If we want empowered clergy, let them work prayerfully, constructively, meaningfully with their bishop. It is only creeping centralisation that gives the impression that meetings of the HoB are crucial to the health of the Church of England. Bishops taking council together should either be informal (a chance to pray and moan about their diocese) or for business while General Synod sits. The work awarded to or reserved by the… Read more »

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