Thinking Anglicans

General Synod – 23-27 February 2024

This post will be updated as the meeting proceeds.

The Church of England’s General Synod is meeting this weekend. The timetable is here, the agenda is here and the papers are here.

House of Laity meeting

In addition the House of Laity will meet on Sunday evening.

Live video etc

All sessions are streamed live on YouTube and remain available to view afterwards. Links have been provided in advance.

There is an official Twitter account.

Order papers

Business done

Official press releases

Press reports and comment

Church Times

The Guardian

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Safeguarding – pre-Synod news and comment

Updated Friday to add a second Church Times article

Gavin Drake Church Abuse

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church The Future of Church Safeguarding – A look at the Jay Report
also online at Modern Church

Ruth Peacock Religion Media Centre Celebration but concern at proposed new CofE independent safeguarding

Francis Martin Church Times Jay calls for root-and-branch reform of church safeguarding

Simon Walsh Church Times Varied responses to Jay report on Church of England safeguarding

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General Synod Questions

The Questions (and answers) for this weekend’s meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod were issued today. They can be found online here: Questions Notice Paper February 2024.

Questions will be taken in two groups; on Friday from 5.30pm to 7.00pm, and for about an hour on Saturday morning. There are 225 questions.

Update

There is a correction to the answer to Question 62 in Notice Paper 7.

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Jay report on Church of England safeguarding published

UPDATED

This report was commissioned by the Church of England and first announced on 20 July 2023. Details followed in August: see Future of Church Safeguarding.

The report is now published: The Future of Church Safeguarding (55 pages)

There is also a press release: Report into the future of safeguarding in the Church of England

And there is a video.

There is also this Legal Advice note (35 pages)

——–

The Church of England has issued a press release.

And there is this: Terms of Reference for the Jay and Wilkinson Reports Response Group

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Bishop of Leicester writes to General Synod members

The Bishop of Leicester has written to all members of the General Synod this morning, ahead of the LLF debate at Synod this coming weekend. The original is here and I haved copied the body of the letter below the fold.

(more…)

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Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan Wilson

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, has announced with great sadness the unexpected death of his colleague, the Rt Revd Dr Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham.

Paying tribute to Bishop Alan, Bishop Steven said: “Alan was a dear friend and colleague to many across the Diocese. Alan has deep friendships and pastoral relationships across both church and community in Bucks. He has offered remarkable leadership to our work in education and church schools over more than a decade. Alan has been a friend and advocate for survivors of abuse and a strong ally and supporter of the LGBTQIA+ community for many years.

“Alan had recently begun a well-earned sabbatical and was planning to use the time to plan and prepare for retirement in the next year. Alan loved God and loved God’s church with a rare passion. He was a bishop who prioritised the parishes and clergy in his care above everything else and served the people of Buckinghamshire with devotion over a long and demanding ministry.

“I will miss him as a friend and colleague. The Church has lost a wise, pastoral and prophetic bishop.”

There is more on the Oxford diocesan website.

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The Wilkinson Files

Sarah Wilkinson’s report into the Church of England’s Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) was published in December. A debate on Safeguarding Independence (GS 2336) is scheduled to take place on Saturday 24 February at General Synod.

In advance of this debate six short documentary-style films (“The Wilkinson Files”) which highlight the key findings of Dr Wilkinson’s Report are being released by two Synod members. They explain these findings while displaying their precise location within the report. Each film is between 8 and about 15 minutes in duration.

The films are being released daily. So far two are available, but links are available for all six.

The films are presented by Martin Sewell and Clive Billenness, both Members of the House of Laity of the General Synod and both very active in matters relating to Safeguarding. Martin is a retired solicitor specialising in Child Protection. Clive is a Certified Auditor who is still in pracce and is also an elected member of the Audit Commiee of the Archbishops’ Council.

Clive said “When the Wilkinson Report is considered at the forthcoming meeting of the General Synod, speakers will probably only have 2 or 3 minutes each to speak about it. The Report itself reflects the legal background of its author and is packed with painstaking detail. We wanted to help Synod members to be as fully-informed as possible before Synod considers this. We have approached this like a forensic examinaon and have only included in the films any information contained in Dr Wilkinson’s Report, information of which she was aware or information in the Public Domain at the time she wrote her report.

“We have not invited anyone else to comment in our films or to appear on them in the interests of strict imparality. We leave it instead to our viewers to draw their own conclusions about how these sad events came to pass and how we can avoid a repetition. Dr Wilkinson’s report makes it clear that some fundamental changes are needed to the way the Church of England and the Archbishops’ Council conducts itself when dealing with Safeguarding.”

The films detail how the ISB was created, how it struggled to achieve the proper independence which abuse survivors and others expected, how it was closed down, followed by an detailed examinaon of the failures in governance which Dr Wilkinson highlights, a summary of the voices of the survivors who spoke to her and, finally, a short analysis of the “Magic Moments” where serious mistakes occurred which led to the failure and closure of the ISB.

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Correspondence re Secretary General

On 18 January, we published a letter addressed to the archbishops calling for the suspension and investigation of the Secretary General, William Nye. This letter was written by Martin Sewell and signed by 20 members of General Synod. The full text of the letter is here.

A reply to this letter was sent on 6 February from Carl Hughes, Chair of the Finance Committee of the Archbishops’ Council.

Martin Sewell replied to this on 8 February. The formal response is here, and there is also a covering note and an addendum.

Carl Hughes replied to this on 11 February.

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Cathedral Statistics 2022

The Church of England has published its Cathedral Statistics 2022 and an accompanying press release, which is copied below.

Cathedral attendance continued post pandemic bounce back, 2022 figures show
08/02/2024

Attendance at Church of England cathedrals continued to bounce back following the pandemic, new statistics for 2022 published today show.

Figures show that adult usual Sunday attendance rose 60% between 2021 and 2022 for the 42 Church of England mainland Cathedrals to 12,300 adults. A total of 28,200 people including children attended services every week, according to Cathedral Statistics 2022.

Over the year there were 584,000 attendances at specially arranged services – not included in average weekly attendance –  such as school services. The number of special services stood at 2,100. The total reported attendance at Christmas services stood at 104,000.

However the figures had not yet reached pre pandemic levels of attendance.

The number of girl choristers in Cathedrals stood at its highest total in 2022 at 790, out of 1,500 child choristers. The number of Cathedral choirs stood at 165, also the highest number reported.

Cathedrals hosted 530 graduation ceremonies in 2022 with 434,000 people attending – the highest numbers ever reported.  There were more marriage services in Cathedrals in 2022 (290) than in 2019 (270).  Both the graduation and marriage figures reflect efforts that have been made, where possible, to catch up after the lifting of Covid restrictions.

These 2022 figures have been published following a survey by The Times of 30 Church of England Cathedrals that found congregations at Christmas (2023) for many, were higher than pre-pandemic levels.

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February 2024 General Synod – Agenda and Papers

The Church of England’s General Synod will meet in London from Friday 23 to Tuesday 27 February. The agenda (GS 2332) and papers were released today. The report of the Business Committee (GS 2333) includes a guide to the group of sessions.

The papers can be downloaded as two zipped files, and there are links to individual papers below the fold.

(more…)

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Pre-General Synod Press Release – February 2024

The Church of England’s General Synod will meet in London later this month, and the usual pre-Synod press release, copied below, was issued today.

Synod to address biodiversity, safeguarding, racial justice and Prayers of Love and Faith
09/02/2024

General Synod papers published for February 2024 Group of Sessions

The General Synod of the Church of England will meet later this month in London to discuss the biodiversity agenda of the Church’s overall Environment Programme, racial justice, and Prayers of Love and Faith which ask for God’s blessing for same-sex couples. General Synod will meet at Church House on February 23 to 27.

A Land and Nature Motion will seek to give biodiversity equal consideration with net zero carbon, recognising the need to respond urgently to the ecological crisis. The motion also addresses land and property owned by the Church, at parish, diocese and national level. Dioceses would be encouraged to develop a ‘Land’ action plan. A separate net zero carbon routemap was approved by General Synod in July 2022.

The Bishop of Norwich, Graham Usher, said: “With this motion, we have the opportunity to demonstrate the Church’s responsibility to safeguarding God’s creation by adding commitments to be responsible stewards of the land to our existing Net Zero ambitions.

“There are around 17,500 acres of churchyards in England – that’s around twice the size of a City like Oxford. I want them to be places for the living as well as the dead.

“With these free programmes, church and local communities can answer this call straight away by counting species, planning mowing regimes, allowing plants to flower and joining the Eco-Church scheme.

“The Church is also setting out clear commitments to be at the forefront of responsible investment and, in partnership with our tenants, responsible land ownership.”

“I hope Synod will vote strongly in favour of this motion, and send a clear signal to those all around the country, and to Government, that responsible land stewardship is good for nature, good for business and good for people.”

Synod will be invited to discuss and endorse the process for engaging with two reports on safeguarding in the Church: firstly a report on lessons learned by the barrister Sarah Wilkinson, published in December, and secondly recommendations from the forthcoming review from Professor Alexis Jay into the Future of Church Safeguarding. The Archbishops’ Council has set up a group to advise it on how to respond to the reviews.

There will also be an update from the Redress Project Board, outlining the significant progress that has been made in designing a National Redress Scheme for survivors of Church-related abuse, since the draft Redress Measure was brought to General Synod for First Consideration in November 2023.

An update will be shared on the work of the Estates Evangelism Task Group, which was set up in 2016 to renew the Church on social housing estates and other low-income communities.

There will be a report on progress on the work on Living in Love and Faith. The Bishop of Leicester, Martyn Snow, has produced a paper proposing that the Church work towards adopting a set of commitments for love, faith and reconciliation, to provide a way to implement the decisions that the Synod has previous taken in a way that that encourages reconciliation and unity.

The Bishop of Leicester, Martyn Snow, said: “Synod has set a clear direction for us to move forward, but there remains profound disagreement across the Church. As we move to implement what has been decided, we must also find ways to unify and reconcile these disagreements, mindful particularly of the narrow majorities in key votes.

“The leadership of the Church of England has apologised to LGBTQI+ people for the lack of welcome and pastoral care they have received, and it is time that all churches show this apology in action.

“At the same time, there is a weariness among many in the Church and a longing to focus on other questions related to our calling to serve the nation.

“The 10 Commitments I have suggested to Synod do not represent words to be agreed upon, but a basis on which we can continue to pursue the implementation of motions previously passed on Living and Love and Faith.”

Synod will also discuss racial justice and the Church Commissioners’ response to its research into historic transatlantic slavery; the war in Ukraine and its wider impact; and the report of the Archbishops’ Commission on Families and Households, “Love Matters”. There will also be an update on the Governance Programme.

The Synod will also be invited to consider various items of Church legislation.

More information

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LLF: roundup of recent statements and news reports

Updated

Since we posted the statement of the Bishop of Newcastle on Thursday morning, there have been several further statements. Some of these have been linked in the comments, but I am repeating them all here, as not everyone reads all the comments…

The Church Times has carried several news reports so far:

These include quotes from others, including from Dr Tom Woolford, and the Bishop in Europe.

Monday Updates

Helen King has written: Processing the process: LLF continues which contains much detail concerning these recent events.

A second interim theological advisor has been appointed: Statement: Interim Theology Advisers

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have announced the appointment of a new interim Theology Adviser, the Revd Canon Dr Jessica Martin, currently Canon Residentiary for Learning and Outreach at Ely Cathedral, to work alongside the Revd Dr Tom Woolford. Tom and Jessica will work as Joint Interim Theology Advisers to the House of Bishops and Secretaries to Faith and Order Commission (FAOC), on secondment for a six-month period starting in March 2024. These interim roles are in place while a substantive recruitment process is underway for a permanent successor to the Revd Dr Isabelle Hamley, who leaves the NCIs at the end of February to take up the role of Principal of Ridley Hall…

Tuesday Updates

Helen King has written a further blog article:One down, one to go: the LLF appointment saga continues

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Independent Safeguarding Board: radio interview transcript

The BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme carried an item on 28 January about the now defunct Church of England Independent Safeguarding Board.  You can hear the item from the BBC website (starts at about 20 minutes, 30 seconds into the programme).

The interviewees were the clinical psychologist David Glasgow, whose report we linked to earlier when it was published by House of Survivors, Jamie Harrison, Chair of the House of Laity of the General Synod, and a survivor of abuse.

A transcript of this is now available. You can read that here.Transcript temporarily unavailable.

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LLF: over 130 General Synod members oppose “reset” and “settlement”

The Church Times reports:  Do not obstruct Synod’s decision on same-sex blessings, members say

MORE than 130 members of the General Synod have signed a letter expressing their view that the proposal of a “reset” of the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) process is unwise, and that talk of a “settlement” for those opposing the introduction of blessings for same-sex couples fails to honour decisions taken by the Synod.

Last week, the co-chairs of the LLF process, the Bishop of Newcastle, Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, and the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Martyn Snow, co-wrote an article for the Church Times in which they argued for a “reset” of the process to allow for “reconciliation and bridge-building” (Comment, 26 January). (On Thursday, 1 February, Dr Hartley announced that she would be standing down as as co-chair of the LLF process. Story to follow)…

The report continues:

The GSGSG letter says: “It is clear that the mind of Synod, determined by due synodical process, is to implement those things agreed in February [2023], being new pastoral guidance to replace Issues in Human Sexuality and to introduce the full Prayers of Love and Faith, including the stand-alone services. It is also clear that Synod has rejected this implementation being dependent on an agreed settlement or structural provision. . .

“Any delay in moving forward will be seen as a failure by the House of Bishops to implement votes passed in Synod and a rejection of the courtesy of Synod in welcoming your proposals. This will not reset the tone of the debate in a positive direction, neither will it build trust for any reconciliation discussions on maintaining unity.”

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LLF: Statement from the Bishop of Newcastle

Updated 4 pm Thursday

Living in Love and Faith: A Statement from Bishop Helen-Ann
First published on: 1st February 2024

My first commitment, and priority, is to continue to respond to God’s calling to be Bishop of Newcastle, and I rejoice in this calling. It has become clear to me in the last 48 hours that there are serious concerns relating to the recent process of appointing an Interim Theological Advisor to the House of Bishops. This was, and is not, an LLF appointment, and neither Bishop Martyn nor myself were involved in it. Whilst the remit of the theological advisor is broader than any matters relating to LLF, there is no doubt that LLF remains front and centre in the life of our Church at this time. What has transpired in the last 48 hours has had a critically negative impact on the work Bishop Martyn and I were seeking, in good faith, to do. My role as co-lead bishop for the LLF process is now undermining my capacity to fulfil my primary calling, to lead and care for the people and places of the Diocese of Newcastle.

I am fully committed to the vocation and life of the Church of England, its place in our diverse communities across this land, and in the wider Anglican Communion. Mindful of different views within my own diocese, I am also fully committed to the full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people. I do not believe these are mutually exclusive, and I am not naïve in saying this. As I approach the 10th anniversary of my consecration as a bishop, my decision to step down from my LLF role is not one I have taken lightly, but is one built on all I have learnt about being a bishop, both here and in Aotearoa New Zealand. I will continue to be involved in the LLF process as a diocesan bishop, and will endeavour to prayerfully and actively work towards fulfilling the commitments expressed above, and those already agreed to in General Synod.

+Helen-Ann Newcastle,

February 1st 2024.

Update

The Church Times has this: Bishop of Newcastle stands down from LLF over ‘serious concerns’ about interim adviser

This report is comprehensive, and I urge you to read it in full. But here are two excerpts:

…Earlier in the week, the Vicar of All Saints’, New Longton, the Revd Dr Thomas Woolford, a tutor at Emmanuel Theological College, was announced as the interim secretary to the Faith and Order Commission (FAOC) and adviser to the House of Bishops, before a permanent post-holder takes up the position in September.

After his appointment, an article by Dr Woolford, published in 2019 on the website of Church Society, a conservative Evangelical organisation in the C of E, began to be circulated on social media.

In the article, Mr Woolford wrote: “I think it would be disastrous and desperately wicked if the Church were to prepare blessings for things we must not bless, alter the canons to accommodate worldly thinking, give up the standard of chastity for ordained office-holders, or sanction false teaching.”

Speaking shortly after Dr Hartley’s announcement, Dr Woolford distanced himself from the tone of the article. “I’m still a conservative on blessings and on sexuality; so that part hasn’t changed,” he said. “But I’d put a lot of things differently in light of the journey that we’ve been on in Synod and in the wider Church.”

And the report later continues:

…On Thursday afternoon, the Bishop in Europe, Dr Robert Innes, who chairs the FAOC, said that Dr Woolford’s was an “advisory role, not an executive role”.

“He is an adviser among other advisers, and advisers come from an appropriately diverse array of positions,” he told the Church Times, and emphasised that it was a six-month interim appointment.

“It’s testament to the very febrile nature of the Church at the moment that the appointment of a temporary adviser attracts so much interest and controversy, and I do regret that.”

He described Dr Woolford as a “a very able theologian indeed”, who understood that he had to “behave in a neutral way”.

The article by Dr Woolford can be found here.

121 Comments

Bishop of Reading announces her retirement

The Bishop of Reading, the Rt Revd Olivia Graham, has announced she will retire later this year, on 30 September.

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General Synod outline of business for February 2024

The outline of business for next month’s meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod that we linked to last month has been amended. The order of business on Saturday morning has been changed, some “not later than” times have been added, an item of contingency business (DSM Southwell & Notts – Church Buildings) has been dropped, and the deadline for submission of questions has been extended to Tuesday 13 February 2024.

The revised version is here and is copied below.

GENERAL SYNOD: FEBRUARY 2024 OUTLINE OF BUSINESS

This is the current outline of business and subject to change.
The final details of the items will be available on the Agenda which will be circulated in February.

Friday 23 February
2.00 pm – 7.00 pm
Opening worship
Introductions
Presidential Address
Business Committee Report
Special Agenda I: Legislative Business Vacancy in See Regulations Consolidation
Special Agenda I: Legislative Business Vacancy in See Regulations Act of Synod
Special Agenda I: Legislative Business Amending Canon No 43 – for enactment
Special Agenda IV: Diocesan Synod Motions Parochial Fees: London
*Not later than 5.30 pm
Questions

Saturday 24 February
9.00 am – 12.45 pm
Opening worship
Special Agenda IV: Diocesan Synod Motions Code of Conduct for PCCs: Chelmsford
Questions
*Not later than 11.15am
Safeguarding

2.00 pm – 7.00 pm
Safeguarding
Land and Nature
Synod Code of Conduct
Special Agenda IV: Diocesan Synod Motions Future of work: Oxford

Sunday 25 February
2.00 pm – 7.00 pm
Racial Justice
Special Agenda III – Private Members’ Motions Bullying by Lay Officers
Standing Orders Committee Report
Archbishops’ Commission on Families and Households

Monday 26 February
9.00 am – 12.30 pm
Opening Worship
Church Commissioners’ Response to Links to Transatlantic Chattel Slavery
* Not later than 10.15 am
Special Agenda I: Legislative Business Parochial Fees Order 2024 – for approval
Special Agenda I: Legislative Business Chancel Repair (Church Commissioners’ Liability) Measure – first consideration Reappointment of two members of the Archbishops’ Council

2.00 pm – 7.00 pm
Living in Love and Faith
Estates Evangelism
Special Agenda III – Private Members’ Motions Clergy Pensions

Tuesday 27 February
9.00am – 12.30 pm
Opening Worship
Living in Love and Faith
* Not later than 11.30 am
Special Agenda I: Legislative Business Church Funds Measure

2.00pm – 4.30 pm
War in Ukraine and the Challenge to International Order
Special Agenda III – Private Members’ Motions Ordination after divorce
*Not later than 4.15pm
Farewells
*Not later than 4.30pm
Prorogation

Deemed business
Clergy Discipline Rules

Contingency Business
DSM Sheffield – Foodbanks and Inadequacies in Social Security
PMM Sam Wilson – LGBTQIA+ and Relationship Education

Deadline for receipt of questions: 1200 hrs Tuesday 13 February 2024

34 Comments

LLF bishops propose new commitments

Updated

The bishops of Newcastle and Leicester have written an article published today in the Church Times, in which they state that they intend to bring to General Synod in February some new proposals.

The full text of what they have written is here: Living in love, faith — and reconciliation.

The Church Times has a news report: LLF bishops respond to fears of schism over same-sex relationships.

Update

Unadulterated Love has this report: LLF “engagement opportunity” reveals Archbishops abandon radical new Christian inclusion

24 Comments

Professor Alexis Jay to publish report in February

From the Future of Church Safeguarding website: Professor Alexis Jay to publish recommendations on Church

Professor Alexis Jay CBE has informed the Archbishops of Canterbury and of York that she will next month (February) deliver to them and publish her report on how to make Church safeguarding fully independent.

In her report, Professor Jay will make a series of recommendations on how Church safeguarding can be made independent, accountable, fair and trusted, in order to learn from the past and better protect all those involved in Church life from harm.

The report has been informed by extensive engagement with those with recent experience of Church safeguarding, both in person and online, including victims and survivors, safeguarding practitioners, members of the clergy and volunteers.

This engagement exercise, which Professor Jay extended to ensure that all those who wished to share their views had the opportunity to do so, has now finished.

Professor Jay, supported by the Future of Church Safeguarding Programme, which is independent of the Church, is now preparing her report and recommendations.

In the interests of transparency, Professor Jay will publish her report online on the Future of Church Safeguarding Programme website.

Further details about publication will be provided in due course.

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Response group for Wilkinson and Jay reviews

Press release from the Church of England

Response group for Wilkinson and Jay reviews
23/01/2024

Following the publication of Sarah Wilkinson’s Review into the ISB and in light of the forthcoming Future of Church Safeguarding review from Professor Jay, the Archbishops’ Council, AC, has set up a group to consider how to respond and plan next steps.

The AC has publicly committed to learning lessons for the future delivery of independent safeguarding oversight noting the vital importance of this for all who come into contact with the Church but particularly for victims and survivors who will play an integral part in this work.

The response group, chaired by the lead safeguarding bishop, will consider the important lessons to be learnt highlighted in the Wilkinson report and once published will look at the recommendations in the Jay report.

The group will be made up of a range of members including safeguarding professionals from within and outside the Church, along with survivor and victim representation to ensure that survivors have input into the discussion and that their lived experience is heard. Alongside this, it is envisaged that a survivor and victim focus group will also be set up. The response group will consult with it in order to ask questions on specific areas.

The response group will meet regularly and will consider what wider consultation and further reflection is needed around both Reviews before a final response is considered and made by the AC which will go to General Synod for debate. The terms of reference will be drawn up in due course.

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