The planned residential meeting of General Synod due to take place in York in July has been cancelled. In a press release today the officers of Synod also set out proposals for members of Synod to meet informally and remotely. The Archbishops will also ask the Privy Council to postpose the election of a new Synod, due this summer, by twelve months.
The press release is copied below.
General Synod officers examining possibility of ‘virtual’ meetings amid coronavirus challenge
The Church of England is looking at options including a possible change in the law to enable the General Synod to meet remotely, in response to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
In a letter to all members of Synod today, the officers of Synod confirm that they have used their legal powers to cancel the planned residential meeting due to take place York in July in light of the current restrictions.
However, they set out proposals for members of Synod to meet informally and remotely, potentially in a similar way to the current sittings of Parliament, as well as details of an extension to the term of the current Synod by a year.
Under the current rules, Synod can only pass legislation and transact key business by meeting in person.
In their letter, the officers – the Archbishops, Prolocutors of Canterbury and York of the House of Clergy, and the Chair and Vice-Chair of the House of Laity – say they wish to explore with the Government the possibility of Parliament passing legislation to enable the Synod to transact its business remotely if it is not possible to meet in person.
If it is not possible to do this in time to arrange a remote sitting in July, they suggest an informal remote meeting of Synod members in July when, although they could not pass legislation or take other decisions, could discuss urgent matters and carry out scrutiny.
Separately, Parliament has already approved a provision in the Coronavirus Act 2020 enabling the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to request an order postponing the elections to General Synod due to take place this summer.
A request to postpone the elections for a year is due to be considered by the Privy Council shortly. It would enable the current Synod to meet in November. If it were still not possible to meet physically by then, it is hoped that Parliament will have passed legislation so that an official sitting of the Synod by “virtual” means would be possible.
Synod members are to be surveyed to gauge support for the idea.
Canon Dr Jamie Harrison, Chair of the House of Laity, said: “The residential York Synod is a time to renew friendships and debate important matters; cancelling it has been a hard, but necessary, decision.
“We must now find ways, together, to ensure that the Synod’s vital work of engaging with legislation and scrutiny can continue.”
The Revd Canon Chris Newlands, Prolocutor of the Convocation of York, said: “The decision to cancel the physical gathering of General Synod was taken only after much prayer and reflection, conscious that we need to listen to the mind of the whole Synod more than ever at this time, though we are constrained by the measures currently in force nationally and the legal requirements that have to be met for a meeting of Synod.
“We very much hope that when we are able to gather physically once again, we will together seek to discern how God is calling us to be His Church in England in the ‘new normal’ of life after the coronavirus pandemic.”
The Revd Canon Sue Booys, Chair of Synod’s Business Committee, said: “It is obviously right in our current circumstances to take steps to minimise risk to Synod members and those who would serve them in York by cancelling the formal sessions in July.
“The Business Committee is ready to fulfil our role in finding ways to generate and enable discussion about issues of importance as well as to explore and make arrangements for a future formally constituted group of sessions.
“We will be working with others to enable the legal framework we need to allow our business to proceed properly and give Synod members the opportunity to scrutinise and comment on business.”
Notes to editors
The Officers of the General Synod are:
Here are a few online articles relating to last week’s meeting of the Church of England General Synod.
Tim Hind Open Synod Group report of proceedings
David Pocklington Law & Religion UK “Public health funerals” and “direct cremation” – an update
The rules and related items for the forthcoming General Synod elections are here.3 Comments
The day’s business is in Order Paper Six
Official press releases
General Synod approves Channel Islands legislation
Legal aid an ‘essential service’ that should be preserved for the ‘benefit of the nation’, Synod votes
Archbishop of Canterbury pays tribute to the Archbishop of York
Synod says yes to Channel Islands transfer
Members’ blogs10 Comments
As usual, Stephen Lynas is providing his excellent summaries of each day’s business.
Stephen Parsons wrote this in advance of the first item of business on Safeguarding: Is Synod overseeing a revolution in the treatment of abuse survivors? We also covered this here.
At the end of the Safeguarding debate Synod passed the following motion by 361 votes to nil, with no recorded abstentions.
That this Synod
(a) endorse the Archbishops’ Council’s response, set out in GS 2158, to the five recommendations made by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in its investigation report Anglican Church Case Studies: Chichester/Peter Ball (May 2019) at pages 206 to 207;
(b) welcome the statement in paragraph 4.1 of the response that the National Safeguarding Steering Group (NSSG) “remains committed to ensuring that words of apology are followed by concrete actions”;
(c) urge the NSSG to bring forward proposals to give effect to that commitment that follow a more fully survivor-centred approach to safeguarding, including arrangements for redress for survivors;
(d) request that the NSSG keep the Synod updated on the development and implementation of responses to recommendations relating to the Church of England that are made by the Inquiry, including by submitting a report for debate by the Synod not later than July 2021.
The paper (GS 2158) referred to in the motion is online here.
The rest of the morning session was devoted to a debate on the Climate Emergency and Carbon Reduction Target. The motion as originally proposed was amended, most significantly when “2045 at the latest” in paragraph (a) was replaced by “2030”. This amendment was quite narrowly carried by 144 votes to 129 with 10 recorded abstentions. At the end of the debate, the amended motion below was carried on a show of hands.
That this Synod, recognising that the global climate emergency is a crisis for God’s creation, and a fundamental injustice, and following the call of the Anglican Communion in ACC Resolutions A17.05 and A17.06;
(a) call upon all parts of the Church of England, including parishes, BMOs, education institutions, dioceses, cathedrals and the NCIs, to work to achieve year-on-year reductions in emissions and urgently examine what would be required to reach net zero emissions by 2030 in order that a plan of action can be drawn up to achieve that target;
(b) request reports on progress from the Environment Working Group and the NCIs every 3 years beginning in 2022 and;
(c) call on each Diocesan Synod and cathedral Chapter to address progress toward net zero emissions every 3 years.
The first item of business in the afternoon was a debate on so-called Paupers’ Funerals. The motion before Synod (after amendment) was
That this Synod noting:
(a) the substantial rise in the number of ‘pauper funerals’ in England and the pain and hurt arising from them; and
(b) the call of the Gospel to meet people as Jesus does, in their time of need, as well as the duty of Christians to the poor as set out in Proverbs 31.8-9 and Deuteronomy 15.7-8;
call upon the Archbishops’ Council to direct and resource the Life Events Advisory Group, in consultation with the Churches Funeral Group and the British Council of Funeral Services to:
i. undertake the formation of plans at national, diocesan and parish levels to utilise Church resources (whether in the form of finance, volunteers or buildings) to tackle the issues relating to and, where possible, end ‘pauper funerals’;
ii. work with other stakeholders to find ways, at an affordable price, to deliver a more compassionate send off for the departed and to meet the spiritual and emotional needs of those left behind; and
iii. report progress made with reference to the above by the end of 2021;
and further call on Her Majesty’s Government to develop with Council leaders, a national plan and basic standards for pauper funerals, which should include allowing a Christian funeral service to take place in Church or at a Crematorium; for family or others to attend; and the return of the departed (where permitted) to family members.
and this was carried by 273 votes to nil, with one recorded abstention.
Next was a debate on Children and Youth Ministry. The motion before Synod (after amendment) was
That this Synod, recognising the continuing decline in numbers of under 16’s engaging with Church:
(a) encourage dioceses to act urgently and consider practical ways they can support and resource those churches both with significant numbers of children and young people and with specific aspirations to increase their numbers of the same;
(b) encourage dioceses to make provision to support and resource those churches serving communities which currently have small numbers of children, teenagers and young people;
(c) request dioceses to share good models of practice through churches helping to resource others so that we have many more churches engaging with children and young people;
(d) request the NCI’s to commit funding for qualitative research on the data received to help understand best practice in a variety of contexts;
(e) encourage dioceses to explore new ways to grow new church communities with young people as a primary missional focus;
(f) request the Evangelism and Discipleship team to ensure this work is clearly joined up with Growing Faith; and
(g) request an update from the Evangelism and Discipleship team in two years with analysis of progress in these areas.
and this was carried on a show of hands.
Official press releases
Overwhelming support for Synod safeguarding motion – This includes links to some of the speeches in the debate.
General Synod sets 2030 Net Zero carbon target
General Synod calls on Government to act over ‘pauper’ funerals
[This page will be updated during the day.]9 Comments
Synod papers are online here.
As usual, Stephen Lynas is providing his excellent summaries of each day’s business.
Much of the morning was spent on the Draft Cathedrals Measure. This had been revised by a revision committee and it was now Synod’s turn to accept or revise it. The proposed amendments are in order paper two. All were accepted by Synod except for 510 and 516. The Measure now goes to committee for final drafting before coming back to Synod for final approval at a later group of sessions.
The other item of business before lunch was deanery synod term limits. The recent complete rewriting of the Church Representation Rules (the “Rules”) included a provision to limit lay members of deanery synods to two consecutive terms of three years (although APCMs could vote not to apply this). There was opposition to this at the time but by the time people realised the significance of the change it was too late to do anything about it. However the Business Committee had undertaken a consultation and proposed to introduce a change to the Rules so that the default position would be no term limit, although APCMs would be allowed to make a limit. Today’s debate was to see if there was sufficient support in Synod to make it worthwhile starting the process of amending the Rules. Because this requires a two-thirds majority in each house of Synod, today’s vote was by houses with this result:
Bishops for 14, against 6
Clergy for 66, against 31
Laity for 128, against 14
There were recorded abstentions of 1, 3, 2 respectively.
Today a simple majority in each house was sufficient, so the motion asking the Business Committee to introduce the necessary resolution at the July 2020 group of sessions was passed. However it should be noted that whilst the laity today were overwhelmingly in favour, the bishops and clergy only just reached the two-thirds majority that will be needed in July.
The afternoon started with a presentation on Living in Love and Faith the Pastoral Advisory Group – see the Church Times story linked below for details.
Later there was a private members’ motion on Windrush Commitment and Legacy. After some amendments the motion before Synod was
That this Synod, commemorating in 2018 the martyrdom of the Revd Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., noting with joy the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush liner in the United Kingdom in June 1948 bringing nearly 500 Commonwealth citizens, mainly from the Caribbean, to mainland UK; and the eventual arrival of approximately half a million people from the West Indies, who were called to Britain as British subjects to help rebuild the post-war United Kingdom:
(a) lament, on behalf of Christ’s Church, and apologises for, the conscious and unconscious racism experienced by countless Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) Anglicans in 1948 and subsequent years, when seeking to find a spiritual home in their local Church of England parish churches, the memory of which is still painful to committed Anglicans who in spite of this racism from clergy and others, have remained faithful to the Church of England and their Anglican heritage;
(b) request the Archbishops’ Council to commission research to assess the impact of this on the Church of England in terms of church members lost, churches declining into closure, and vocations to ordained and licensed lay ministries missed, and to report back to this Synod and the wider Church.
(c) express gratitude to God for the indispensable contribution to the mission, ministry, prayer and worship of Christ’s Church in this nation made by people of BAME descent in the Church of England;
(d) acknowledge and give joyful thanks for the wider contribution of the ‘Windrush generation’ and their descendants to UK life and culture in every field of human activity, including service across the Armed Forces and other services during and after the Second World War;
(e) resolve to continue, with great effort and urgency, to stamp out all forms of conscious or unconscious racism, and to commit the Church of England to increase the participation and representation of lay and ordained BAME Anglicans throughout Church life; and
(f) request the Archbishop’s Council to appoint an independent person external to the Church to assess the current situation as regards race and ethnicity in the Church, in order to present a report to this Synod with recommendations for actions to achieve reconciliation and authentic belonging so that we can move towards truly being a Church for all people;
to the greater glory of the God in whose image every human being is made.
The motion was carried by 295 votes to nil, with no recorded abstentions.
Official press releases
Stephen Lynas All kinds of everything11 Comments
The February group of sessions of the Church of England’s General Synod opened this afternoon. Proceedings can be watched live here.
The first day’s business is in Order Paper One.
The Archbishop of Canterbury gave a presidential address; you can read a transcript here.
There is some background information on one item, the draft Channel Islands Measure, in the item below. Synod voted to proceed with this draft measure, and it will be considered for revision in Full Synod tomorrow (Tuesday).
Synod voted to proclaim the Clergy Covenant for Wellbeing as an Act of Synod. The Covenant is here, and a paper on the Act of Synod, and an update on progress is here. There is also a Document for Reflection and Action for the Clergy.
The day’s business ended with Questions.
Official press release
Church Times No biting, Welby tells his fellow Anglicans
Press Association (via This is Money)
Archbishop says technology could be `danger to flock´ or `aid to shepherd´
Members’ blogs13 Comments
There is a proposal before the Church of England General Synod this week to transfer the Channel Islands from the diocese of Winchester to the diocese of Salisbury. This follows from the recommendations of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on the Relationship of the Channel Islands to the Wider Church of England (GS Misc 1241) which was chaired by Richard Chartres, the former bishop of London. This requires a Church Measure (the Church of England’s equivalent to an Act of Parliament) and it is intended to take all stages of this before Synod closes on Thursday. The first stage will be taken this afternoon and this will primarily deal with the principle.
Not everybody agrees with the proposal. One such is Simon Cawdell, a Synod member from Hereford. He has written a paper which has circulated amongst some Synod members and this has prompted a response from the Deans of Guernsey and Jersey (the senior clergy on the islands). With permission I have copied the texts of both papers below the fold.17 Comments
Updated Saturday evening
The General Synod of the Church of England meets in London from Monday to Thursday next week. I published a list of news stories here. Here is some more news and comment.
Stephen Lynas bathwellschap Return to Sender [Stephen’s usual informative introduction to the Synod]
Nicholas Henshall ViaMedia.News Is All Well with the “Clergy Well Being” Covenant?
recent Church Times news and comment
Synod members are invited to climate vigil
Priestly formation needs revising to benefit children’s ministry
There are links to Synod papers here. The official General Synod app is available to download on iOS and Android devices. It is described as “Once downloaded, the app allows access to an electronic version of the timetable as well as all the documents you need to take part in the session as a member. Any changes or updates to the timetable and documents are also sent to the app.” Although primarily intended for Synod members anybody can use it.6 Comments
The Church of England’s General Synod will have its usual question and answer session on Monday afternoon next week. The questions, and answers, have been published today (see links below). These will not be read out at Synod and the session will be devoted to supplementary questions.
Update: A list of errata has been published.1 Comment
Updated Thursday evening
A group of survivors of sexual abuse committed by Church of England clergy have written an open letter to General Synod members. The full text of that letter is copied below the fold (and is also on the Surviving Church blog).
Amendments, supported by the survivors, to the proposed motion due to be debated next week regarding the recommendations from IICSA to the Church of England have been proposed by David Lamming and Peter Adams.
Peter Adams has written an article about the need for stronger action by General Synod: Closing the door on a shameful past: the need for a fully rounded response by CofE General Synod to IICSA.
These amendments have however been ruled out of order. See today’s Church Times news report Safeguarding amendments to give Synod motion ‘more teeth’ are rejected.
The full text of the proposed motion if the proposed amendments had been accepted, is as follows.
GENERAL SYNOD FEBRUARY 2020 GROUP OF SESSIONS WEDNESDAY 12 FEBRUARY 2020
AGENDA ITEM 9 Safeguarding: Response to recommendations in IICSA May 2019 Investigation Report (GS 2158)
COMPOSITE DRAFT OF THE MOTION AS IT WOULD BE IF AMENDED BY THE AMENDMENTS PROPOSED BY DAVID LAMMING (GS 399) AND PETER ADAMS (GS 392)
That this Synod:
(a) lament the Church of England’s abject failures in dealing with reports of abuse, as revealed during the hearings of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) and documented in its interim report, Anglican Church Case Studies: Diocese of Chichester and The response to allegations against Peter Ball (May 2019), and accordingly welcome the terms of the Diocese of Blackburn ‘Ad Clerum’ letter dated 17th June 2019, reflecting on the IICSA report and commend its victim-centred approach to all in authority within the Church as a suitable model for developing reconciliation with those who have been wronged by our sins of commission and omission;
(b) affirm (in the words of the National Director of Safeguarding at para 4.1 of paper GS 2158) that the Church of England “remains committed to ensuring that words of apology are followed by concrete actions to improve how all worshipping communities across the whole Church in its many forms – across its parishes, dioceses, cathedrals, religious communities, national church institutions and other church bodies – respond to concerns and allegations of abuse and to all victims and survivors of abuse and others affected by this, whilst at the same time working to prevent such abuse from occurring in the first place.”
(c) endorse the Archbishops’ Council’s response, set out in paper GS 2158, to the five recommendations made by IICSA at pages 206 to 207 of its said report;
(d) request the Archbishops’ Council, National Safeguarding Steering Group (NSSG), National Safeguarding Team, and House of Bishops to respond immediately to the recommendations of the final IICSA report on the Anglican Church when it is published, and bring their response to General Synod for debate no later than July 2021; and
(e) request the Archbishops’ Council, NSSG and House of Bishops, working in conjunction with the Church Commissioners, to bring forward proposals for an appropriate and properly resourced compensation and redress scheme, so that words of apology are matched by actions that truly reflect the justice and righteousness of God’s kingdom.
The original signatories of the Open Letter have issued this public response
“MORE THAN WORDS ARE NOW NEEDED” – RESPONSE TO THE ARCHBISHOPS’ APOLOGY
Whilst we are grateful for the Archbishops’ apology and the recognition that their statement has jeopardized our trust, the fact is more than words are now needed.
Over 3500 people have now signed our open letter, which includes nearly 90 members of General Synod and a range of other senior church leaders. This shows the strength of concern that exists across the Church of England that its mission is being significantly damaged and that their promise of a “radical new Christian inclusion” must now be delivered.
We await the evidence that they have truly heard and taken onboard our concerns by what comes out in the Living in Love and Faith report, and the willingness to engage directly with those whose lives it primarily affects.
Rev Andrew Foreshew-Cain
Ven Peter Leonard
Statement from the Campaign for Equal Marriage in the Church of England about the recent apology from the house of Bishops for their ‘Pastoral Statement on Same sex Civil Partnerships
We welcome the Archbishops’ apology and acknowledgement of the hurt & division their words have caused.
We regret that they have neither withdrawn their ill-advised Statement nor sought to amend its harsh and cruel wording. It still stands in its entirety as an attack on the integrity and lives of not just many in the LGBTI communities but also to the countless committed and faithful straight couples and lone parents raising children whose love and commitment they have disparaged.
We are disappointed that they do not address the undermining of the trust in their leadership and the Living in Love and Faith process that the release of the Statement has caused. Trust cannot be simply rebuilt by ignoring that reality. Bridges have to be built from both sides and the Statement released last week demolished the foundations on the Bishops’ side.
We had hoped that the Bishops might have learnt from this embarrassing experience but they appear not to have done so. We invite the Bishops to reach out and ask to meet with representatives of the LGBTI communities and sit down and ask how trust can be rebuilt. Telling us it will simply be so suggests that they are still unwilling to listen, unable to learn from this very public embarrassment and does nothing to inspire confidence for the future.
We would welcome an invitation to meet with the Bishops to discuss how that trust can be re-established.
Friday 31st January 2020
At Via Media, Giles Goddard an LGBT member of the co-ordinating group for the Living in Love and Faith project has published After the Apology – What Next?
…I have heard a great deal of contrition from the College of Bishops and from the Archbishops and I am grateful for that. I hope it will help us to move on. But I also have a strong sense that the underlying causes for the publication of the Statement have only just begun to be addressed. I have had very recent conversations with bishops who remain dismayed by the Church’s way of being: still, deep down, dominated by a world-view which feels white, male and patriarchal in its teaching on sexuality and relationships. Women still find it hard to be heard. There is still a huge problem with BAME representation. There is only one out LGBTI+ bishop…
Do read it all.30 Comments
Simon Butler and Chris Newlands, the prolocutors of Canterbury and York respectively in the General Synod, have made public the letter they have written to the archbishops. The full text of this is available here.22 Comments
Madeleine Davies Church Times Absent children will be a focus at next month’s General Synod
Harriet Sherwood The Guardian
Church of England could stop heating cathedrals to hit 2045 emissions target
Church of England urged to apologise for Windrush racism
Church of England could seek to end paupers’ funerals
Zaina Alibhai iNews Church of England urged to apologise for racism toward Windrush generation16 Comments
The Church of England has issued its usual press release (copied below) in advance of next month’s meeting of its General Synod. Also released today is the second batch of papers for the Synod meeting; links to them have been added to my earlier post.
Church of England launches energy rating tool as Synod considers new ‘net zero’ carbon target
The Church of England is launching an energy rating system similar to those used for household appliances to help monitor the carbon footprint of its almost 40,000 buildings, as General Synod considers a major new proposal to reach ‘net zero’ CO2 emissions.
Members of Synod, which meets in London next month, will debate a motion calling on all parts of the Church of England – from parishes to national bodies – to aim for ambitious year-on-year reductions in emissions to reach “net zero” by 2045 at the latest.0 Comments
Updated 24 January to include second batch of papers
The first batch of papers for next month’s meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod are now available online. The remaining papers will be issued on 24 January and I will add links when these become available.
Papers with a note of the day scheduled for their consideration are listed below the fold. Synod meets from Monday 10 to Thursday 13 February in London.
Synod members reading this might like to note that the deadline for the submission of questions is 12 noon on Wednesday 29 January 2020.9 Comments
The Business Committee of General Synod has today published the outline agenda for the February Group of Sessions in London.
The published information can be read here and is copied (with slight editing) below the fold.0 Comments
Nic Tall is Election Campaign Coordinator for the IC and partners’ 2020 Synod Campaign. Inclusive Church has published this article by him: 2020 Synod Elections: Shaping the future of the Church of England.
Should same sex couples be able to marry in church? How can the church respond to the climate emergency? How do we equip the church for the challenges of mission and ministry in the 21st Century? Do you ever find yourself asking these questions? And do you ever wonder who in the church has the job of answering them?
In the Church of England the big questions of the day are debated by the General Synod. It can seem like a remote body, with little effect at parish level and no place for ordinary clergy and churchgoers, but that is a common misperception. Many significant changes in how local churches operate come from decisions in General Synod, and the policies of the national church are shaped and decided in Synod. Next year will see full elections for the next five year term of the General Synod, and whoever is elected will have a voice in how the church grapples with the big issues and shape its future.
Could you serve on General Synod? Maybe you know someone you could encourage to stand for election. The Church needs a diverse range of people on Synod, different ages, backgrounds and experience to represent the full breadth of the Church. Inclusive Church is leading a campaign to organise for the 2020 elections, working in partnership with other inclusive organisations across the life of the church. We have just launched our main campaign leaflet, saying what will be happening and how you can be involved. Please download it here, and share it far and wide among people you know in the church who have inclusive values…
The campaign leaflet, Planning for the 2020 Elections to the General Synod, contains more detailed information:
Who is organising the Inclusive Synod Campaign?
This campaign is being organised by a coalition of key organisations from across the full breadth of traditions in the Church of England – evangelical, catholic, liberal. We represent the broad mainstream of the Church, those who want our national Church to be for everyone, regardless of gender, age, disability, tradition, race, socio-economic background or sexuality. Members include Inclusive Church, WATCH, One Body One Faith, Ozanne Foundation, Affirming Catholicism, Accepting Evangelicals, Modern Church, the Society of Catholic Priests, the Campaign for Equal Marriage in the C of E, the Progressive Christianity Network and Thinking Anglicans. We are the only campaign for Synod organising across the whole of the Church…
Members of the Church of England General Synod have been sent the following email inviting questions for answer next month. As noted written answers will be given (and published); ie no supplementary questions will be possible.
Dear Synod members,
Mindful of the exceptionally high number of questions in February and July, the Business Committee has decided to use its powers under Standing Order 117(1) to give members the opportunity to submit questions for written answer between groups of sessions. This is a process last used in 2008.
The deadline is 12.00 on Friday, 8 November. Please send the questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Answers will be published on www.churchofengland.org no later than Monday, 25 November.
Please also note that under SO 112(2), members can ask up to two questions, which should be addressed to one of the bodies accountable to the General Synod listed in SO 112(1).
Thank you very much.
Synod Support1 Comment