Thinking Anglicans

General Synod – Sunday

Updated Monday morning, Tuesday morning

Stephen Lynas reports on Sunday’s events: No-one to save, with the world in a grave.
He does not restrict himself to the debates in the Synod chamber.

Synod members joined the regular congregation at York Minster for the morning Eucharist.

The afternoon session was devoted to three debates on the Church and the World.

Order paper for the day
Video of the day’s proceedings

Climate Change and Investment

Synod passed this motion by 347 votes to four, with three recorded abstentions.

That this Synod:
(a) welcome the worldwide agreement in Paris in December 2015 to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels” and to pursue “efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”;
(b) affirm, as it did in 2015, its support for the climate change policy recommended by the EIAG and adopted by the National Investing Bodies (‘the NIBs’) in 2015;
(c) welcome the NIBs’ disinvestment from companies focused on thermal coal mining and the production of oil from oil sands;
(d) welcome the NIBs’ establishment of the Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI) to track whether major companies associated with high carbon emissions are aligning their business plans with the Paris Agreement;
(e) urge the NIBs to engage urgently and robustly with companies rated poorly by TPI and, beginning in 2020, to start to disinvest from the ones that are not taking seriously their responsibilities to assist with the transition to a low carbon economy;
(f) urge the NIBs to ensure that by 2023 they have disinvested from fossil fuel companies that they have assessed, drawing on TPI data, as not prepared to align with the goal of the Paris Agreement to restrict the global average temperature rise to well below 2°C;
(g) urge the NIBs proactively to seek and scale up investment in renewable energy and low carbon technology; and
(h) request the NIBs to report to Synod within three years on progress, with a timetable for rapid continuing action.

Official press release: National Investing Bodies’ approach to climate change affirmed by General Synod

Environment Programmes

After two successful amendments this motion read.

That this Synod:
(a) recognise the escalating threat to God’s creation from global warming and climate change, and the suffering caused, particularly to the poor;
(b) recall the previous resolution of the Synod, including ‘to develop Shrinking the Footprint (StF) to enable the whole Church to address the issue of climate change;
(c) call on every diocese to have an environment programme with a designated member of the bishop’s staff team to lead and advocate for the programme;
(d) call on the Environmental Working Group, supported by the national teams for the Church of England Environmental Programme (CoEEP) and Mission & Public Affairs;
(i) to prepare and submit a framework plan to the Archbishops’ Council for the promotion, co- ordination and rapid acceleration of the CoEEP, with particular attention to reducing the Church of England’s energy use and CO2 emissions;
(ii) to continue developing, and making available, tools for the annual collation of the energy consumption of cathedrals, churches and church halls and calculation of their total CO2 emissions to enable monitoring of progress towards the Church’s target of reducing CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050;
(iii) to promote communication and peer-review between individual dioceses as a means of encouraging best practice in the area of environmental policy, with special reference to investments, property and land use; and activities supporting the CoEEP and Eco Church Initiatives;
(iv) to compile and submit a progress report to the Synod at least every three years; and
(e) call on the Archbishops’ Council urgently to assess what human and financial resources would be required to enable the work in (d) above, and to report this back at the February 2019 group of sessions.

Synod then passed a motion to adjourn debate on this item until February 2019.

The Ethics of Nuclear Weapons

The final business of the day was this motion:

That this Synod, mindful that a faithful commemoration of the centenary of the 1918 Armistice must commit the Church afresh to peace building; and conscious that nuclear weapons, through their indiscriminate and destructive potential, present a distinct category of weaponry that requires Christians to work tirelessly for their elimination across the world:
(a) welcome the 2017 UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the clear signal it sends by a majority of UN Member States that nuclear weapons are both dangerous and unnecessary;
(b) call on Her Majesty’s Government to respond positively to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by reiterating publicly its obligations under Article VI of the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty and its strategy for meeting them; and
(c) commit the Church of England to work with its Anglican Communion and ecumenical partners in addressing the regional and international security concerns which drive nations to possess and seek nuclear weapons and to work towards achieving a genuine peace through their elimination.

The motion was carried by 260 votes to 26, with 21 recorded abstentions.

Official press release: General Synod calls for renewed efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament

Press reports

Adam Becket, Hattie Williams and Madeleine Davies Church Times The General Synod sets church investors target on fossil-fuel recalcitrants
Olivia Rudgard The Telegraph Church of England to withdraw funds from polluting firms that fail to tackle climate change
Attracta Mooney Financial Times Anglican £12bn investment funds in threat to fossil fuel companies
Ekklesia Christian Aid responds to General Synod vote on Church’s fossil fuel investments
BBC News Church of England threatens oil firm crackdown
Josh Gabbatiss Independent Church of England votes to withdraw funds from companies that contribute to climate change
Steve Doughty Mail Online Church of England launches fresh campaign for Britain to give up its nuclear weapons
Hattie Williams Church Times The General Synod calls for ‘elimination’ of nuclear weapons
Ekklesia General Synod calls for renewed efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament

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Roderick Gillisdr.primroseCRSKateCharles Read Recent comment authors
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Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds

Having immersed myself, not totally, in certain General Synod proceedings over the last few days – very much as an outsider – I can’t help but wonder what percentage of what is said, done and promised is moral posturing and virtue signalling.

Jill Armstead
Jill Armstead

Yes – Is there any point in this talking shop?

Charles Read
Charles Read

Would you rather all decisions were made by the bishops alone?

Charles Clapham

I didn’t follow the debate, but I can’t help thinking that the motion on nuclear weapons falls exactly into the category of ‘virtue signalling’ that Richard Symonds notes in his comment. Not sure what exactly a motion and debate on this by the General Synod achieves. Anybody able to enlighten me?


Especially when more time could have been spent listening to survivors or debating what to do about same sex marriage


“moral posturing and virtue signaling”

Surely the Church of England has little need for either.

Roderick Gillis
Roderick Gillis

Re: Various comments, the phrase ‘virtue signaling’ (like the phrases ‘politically correct’ and ‘fake news’) is a rather useless neologism lacking in clear constructive meaning. Its use tends to advance moral relativism without the bother of actually making an argument. The church has a legitimate role to play in social and public policy discourse. However hypocrisy is always an issue when, while lecturing governments or corporations or ‘the world’ about moral imperatives, the church refuses to acknowledge its own failure to keep up to date or to have the wisdom and humility to engage inter-disciplinary work. Just say ‘biblical’ buddy,… Read more »


Oh, I’d say its meaning is both clear and useful. Which is why it is being used, here and elsewhere. As if anyone is really waiting for church bodies to advise them on anything given their own messes!

And as Oscar Wilde nicely summarized, “hypocrisy is the compliment vice pays to virtue.”

Roderick Gillis
Roderick Gillis

No, “virtue signaling’ like the term ‘meme’ evidences the contemporary penchant for techno-babel, which has replaced the psycho-babel of the sixties and seventies as the go to vacuous argot. You might catch up on recent critical insights on language, media, and culture. However, I do agree, despite the cynical wrapping, with your suggestion that church bodies are not likely to have their counsel taken seriously. It’s old news now.There are several reasons for this. Among them are the hypocrisy of the church on the sexuality file, the moribund nature of denominationalism, and perhaps most significantly, the inability of various Christian… Read more »


When asked why he was reading the Bible, WC Fields famously said, “Looking for loopholes.”

Fields a modern; My Eccosais colleague from Edinburgh: a drunken post-modern. I have met Rankin. Rebus is his invention not his mind.


And if you don’t like W.C. Fields or Ian Rankin, there’s always Shakespeare:

“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart.
Oh, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!”

The Merchant of Venice (Act 1, Scene 3)

Roderick Gillis
Roderick Gillis

Re: dr.primrose, ” The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.” Verily, the immortal bard, a keen reader of the temptations of Christ, The Bible, and the Greek classics. Re: CRS, “Rebus is his invention not his mind.” No kidding. For a sentiment similar to that of the fictional Rebus see Noam Chomsky. There one will find all the mind one can take in. Chomsky is billed by some as the greatest living intellectual although I’m sure most of us are familiar with the grandiose and hyperbolic marketing that comes from academia Speaking of advertising, a bit more on the… Read more »