Thinking Anglicans

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.

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Chris
Chris
4 months ago

Surely I can’t be the only person wondering when it will be recognised that disagreements over LGBT people in the church aren’t going to be reconciled? It feels like the Church is going round in circles attempting not to acknowledge the obvious.

John T
John T
Reply to  Chris
4 months ago

Not only will disagreements over LGBT+ relationships not be reconciled any time soon, there is unlikely to be any agreement on how to live with disagreement. I doubt if continuing to talk and talk and talk will build trust and move us on. Perhaps the Bishops just need to put in place what has already been agreed through the many long hours of debates and votes and then move on.

Lorenzo Fernandez-Smal
Lorenzo Fernandez-Smal
Reply to  Chris
4 months ago

I agree: ‘The leadership of the Church of England has apologised to LGBTQI+ people for the lack of welcome and pastoral care they have received’ is something I have heard since I was a child. I’m now 55yo and don’t think I’ve seen much of a change since the end of the 1970s bar the inclusion of trans, ‘queer’, asexual and intersex+ peeps in the apology… and how these additional letters have been discriminated against by the church, I’m utterly unable to figure out. Past caring tbh.

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Chris
4 months ago

It’s impossible to reconcile treating LGBTIQ+ people equally and treating them differently. Even the Church of England can’t find words sufficiently blurred to square that circle.

Chris
Chris
Reply to  Kate Keates
4 months ago

It’s not even that LGBT people can agree to disagree with those who think it’s a sin; we just disagree. It’s kind of shocking from the outside, I’d imagine, that the Church thinks it’s even possible to reconcile the two views. It puts me in mind of a ruler bent back over a table – either it’ll spring back with force or snap right down the middle. It’s a tension that can’t be reconciled, and shouldn’t be. Who wants to accommodate homophobes and call that good? I’m only young. Every so often I remember the things I used to enjoy… Read more »

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Chris
4 months ago

Although it saddens me to say so Chris, I think you’re wise to keep the church at arms length. It’s a toxic place for queer people and the ultra conservatives really do hate us and will fight like rats in a sack to keep us out, or at least on the periphery. The nastiness that we face entitles us to behave like comparison shoppers picking and choosing the bits we like from the institution. I’m an ordained old codger and so perhaps more invested than you are but I sit lightly to so much to protect my emotional and spiritual… Read more »

God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
4 months ago

So,the dearly beloved General Synod will be asked to consider this: LIVING IN LOVE AND FAITH (GS 2346) The Bishop of Leicester to move: 21 ‘That this Synod welcome the further work carried out on Living in Love and Faith and the focus on reconciliation and bridge building; and ask that the proposal for a set of commitments through which the whole Church can continue to pursue the implementation of the motions previously passed by Synod on Living in Love and Faith, be brought back to Synod as soon as possible.’ Thus, in the fullness of time, when the time… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  God 'elp us all
4 months ago

The volume doesn’t look particularly high to me – although the presentation could be much better – but maybe a fast reading course ought to be offered to any Synod rep who wants it.

Bob
Bob
Reply to  God 'elp us all
4 months ago

“GS decided the matter at its last meeting- ‘get over it’”. Actually GS voted to commend PLF, and to monitor their use, reporting back to GS in five years time. On stand alone services GS asked the bishops to do further work on them, but no decision on their implementation was made. Further GS agreed that nothing that is proposed should deviate from the C of E doctrine of marriage as set out in the prayer book etc. So actually GS didn’t decide the matter.

Nic T
Nic T
Reply to  Bob
4 months ago

The November Synod voted to continue the implementation of the February vote. The February vote welcomed the Bishops decision to replace Issues in Human Sexuality with new Pastoral Guidance (which has not been done, even though multiple drafts for new guidance have been written), and also welcomed the bishops proposal to commend the full Prayers of Love and Faith (both the suite of prayers for use in an existing service, which was done in December, and the standalone service, still not commended). So Synod has taken decisions, and reaffirmed those decisions, but the House has not fulfilled the proposals it… Read more »

Bob
Bob
Reply to  Nic T
4 months ago

The motion passed at GS November was as follows: That this Synod, conscious that the Church is not of one mind on the issues raised by LLF, that we are in a period of uncertainty, and that many on all sides are being deeply hurt at this time, recognise the progress made by the H of B towards implementing the motion on LLF passed by this Synod in February 2023, as reported in GS 2328, encourage the House to continue its work of implementation, and ask the House to consider whether some standalone services for same-sex couples could be made… Read more »

Dr John Wallace
Dr John Wallace
Reply to  God 'elp us all
4 months ago

Cannot for once all parts (parties?) in the C of E agree that LLF and all matters regarding sexuality are secondary at the best to the spreading of the Gospel? Jesus spoke more about wealth and the subsequent inequality that it produces, than about sex. We have a gospel about the love of God for a sad and needy world, whether in Yemen or in my own relatively middle class parish. That’s what people need, not reports and debates on sexuality. Elizabeth I in the various religious controversies in her reign did not want a window into men’s souls. I… Read more »

Chris
Chris
Reply to  Dr John Wallace
4 months ago

Solidly agree – we could be talking about many more important things than this. You’d think after so much time gay people wouldn’t be boiled down to what they do in the bedroom, but oh well. Your point about the hungry sheep is good – in my experience, young people aren’t any less spiritual than other generations, but they’re not being fed by the Church. I see a lot of engagement, more than passing engagement, with memes and posts about Christianity on social media like Tumblr, for instance, that shows people *must* have some familiarity with the Gospel, must care… Read more »

Janet Varty
Janet Varty
Reply to  Dr John Wallace
4 months ago

Well said

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
Reply to  God 'elp us all
4 months ago

Leaving LLF to one side, as a clergy pensioner I looked at Ian Paul’s motion and the supporting papers with actuarial advice etc. Can’t imagine many Synod members wading through or indeed understanding most of it however diligent. It does raise issues about what we expect of GS not least as it is not really representative of the C of E and on controversial issues highly politicised.

Charles Clapham
4 months ago

I’ve just read through the Bishop of Leicester’s paper, and am also reasonably familiar with all the previous process. But genuinely can’t see what it is saying that is new or noteworthy, if anything. Can anybody find something new or interesting in this, hidden away in the mass of blurb and rhetoric? Struggling to understand the legal difference between commending individual prayers, which has happened, but not stand alone services.

Charles Clapham
Reply to  Charles Clapham
4 months ago

In other words, if the individual prayers (measly, grudging and inadequate as they are, in my view) have already been commended under Canon B5, what is the legal difference between this and commending stand-alone services? I can’t see where Bishop of Leicester’s document addresses this. . And there seems to be undue fear of legal action, and the need to avoid it at all costs, in his comments. In my own parish, we’d be quite happy to be a legal test case, if that’s what is necessary. One or two lawyers in my congregation have offered to defend me pro… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Charles Clapham
Rev James Pitkin
Rev James Pitkin
Reply to  Charles Clapham
4 months ago

Thank you, Charles. I am in the same position as you – apart from having the legal and PR cover! I echo your “If you are a same-sex couple and you want a full service of blessing, can meet the criteria we’d apply to heterosexual couples, and cope with the publicity of a legal case (should it be forthcoming, which I very much doubt), please contact me!” PCCs have voted unanimously to be part of the welcome to same-sex couples.  

Pilgrim
Pilgrim
Reply to  Rev James Pitkin
4 months ago

James, thank you. You are a breath of fresh air in the Diocese of Winchester. Let’s hope others in this Diocese follow your sensible approach.

Charles Clapham
4 months ago

One of the key issues in the Bishop of Leicester’s paper seems to be the discussion on the commendation of stand-alone services, on page 11. The original proposal of GS2289, for which the Synod voted, was for a commendation of the full suite of prayers under Canon B5, which could have happened immediately. The bishops now appear to have backtracked on this, and rejected the Synod’s decision, citing concerns about legal challenges for clergy who go ahead and use these resources. So the question is what lies behind this shift. Canon law has not changed between last February and now,… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Charles Clapham
Charles Clapham
4 months ago

So were I to have the misfortune to be on General Synod, I think my view would be: That the Synod have already voted in favour of commending the full prayers including stand-alone services under Canon B5, and this should be honoured, with whatever legal consequences (which might at least have the benefit of bringing clarity).That from a progressive/inclusive perspective, there can be no consideration of ‘structural provision’ for conservatives or the appointment of an independent reviewer unless this simultaneously allows for the introduction of equal marriage for the ‘progressive/inclusive’ side of the church, and the unequivocal right of gay… Read more »

Bob
Bob
Reply to  Charles Clapham
4 months ago

The motion passed at GS November was as follows: That this Synod, conscious that the Church is not of one mind on the issues raised by LLF, that we are in a period of uncertainty, and that many on all sides are being deeply hurt at this time, recognise the progress made by the H of B towards implementing the motion on LLF passed by this Synod in February 2023, as reported in GS 2328, encourage the House to continue its work of implementation, and ask the House to consider whether some standalone services for same-sex couples could be made… Read more »

Charles Clapham
Reply to  Bob
4 months ago

Bob, the commendation of the full suite of prayers, including stand-alone services, under Canon B5, was debated at length in General Synod in February 2023, when it was passed by a majority in each house. The option to use Canon B2 instead was also put to a vote at the time and rejected by a majority in all houses. So the majority view in Synod in all houses last February was to commend prayers and stand-alone services under B5.  The bishops subsequently refused to act in accordance with this vote, for reasons that have never been made clear (new legal… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by Charles Clapham
T Pott
T Pott
4 months ago

In relation to the proposed PCC Code of Conduct, a trojan horse if ever there was one, there is presented the story of a PCC Member refusing to give someone else the key to the Children’s Resources Cupboard, causing the total cessation of all children’s work in the parish. What would have happened if the key had simply fallen into a river, or otherwise been lost? Would that have resulted in the end of Children’s Work? In the 1980s was a notice at a station abroad saying the railway had not operated since it was bombed by the British in… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by T Pott
David S Hawkins
David S Hawkins
4 months ago

The impression I get from the headline of the press release is that the order of priorities of the General Synod are in the order of (i) biodiversity, (ii) safeguarding, (iii) racial justice and lastly Prayers of Love and Faith (aka gay marriage). In the first paragraph of the detail, safeguarding disappears. Think about that. What should be (and may become) an existential crisis to the whole structure of the Church of England is not mentioned in the summary introduction, but is relegated to two bland paragraphs in the middle of the text, easily missed and passed over. The subject… Read more »

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