She said “You don’t understand what I said” *

“So, what were the General Synod Shared Conversations like?” I’ve been asked that several times, but only now, with a week’s distance, can I attempt to reflect on how it went, what it means, and (big question) What Might Happen Next…

It was an intense experience. The object of the exercise was to reflect together on the question: Given the significant changes in our culture in relation to human sexuality, how should the Church respond? And our York programme (spread over three days) was the third and final part of a programme that has involved the College of Bishops and a number of regional shared conversation events. Altogether, some 1300 people have taken part. (If all this is new to you, then you might like to look at the official Shared Conversations website – click here). Despite publicised threats of a boycott, we were given to understand that fewer than a dozen people opted out at York.

 How was it all done?

David Porter

David Porter

First things first.There are around 400 people involved, so we worked in ‘small groups’ – around 20 per group, each with a professional facilitator. Canon David Porter headed up a very experienced team, which gave me confidence that this was not going to be a tram smash. They led, encouraged (and occasionally reproved) us well.

David has ‘form’ with Synod: he successfully led the process that got us through the ‘women Bishops’ maze in 2013 – I wrote about it here – so those of us who were around in the last Synod knew roughly what to expect. This time, we were in small groups for about half the programme, the other half being informative plenary sessions back in the Central Hall. And there were free evenings – unknown in normal Synod timetables, but vital for resting the brain and/or talking informally with others.

We operated under a strict set of house rules, the St Michael’s Protocol. They are like a Christian version of the famous Chatham House Rule (there is only one, apparently), and cover non-disclosure of who said what, together with how we treat one another in the discussions. (Read the Protocol here). So my reflections will be impressionistic, and if you want to know who said what to whom, tough luck.

Big group, small groups…

York rainbow central hall

The plenaries happened in the Central Hall

The timetable (you can read it here) inserted plenaries into the group work. I’m not going to say who addressed the plenaries, but they covered:

  • testimony: accounts of their personal faith journeys from people of Christian faith with differing experiences of handling their own sexuality in a church setting. They were predominantly young, and all were impressive in their commitment and explanation of why they take the position that they do.
  • theology: short presentations from serious theologians with different understandings of what Scripture has to say
  • church and culture: further personal accounts of how our culture has changed in the past twenty years or so, and how this has affected various people within church life and leadership
  • the world context: speakers from Africa, Asia and North America on the worldwide Anglican Communion’s varying understandings of human sexuality

My group had 21 members. we met in a horrible echoey room next to a noisy kitchen. But the commitment was there to make it work. There was time in threes, in sixes and as a whole group. My triplet included someone I didn’t know at all, and someone else who I know from Synod membership, and who on other issues I would tend to disagree with. So we had lots to talk about.

In my group, I learned…

There was some pretty deep conversation; some surprises, some emotion. But two things I can share, I think.

  1. There were no ‘campaigners’ for a traditional view or a ‘liberal/inclusive’ view in the group. I don’t think that was fixed by the organisers. It may just demonstrate that we are not as polarised as everyone thinks we are! But I felt slightly disappointed: having prepared myself for engaging with both ‘sides’ it was disconcerting to find that – although there were people more ‘traditional’ and more ‘liberal’ than me – nobody was banging a drum for their cause. (I can now see that this was actually rather useful, because it highlit the fact that pretty well everyone is slightly confused, and pretty well everyone (in our group) was ready to listen without shouting.)
  2. It felt to me as if we were attempting to discuss this in a vacuum, as if the Church of England’s trials were the only show in town. So we talked about ourselves, our families, and  churches we know. But actually, there is a lot going on elsewhere. These ‘noises off’ include:
  • the United Reformed Church’s decision this month to permit same-sex marriages in church (read more here…)
  • the Methodist Church’s decision this month to ‘revisit’ its position on same-sex marriage (Read more here…)
  • the Scottish Episcopal Church’s decision last month to rewrite its official description of marriage to remove references to ‘man and woman’ (read more here…) UPDATE: see Kevin Holdsworth’s clarification in “comments” below
  • The Anglican Church of Canada’s mis-counted vote on the subject last week (read more here…)
  • There are legal cases in the offing in respect of individual clergy who have been denied licences.

And that, of course, is just in the Christian community. Again and again we were brought up against the fact that while traditional church teaching has not moved, society has. Our stance on homosexuality is cited as a major missional block, especially among young people.

Outcomes?

Its been said over and over again that there are no planned outcomes from this process.

  • there are no draft revisions of the Canons, or motions about same-sex marriage, or anything of the sort in view.
  • there are no agreed statements – other than a brief official note which you can read here
  • there is no ‘reporting back’ to anyone.

The official “what happens next” is that the Bishops, when they meet in the autumn – and they have planned an extended meeting – will take counsel on what, if anything, happens now. (The Bishops were spread evenly round the groups, so all of them will have heard what was being said, and been in the vulnerable position of sharing their own views and stories, like the rest of us).

Outside the groups, and while chatting in the bar, some pressure points for the Bishops’ autumn meeting emerged:

  1. The mood of many congregations and clergy, and the government’s lock-out of the C of E from conducting same-sex marriages mean that we are not going to move to marrying same-sex couples in church any time soon. The Bishops may need to make that clear, which will not go down well with some, and will make others rejoice.
  2. There is a howling fudge going on in respect of our Church and same-sex relationships.  The way in which clergy are treated is different to the way other church members are treated. Clergy may enter into chaste civil partnerships; and not into same-sex marriages. Lay people are not so restricted. The position of licensed lay ministers (such as Readers) is ambiguous. This will only get worse. The Bishops may need to indicate whether they are prepared to make some kind of ‘pastoral accommodation’ in some of these cases.  This will not go down well with some, and will make others rejoice.
  3. Despite recent statements making all the right noises about welcoming LGBTI people into the life of our parishes, their experience very often is not one of being welcomed. There is a scale moving from ‘rejection’ though to ‘toleration’, then to ‘welcome’ and finally to ‘inclusion’. Our groups heard something of that from people whose church experiences were in different points on that scale.There is a mismatch between what is pronounced and what actually happens. The Bishops need to remind us all of that. This will not go down well with some, and will make others rejoice.
Synod voting 02

We might need less of the formal voting stuff in the future…

For me, the biggest outcome is that everyone (apart from those who stayed away) realised that General Synod can work without agendas and resolutions. And if we are ever to make progress on the human sexuality issue, then we must not expect a motion or a working party from the Bishops: we need to spend more time in our threes and sixes and small groups, just hearing how it is for each other, and setting that against our biblical material, our prayers and our understanding of real life.

So probably the Business Committee are going to have to look at finding time for more of this way of working. General Synod must retain its legislative role: but its deliberations could be less starchy on subject like this.

In the meantime…

If you want to get a good view of where the Church of England is on this matter, the Shared Conversations website has a good list of reading resources here (scroll down the page)

 

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She said “you don’t understand what I said” a line from She said, from the Beatles 1966 album Revolver. The next line is “I said “No, no,no you’re wrong”. The kind of conversation we hope to avoid in this matter….

Posted in 2016: July - York, General Synod | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Wishing you were here *

York Postcard

Rainbow over the University site on Saturday evening. Pretty, innit?

I’m observing the protocols we are using for the Shared Conversations here at York.

That means I’m not posting an update into what has been going on today. Sorry if you’ve had a wasted journey!

  • I may try to post once we’re all home and have processed some of the ‘stuff’ we’ve been thinking through.
  • If you want to be sure of seeing it (and future posts about the work of General Synod), just press the ‘Follow’ button down the right-hand side of this page. Easy-peasy.
  • You can see Andrew Nunn’s remarks on the Synod (published before we went into the conversations) here.

Specialist and nerdy

I continue to be staggered at the readership of this blog. Highlights have been

For a slightly specialist and (some would say) nerdy blog, that is pretty gratifying. And the list of countries is extraordinary: UK, USA, Australia and Canada, fair enough. But someone in Croatia, another in Finland… not to mention the Netherlands, France and Guernsey (thank you, Joan!) Particular thanks are due to those who have helped point you at me:

And, of course, dear old Twitter.

I’ll leave you with a picture of a spaceship that landed here a moody picture of the University Central Hall at night.

Nightime scene York

Central Hall is the circular disc with a reflection. The blue lights are the footbridge over the lake. Pretty, innit?


*   Wishing you were here: Chicago, 1974 If Wikipedia is to be believed, three of the Beach Boys sang on the harmony tracks. No, I didn’t know that either. Listen and see if you can hear them (if you see what I mean) – click here

Posted in 2016: July - York, General Synod | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

I don’t want to talk about it… *

Samaritan WS

The ‘icon of mercy’

Actually, I would love to talk about it, but I’m not going to! The Shared Conversations process began after lunch today, and we’re not talking about it while it’s happening. But the day started with some epic ceremonial in York Minster, where Synod traditionally attends the main Communion service on a Sunday, complete with fabulous choir, two Archbishops, and a procession a mile long.

As if the glories of the Minster, its music and it’s worship were not enough, we had a treat of a sermon from Archbishop Sentamu. Rather than just talk about the Good Samaritan, he had arranged for everyone to be given a card showing an icon from Taizé, on which was ‘written’ the parable.

She is still lying there…

Samaritan 1 attackHe then expounded the well-known story in an entirely fresh way. The French icon-writer shows Christ at the centre, and around him six panels.The first panel shows the traveller being attacked on the road. Others show the priest and Levite passing by, and the man being helped onto a donkey.

“Did you notice the traveller is in white, like Christ?” we were asked. And, repeatedly: “He is still lying there! She is still lying there!

At the end, we see the Christ-traveller seated at the inn, eating with the innkeeper and the Samaritan. It’s a Trinitarian motif. And Archbishop Sentamu’sSamaritan 6 eat trio point was that we have a duty to help those cast aside, and that in doing so, we serve Christ himself.

Like many of the best sermons, you probably had to be there. But it was a bravura performance which pointed us to the global issues and to the cast aside and wounded in our own circles. A powerful message as we go into those Shared Conversations.

 

The service requires the Synod’s Officers to join the main procession, so Simon Butler and I were turned out in our most seemly formal Convocation robes. Hopefully this has persuaded one or two opponents that I can dress appropriately to the circumstances, and do not conduct worship in jeans…

Prolocutor bling

Canterbury’s pro-Prolocutor and Prolocutor demonstrating seemly clerical vesture

The impact of Saturday’s debate about clergy vesture (catch up here) has been more than I expected. A number of people have come up to me with points of view. They will need to make them to the Revision Committee – and they have one month to do so.

The Mail on Sunday, to my surprise, had a reasonably unsensational report, though it could not resist the ‘manikin’ diversion. But still, it quotes a number of speakers and reflects the debate we actually had. Read it here.

The fringe: around the edges of Synod

Part of the joy of Synod at York is the way in which there is time to get involved in fringe meetings of various kinds. Some of them are set up by pressure and lobby groups. Others are simple information sessions about current topics. You can consume your buffet lunch while discussing arcane or vital topics with experts.

Pete Hobson CECA

Fringe: Pete Hobson on the CECA stand

Then there is the ‘fringe corridor’, where well-meaning bodies set up stands and try to catch your eye and intercept you as you wander by. I was very chuffed to see the Church of England Clergy Advocates (CECA – the professional association for clergy) there staffed by my old mate Pete Hobson. He also ran a lunchtime fringe session, and you can learn all about CECA here. Pete is the man who oversaw the reburial of Richard III in Leicester Cathedral, and he was kind enough to give me a copy of the flyer about his book How to bury a King. Details are here.

There’s also committee work that happens in the breaks, causing diary conflicts.

  • On Saturday I was at the House of Clergy Standing Committee when I might have been at CECA’s briefing lunch
  • On Friday night I was at a session on the impact of the Goddard Enquiry on the Church of England so I missed the EGGS (Evangelical Group on General Synod)meeting.
York OSG Quiz night (1)

Fiercely competitive quiz time

And Saturday saw the Open Synod Group Quiz , a traditional break from the hard work. Despite starting at 10.00 p.m., it was a full house, and I regret to tell you the team I was in came a mediocre 4th equal. But those of you who know my interest in railways will not be surprised that I knew which station featured in the wartime classic film Brief Encounter. (It was Carnforth, should you wish to know.)

Because we were going into purdah after Saturday, in advance of the Shared Conversations, all campaigning ceased, and the fringe corridor was shut down.

Yes, but what about the Shared Conversations?

Oh yes, you wanted to know about the Shared Conversations. Well, other than that they have started, there’s nothing I can really say. We have all undertaken not to give a running commentary while the process goes on. However…

  • The Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood has a fairly well-informed piece here
  • If you want to know more about how it works, there are publicly available documents here. (Scroll to bottom of that page to find them)

And we were really delighted to be given these prayer cards when we went to the Minster this morning. Feel free to use them between now and Tuesday. Thank you!

 And finally…

Milner-WhteI spotted this name-plate while wandering round the campus to catch the bus to the Minster this morning. The building is named after a famous former Dean of York and writer, Eric Milner-White.

He was instrumental in founding the University in the early 1960’s. Nice that they commemorate him, though I suspect he preferred the soaring piers and arches of the Minster to the concrete panels of the University buildings.

 

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I don’t want to talk about it Rod Stewart. Recorded 1975, a hit several times since then.

Posted in 2016: July - York, General Synod | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Handbags and gladrags *

Saul Bellow Chapel

Chapel with a view: morning Communion

Wandering across the campus at what felt like the crack of dawn for a 7.30 a.m. communion service, I barely thought about Saturday’s business. There’s no doubt that the imminent transmogrification of Synod into a very large Shared Conversation is pre-occupying many people here.

  • Tetchy questions (as reported yesterday) were indicators of a nervousness that will only settle when we have our briefings and introductions tomorrow.
  • I heard last night that at one fringe meeting, one or two members declared openly that they were going to boycott the Conversations.
  • There are rumours that the Reform members will be doing a Brexit and staying out of the Conversations

So a very ‘standard’ Common Worship service in the unusual setting of the Saul Bellow Building got the day off to a good start.

Tennis or Cricket? the issue of the day

York voting machnie

Pesky voting machine: the card is at the top

Things went downhill after breakfast. A glitch with the voting machines yesterday meant that all our voting cards had to be re-programmed overnight. Handing out the new cards led to huge queues to get into the Chamber, meaning that many of us missed the opening worship. Then we had to test the new cards.

So a cheery Chair of the Business Committee invited us to vote on the motion that we prefer tennis to cricket. The motion was duly carried (to largely male cries of ‘Shame!’ and ‘Resign!’). Then we voted on it again, by Houses. Thankfully, the House of Bishops voted for cricket, so order in the firmament is restored.

Legislative Business on the agenda induces groans in many members. However, we had a very lively and passionate debate about a key bit of simplification: the snappily-titled Draft Mission and Pastoral etc. (Amendment) Measure. (Read the paper GS2014A here, or for an easier ride, the Report that goes with it GS2014Y here)

Without going into heavy detail, what seemed to be going wrong was we were getting into a proxy debate. Argument over how to simplify the way in which the church can (for example) close down a team vicar post as part of pastoral reorganisation turned into grumpy complaints about whether we trust our Bishop, why my local team vicar post has not been filled, and so on. So we heard very lively and emotional speeches that largely were not about the technical changes proposed in the Measure.

Everyone is in favour of renewal and simplification. Until, that is, they start to look at how to achieve it.

All those in favour…

The three draft Measures that followed were all to be sent off for Revision Committees. So general debate was in order, suggestions to the Committee, and relevant illustrations of how the proposals would improve/wreck things would be welcome.

Broadbent screen

Heads down for detailed legislative work

However…

  • We got into a lovely pickle over the proposals to change the rules on how churches are inspected. After a succession of food metaphors (pig in a poke, sandwich with no knowledge of the filling…), various influential voices suggested that now is not the right time to get into this complicated (and controversial) matter.
  • Simon Butler the Canterbury Prolocutor proposed a procedural motion – that the debate be adjourned until such time as the Business Committee feels it right to bring it back. And the Synod agreed.

So we moved on to the matter of how clergy and other ministers dress when leading worship. For better or worse, this change to the Canon B8 is part of a double proposal, joined with a (entirely uncontroversial) change to Canon B38 that currently bans the use of the funeral service for someone who takes their own life. (It is almost universally disregarded.)

Gladrags

I’ve been banging on about the clergy vesture issue in recent years, in support of a Private Members’ Motion that came through in the last Synod. You can see the background in an old Synod paper here.

Convocation robes York (2)

York Minster: bathwellschap in appropriate Convocation vesture!

The debate was broken by the lunch break, during which many of us went off to various fringe meetings (see below). When we came back, it was clear that people were much more nervous about the ‘clergy robes’ aspect than they were about the funerals of suicides.

  • To my dismay, speaker after speaker spoke about the benefits of traditional robing (one even claimed to wear an alb for Evensong…), and no-one seemed to allow for the ‘mixed economy’: that what works in one place is wrong in another.
  • Jayne Ozanne, a prominent advocate of a change in our policy on human sexuality, made a powerful speech in which she used some of the same arguments she might use elsewhere to urge Synod to allow for difference from parish to parish.
  • April Alexander made a careful point about how not wearing robes puts different pressures on women clergy, a point stressed to me in a private conversation with a woman priest later in the day.

The Bishop of St Alban’s, in summing up, simply encouraged Synod to pass the Amending Canon on to revision, and to write in with their particular reservations and suggestions, rather than throw the whole thing out. And in the end, after a rather tense half hour, we passed the motion. It’ll come back in due course with a worked-up draft Measure – which could still fail, of course.

Renewal, Reform, Education, Leadership… money!

The Renewal and Reform paper was rather grandly titled A Vision and Narrative for Renewal and Reform. (GS2038 – read it here). But it was rather thin – just four pages about the biggest slab of Church Reform since the invention of Synod in the 1970s. Perhaps it was intended to be inspirational, but I suspect people wanted to have details about particular programmes, and to be able to discuss specifics about the task groups, which were sadly lacking in the paper. You wouldn’t know what a wide-ranging programme it is from reading the paper, nor did it go much beyond some basic Bible references on growth and hope.

The response was better than the paper deserved. There was a terrific front-line report from inner-city Newcastle, and chirpy reminders from Alexandra Podd (a 19-year-old Youth Council rep) that there is energy and movement among our young Christians. She was an inspirational speaker.

York GV wide shot (standing)

A full Chamber

I missed the latter part of the debate, but it sounds as if it succeeded in drawing together people around the Reform and Renewal ‘badge’, with a commitment to mission in our actual settings – without setting anyone ablaze. A debate on the new Church of England Vision for Education report (GS2039 – read it here) followed, which I also missed.

And then a more controversial subject, delayed from yesterday, the Nurturing and Discerning Senior Leaders report. This is the practical outworking of the Green Report, which upset so many people when it first came out. Synod heard from people who has been through the various opportunities for senior leadership (actual and potential), together with some critiques of the theology and the selection procedures.

  • Synod members were moved by contributions from members with disabilities, questioning how we perceive their abilities
  • there was first hand comment about the church’s failure to bring a representative number of people from black and minority ethnic communities into leadership roles.
  • At one point Archbishop Sentamu broke into the debate to call for a pause and lead a worship song

The Bishop of Truro, summing up, once again acknowledged the weaknesses and shortcomings that people had raised, and remarked that the whole scheme is on the way, but still a work in progress.

Synod finished off its business this Saturday night with the budget (see details here), presented entertainingly and passionately by the Finance Chair Canon John Spence.

images

John Spence, Chair of Archbishops’ Council Finance Committee.

Anyone who sees church budgets as penny-pinching would be amazed to hear his constant message of hope, support, change and new thinking. You could do worse than look at the Archbishops’ Council Annual Report (click here)  to get the general tone.

  • Huge sums are being made available from the centre for new work in mission and evangelism from next year.
  • Budget sessions will be reporting how that money is being spent in the dioceses. It might add up to half a billion pounds over the next ten years.
  • He spoke of an enormous step by the Church Commissioners to release £50m each year for this missional work.

It’s not often that finance cheers people up, but it did tonight.

And finally…

As we went into the hall, an astonishing rainbow appeared over the University. Maybe a sign of hope for the beginnings of the Shared Conversations work tomorrow…

York rainbow central hall

This is my promise to you: the rainbow overhead. Genesis 9.14-15

 

We’ll see. Purdah will mean I have to impose many reporting restrictions, but I’ll endeavour to reflect on the mood if I can. Watch this space.

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* Handbags and gladrags 1967, written by Mike D’Abo, later of Manfred Mann. The version I always hear in my head is Chris Farlowe’s gravelly-voiced one, though it’s been done by Rod Stewart and by the Stereophonics. And it turned up in The Office, too.

Posted in 2016: July - York, General Synod | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Time is tight *

Sentamu Prayer aids
Archbishop Sentamu’s prayer kit

For the first time that I can remember, we found some freebies awaiting us on our seats today! It looked at first sight like a rosary and some prayer cards. But Archbishop Sentamu concluded his report on his six-month pilgrimage walk around the diocese of York by using these materials, which had been with him on his journey.

The beads were not a rosary but a simple way of leading yourself through a quiet repetition of the kyrie (Lord, have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy) and the Lord’s prayer. Preceded by a Taizé chant, it was extremely engaging and moving.

The big squeeze

Screen diagonal GVThe insertion of the emergency Brexit debate meant things got squeezed today, so there was some grumpiness when we eventually got to the Debate on the Agenda. Some serious issues about future meetings did get aired, but the usual suspects (I am sometimes one, but not today) also popped up, though Synod was clockwatching and not as sympathetic as usual..

The Brexit debate itself was very impressive. Far far better than any of the so-called debates we had on TV before the vote, and much less irrelevant than the post-Referendum wailings from all sides.

  • Archbishop Justin spoke movingly about the issues now facing the church and the nation. Read his speech here.
  • The Bishop of Europe talked about the impact in Brussels, and on ex-pat Brits living in Europe.
  • We heard a first-hand report from Middlesbrough on the reasons why th epost-industrial North voted against. The Guardian’s account is here.

A little glitch with the electronic voting system meant we ended up voting by a show of hands. But it was nem con as far as I could see.

I got a moment of minor glory at the beginning of proceedings. Having been elected as a pro-Prolocutor (deputy chair) of the Canterbury House of Clergy, I had to step up on the platform to be presented to the two Archbishops. Sadly, my fellow pro-Prolocutor, Jane Morris, is ill, so couldn’t be there, and I flew solo.

(I posted yesterday about Nurturing and Discerning Senior Leaders. But it got delayed, and I gather it will now happen on Saturday afternoon.)

Questions – and answers

Friday night is Questions night. It got quite lively. The session is much improved by publishing the original Questions (and written answers) in a booklet prior to the evening discussions.

Justin Welby Screen

Archbishop Justin at the podium

The first eight (out of sixty) Questions were about the impact of Brexit: the ‘Synod wag’ I prophesied yesterday turned out to be me! My non-original suggestion that the Government might do well to copy the Synod in requiring a 2/3 majority for major decisions was received with a bit of a smile by Archbishop Justin. He went to far as to undertake that the House of Bishops might consider telling the government about it…  I won’t hold my breath

 

Then there were various nervous or impassioned questions scattered through the session about the Shared Conversations process and the whole current sexuality discussions. Most of them were handled with his usual confidence by the Bishop of Willesden, who warned people off campaigning around the next few days. The conservative evangelicals were pushing hard, but were firmly encouraged to turn up and join in without fear. It all went very quiet during these exchanges – a sign that people are approaching the experience with some solemnity. (When a later questioner came back with yet another negative question about the Shared Conversations, I got a cheap round of applause by popping in with a supplementary suggesting that most of us were quite looking forward to the next few days.)

  • Surprises included a round of applause to the suggestion that the Commissioners might encourage the provision of solar panels on parsonage houses, prompting their spokesman, Andrew Mackie to commit to re-examining the Green Guide protocols.
  • A cheeky supplementary question from elder statesman Colin Slater gave the Synod a chance to applaud the Bishop of Durham as he concludes his time as lead Bishop on Safeguarding.

The rush to the bar (see my Top Ten Tips Number 6 here) followed. Here the talk was all about how there Conversations will go, and one or two people were reflecting on their own experiences in the regional conversations that happened over the last year or so. It was reported that some Synod members had declared that they would not attend the group work that starts on Sunday.

Broadbent Booys

The Bishop of Willesden (Pete Broadbent) and the Chair of Business Committee (Sue Booys)in deep bar fellowship after Questions

There’s no doubt that pretty well everyone is awaiting the start of the Conversations work with some trepidation. The way the Press have treated things does not help. In the Daily Mail Steve Doughty told his readers that the Bishops are gagging Synod members and preventing full debate (read him here). Andrew Brown in the Guardian took a less combative position (and explains it rather well – read him here).

 

But before that, we have a normal Synod Saturday. Legislative business all morning… I’m hoping to be called to speak about the exciting-sounding Amending Canon Number 36, which proposes changing the rules on clergy venture during Sunday worship, and updating the laws on what forms of funeral services can be offered for someone who has taken their own life. The details are here.

Safeguarding: a fringe activity?

Fringe meetings are an important part of Synod. I went to one on Friday night that looked at how the Church is having to respond to the Goddard independent enquiry into sex abuse. The Anglican Church is one of the priority areas for the enquiry.

  • We learned that already the Church House safeguarding team has submitted 20,000 documents to Goddard.
  • With 42 dioceses and thousands of individual parishes, the hope is that the national team can be the Goddard Enquiry’s single point of reference.
  • There is no doubt that we will come in for intense scrutiny on individual cases such as Bishop Peter Ball, but also that Goddard will give a voice to victims of abuse, some whose lives have been ruined by what happened to them.

The whole safeguarding issue takes on a new meaning for me now, as my boss the Bishop of Bath & Wells, takes over as Lead Bishop on safeguarding from now on. Not an easy task.

And finally…

So, tomorrow is Saturday – a full business day before we settle into Conversations on Sunday after the York Minster Communion. As ever, follow proceediongson the live video stream or via Twitter (try #synod or@synod). And watch for a further update tomorrow.

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* Time is tight Booker T and the MGs, 1969. Classic Stax soul instrumental.

Posted in 2016: July - York, General Synod | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Perchance it is not dead, but sleepeth

This is about a wonderful narrow-gauge revival in North Devon, If you’re not interested in such things, look away now.

Lynton Barnstaple (4)Being in need of a change of air, I spent a day wandering round Exmoor and North Devon, an area I haven’t really been back to since I spent most of 1973 there as a member of the community at Lee Abbey. One reason was that I wanted to see the revived Lynton and Barnstaple Railway. I was well impressed.

Lynton Barnstaple Lumix 12Built in the 1890s to link bustling Barnstaple with remote Lynton and Lynmouth, this narrow-gauge (1′ 11½”) line clambered across the fringes of Exmoor, but succumbed to motor competition in 1935.  Even the Southern Railway couldn’t keep it going, but the day after closure, someone put a wreath on the bufferstops at Barnstaple Town with this biblical allusion – perchance it is not dead, but sleepeth.

It’s been a long sleep.

81 years later, a short section (the highest, 1,000 feet up) is now running daily steam trains using the original carriages, which have been wonderfully restored.

Lynton Barnstaple (3)The little first-class compartments (I treated myself) are stunning – the observation one I used has red upholstery and panoramic views; the other one is a more subdued Edwardian blue.

Woody Bay station is in the pseudo-Swiss style much favoured for ‘little Switzerland’ seaside resorts. It reeks Southern authenticity. The café operation is not huge but they really do have home-made cakes.

The loco shed is there: currently there are two engines available, but there are replicas of the original USA-designed engines in existence, and they do visit.Lynton Barnstaple Lumix 15

The cunning plan is to extend the line in both directions from Woody Bay. Heading for Lynton, Caffyns may be the eventual terminal; going the other way a station at Wistlandpound  reservoir is in prospect. But the ambition is huge: perhaps they have the revived Welsh Highland Railway project as their model. A team is already at work at Chelfham station, near Barnstaple (famous for it’s substantial viaduct), and other stretches of trackbed have been bought…

Lynton Barnstaple Lumix 03The run is only one mile each way at present, but it’s worth a visit, if only for the panoramic views and the excellence of the restored carriages.Lynton Barnstaple Lumix 11

Bibliography – and film clips!

I first learned about the line’s history through John Prideaux’s books (good old David & Charles):

  • The Lynton and Barnstaple Railway (I’ve got the 1971 edition ISBN 0 7153 4958 9) – a study of the line’s history, operating practices, closure, with lots of diagrams for the modeller to pore over…
  • Lynton and Barnstaple Railway Album (1974 – ISBN 0 7153 6809 5) – a comprehensive picture album with proper notes.

These days, Google is our friend, and YouTube has 8 lovely minutes of genuine 1930’s film of the line in action. There are also two BBC documentaries from 1987 which tell the good tale: Part 1 is here, part 2 is here.Lynton Barnstaple Lumix 01If your appetite has been whetted, and you are in North Devon…. It’s near Parracombe – head for EX31 4RA

Posted in Not the Synod

Are you ready? *

Pass tea

Agenda, cuppa, Synod pass. Here we go

It’s a very unusual Synod. Getting ready for it has been different. Today’s agenda has been changed and (?more significantly?) we are going into purdah for Shared Conversations. Yes, on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday we close down the Standing Orders and debates, and go into a series of facilitated discussions around sexuality, and how the Church handles it. And – as in the 2013 group work on women and the episcopate (see here) – we do it under rules of confidentiality and mutual support, rather than being adversarial about it.

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Journeys in Grace and Truth – the ‘accepting Evangelicals’ book

We’ve all had two books on the subject sent to us by what Parliament would call ‘lobbyists’. Journeys in Grace and Truth is a plea to evangelicals to be more open in their thinking. Amazing Love is a more theological (and some will say, ‘liberal’) assessment of the issues. It’ll be interesting to see how many of us have managed to read them. Back on the official side, there is a heavyweight theological paper from the Faith and Order Commission (FAOC) called Communion and Disagreement (read it here).

The Press have developed some annoyance that we are going into ‘secret session’, and have therefore had to max up their descriptions of the other business of the weekend. Which was a bit difficult,as there wasn’t much. Until, that is, the Archbishops used their Presidential powers to insert an emergency debate.

Synod does Brexit

Such a debate is a pretty rare thing, but there’s no doubt everyone is exercised about Brexit, and I am sure the Archbishops are right to take the opportunity to enable the Synod to express responses – especially those often un-heard views from the streets and schools that the Church of England inhabits so well.

WIN_20160708_145540

Bishop Ralf Meister: a German Christian perspective

The Friday afternoon session started with no messing: Bishop Ralf Meister, our ecumenical visitor from Germany was talking about Brexit, and about the Battle of the Somme, within two minutes of starting his address.

The Archbishops issued a joint statement very quickly after the referendum result was published (read it here). And as far as the synod emergency debate goes, you might be able to guess some of what Archbishop Justin would say from his intervention in the House of Lords on Tuesday (read it here). It’s not simplistic pro/anti-Europe stuff either: tackle inequality: education: public health: immigration… and much more. These, he said, are the areas where the UK needs to sort itself out in the bleak future if we are to have hope

So, what else are we talking about, apart from Brexit and sexuality?

  • Tomorrow we start with four rather technical sounding legislative matters: first looks at proposed changes to church law.  I’ve got form with one of them – Amending Canon 36, (see here and scroll down to my potted history of Hobbs, son of Hobson)
  • There will be some fun in an evening Questions  session tonight. I’m willing to bet some Synod wag will get in a point about encouraging HM government to copy synod’s practice of requiring a 2/3 majority for major decisions…)
  • Archbishop Sentamu will give a presentation about his extraordinary six-month pilgrimage around the diocese of York.
  • We’ll hear about the Anglican Consultative Council meeting Lusaka earlier this year

 

Friday’s major items

Once the formalities of the Business Committee agenda report are over, the Church Commissioners Annual Report gets a ‘take note’ debate. Often this is the opportunity for congratulations to them on their investment performance, or whingeing about some aspect of their wide-ranging responsibilities. Sir Andreas Whittam-Smith is not the most natural of platform performers, so the session can get a bit starchy.

However, after that, we have a go at what is called Nurturing and Discerning Senior Leaders. Old hands will know that this is one of the outcomes of the much-criticized Green Report – a ‘fast track’ training programme for those who are likely to take up senior leadership posts and those who already hold them. It involves selecting possible senior leaders form among ordinary parish clergy, and what are smilingly known as ‘Mini MBAs for Bishops and Deans’.

There’s been criticism of the whole thing on two levels:

  1. it’s importing the language and presuppositions of the business world and
  2. the process for choosing the participants is missing out some good people (Not sour grapes on my part: I’m far too old for it.)

Bishop Tim of Truro, who is presenting the report (GS 2026 read it here) apologised to Synod last year that some of the process had been badly handled. Notwithstanding that, there’ll probably be some sharp questions. But for a Church that usually moves at glacial speed, this project has been put in hand and is up and running within some eighteen months of its public launch. And those who’ve been on the mini MBA rather liked it….

 Good disagreement?

But the main thing on most people’s minds will be the Shared Conversations. The buzzwords are ‘good disagreement’. Watch and pray as we spend serious amounts of time going deeper into stuff that most of us carefully avoid most of the time! I found Bishop David Walker’s blog about his ‘Bishop’s Packing Essentials’ quite helpful – read it here.

  • I won’t be blogging any details, but if you want to know the timetable (for your prayers, please) read it here  And if you want to understand the house rules, they are here
  • However, if you want to get the overall picture of this most unusual Synod, all the papers can be read here. They include some Shared Conversations material, but much will only be revealed when we get started on Sunday afternoon.
  • As always, Thinking Anglicans has a good round-up of relevant blogs and news items about Synod. Check it out here.

And you can follow the whole thing (well, up till Saturday night) on the live video stream. Just click here!

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 * Are you ready? Pacific Gas and Electric, 1970. A catchy minor hit for this bizarrely named US band. ‘Gospel-tinged’, according to Wikipedia.

Judge for yourself; there’s a YouTube version here

Posted in 2016: July - York, General Synod | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The weekend starts here *

WIN_20150710_151534

The York Synod in session

I generally try to knock out a Synod preview the day before it starts. But this time I’m a whole week ahead. Two reasons:

  1. For around half the members, it’s their first York residential weekend synod. So I’m writing about what to expect and how it’s different to (and better than) Synod in London
  2. This will be a York weekend like no other, because so much of it is dedicated to the Facilitated Conversations about Scripture Mission and Human Sexuality.

So, read on for the bathwellschap survival guide to York Synod!

New members, who have now endured two London sessions, will be amazed at how different things are in York. The fact that we are fully residential has two major effects:

a) we go on till 10.00 p.m. Yes, ten at night. Or 22.00 hrs (if you don’t quite believe what you’re reading).

b) there’s a much more relaxed and social atmosphere as we eat, pray, wander about the campus and sit chatting in the cafés and bars together.

SynodMon 03

Bathwellschap has his say (ancient archive pic)

Keeping going till late sounds like hard work – and it can be. Fortunately, the long days are punctuated by decent meals (see Tip 7 below) and a lovely semi-parkland environment. Unlike London, where you can’t just ‘escape’ for ten minutes, on the University campus you can. (You can also get lost trying to find your way to your bedroom…)

But the overall atmosphere is much more conducive to ‘walking together’ – which is what  Synod is meant to do. All this makes for a much easier atmosphere in which to have the Facilitated Conversations, which begin on Sunday and take us through till Tuesday.

I’ll post an agenda preview as we gather, but in the meantime, here are my Top Ten Tips for York

1. Have sensible shoes/sandals…

geese (3)

There’s a lot of walking to and fro, especially if you are housed in the further reaches of Alcuin, James or Vanbrugh Colleges.

You’ll soon work out the little short-cuts across the grass. But watch your feet: duck and goose poo is present, sometimes in industrial quantities.

2. Choose where you sit

WIN_20150710_205251

Good views from the back, but…

The banked-up seats are great for observing the mood of Synod; not so good if you’re trying to catch the Chair’s eye to speak, or want to leave in a hurry.

Don’t attempt the steps if you are weak-kneed. Don’t sit near the front if Tip 3 applies to you.

3. Keep your sporting instincts disguised

The York Synod clashes wonderfully with the end of Wimbledon. Tablets and phones make it possible to keep up discreetly – but shouts of ‘Yes!’ or ‘Go Andy!’ will give you away.

4. Make the effort…

… to go to the 7.30 a.m. worship. In the dark days of the Women Bishops fiascos I certainly found that praying with and for the people I disagreed with made the rest of the day better.

5. Cheat a little…

P1050890

Follow the action from your room. (Not all the time, obviously.)

… when you’re very weary.

You can follow the video stream on the university Wi-fi  from your room, thus saving yourself some walking  if the session isn’t one you are especially concerned about.

(However, this does not apply during the Conversations: you actually have to fetch up to your group.)

6. The campus bars and coffee-shops are great…

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Synod afterwards bar07

Conviviality in the Vanbrugh bar

Hang out, talk to old friends, make new ones. It’s something we just can’t do in London. There’s a free tea and coffee (and biscuits on a good day) in the room under the main hall. And a variety of coffee bars and a couple of proper bars around the campus.

My own preference is the Vanbrugh College bar: real ale, sit out on the waterside terrace, lots of synod movers and shakers to chat to….

See you there at about 10.05 p.m.?

7. You won’t need a heap of money…

…(or an Oyster card). All your meals are paid for. And they are jolly good, with lots of choice, and healthy and unhealthy options in equal measure. So unless you’re generous with your rounds in the bar, you won’t need much cash. (There are cash machines and shops on site for newspapers, things you forgot to pack, etc.)

8. Don’t dress up

Synod voting 01

Colourful casual clothing is the York norm

You’re not in the big city now. There’s a lot of casual summer clothing around: shorts are quite normal, as are slightly loud T-shirts. The exception is…

9. …the Synod Eucharist at York Minster…

… on Sunday morning. Coaches are laid on to get you there (keep an eye out at the information desk for announcements and booking a ticket). Many Synod members do dress quite smart for this. Hats have even been seen, but are (thankfully?) rare. The Minster choir’s finale (Psalm 150) is breathtaking, even for hardened old hacks like me.

10. Have some fun!

Saturday night always has a quiz organised by the Open Synod Group, with fundraising for a Really Good Cause. As the flyer (click here) says “a pleasant antidote to the heavy agendas and a chance to socialise over a glass of wine. Donations (after expenses) to be split between Médecins sans Frontières Syria & work with refugees in Europe”.

To be serious for a moment…

We should also remember the family, friends  of Claudia Laurence, a chef at the University, who disappeared in 2009 and is believed to have been murdered. Despite extensive police enquiries and public appeals, no-one has yet been charged. (Read the police report here.)The same people who cheerily feed us and clear up after us at York are her work colleagues, living with this unsolved crime.

And finally…

  • Re-read your Synod Survival Guide (click here if you’ve lost it already). It’s got a few hints and tips about York buried in the text.
  • Make sure you crack the code of the various meeting-room numbers – it’ll help you get to fringe meetings and groups on time.
  • Say ‘thank you’ to the London Synod staff, who put in huge energy and work to transport everything up to York – and emerge smiling. Usually.

TwitterLogo_#55aceeI’ll post some daily updates as usual. I’ll flag them on Twitter @bathwellschap or you can follow this blog – press the ‘follow’ button in the right hand column above.

But be warned that there’ll be no details of the Facilitated Conversations – we’re committed to not discussing them publicly.

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* The weekend starts here. No, not a pop song this time, but the home of many songs – the subtitle to ITV’s  Friday night pop show Ready Steady Go (1963-66) with Cathy McGowan and Keith Fordyce.  (Oh, OK, there is a Fatboy Slim number called The weekend starts here, but it’s well off my radar.)

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in 2016: July - York, General Synod | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

It was. Am I?

It is are you

The famous 1986 strapline

The imminent demise of the (print version) of the Independent has made me rather sad. We get attached to various media sources: they can control or twist our world-view. If someone takes them away, we feel bereft and have to start looking for another source of info and comment we can trust/agree with. In this digital age, that is rather hard, because the quality and depth just isn’t there.

Shah and the Indie have gone: Murdoch has survived.

The Indie (as its friends called it) started out 30 years ago, and it’s been a fairly constant companion to me ever since. It was a consequence of (and benefited from) the Fleet Street revolution brought about by two men in the 80s: Eddie Shah and Rupert Murdoch.

  • Eddie Shah founded the short-lived Today – a classy tabloid that proved you could get into colour (print and photos) and by-pass Fleet Street’s ‘Spanish practices’ and restrictive manning.
  • Murdoch’s revolution was to endure the long strike on the Times and then simply to set up shop at Wapping, with its computers and modern practices. I disapproved of his methods big-time , and have never bought a Murdoch paper since. But his trailblazing opened the gates for the Indie (a) because of the new technology and (b) by opening up a gap in the market.

 

Anyway, having been through several proprietors, launching a Sunday version (known as the Sindie) and founding a revolutionary sister paper (the i), the Indie is on the way out. There’s much to miss amongst its distinctive features:

 

  • commitment to excellence in photography. Very noticeable in the early days, less so now digital photography is here and the other papers have caught up.
  • complete absence of over-the-top Royal coverage. New babies got a par in the home news if they were lucky. Weddings got a photo-story, and even the Diana funeral coverage was respectful but not the stuff of showbiz that infects most other papers.
  • suspicion of organised religion. There were some very off-beam editorials about matters of faith and the churches. That was odd, given that for some years the leading Catholic journalist Paul Vallely was a senior editor (he now writes for the Church Times and is a biographer of Pope Francis). Even odder was that it happened despite the fact that a very senior figure and co-founder of the Indie, Andreas Whittam Smith is the senior figure at the Church Commissioners. The Commissioners and I have crossed swords paths once or twice at General Synod (see elsewhere in this blog).
  • refusal ( in the early days) to collude with what its founders saw as corrosive journalistic practices such as the Parliamentary Lobby system – and taking freebies from travel companies (see Simon Calder in my list of Indie stars below)
Independent 20 03 16 01

Front page of the last-ever Independent on Sunday magazine

The killing-off of this superb paper has given rise to various reflections on its distinctiveness, runs of bad luck, succession of editors (even Andrew Marr had a go) and it has opened up the ‘dead trees vs digital’ debate. Chris Rogers is but one informed commentator who describes it well and, like me, will miss it.(read him here)

Yes, I know the paper (will have to stop calling it that…) is launching a digi-paper. But, frankly, it’s not the same.

  • That once-great (if oddly right-wing) paper the Telegraph is embarrassing when read online.
  • The Grauniad (© Private Eye) has led the way on quality online daily news for free, but even they are starting to carry those ghastly paid-for and sponsored links that your really don’t want to be bothered with. And they are having to make some huge cuts as their finances are in a mess.
  • And don’t even mention Mail Online…
  • I suspect I shall downsize to the i -and hope to find some of the same quality of journalism there. Really, I resent paying for internet stuff – even though the online version will be cheaper than the current £1.60 a day. (Sign up for it here if you are more charitable than I am…)

 

Missing you already…

Just in case I forget them, there are some writers in the Indie stable who’ve kept me on the ball in a number of areas.

  • Robert Fisk – whose searing reporting from the Middle East gets inside the politics (he seem to know everyone and have been everywhere) and goes right into what’s happening. I shall remember his everlasting excoriation of Tony Blair as ‘Lord Blair of Kut-al-amarah’ (apparently it refers to a British surrender to the Ottoman forces in the First World War, but indicates Fisk’s repulsion at the adventurism of Afghanistan and Iraq). More seriously, his harking back to the shameful massacres of Sabra and Shabila, his explanations  of the (to me) complexities of Sunni and Shia politics, and his willingness to say unpopular things about the Saudi regime mean I feel better informed about the Middle East – and our part in its downfall-  than other newspapers have made me.
  • Jane Merrick – her byline photo matches her authority as a writer who combines political nous with the realities of family living
  • Mark Dampier – over many years’ reading his Saturday column eventually set me on a path to sorting out my pension provision and (I suspect) has gained Hargreaves Lansdown many hundreds of clients.
  • Simon Calder – “the man who pays his way” is his strapline, recalling the slightly puritan approach taken by the Indie in its early days to reporting without journalistic freebies. His writing exudes a love of travel, but stedfastly refuses declines to plug tour operators or to puff resorts. It is straightforward, knowledgeable stuff about places and about the background to the travel trade.
  • Hamish McRae – a man who has made me think I could understand economics. Some achievement.
  • John Lichfield – as a fellow-Francophile, I love his ‘inside track’ on French life and politics. He doesn’t treat them as foreigners, simple as that…
  • Guy Keleny’s Saturday column was a wonderful invention: he took his own journalists to task for their grammatical errors, idiomatic misunderstandings and all sorts of things that a decent sub would prevent getting into the paper in the first place.
Independent Number 1

Edition Number One – 1986

So, the last Independent on Sunday has already gone. And Saturday 26 March will be the last weekday Indie. It held true to its much-admired original strapline for most of its life. Be nice if the same could be said of me.


Posted in Not the Synod | Tagged | Leave a comment

Some are dead, and some are living *

Synod worship in London is always slightly odd (the building is not exactly designed for it), and nearly always very moving. Wednesday began with a Eucharist, and we were observing the martyrdom of Archbishop Janani Luwum, killed by President Amin’s regime in 1977. (I am old enough to remember the shock that went round at St John’s College Nottingham when the news came round – he was a former student of the College.) Archbishop Justin preached about Luwum and the Libyan Coptic Christian Martyrs (killed a year ago this week). In the manner of their deaths, they showed the  glory of God. You can read his sermon here.)

20th Century martyrs at the Abbey

20th Century martyrs at the Abbey

Janani Luwum in the company of Bonhoeffer, Kolbe, Romero and others

Janani Luwum in the company of Bonhoeffer, Kolbe, Romero and others (click to enlarge)

Walking into Church House you go past the busy, touristy West Front of Westminster Abbey. Not many people lift up their eyes to observe the statues of the 20th century martyrs that were put there as a Millennium project. Luwum stands there – a reminder, for those who care to look.

Something beginning with ‘R’…

If you have been keeping up, you will know that I talk about R’n’R here. Originally, it stood for Reform and Renewal. However, nothing stays the same, and it’s now official that this extensive programme is to be called Renewal and Reform. Fortunately, that means we can still talk about R’n’R. So that’s all right.

  • The Bishop of Guildford had good news and bad news. The good news is that if we succeed in increasing the number of ordination candidates, particularly younger ones, then we will have more clergy. Hooray! However, the bad news is that  they will be less experienced than the current crop of old codgers. I think he was hinting that that will require some readjustment and managing of expectations at every level. Hadn’t thought of that before…
  • The Bishop of Sheffield was emollient and non-combative in recognising the issues facing dioceses, Bishops and training institutions (jargon alert! TEI = Theological Education Institutions. Remember that. It will be back, along with IME = Initial Ministerial Education). He offered all sorts of assurances about reviews, listening, feedback, and so on, which I suspect the TEI folks will not quite believe.
  • Mike Eastwood, Diocesan Secretary of Liverpool, who is seconded to R’n’R’s Lay Leadership task group, set out some ways in which central work will be done to enable lay ministry in the parishes. It will be interesting to see how they can avoid the ‘we’re from Head Office and we’re here to help you’ syndrome.

There is, inevitably, an R’n’R website area. It’s confused about what order the ‘Rs’ come in, but if you want to follow things through, click here.

Unintended consequences

The main R’n’R debate was about RME – how we fund ministerial training. (Read the paper here.) Behind the controversy is the rather curious arrangement by which ordination candidates are discerned, funded and trained.

  • The TEIs are independent charities, not funded by the Church, other than by fees they charge to students.
  • The central church lays down a level of fees, and funds candidates at that level, on behalf of the dioceses
  • The dioceses bring candidates forward, and find them jobs after training.

That’s why any changes to the funding system are very complex and can have significant, if unintended consequences to any of those three parties.

Synod from the gallery

Synod from the gallery (on a not-so busy day)

The chamber was packed from beginning to end. Such is the level of interest that when your correspondent slipped out after an hour and a half, I found just eight people in the tea room. The real ‘battle’ was an attack by the people involved in TEIs – tutors, principals, etc who had some heavyweight contributions criticising the Bishop of Sheffield’s proposals. It got quite tense – there was loud applause and support for their criticisms. They referred time after time to ‘unintended consequences’ with helpful references to tumble-dryers and Warburton’s bread. (You had to be there.)

But when it came to the vote, the most radical amendment was thrown out, and the Bishop accepted the less radical one, which does at least commit the central church to better consultation with TEIs and dioceses. The motion as amended was passed, and one can only hope that the central powers that be do enter into a better relationship with the TEIs as partners as the changes go through. It was a great Synodical occasion, for new members the first time a proper debating battle has happened. There will be others, don’t worry.

When benefits are cut off…

The morning’s debate was an absorbing one about the effect of sanctions on benefit claimants. You can read the supporting paper from the diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales here and the paper from the Mission and Public Affairs council here.

  • There were heart-rending tales of parishes dealing with people at the utter limits of survival, having had their benefits cut off after raising appointments. Foodbanks, handouts, suicides, hungry children… it was grim stuff.
  • Speaker after speaker was at pains to say we are not anti-Government, but that we have evidence showing the sanctions regime is the wrong way of reducing dependency.
  • Sir Tony Baldry encouraged people to make an appointment with their local MPs surgery. The MP can’t escape; s/he will probably take your evidence to the appropriate minister, and thus a review of the harsher aspects of austerity.

This was an example of a diocesan synod motion that was timely and caught the mood of the Synod. An electronic vote was called, with 320 votes in favour and none against. Press reaction will be interesting.

And finally…

I’ve noted the ever-present undercurrent of discussion and lobbying about human sexuality issues during these brief February sessions. Something that will add to the conversation is the release of a six-page letter to Jayne Ozanne from Archbishop Sentamu on behalf of both Archbishops.

  • It sets out the ‘official line’ in some detail, particularly refuting any idea that the Church has condoned homophobia, and it gives you a good steer through the complex waters of international Anglicanism’s views on this tragic subject.
  • You can read it here.
  • Probably essential reading for all Synod members before the July Facilitated Conversations.

In other news… Should you be a Synod member reading this, I look forward to seeing you in York. And I encourage you to respond to the consultation in GS Misc 1133 before the closing date. Please? Pretty please?

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*Some are dead, and some are living from In my life, the Beatles, Rubber Soul, 1965. A winsome Lennon-McCartney number with that ground-breaking harpsichord middle eight.

Posted in 2016: February - London, General Synod | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments