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