I went down to the sacred store *

We talked a lot about cathedrals and money today (Monday 8 July). On the money front, it was (largely) good news. On cathedrals, reform is in the air. You need money to support mission, which we see as helping more people to discover and encounter God’s love. On the other hand, reforming our Cathedrals is not primarily about money.

Sacred spaces for the community?

Despite the fact that I went to the fringe meeting last night (reported at the end of this post), I hadn’t realised what a huge range of reform is involved in the new Cathedrals Measure. Until this morning, that is., when Robert Hammond, a lay Canon at Chelmsford Cathedral introduced the proposals for change. So much so that in his speech, he stressed that the Measure only covers some of the reform proposals  – the ones that require legislation. The Report has many other changes that are not written in that book, and may be achieved by other means.

  • To read the explainer document about the proposals, click here.
  • To see the formal legal text of the draft, click here
  • To see the (arguably more exciting) background paper including some theology click here

Speaking to the work she had overseen as Third Church Estates Commissioner, Eve Poole said that when she began the work, she had read both the Rule of St Benedict (a foundation for much Cathedral historic governance) and Barchester Towers.

The images above are from Wells. The Measure covers all Cathedrals, and includes safeguarding, management, charitable status, roles of Chapter and much more. Including money. If you want to see the wood for the trees, the two key themes are probably these:

  1. The need to bring Cathedral’s governance and procedures into parallel with those pertaining to ordinary churches, particularly being accountable to the Charity Commission. The proposals include some ‘shared oversight’ between the Commission and the Church Commissioners.
  2. The desire to improve the way Cathedrals work, by distinguishing between trustee oversight and operational management – requiring reform of the roles of Dean, Chapter, the Bishop and lay non-executive members of Chapter.

There was a long, but fascinating, debate, bringing in views from every aspect of Cathedral life

  • Andrew Nunn, Dean of Southwark, confessed he had been grumpy about this a year ago; he was now much less grumpy because Eve Poole and her team had run a really good process of consultation and development in the least 12 months. He reminded us that there are 42 Cathedrals, and 42 different ways of being a cathedral: so the Measure must allow for flexibility. For example, smaller Cathedrals and ‘parish church’ Cathedrals will have to handle many issues differently to the grander and better-resourced ones.
  • James Allison from Wakefield reminded us that there has to be ‘fun’ in Cathedral life: ‘If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right’. Cathedrals can experiment and do things parish churches can’t do – they can be pirates (or more accurately, privateers).
  • Caroline Spelman MP, who speaks for the Commissioners in Parliament reminded us that Cathedral receive public funding in various ways (World War 1 grants, Lottery, etc) and it is anomalous that they are not accountable to anyone at present. Thus bringing the Charity Commission in is wise.
  • Carl Hughes was intimately involved into the enquiries a few years ago at Peterborough Cathedral, which in part led to the acknowledgement of the need for reform. He reminded Synod that 20 years ago Synod chose to cherry-pick the reforms suggested in the Howe Commission, which led to dilution and the Cathedrals Measure passed then has proved to not be fit for purpose. He stressed the need to separate management from governance.
  • Several speakers expressed hesitation about the Bishop having to come to Chapter once a year: Bishop and Chapter need to be independent of each other in many ways.
  • Sarah Gulping, one of our Deaf Anglican Together reps reminded us of the need for Cathedrals, as they cater for 10 million visitors a year, to be aware of the need for provision for proper access for people with a range of disabilities and languages. For example: any video used in displays must be subtitled. She wanted such access provision to be written into the Measure.

So the Cathedrals Measure went off for its Revision stage. It’ll be back next year.

OUtside paths 2

Campus: York University

Brief, but important…

We approved the snappily-titled “Faculty Jurisdiction (Amendment) Rules“. This is the much-longed for simplification of the process by which churches obtain a faculty (aka ecclesiastical planning permission). The details, for any overworked clergy, PCC secretaries and churchwardens reading this can be found here.

We signed off a final draft amending Canon that covers the activities of Anglican religious communities – both traditional ‘monks and nuns’ as well as newer intentional communities and groups.

  • The Bishop of Manchester explained that part of the reason for this Canon was to draw the communities into the framework for safeguarding that everyone else has (this is something IICSA has concerns about). But there are other aspects that simply express a way in which they can be wholly Church of England bodies – while retaining their tradition and independence.
  • We heard a plaintive plea from Sister Catherine SLG (Sisters of the Love of God) to recognise the pressures on traditional communities, where members tend ot be aging, and she asked that people remembered ot pray for and with the various communities covered by the Canon.

Changes at Head Office

Following that, we had a presentation about the work of the Archbishops’ Council in 2018.

“I’m from Head Office and I’m here to help you” is one of those business phrases that is used with heavy irony when people are talking about their remote, ill-informed bosses. There is a tendency in the C of E to have that frame of mind, whether it is a parish grumbling about the Diocesan Office, for people in a diocese grumbling about Church House and the Archbishops Council.

ABC report video still

Watching: video showing church community work

The report on their work of the last year was well-communicated. UPDATE The report is available online via the Charity Commission – click here for download. Thanks to Thinking Anglicans for spotting that!

It was introduced by two Council members, Mary Chapman and the Revd Ian Paul. Their report used a lot of video, and they centred on activities: work on digital evangelism – there are some startling figures about the number soft people using the C of W’s digital work : the Alexa Skill, A Church Near You, Lent and Christmas prayer resources, etc. They covered the developing numbers of people responding to a call to ministry, Green activities, education work, and much more.

It’s a huge turn-round from the old bureaucratic reports we used to get. It seems to me that this is not just about Head Office justifying itself: it’s about the national church providing resources and services for the local church – and the digital thing, of course is about reaching people who wouldn’t come into a church building. There is now much talk of investing in activities that help churches to flourish and grow, rather than just reciting ‘keep the show on the road’ stats. A lot is changing.

Revolution! Financial changes

Another piece of evidence that things are changing came when we it came to finance. A three-year plan was set before us. And – I think for the first time, – it had been prepared by all three relevant National Church Institutions. (In the old days we had separate plans and budgets). They are:

  • The Church Commissioners
  • The Archbishops Council
  • The General Synod

The priorities for financial planning that they now share are these:

  • Recruiting and training more ordained ministers
  • Supporting mission and ministry in our Lowest Income Communities.
  • Growth programmes in the dioceses. We are a quarter of the way through a ten year plan for Strategic Funding Development (i.e. money awarded to dioceses against specific growth plans)

Loretta Minghella

For the first time I can remember, the Commissioners have made a decision (backed by research and the actuaries) that they can safely afford to distribute more from their funds. Loretta Minghella explained that they have to be even handed between today’s church and the church of tomorrow (especially given they are still responsible for many clergy pensions).

But they believe it is safe, as far as can be foreseen to make additional distributions, enabling money to be made available (£155m over the next three years).

This is revolutionary. For years the Commissioners have stressed that ‘inter-generational fairness’ means that cannot disburse capital very freely, in order to safeguard pensions. So there will be grants to the Archbishops Council  (for agreed priorities) and the award-winning digital church work; one-off extra support to Cathedrals (in the transition to the new governance models). But she stressed this is a three-year plan: future amounted will be decided when future reviews are done.

You can see the thinking and some figures behind this in the Triennium Funding Group report here.

Spend, spend, spend?

Then we came to spending the money. More revolution. John Spence, the Finance Chair, was in his usual ebullient form, clearly rejoicing in the synergy that is possible when the three bodies work together. He explained that the aim is to match the priorities of the Archbishops’ Council. The targets are ordinands and curates, social investment spending and diocesan sustainability.Digi church

  • The C of E digital team has won fifteen national awards from the digital industry. Further work is being done now to deliver resources for school, local churches, and build on current successes.
  • There will be funding to support additional ordinands and curated over a 12-year period.
  • The dioceses in the greatest need will have access to a pot of 45m to make them stronger financially.
  • The social impact fund will eventually be a revolving £20m

John Spence, Chair of Archbishops’ Council Finance Committee. Pic: Newcastle Diocese.

A round of detailed questions followed – probably people in shock at the idea that there may be more money around for vital areas of work.

In closing the debate, John Spence reminded us that this is not largesse: it only grows the C of E economy by 3%: increases in parish giving are still needed if we are to flourish.

The formal budget process followed and was passed.

There’s a lovely account of the budget and the way that John Spence presents it on Andrew Nunn’s Synod blog.


Legislation in Synod is not always fun, though some of us have a liking for it. We got the final approval of the Miscellaneous Provisions Measure. This is the Measure that caused such a holdup on Friday over who has to be consulted for building on a Cathedral burial ground. (If that makes no sense, see Friday’s post).

There were some, er, miscellaneous questions about the detail of how it will work. For example, will the National Clergy Register be accessible (online) so incumbents can check up instantly that visiting clergy are in good standing? Will it have photographs, to prevent impersonation?

With that, the Final Approval went through, and the Measure goes to the Queen with a flowery petition, to be enacted. When that happens may depend on factors such as whether there is an election in the autumn. But once it has happened, the detailed work for implementation can begin.

By 5.oo p.m., everyone ewes flagging a little. Diversions were taking place, like little boxes of liquorice sticks being passed round. (I was lucky enough to get a toffee penny from a tin of Quality Street!) But the next item was about Mission-Shaped Church and Fresh Expressions.

It’s Church, Jim… But not as we know it.

book cover

Cover: Mission-shaped church

It’s fifteen years since the Mission-Shaped Church report first came to Synod. We heard that it is a Barnabas-like exercise in founding new ‘ecclesial communities’. The word ‘church’ is not quite appropriate because these are things set up for people who do not connect with Church as we know it. One of the oft-repeated stats is that 92% of the population do not worship in a church anywhere.


Archbishop Rowan Williams set up an initiative to help support and grow all kinds of ‘Fresh Expressions’ of Church, and Bishop Steven Croft told us of his early discussions with Dr Williams about it. You may recall Dr Williams would speak of a ‘mixed economy’ church – traditional and fresh, side by side. They are often abbreviated to ‘FX’.

A decade and a half later, some feel the movement (which is ecumenical) is flourishing and bringing new people to understand discipleship in new ways. Others were (and remain) critical that ‘FXs’ ignore the power and presence of traditional church life and don’t have it he same staying power. Within the C of E, Strategic Development undoing has been used to support the activity nationally.


Bishop Steven Croft

Bishop Croft spoke warmly and with some theological depth about the principles and origins of the movement.

One of the phrases that has caught on is about ‘Finding out what God is doing and joining in’.

The background paper goes into some detail about the history – and the future, which is what the debate was really about.

The Rev Heather Cracknell than gave an invigorating presentation of how Fresh Expressions will continue to flourish in the future.

God appSo we had the Godsend app commended to us – it’s there, for free, on the Apple and Google Play; as well as the Greenhouse Project – resources to be used to train and develop leaders so that church plants can grow.

  • There is a Greenhouse programme to find, train and develop new leaders for FXs so that there are more plants and more growth from among people who would not go near ordinary church.
  • There is going to be some funding for dioceses to work with Greenhouse. Already 16 dioceses have expressed interest; more will follow.
  • Mark Sheard, presenting the formal motion, indicated that some 50,000 people worship in FXs – maybe the equivalent of two dioceses. The age and social profile is different to ordinary church congregations. He said the motion is about both celebration and accountability hence encouragement to parishes, and asking for a progress report in 2011.

In the debate, we heard from Messy Church (MC) legend Lucy Moore from Winchester. She said there are more Messy Churches in the country than there are branches of Tesco. Behind the enthusiasm, she registered some serious points, like – is anyone celebrating and thanking the Messy Church leaders near you? She also nailed the oft-heard complaint that MC attendees ‘don’t come to church.’ The answer is ‘they do come to church: it’s just different and messier than standard church!’

The debate that followed included lively anecdotes and theological critiques. Emma Forward, from an Anglo-Catholic viewpoint, suggested that the truest expression of Christ was the Eucharist at the altar, and noted that some Cathedrals are finding young people are attending Choral Evensong. Her point was that “new people don’t always ultimately need something new, but perhaps just a different way into the heart of our faith”.

Any other business?  1 – Bishops

Legal and ecclesiastical nerds will be desperate to know how we got on with “Proposed Changes to the Standing Orders relating to the Crown Nominations Commission”. The CNC is the body that meets candidates, discerns who is the right person for a vacant diocesan Bishop’s post, and puts the nominations through to the Crown via the Prime Minister. (Being a – long – Established Church, it is the monarch who formally chooses Bishops. In practice, the Church now does the choosing through the CNC.)

Three cheerful candidates

Consecration: new Bishops at St Paul’s

The CNC processes have got a bit mired in recent years, and it’s been thought wise to tighten things up; the recent Sheffield and Oxford vacancies each had their problems. They used to send the Queen two names, of which she would choose the first. PMs Callaghan and Brown got us to that point: before then there were potential shenanigans with interference by thestate in the Church’s preference. IICSA has uncovered some dodge dealing at the point when the late Peter Ball was chosen for Gloucester ion the 1990s, and there was a famous diversion before that when (it is said) that Margaret Thatcher declined to accept the first name (Jim Thompson) for Birmingham. (He eventually went to Bath and Wells, who loved him.)

Anyway, what happened today is that we agreed to avoid the potential problems of the Crown having two names to play with. What will now happen is that there CNC will choose two names, one being a reserve in case the first cannot or will not accept the job. Only if that happens will the second name go off to the Crown.

Yes, it all sounds pretty fussy. But its another very small step in the very long journey to a place where the Church has complete control over the selecting of Bishops.

Any other business?  2 – Cameras in Synod

And so to internal rumblings: after lunch, the Chair told us that we are not allowed to take pictures in Synod sessions and would we please stop.

  • This affects me (because I put pictures in this blog to make it more bearable readable).
  • It also affects many other members who use their phones or tablets to get pictures to help their reporting back to their diocese.
  • People also snap pictures of charts, etc that appear on the big screen for use later.
SBL with Synod badge

Potentially illicit selfie (taken in London)

I had it at the back of my mind that photography used to be banned, so I turned to Standing Orders, and found nothing. But in the Synod Members Code of Conduct, paragraph 20, it does say that photos during votes are banned.

  • Older hands than I say this dates back to the days of voting by show of hands or physical division, in order to prevent people knowing how others actually voted. That is now all out of the window, of course, because on any heavyweight vote, we use the machines, and the lists are published!
  • There is live streaming of what happens in Synod nowadays, too.
  • When I joined Synod 12 years ago I was bothered that people were using handheld devices. (Blackberries, in those days). Now they are almost universal and Synod encourages us to use them for papers, the Synod App, etc etc. I could not do this blog without my phone and my tablet, for sure.
  • The irritating thing, I am told by another old hand, is when people faff about trying to get pictures of graphs, etc on the big screen. That would be seriously annoying to your close-packed neighbours if you were wielding a tablet around next to them.
Full-ish hall

Not sure this pic should have been taken…

So I think a review of the Code of Conduct is due, maybe permitting discreet use of phone cameras only, coupled with a commitment that all slides used in presentation could be made available electronically for people to use back home. Informal conversations with members of the Business Committee suggest that that could happen for the new Synod in 2020.

Let’s hope that people who do use phones do so discreetly!

And finally…

We began this morning with a serious chunk opt Bible study led by Archbishop Justin’s Chapin, the Revd Dr Isabelle Hanley. She took us through 1 Peter 2, putting it in its context of the Roman Empire and slavery, with heavy doses of the Old Testament woven through it.

She put a familiar passage in a whole new light. I gather there may be more of this when we meet in London in February. But we finish here in York tomorrow (Tuesday) at lunchtime. I’ll post about that – but probably not till after I get home, so it may be not till Wednesday.


* I went down to the sacred store: a line from American Pie, Don MacLean’s epic xminute ramble through the disappointments of youth, Vietnam and rock’n’roll, 1971. To see the original full-length version with it’s video is to take a trip through a lost world of American optimism and loss. It’s 8 minutes 37 long, but it is fab. Go on, watch it now, here.

This entry was posted in 2019: July - York, General Synod and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to I went down to the sacred store *

  1. Pingback: General Synod – day 4 – Monday 8 July 2019 – Thinking Anglicans

  2. DAVID CRAIG says:

    This is the best ‘go to’ source of information about Synod expressed clearly, missing none of the major points and with a good seasoning of humour! Hurrah

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