General Synod, November 2014
The November 2014 General Synod was an unusually short 24 hour meeting but there were some very notable debates.
The Women Bishop’s Legislation is now complete! (GS 1926D)
Monday 17 November 2014 was a memorable day in the history of the Church of England. Both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York signed the legislation that permitted women and men to be ordained bishop. With a number of vacancies for both Diocesan and Suffragan Bishops currently available it is likely that a woman will be appointed as bishop in the not too distant future.
The Anglican-Methodist Covenant (GS 1971)
Little has been heard about the developments in reaching agreement on the Covenant for a number of years but the eventual aim has not been forgotten. The Methodist Church made positive moves forward at their 2014 Conference. The CofE, by agreeing to both female and male bishops, means more rapid progress can now be made in reaching a Covenant between the two churches. It will come back to General Synod quite soon for further debate.
Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of the Clergy (GS 1970)
Synod debated this new draft of Guidelines for the Professional Conduct of the Clergy. They will remain ‘guidelines’ - they are not a set of rules by which clergy will be disciplined. The significant changes from the 2003 Guidelines are in the area of Safeguarding. High standards of professional conduct are expected from clergy in both their priestly duties and their personal life. The expectation is that clergy will endeavour to live their lives by the standards Jesus set - as should the rest of us!
Iraq and Syria
Synod was very concerned about the levels of violence in Syria and Iraq. A presentation of a very complex situation gave us some background information. A very eminent panel with representatives from the Muslim faith, a bishop from the Coptic Orthodox Church, the joint executive director of Anglican Alliance and two CofE bishops tried to clarify the issues for us. This was followed by a question and answer session chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Christians are being persecuted because of their faith and the Christian Churches feel ‘abandoned but not defeated’. The situation is so complex I still don’t feel I fully understand all the issues! After a short period of silence the Archbishop of York led synod in prayer for these countries.
Spare Room Subsidy - ‘Bedroom Tax’ (GS 1962A and GS 1962B)
It was very clear by the vote at the end of the debate that Synod felt this was a very unfair tax directed at the poorest in our society. (No one voted against the motion, three abstained and the rest voted for the motion). This tax is having very adverse effects on many budgets with families unavoidably dropping into debt, fearful that they will be compulsorily moved out of their home, and needing to either borrow money or to visit a food bank in order to feed their family.
The Archbishop of Canterbury delivered a Presidential Address in which he told us of his visits to 36 Archbishops from the worldwide Anglican Communion. He was encouraged to find the Communion ‘flourishing but fragile’. There are many problems and much suffering which can only be overcome by
...wholehearted openness to the Holy Spirit at work among us. It comes with prayer, and us growing closer to God in Jesus Christ, and nothing else is an effective substitute: there are no strategies and no plans beyond prayer and obedience. Archbishop Justin Welby
A very big thank you to all of you who have prayed for General Synod. As Synod members we are very conscious of your prayer support for us.
Please contact me via the website or in church if you want any further details of Synod debates.