General Synod Report, February 2011

The Diocese of Bristol’s six General Synod reps attended their second Synod in February.

The Diocese of Bristol’s Twitter caused a stir on its first General Synod outing, with Diobrizzle being widely acclaimed as the best diocesan Twitter identity to date!

Note a full summary of the proceedings can be found by following this link: General Synod February 2011 along with links to all the reports mentioned.

Highlights of Synod included:
1. A presentation from the Minister for International Development, the Rt Honourable Andrew Mitchell was well received. The Minister highlighted the UKs continuing commitment to giving 0.7% of GDP to overseas aid and development by 2013 and a desire to work with projects and organisations with a proven record of effectiveness.

2. A further presentation about the Church of England Weddings Project was highly praised and provides some quality research into the contemporary views of marriage and expectations of the church and clergy. Synod expressed the hope that similar work might be done in relation to Baptism and Funerals.

3. Perhaps the most significant debate was a Report from the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council entitled “Challenges for the New Quinquennium”. This focussed on 3 particular themes:
- Contributing as the national Church to the common good;
- Facilitating the growth of the Church;
- Re-imagining the Church’s ministry

The report (GS1815) provides an interesting and stimulating read and can be accessed (as can the other Synod papers) online on the Church of England website General Synod pages.

What was most exciting about the report was that it presented a clear and strategic commitment to growth within the Church of England over the next 5 years and challenged Synod to keep this context in mind through all its deliberations.

Two items may be of special interest to parochial clergy:
1. Parishes will be affected by the Parochial Fees policy: Report from the Archbishops’ Council (GS1813). The new Bishop of Rochester, introduced this report which set out principles for deciding on the framework for a new policy for fees in respect for occasional offices, etc.

The four guiding principles proposed were:
- Fees should be justifiable on the basis of some relationship to the actual costs incurred
- There should be uniformity in the main fees specified
- Fees should be “inclusive” and this should reduce the scope for the sort of “extras” that are currently charged by some churches
- Fees should be affordable, not least for those least able to pay

In a wide-ranging debate which followed, many different remarks were made with the intention that they should be heard by the Fees Working Group. There were some concerns that certain expenditures could be quite different in different local circumstances, eg, heating a large old church in winter could be proportionally more expensive than heating a smaller modern church or perhaps if some heating was kept on all of the time outside of the summer months.

The Fees Working Group will come back to the Synod in July with firm recommendations on the actual figures for approval for the level of fees for the coming five years.

The “inclusive” fee principle would mean that all necessary costs and expenses regularly incurred would be expressly included in the statutory fees, leaving no scope for extra charges for such things as heating, lighting, cleaning, caretaking, administration, etc.

2. Liverpool Diocesan Synod introduced a motion asking that the Liturgical Commission should prepare supplementary material for use in the Common Worship Baptism services to make them more accessible to ordinary people. Synod approved the motion and in due course additional liturgical material will be brought for consideration.

Other business:
Wednesday 9th February, after an opening act of worship—the Synod discussed the House of Bishops’ Statement on Marriage after Divorce and the Ordained Ministry (GS Misc 960). Current legislation makes provision for those seeking ordination after divorce, but currently does not specify what happens if someone who has been divorced should be recommended for preferment either as a suffragan or diocesan bishop.

After extensive debate Synod agreed to take notice of the House of Bishops’ Statement which ends with these words:
“Bishops are required to be a focus for unity and the diocesan bishop as the chief pastor of all that are within his diocese. Those who selected for a diocesan or suffragan role are expected to be an example to the people of God. Marital history is one of many considerations which may properly be taken into account in discerning whom God is calling to such office in his church.”

The final piece of business was to consider the Report of the Anglican/Roman Catholic International Commission entitled “Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ” (GS1818) which seeks to explore the different understandings of Mary within the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches within the context of the desire for a closer unity. The report looks in particular at the Roman Catholic Dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Anglicans are encouraged to consider studying the report with their ecumenical colleagues.

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One thought on “General Synod Report, February 2011

  1. I greatly welcome this briefing on General Synod activities. It has to have the effect of drawing local churches nearer to the policy/decision makers and thus strengthening the C of E.

    It also begins to justify the huge financial contributions made from the people of the Bristol Diocese, albeit perhaps unwittingly, to keeping General Synod and HQ in being.

    I hope that those who produce parish magazines will be encouraged to include a summary in these publications as and when they are produced.