Report of General Synod July 2017

General  Synod  Report from York sitting July 7th-11th 2017 by Tina Nay ( lay rep)


This is my account of the major issues which were debated at the synod.  A full account with all the papers can be found on www.churchofengland.org and The Church Times 14.07.17. Can you spot me on the front page?


Politics and faith - After the Election, A Still Small Voice of Calm.   


The archbishops had requested that extra time be given to a discussion on the state of our country following the turbulent political times of the last few months to open the synod. Rt. Rev John Sentamu presented a stirring speech on the responsibility of our church to make sure our international relationships were not torn apart by Brexit, acknowledging the presence at synod of our brothers from Finland and Germany and the Bishop of Europe. He then proceeded to map out a possible way forward for the mutual flourishing of all in our society, focussing on taxation and social care. He argued that we need a.............
New, value-based politics reflecting our four core principles:
 
1. Recognition of the equal value of all in society;
2. Commitment to offer everyone the opportunity to flourish;
3 Appreciation of our essential human-inter- relatedness;
4. Acceptance of our responsibility towards ourselves as well as others.
 
 

Other debates on politics included urging synod members to lobby their local MP’s about reducing the cost for applying for British citizenship as this is causing real hardship (£1,282 for adults, £973 for children) and making sure churches were contributing to community cohesion ,particularly in the Presence and Engagement parishes (those with significant minority ethnic communities) During questions later in the sessions the Archbishop reminded us “There is an unambiguous connection between religion and politics.”

Sexuality

After the rejection of the February paper at synod it was inevitable that this topic would loom large. However it was less apparent that our church would take the necessary steps to become more inclusive and pass some significant measures, as shown below.  

1. An Episcopal Teaching document is to be prepared over the next few years and a Pastoral Advisory Group to be formed. Members were concerned that neither of these groups represented the full width of opinions but we were reassured by Rt. Rev Justin Welby that every effort would be made to garner all views and experience. He spoke of the need for it to reflect “a radical new Christian inclusion“ Some were sceptical of the lengthy time frame suggesting that the topic was just “being put into the long grass” and arguing that the issue needed addressing more urgently.

2. “Conversion therapy“ to “cure “ same sex attraction was widely condemned by a majority of the synod with particularly powerful speeches by those affected by the practice and by Rt Rev Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool and Rt Rev John Sentamu.  The motion called on the Government to ban such practices.

3. The welcome for transgender people to include specially written liturgical material for gender transition was similarly passed with overwhelming majorities as again painful stories of pain were recounted.

4. Gay marriage was accepted by the synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church in June this year. This significant move made by one of our sister churches will impinge on our discussions over the next few years. Rt. Rev Dr. John Ames, the Bishop of Edinburgh, was warmly welcomed by the synod.

Archbishops’ Annual Report of the Church Commissioners and budget
The Church of England has a £7.9 billion ethical investment fund which returned 17.1% in 2016 so this is very healthy but
is needed to support the 12,500 parishes and 20,000 ordained clergy in our country. Churches also contribute substantially to community cohesion e.g. 66% help run foodbanks and 76% run activities in local schools.  Our schools and buildings need to be supported financially so it is not surprising that the church is the biggest charity in our country.

Half the funding for the mission of the church is directed at 25 of the poorest dioceses with other dioceses applying for grants to aid growth, for e.g Chichester diocese was awarded £825,000 for church planting.  The Renewal and Reform programme is progressing well with Strategy Development funding going to “fresh expressions of church” I particularly liked the Mountain Pilgrims initiative in Carlisle diocese which has encouraged 70 new people to get involved in activities outside the church buildings; walking in the Lake District mountains and in walkers’ cafes for example (More details on this are on the website www.godforall.org.uk.  

More money is needed for ministry training. Pleasing to me was the fact that there are now as many women going into stipendiary ministry as men. In 2017 there has been a 17% increase in those offering themselves for training but still more work needs to be done on encouraging BAME and younger ordinands. We still need a 50% increase over the next three years to balance those clerics who will retire.   Church members were thanked for their generous giving in all dioceses.
National prayer initiatives: Just Pray, Thy Kingdom Come and Joy to the World, have proved popular to galvanise local cathedrals and churches in events across the country . These will continue and provide excellent free resources.

The objectives for The Church of England in the years 2017-20 are: evangelism, discipleship and ministry

Goodbyes to the Bishop of Bristol, Mike Hill and the Bishop of Lambeth, Nigel Stock.
Tina Nay
15.07.17