03 December 2015
The 23rd-25th November 2015 saw the Inauguration of the Tenth General Synod of the Church of England.
The General Synod was addressed by Her Majesty the Queen, and this was followed by a Speech of Thanks from the Archbishop of York.
Part of the proceedings of the General Synod included discussion centred on the Report of the Church Buildings Review Group
Bishop Christopher had prepared the following speech with regard to this report:
‘I am speaking today as the bishop of a diocese with many parish churches – over 600, of which over 400 are listed. It is a large and sparsely populated diocese.
I would like to express my support and gratitude for the Church Buildings report and I am particularly grateful for the statistics which show the contrast between the urban and rural dioceses. These make it clear that, when it comes to church buildings, there is no single way forward.
A policy for the use of church buildings in an intensively populated diocese with mainly Victorian and Edwardian churches is not necessarily right for a diocese like Lincoln or Hereford or Truro.
When, in my last appointment, I worked here in Church House as director of the ministry division, I remember attending a meeting of the directors of the archbishops’ council at St Katharine’s Foundation.
We met there every year – under the under-stated leadership of William Fittall – to debate our priorities and arm-wrestle over the budget. And at the meeting in 2011, in fact a few days after I had learned of my new appointment and before it was made public, we were joined by our colleagues from the Closed Churches department of the Church Commissioners.
They made a presentation which argued that we needed to abandon – albeit in a measured and careful way – many of our church buildings in rural areas. They may be beautiful but they belong to a previous paradigm. The worry for me was that most of the illustrations in the PowerPoint presentation were of churches within the Diocese of Lincoln.
What this revealed for me was a mindset that saw churches – particularly in small rural, communities – as a handicap and distraction to the church’s mission and ministry.
What is clear from the excellent theological chapter of this report is that a far more diverse, subtle and nuanced approach is required. Buildings can speak; they tell a story of faith to which we must listen, and to which we also have opportunity to contribute.
As the report testifies, we in Lincoln have invited all our parishes to categorize themselves under one of three headings with different resources and expectations arising from the chosen category. We hope, thereby, to engender within each worshipping community a clearer sense of their mission and, especially, of how the church building has a role in that mission – each appropriate to its particular context.
And, I am particularly grateful for the proposal for a single new church building department across the whole Church which, while working with the diversity that clearly exists, gathers expertise into one unit and facilitates the simplification of our procedures that is absolutely vital in order to relieve the burden on over-worked churchwardens and PCCs.
In summary I commend this report for two reasons: first because of the exemplary quality of the theology and secondly because it is a practical outworking of the mutual flourishing and respectful management of diversity expressed in the five principles.’
One of the diocesan representatives attending General Synod was the Revd Canon Martyn Taylor.
Martyn reflects on his first impressions on representing the diocese in this way:
‘As a newbie it felt rather like a university freshers’ fair on our first induction day at Church House. Over half the synod are new members, but many already knew each other from their diocese or, like me, were also connecting with friends from previous churches over 25 years ago.
The induction was excellent and the processes of synodical government were clearly explained, as well as the etiquette of introducing oneself and speaking to the chair in any particular debate.
The presence of Her Majesty The Queen for the inauguration of the new synod left everyone in no doubt that the Church of England is very much a part of the establishment, with our synod being the only other body in the UK, apart from parliament itself, which has the power to pass statutes that, as a part of canon law, are the law of the land. It is a privilege to represent Lincoln Diocese in the house of clergy and I found my first three days very stimulating.’
A report on the proceedings of General Synod, prepared by Mrs Sue Slater, is available here:
|General Synod Report - November 2015.doc, 30 KB||Download|