Directory: Churches and People

General Synod Report - 11-15 July 2014

17 July 2014

Kindly provided by Revd Canon Chris Lilley

At last...Women Bishops final approval!

In nearly twenty years as a member of the General Synod I have never felt such relief and, later, joy at the overwhelming decision in favour of women bishops.

It was at times an emotional debate, lasting four hours with over fifty speakers. Several who voted against the motion in November 2012 indicated they had changed their mind to vote “yes” or at least to abstain. But many others spoke against including traditional Catholics and “headship” evangelicals. The final speech was from Mr John Spence, the new chair of the Archbishops Finance Committee and it was the finest, most powerful speech I have heard in the eight long years we have debated this matter. Mr Spence is blind and could not see the standing ovation given by most Synod members.

The vote in the end was overwhelming with 81% of Synod members voting for the motion. It is worth recording the figures. Each of the three “houses” needed at least 67% for approval.

                                                                                    For Against Abstain %

House of Bishops 37 2 1 95
House of Clergy 162 25 4 87
House of Laity 152 45 5 77

The Archbishop of York, chairing the debate, asked for the result to be greeted quietly as in our custom but two young women priests in the gallery could not hold back a cry of delight as they leapt up. Synod adjourned for a few minutes and we went outside singing “Marching in the light of Christ” led by the Archbishop. Outside TV crews and cameras filmed champagne being opened and much hugging.

I was impressed by the demeanour of those who had been defeated. During the debate some had said they wanted the vote to be won even though they would vote against on principle. Many people had spoken about working together to build trust and to see the whole church flourish. Two people mentioned “winning the peace” and it is all based on the five principles agreed last November.

Comment The Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament is meeting as soon as next week and is expected to give strong approval. It may be that the first women suffragan bishops will be appointed by the end of this year with diocesan bishop appointments lagging suffragan appointments by a few months due to the complexity of the processes involved. Some female diocesan bishops could have their membership of the House of Lords expedited. In Lincoln diocese, if we receive permission to appoint  a new Bishop of Grantham, that could be one of the first women suffragan bishops – but maybe I am running too far ahead of myself!

The July Synod sees us split into discussion groups for one afternoon and this year the theme was “The Common Good”, introduced by an American preacher and campaigner, the Revd. Jim Wallace (who also preached at York Minster on Sunday). We were challenged to do more for the common good in every aspect of our lives from families, to work, to the church and to politics.

A Diocesan Synod Motion celebrated the 800th Anniversary of Magna Carta next year.

Comment: Lincoln Cathedral has an original copy; watch out for local events.

This debate, featuring a number of our members from the Armed Forces, encouraged us to support serving personnel (both regulars and reservists), veterans and military families by signing community or corporate covenants with local bases.

Comment: Lincoln member, Sue Slater, spoke about the importance of the RAF in Lincolnshire.

Synod gave first consideration to draft additional texts intended the make the language more accessible for some people. Comment:  Some people see this as watering down the promises and getting rid of the Devil.

The national church budget, of which the biggest element is now training, will increase by 1.3% in 2015 after reducing reserves and a windfall rent reduction. We were warned costs in future years will exceed inflation following five years when costs have been pegged back ruthlessly.

After several failed attempts over the years, Synod agreed to a relaxation of the rules for wearing vestments at worship services where pastorally appropriate.

The July Sessions of includes much legislation, and this year, in addition to the women bishops legislation, Synod considered the Draft Safeguarding and Clergy Discipline Measure   and the Draft Amending Canon 34 ( first consideration), the 49th Report of the Standing Orders Committee, the Amending Canon 31 (promulged and executed), theDraft Church of England (Pensions)(Amendment) Measure ( final approval),Draft Amending Canon 32, Convocations (Elections to Upper House (Amendment) Resolution 2014, Clergy Representation Rules (Amendment) Resolution 2014, Church Representation Rules (Amendment) (No 2) Resolution 201, Draft Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction (Amendment) Measure, Payments to the Churches Conservation Trust Order 2014, Draft Church of England (Ecclesiastical Property) Measure, the Draft Amending Canon 35.

Comment. It was racy stuff! Archdeacon Tim Barker and I spoke in a couple of the debates. For further information please contact the Archdeacon! One change that will affect some of our PCCs, is that the minimum number of PCC meetings (other than the annual meeting) is reduced to TWO to help the smallest parishes. Some hadn't realised that they had previously needed as many as FOUR!

The July Synod also receives reports from our National Institutions. So we heard presentations (followed by questions) from the Archbishops' Council, the Church Commissioners, the Audit Committee and the Pensions Board.

Comment: The Pensions Board is planning a new approach to the provision of retirement housing for clergy. Rents will be a social housing rent based on property value instead of a percentage of income. Tenants will generally choose a home from the portfolio of properties around the country (provided they don't cost more than £225,000) and decisions will be made up to five years before planned retirement with the property let out short term until needed. Talk to them if you need more information.

The present five year General Synod ends in July 2015. I will not stand again and perhaps others from our Lincoln group will make the same decision. Now is the time to think about whether you might stand. Please talk to us about what is involved. Maybe even have a day at General Synod in London (dates are provisional) 17-19 November or 9-13 February or in York 10-14 July.

Ven Tim Barker (07590 950041)
Canon Chris Lilley      (01507 440039)
Canon Gavin Kirk (01522 561600)
Miss Rachel Beck (01522 504081)
Mrs Sue Slater (01775 768286)
Mrs Carol Ticehurst (01522 850728)
Mrs Sylvia Pounds (07771 549947)