Adam Gaunt reports on the February 2023 General Synod, and it wasn’t all about LLF
Inevitably, the lengthy debates and discussions around the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) process have dominated reports from this February’s General Synod meeting; however, this group of sessions wasn’t all about LLF.
In common with most groups of sessions, General Synod did a great deal of business, which may be best summarised as good old-fashioned housekeeping. For example, musings around the Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure were far more interesting than it might appear at first sight. Among other things, under this measure, when one of the archbishoprics is vacant the remaining Archbishop will be given the authority to approve appointments to the Pensions Board during the interregnum of the other archbishopric. Moreover, the measure frees the General Synod from debating and approving any proposed change of name of suffragan sees; and the measure also creates the new office of lay residentiary canon for our cathedral churches.
A debate was also held on the National Church Governance Project, and the synod formally moved to encourage the project board to continue with its endeavours. Whether we are in favour (or not) of the national church doing more at national level, we can all agree that all work done at national level should be accountable and well-governed.
Draft Amending Canon 42 was presented and approved, changing the role of diocesan safeguarding adviser to that of diocesan safeguarding officer, strengthening this position in our dioceses as recommended by the report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.
The Diocesan Stipends Funds (Amendment) Measure was debated, and synod welcomed this innovation, which will enable dioceses with significant historic wealth to share these resources with other dioceses to fund clergy posts within them.
The Diocesan Boards of Education Measure 2021 (Consequential Amendment to Regulations under Canon B12) Regulations 2023 added our church schools to the regulations as to who can administer the sacrament of Holy Communion; another piece of house-keeping completed.
Meeting for the first time since the accession of His Majesty King Charles, the synod unanimously approved a loyal address to be sent to His Majesty on his accession and ahead of his much-anticipated coronation service.
The Draft Parochial Fees (Amendment) Order was debated and approved. This debate was brought in light of the unusually high rates of inflation, with which we are all living. The amended order now requires the parochial fees to be raised either (a) by the rate of inflation or (b) by no more than 5%, whichever be the least. Parochial clergy, churchwardens and treasurers will hear more in due about the implications of this change in due course!
The cost-of-living-crisis was debated, and a motion carried, recognising that the ability of our communities to adapt to the current financial environment was limited and calling on government to do more to assist. Before being passed, the motion was amended to recognise the need for synod to acknowledge the financial hardship of our own clergy at this time, 18% of whom applied for (and received) a grant from the Clergy Support Trust in 2022.
Synod had not one, but two sessions of Questions and Answers. Members of synod can submit their questions in writing ahead of a group of sessions, and those who respond also do so in writing in advance. When synod is in session, this then allows other members to ask supplementary questions from the floor of synod. There were 206 questions asked ahead of this group of session and the questions touched on most aspects of our church’s life.
Safeguarding rightly continues to remain high on the synod’s agenda and a presentation was made by our excellent new national director of safeguarding Alex Kubeyinje.
It never ceases to surprise me how varied the work of General Synod is, and how debates, presentations, and discussions are concerned with all manner of subjects from internal church housekeeping, new and revised legislation, to debating current affairs and world events.
Please do engage with the work of synod, feel able to contact your general synod members and please continue to uphold all member in your prayers, and especially the members of our Catholic Group: The Society in General Synod.
The Revd Adam Gaunt is Chairman of the Catholic Group on General Synod.
Emma Joy Gregory adds: The Catholic Group in General Synod is the gathering of clergy and lay people of an Anglo-Catholic integrity who have been elected to the General Synod. It is so important because it stands for scripture, tradition and reason and reminds the Church of the holistic view of the Catholic life as we have received it. We have been, and continue to be, navigating our way through turbulent times in the life of the Church of England.