If it's Tuesday it must be Synod

First published 20th November 2013

Chris Dobson reflects on some of the highlights of the second day of General Synod:

Discussions around the emerging path towards the Consecration of women to the episcopate continued in the morning in the form of small group discussions. These were an opportunity to share openly our concerns and hopes around the new proposals that had been presented by the Steering group appointed to guide the process. Individual discussions within the groups were confidential, but what was heartening was the profound difference in the atmosphere from 12 months previously.

Far from being sick of the Church and its governance there was a sense of rightness about the discussions and an overwhelming sense that we were now moving in a direction that could command the support of most of the Synod. I sensed that there had been some fairly significant changes in the way we were listening to each other and in an emerging sense of not just acceptance, but even affirmation of our differences.

Overall there seems to be an air of hopefulness in the Synod and for once I am looking forward to the open debate in the Chamber on Wednesday morning.

The Archbishop of York gave a disturbing and challenging presidential address in which he challenged us to reflect on the almost unprecedented growth of poverty in the UK. Quoting alarming statistics (27,000 people in Leeds diagnosed with signs of malnutrition last year, 4,000 people in Yorkshire living in absolute poverty) he was unequivocal in stating that we have reached a point where confronting poverty must rise to the top of our agenda.

Warning of an even greater danger of a parallel poverty of vision, he spoke warmly of the example of Pope Francis today, and of his namesakes recognition of a call to live in poverty as well as to relieve poverty. As a church our every step, every action, every word must become a living sermon speaking of a God who cares passionately for the poor and vulnerable in our society. For further information visit the Living Wage Website.

Following the Archbishops address attention shifted to an important report about the future of our Church Schools. We recognised the immense amount of energy that clergy place into our schools, over 1 million hours per annum and the importance of training them so that their work can be more effective. Schools were recognised as being increasingly crucial for the development of healthy families and it was recognised that the evidence suggests that churches that work closely with their schools are likely to see a growth in commitment and attendance.

Roger Walton from the Methodist Church was saddened that the increasing ecumenical commitment to working together in schools was not recognised in the report, but nevertheless was encouraged by it. Rachel Beck from Lincoln diocese explained how the 10 marks of a high performing DBE contained within the report had been particularly helpful in reviewing and shaping their diocesan education policy.

Rachel Jepson encouraging people to use the website: http://faithmakesadifference.co.uk/

The report was unanimously and warmly received.

The final business of the day was a helpful and well introduced motion from the Diocese of London asking Synod to consider whether it was time for a review of the structures and processes of General Synod. A wide ranging debate included one new member of Synod proposed scrapping General Synod altogether, while others felt that we already have everything in place if only we could use it properly.

Sue Booys, the chair of the Business Committee, explained how they were already engaged in substantial internal review of how Synod conducts its business, some of the fruits of which were already being enacted in the current synod and this process of reflection would continue whatever the result of the debate. Synod in the end concluded that notwithstanding the importance of change it was not the right time for a major review.

A helpful reflection on the days business can be found on Bishop Nick Baines blog: www.wp.me/pnmhG-17M

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