RACIAL justice tops the agenda for next month’s General Synod, intended to focus primarily on the concerns of the marginalized and excluded.
This broad theme includes a motion from the Diocesan Synod of Durham on human trafficking and a motion from Lichfield on the persecuted Church, but it also encompasses a debate on extending the membership of the Crown Appointments Commission which will choose the next Archbishop of Canterbury (News, Leader’s Commentary, January 21).
The three-day synod, February 8-10, is taking place in person at Church House, Westminster, with numerous mitigation measures in place, but its first act will be to formally agree to a hybrid work that would allow members to speak and vote from home. . the racial-justice the debate is the main item on the first day’s agenda, preceded by a presentation by Baron Boateng, who chairs the Archbishops’ Commission on Racial Justice (News, July 16, 2021).
Lord Boateng emphasized the involvement and ownership of the whole Church during a press conference on Friday. “It must not be London-centric in any sense of the word,” he warned, noting that the Commission’s last meeting took place in Bristol Cathedral, “in a city that is struggling with these issues. , a story in which the very foundations of economic success and prosperity are based on slavery and injustice”.
He had learned from working with Archbishop Desmond Tutu that “you have to be intentional to make changes. All actions taken by the Synod—decisions about budgets, change in governance—must reflect Christ’s inclusivity and passion for racial justice. The 25-page briefing document is detailed and based on 47 recommendations for the Synod to discuss.
“Serious consideration” has been given to Questions, when synod members can grill bishops and senior staff, which has drawn much protest from members in the past. This time there are two sessions, the first being on Tuesday. The Synod’s business committee acknowledges concerns about the lack of time, particularly when it comes to answering additional questions — “some members felt that the attitude towards those answering questions was very aggressive and disrespectful, and that it set a hostile and disagreeable tone to the whole article”.
He made sweeping changes to the process and “invites members to remember that the Synod is a Christian body and encourages them to engage in all matters in a spirit of generous seeking.” The general secretary of the Council of Archbishops, William Nye, calls for an “ordinance of self-denial” in terms of the number of supplements requested. Those who wish to ask them must announce it in advance, but do not have to say on what subject.
An update on backup will take place on Wednesday morning: a presentation with the possibility of questions, led by the national safeguarding team and the responsible bishop. Legislative affairs on the Faculty Competence Rules (modification) follows [see separate story].
The Durham motion on human trafficking, which will be debated on Wednesday afternoon, was born of the involvement of the diocese in the national campaign to support a young victim. It calls for effective systems to be put in place for trafficked minors to provide them with adequate protection as victims of crime.
the Clergy Compensation Review report examines the results of a survey of more than 3,000 salaried, self-employed and retired clergy and a separate survey of diocesan secretaries/leadership teams. The report was published in July 2021 and released during the July synod.
Members will now have the opportunity to review and debate the report, which found that 62% of those polled were living comfortably or doing well, but 13% found it somewhat or very difficult to manage, and 25% were just to get out of it. Sixty percent of respondents disagreed that there was a capacity to fund stipend increases through parish increases.
A presentation and introductory discussion follow on the ongoing work of lay engagement, under the title Free the people of God. It will be proposed by Dr. Jamie Harrison, who chairs the House of Laity. Group work on Vision and strategy follows, before a second Questions session.
Thursday begins with group work on diversity and difference, before the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, brought a report from the Governance Review group at the Synod. The motion does not ask the Synod to approve the specific list of recommendations, but to initiate the process on how to move them forward.
Lichfield motion, The Persecuted Church and the World, seeks practical support and prayers for the persecuted Church, and requests that the Lambeth Conference this summer address the issue.
She wants to see the dioceses develop bonding relationships, “expressed largely through visits and exchanges, prayer, donations and financial support. . . In the area of FORB (Freedom of Religious Belief), links offer the opportunity to develop a deeper knowledge of what it means to be Church outside of England. . . This paints a more detailed and nuanced picture that is not easily captured by the rather stark numbers produced by the media and agencies.
Last rise on Thursday afternoon, before farewell, is the take-note debate on the proposed changes to the composition of the Crown Appointments Commission (CNC) for the see from Canterbury. The briefing paper suggests that the balance of representatives on the CNC does not reflect the current nature of the role, and notes: “It is important to recognize that many of the Archbishop’s National Church responsibilities are closely related to the responsibilities of the Communion, as is its public voice” [see separate story and leader comment].
The Anglican Communion was last represented by the Archbishop of Wales, who Mr Nye told the press conference was ‘probably not the most representative of Anglicans around the world’.
In response to a suggestion that proposed Communion representatives might be able to block the election of a female Archbishop of Canterbury, he pondered the implausibility of five different voices voting the same – and five votes out of 17 did not constitute a veto. The consultation process ends in March and the conclusions will be presented to the Synod in July.