General Synod
February Group of Sessions 2000


Well, we did it. To quote the Church Times headline “Liturgical marathon finishes”. Everything that will be in the core Common Worship book has now been finally approved, and the book will be published in the autumn. Eucharistic Prayer H (the responsive one) was added to the prayers that we had approved last November, we made a final decision on how to translate ek in the Nicene creed, and then on the last day, the complete Holy Communion rites were approved.

In the Church of England, at least, ek now means “from”, and Jesus “was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary”. After considering the size of the minority in the House of Laity that was opposed to “of”, the Bishops had taken the view that “from” was an acceptable alternative which would command wider support. And so it proved to be, with the vote in favour being Bishops: 38-0, Clergy: 197-12, Laity: 149-56. As Philip Giddings (vice-chair of the House of Laity) who had opposed “of” in November said, “Should the version before us be legal? Much as I would prefer another version, I believe we should vote yes.”

Also given final approval were: Weekday lectionaries, Rules to order the service etc, Marriage services, and Wholeness and Healing.

Farming Crisis

There have been substantial falls in farmgate prices in recent years, and in many cases farmers’ production costs are now higher than the price they receive for their goods. This crisis in agriculture was debated by Synod, and a motion was passed unanimously calling on the Government to show its commitment to farming and the essential contribution it makes to the welfare of rural communities, and urging “dioceses, deaneries and parishes to show Christian concern for those adversely affected by severely declining incomes across the agricultural industry, especially by resourcing those organisations which provide support for farming families; to develop networks of chaplains to agriculture and rural life; and to give practical support to the UK farm industry.”

Religious Broadcasting

Members of Synod can sign private members’ motions to show that they want them to be debated. Those with most signatures get debated first. A motion proposed by Nigel Holmes (Carlisle) in July 1999 got to the top of the list much faster than usual, and was debated in February. His motion criticised the substantial reduction in religious broadcasting on the BBC. In his speech he said that total religious output on BBC1 and BBC2 had dropped by a half over ten years. Other speakers were in general agreement, but it was pointed out that quality was more important than quantity. Also, rather than blaming the BBC, the Church should take constructive steps to engage with and inspire broadcasters. The Bishop of Wakefield, the House of Bishops’ spokesman on broadcasting, proposed an amendment to rewrite the motion in a more constructive way, and this was carried overwhelmingly. The amended motion also asked the Archbishops’ Council “to develop, in co-operation with other Churches and interested parties, a mechanism for monitoring and reporting on the provision and quality of religious output by the BBC and the Commercial sector”.

Archbishops’ Council

Introducing the debate on the report of the Council, the Archbishop of York described the communications strategy that the Council had made its priority. The intention was to promote an outward-looking and confident Church. Whilst other speakers supported this strategy, some warned that it should not be one-way. Communication should consist of listening and discussion, not just of briefing and control.

Clergy Discipline

The Clergy Discipline Measure returned from its revision committee. Introducing the committee’s report, Sir Timothy Hoare said that the committee had tried to simplify the Measure by trimming some of the bureaucracy. A central premise of the Measure was that all clergy would be treated on the same basis. There had been three areas of serious disagreement: the standard of proof required; whether the tribunal could decide by a majority; and whether hearings should be in private or in public.

At present the Measure has proof on a balance of probabilities (the civil standard), majority decisions and private hearings. Amendments have been put down to change all of these, but Synod ran out of time, and the debate will be resumed in July.

Preview of expenditure for 2001

Michael Chamberlain (Archbishops’ Council) referred to the need in recent years to ask for large supplementary votes for training the increasing numbers of ordinands. A working party was now looking at how to avoid large fluctuations in the training budget. The Council was trying to keep the overall increase in apportionments on dioceses in line with average earnings.

Peter Owen
IVth Sunday of Lent 2000
(amended 6 October 2000)

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