General Synod
November Group of Sessions 1998

International Debt

Clare Short, the Secretary of State for International Development, addressed Synod. “The Churches’ campaign on debt relief has been admirable and powerful,” she said. “But there is a real danger that good people will believe that debt relief is the ‘magic bullet’ to end all poverty and that debt is the cause of all poverty. This is untrue. We need a moral economics that is a truthful and practical economics.”

Debt relief was “part of the answer but not the whole answer”, she said. “Debt relief should not go to all poor countries; it should support those committed to poverty eradication. It should not be unconditional, and it is not better if it is unilateral.”

“The campaign on debt is very fine; but if it ends up propagating simplistic and misleading solutions, it will not help to eliminate poverty. It won’t be enough.”

Education – Church Schools

Synod debated a report by the Board of Education: Church of England Schools in the New Millennium, and carried a motion calling for action with regard to both church and non-church schools at all levels in the Church. Opening the debate, the Bishop of Ripon said that today the distinctiveness of church schools was being recognised and emphasised. “It is Christian belief that makes church schools distinctive,” he said, “even though many associated with them are not themselves believers. There is a strong confidence now in church schools, and we rejoice in the success they achieve.”

Diaconal Ministry

The Bishop of Ely introduced a motion from his diocesan synod asking for an inquiry into the diaconate. “Our main reason for asking the church to think again about the diaconate has to do with its unrealised potential for mission seen from the standpoint of men and women deeply involved in the life of the world,” he said. The diaconate had come to be seen as a probationary appointment. “The question we want to ask is, is that enough?” The Bishop of Portsmouth spoke about a distinctive diaconate of about 30 deacons in his diocese, most of whom had chosen to remain deacons. They had a pastoral, prophetic and liturgical role, and had greatly enriched the diocese’s collective understanding of the gospel. At the end of the debate the Synod voted nem con to ask the House of Bishops to set up a working party to consider the concept of a renewed diaconate and to report to Synod.

Extended Communion

Extended communion returned to Synod from its revision committee with a new name: Sunday Worship with Holy Communion in the Absence of a Priest. The service was sent back to the revision committee so that a traditional language version could be added and so that the title could be reconsidered.

Ordained Local Ministry (OLM)

The Bishop of Truro introduced a debate on the report Stranger in the Wings by the working party on ordained local ministry which he had chaired. He said that many people had misgivings about aspects of OLM, but it was an interesting and exciting development of ordained ministry within local and team-ministry contexts. Sixteen dioceses had accredited OLM schemes; there were currently about 150 OLMs and another 170 were in training. The Archdeacon of Warrington said that, as a member of a team, an OLM had to win the approval of his or her peers, so selection was possibly even more rigorous than for other clergy. However some speakers thought that the report lacked adequate theology and ecclesiology, and they forced a vote by houses. The take-note motion was passed Bishops 34-1; Clergy 128-37; and Laity 134-56.

The Lord’s Prayer

The second report of the Revision Committee responsible for the version(s) of the Lord’s Prayer to be included in the new common Worship liturgies came to Synod. As expected this proposed that the modern version to be included should be that from the ASB. Attempts were made by yours truly and by Bishop Colin Buchanan to change this to the ELLC version, but both were unsuccessful. However the revision committee came up with a new proposal, that the ELLC text should be included in an appendix, and this was accepted. It is now up to the House of Bishops to decide on the precise texts to put to Synod for final approval.

[Note: The House of Bishops met in January 1999 and decided not to make any changes.]

Eucharistic Rites

Another second report from a revision committee came to Synod, that for the Eucharist, or as it is now called:

The Order for the Celebration of
also called

Originally the title was

The Order for the
Administration of
the Lord’s Supper or
Holy Communion

but in July 1998 Synod said that it did not like this and the revision committee returned to the ASB title. In addition, the names Rite A and Rite B have been changed to Order One and Order Two.

Perhaps of rather more significance is the text of the Nicene Creed, at line 16, where the revision committee had kept

was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary

as in the ELLC text. Synod carried an amendment to change this to

by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary

(as in the ASB). The ELLC text is intended to express the total equality of the human and divine natures of Christ, but there is a view that this text gives an undue prominence to Mary in the scheme of our redemption.

[Note: The House of Bishops also considered this at its meeting in January, and intend to initiate a Synod debate before a final decision is made on the text.]

There were also some amendments proposed to the text of the Ten Commandments (which will be included in an appendix). None were carried, but it took a division of the whole Synod to decide not to change slaves to workers.

[Note: A division of the whole Synod is a vote in which members are counted as they leave the chamber by doors labelled ‘aye’ or ‘no’; it takes between ten and fifteen minutes. A division by Houses is similar, except that the Bishops, Clergy and Laity use different doors and are counted separately.]

Other matters

Other matters considered included

  • approval of the nominated members of the Archbishops’ Council;
  • a supplementary vote of 90000 for ordination training (to cope with the rise in the number of ordinands in training);
  • extended authorisation for the ASB ordinal and the series 1 burial and marriage services;
  • agreeing to change the name of the Ripon diocese to “Ripon and Leeds ” ;
  • final approval of A Service of the Word and associated material;
  • a debate on the conduct of funerals and the funeral industry; and
  • a debate on celibacy

Peter Owen
IVth Sunday of Easter 1999
(amended 6 October 2000)

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