General Synod
November Group of Sessions 1999


Publication of Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England (containing the main-line Sunday liturgies) and an accompanying volume of Pastoral Rites is now only twelve months away, and business at General Synod is on track to complete authorisation of revised services just in time.

At this group of sessions we gave final approval to Thanksgiving for the Gift for a Child, Funeral Services, and The Lord’s Prayer. The modern language version of The Lord’s Prayer will be the same as in the ASB, although the ELLC version (with “time of trial”) will be included in an appendix.

Eucharistic Prayers

These returned to Synod after their second trip to the revision committee. Following strong support in July for a prayer with more responsive material, the revision committee had added this. Since Synod had not seen this prayer before, there were naturally a lot of amendments proposed to make alterations. The procedure for dealing with liturgical business was not designed with such late introduction of new material in mind, and after taking the first few amendments we decided to stop. We suspended a few standing orders so that the new prayer could be considered by the revision committee, and all the remaining stages taken at next February’s group of sessions, when the rest of Holy Communion is due for final approval.

Nicene Creed

Following July’s debate on the Nicene Creed, the House of Bishops brought the matter back to Synod, but this time in a way that would allow us to choose between the various translations of

kai sarkwqenta ek pneumatoV agiou
kai MariaV thV parqenou

to quote the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381 AD. The critical word is ek (ek), which means of, from or by. Should it follow the ELLC text

was incarnate of the Holy Spirit
and the Virgin Mary

as suggested by the House of Bishops, or

was incarnate by the Holy Spirit
of the Virgin Mary

(Bishop of Liverpool), or

was incarnate by the Holy Spirit
and the Virgin Mary

(David Bone of Bristol), or

was incarnate from the Holy Spirit
and the Virgin Mary

(Bishop of Birmingham)? All three houses of Synod supported the Bishops, but the voting in the House of Laity (131 to 76) was below the two-thirds majority required at final approval of liturgical business.

After the debate and vote, two senior members of Synod (Pete Broadbent and Philip Giddings) said that they could not in conscience use the version which Synod had just voted for. It’s a pity that they did not say this during the debate. It will be interesting to see what the House of Bishops brings to Synod in February for final approval.

Bridge Report Follow-up

Following the Bridge Report on Synodical Government a follow-up group was set up to consider what to do with the report’s recommendations. The group’s first report was issued shortly after the July group of sessions; it divided Bridge’s recommendations into three:

  • uncontentious recommendations which should be put into effect promptly;
  • recommendations on which no action is proposed;
  • recommendations on which the group give advice.

The appropriate legislation was introduced into Synod in November to put the uncontentious matters into effect. These included:

  • lay members of all PCCs to be elected for a three-year term, with one third to retire annually but be eligible for re-election;
  • the number of lay representatives on a PCC should be 9 plus 3 members for each 100 members (or part thereof) on the electoral roll over 100;
  • candidates for election to a PCC to be on the parish electoral roll for at least 12 months;
  • alteration of deanery boundaries to be made by diocesan synod.

It will be open to the Annual Meeting to alter the first two of these.

One of Bridge’s most contentious recommendations was that deanery synods should no longer be part of the formal structure of synodical government. The working group’s advice is that this proposal be dropped (and with it the proposal to set up a system of synodical electors). However the group says that there are clearly serious criticisms of the way in which deanery synods operate in certain cases. It recommends that a model of good practice be drawn up and the group will work on this as part of the second stage of its work. A letter about this, inviting comments, was circulated with the papers for the November 1999 meeting of Deanery Synod.

Other Legislation

Draft Amending Canons 22 and 23 were given final approval. Number 22 makes it possible for a diocesan bishop to allow a parish to use a service for a limited period after its authorisation has expired. Number 23 allows the House of Bishops to approve translations of authorised forms of service and allows diocesan bishops to authorise the use of these translations and of services in British Sign Language in their dioceses.

Other Matters

Other matters considered included:

  • Archbishops’ Council. Since July the Council has been reflecting on matters concerning marriage and family life; the implications of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry; and how it could itself do some anti-racism training.
  • Prisons. Martin Neary (Director General of the Prison Service) spoke about the changes taking place in British prisons. Everyone knew of the bad conditions: brutality, poor health care, too much time spent shut up in cells, 30-minute visits once a fortnight, no job prospects on release. But he also spoke of improvements, some already made and others to be introduced: a new regime for the under-17s; a dedicated policy-group to ensure that the care of women was appropriate to them; a proper partnership with the NHS; reduction of drug use in prison; education to improve levels of literacy and numeracy.
  • Statistics on ethnic origin. Synod passed a motion from Southwark Diocesan Synod asking the Archbishops’ Council to organise the collection of statistics at the next general revision of electoral rolls (2002) “on the ethnic origin of members on electoral rolls, members of church councils, churchwardens, deanery-synod representatives and clergy throughout all the dioceses of the Church of England”.
  • Debates on: Prisons; the Religious Life; Strengthening Family Life; Deepening relations between the British and Irish Anglican Churches and the French Lutheran and Reformed Churches.

Peter Owen
IIIrd Sunday of Advent 1999
(amended 6 October 2000)

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