This week is the Church of England's General Synod in London, which is the law making body of the Church-of-England.
What is the General Synod?
The Church of England website explains it in a nutshell: “The General Synod considers and approves legislation affecting the whole of the Church of England, formulates new forms of worship, debates matters of national and international importance, and approves the annual budget for the work of the Church at national level.”
It's basically the Church of England's Parliament. It has three groups of people - The Bishops, Clergy & the Laity and they meet twice a year. Once in London and once in York. Like Parliament there are series of processes for the law making process. There's a report, then legislation, revisions that come back to Synod for final approval. Then once that's all done, it then goes back to the House of Commons Ecclesiastical Committee, which examines draft measures presented to it by the Legislative Committee of the General Synod of the Church of England. If they're happy with it, it goes to the Queen for Royal ascent. So for example if the Church was going to bring in Gay marriage, it would have to get a majority and go through all these processes before finally going to Parliament.
What's on the agenda this week?
The Church of England's four-day synod in London is likely to be dominated by continued fractious debate on same-sex relationships. Members will be asked to "take note" of a report from the house of Bishops, which upholds traditional teaching that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman. That's being tabled for discussion on Wednesday. This week they'll also be looking at law reform, the continued use of Banns for weddings, the role of laity in the church and care of the clergy – plus lots of other private members motions, which may be discussed depending on how much time is left.
A meeting before the Synod starts they’ll be a meeting about the wellbeing of clergy.
The wellbeing of clergy
People are concerned that clergy are getting run down physically, spiritually and mentally. So people are looking at ways that the clergy can be better supported, be more effective and be re-trained to the new challenges that the church brings. At the beginning of the 20 century Clergy were the most powerful and significant people in society. They were at the centre of their communities. But now they're very much marginal figures, sometimes treated with fear and suspicion because of all the abuse claims in the church worldwide. They have a great deal less influence than they used to and they're a great deal less wealthy than they once were too. In addition to that, the church has been in decline quite a bit in the last 15/20 years and that makes clergy feel very pretty responsible. Can you imagine feeling that church decline is all down to you? And then you've got the fact that the workload has increased exponentially. More is expected of clergy than ever before. After the Second World War there were 45 million people in this country and now there's 65 million. And clergy figures have dropped from 30,000 to less than 9,000. Yet there's more work now, more expectation, yet less success; and that's a big factor in how the clergy feel about themselves. So today, before Synod starts, they'll be discussing how well they're resourced, looked after and how they're feeling. It sounds pretty hard being clergy. Not only are they abused and under the cosh, but also feeling defeated too.
- 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The Church of England will talk about how they are to participate in commemorations with protestant church partners in Europe.
- Presidential address by the Archbishop of Canterbury (no later than 5pm)
Proposal to get rid of Banns of marriage in Church
Another motion calls for the abolition of marriage banns in advance of church weddings. Banns, which have been in existence for more than 800 years, were intended to prevent clandestine, unlawful or bigamous marriages. The motion says banns have become an outdated administrative burden for clergy, and civil registrars should be responsible for the legal preliminaries to marriage. So the idea is to register your marriage at your local authority and then come back to church. But the idea isn't popular, as the church seems to think that people like coming to church to get their Banns read. I also imagine that it's because they earn up £750,000a year from Banns being read - so they'd lose the revenue. Plus, the church use the Banns being read as a mission opportunity too.
Marriage & same sex relationships
They'll be a vote today on whether to confirm or reject a report by the bishops which supports maintaining the church's position opposing gay marriage. Liberals in the Synod have welcomed the chance to vote against the same-sex marriage ban, and the Church liberals generally hope the Synod will reject the Bishop's advice. A vote by the synod in favour of same-sex marriage could pave the way for a fundamental change in Anglican teaching and lead to gay and lesbian couples being allowed to marry in Anglican Churches. Despite the report reaffirming that marriage is between a man and a women, some in the church's conservative wing fear it does not send a clear enough message against gay marriage. Guidance from the House of Bishops in 2014 said that getting married to someone of the same sex would "clearly be at variance with the teaching of the Church of England. " Last year, 14 clergy in same sex marriages called on bishops to include gay people in the life of the Church. Canon JONATHAN ALDERTON-FORD, a long standing and distinguished member of General Synod says :"Even if we wanted to change the rules on marriage we'd have to change so many rules what the Church of England believes about the Bible and marriage and each one of those big changes would take a two-thirds majority and it would take an awful long time and an awful lot of good will to do that. And there isn't the appetite to do it at the moment."
- Leicester to get a Suffragan Bishop
- Gambling - Fixed odds betting terminals: The assembly will also discuss a motion urging the government to clamp down on fixed-odds betting terminals, 35,000 of which are installed in betting shops across the UK. The diocese of London describes the machines as "a pernicious form of high street gambling" that cause "great harm and misery to thousands of people". The government should substantially reduce the maximum stake from £100 to £2, says the motion. "It is hard to avoid the suspicion that the government's unwillingness thus far to take effective action to deal with an acknowledged problem may be connected to a concern about the loss of tax revenue which would result," it says.
- They say Good bye to the Bishop of London
- Address from the Most Revd Dr Josiah Atkins Idowu-Fearon, the secretary general of the Anglican Communion
- Making laity more active in their parishes
- Risk assessment for safeguarding