Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Synod observer

For the last five days I have been at the University of York for a meeting of the Church of England's parliament, the General Synod (below).

After starting with worship on Friday afternoon, we had an address from a bishop of the German Lutheran church, followed by a presentation of the Archbishop of York's six-month pilgrimmage of prayer and witness around his diocese.

After various other reports, the Synod moved to Question Time - a bit like Prime Minister's Question Time at Westminster but far more polite - and then Day One of the Synod was over

Saturday morning was taken up with some detailled work on draft legislation, including changes to the canons which, if passed, will allow clergy officially to dispense with the wearing of robes for Sunday worship.

Visions of mankini wearing Vicars got the press rather excited, but, needless to say, something far more mundane was envisaged in the absence of robes (eg ordinary clothes and a clerical collar, as is practised already in countless parishes).

We also covered the senstive subject of the funerals of those who have committed suicide.

In the afternoon, we discussed two very significant reports. The first was on the programme of 'reform and renewal', designed to better equip the church for the work of mission. Some really good stuff is going on here.

The second report was on church education. Over a million children are educated in Church of England schools and the number is set to rise if expansion plans go ahead. It was a good report, but in my opinion, it could have said a bit more helping children come to know Jesus as their saviour and friend, and I was fortunate enough to be called in debate to make a speech along those lines.

I fear that children at school are always being exhorted to be good, but, being a Christian is not about 'trying hard' but knowing Jesus love and forgiveness in your life. That's what our children need. That's what we all need.

After Supper we heard a report from the Archbishops Council and agreed a budget of £37 millions, the largest part of which covers the cost of training new clergy. The really significant thing here is that the Church is taking great strides to invest in church growth specifically in the poorest parts of our country. This is really good news.

The next day was Sunday and Synod members decamped to York Minster for Holy Communion - which I normally do, too but this year I headed off in the opposite direction to Heslington Church (right), the village church, close to the university, which I attended on Sunday mornings when a York student in the late 1970s.

I was confirmed here in 1978 and I was moved this Sunday to recall that moment, and to thank God for all I learnt about him while I was a student in York.

After lunch on the Sunday we entered 48 hours of 'shared conversations' on the subject of human sexuality and the use of Scripture. General Synod sessions are usually open to the public and the press but for these two days we met in private to pray, listen and discuss.

Thus ended another General Synod. We meet again in February (in Westminster).

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