Thursday, 16 February 2017

Synod observer (2)


The TV cameras were out today because the Synod was going to talk about sex (who said it was the church that was obsessed with sex?), but first we turned to the question of 'Fixed Odds Betting Terminals.'

Most prevalent in the poorer communities in our country, unsuspecting players can lose thousands of pounds on these high tech gadgets and acquire gambling  addiction in the process.

Some degree of control is urgently needed for this great social evil, particularly affecting our inner cities, and the Synod unanimously called for urgent action from Her Majesty's Government.

Next up was the conclusion of yesterday's adjourned debate about clergy vesture. Agreement broke out all over synod. Those who wished to wear robes could continue to do so, and those, who for good mission reasons, preferred not to, can in the future (with PCC approval) legally desist, and, come the new law, a whole load of us will become legal. Wins all round.

Would the matter of same sex relationships be capable of such a simple solution! But, its a much more complicated, and much more contested issue than clergy vesture.

An afternoon of case studies, and a long debate on the bishops' report on marriage and same sex relationships, ended with a motion which fell because it was defeated by the House of Clergy, even though a majority of the Synod had supported it. If you think that sounds a bit like the US election, you're not the first to make the comparison...

This issue will run and run, but my hope is (1) that the church will stay united and (2) we will not  lose sight of the fact that God''s ways, revealed to us in Scripture, are for our good, because he is our loving creator and father.

After the excitement of yesterday, the BBC had gone home, and things could get back to normal.

First up, after worship, was a farewell address by the Archbishop of Canterbury for the Bishop of London (who, with his wife Caroline was seated in the gallery) who, in his unique way, has provided over the extraordinary growth and renewal of the Diocese of London (ie the CofE north of the river).

There were lots of great moments in this address but what stuck with me most was the Bishop's characteristic sign off to his clergy when he wrote to them: 'in gratitude for your partnership in the Gospel.' The Synod gave Bishop Richard a prolonged standing ovation.

Next up was an address from Archbishop Josiah Odowu-Fearon, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, which brought a welcome international dimension to our proceedings and reminded of us of how missionaries from this country have travelled across the world, preaching the Gospel, and planting new churches, which, now make up our partner churches in the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Time for a break: General Synod tea-room
We were now on the home straight but next was an important paper on the group of people who make up 98 per cent of the church: 'the laity.' 'Setting God's People Free' is about making best use of the church's most precious resource, its people. Its about God's people living and working for God's kingdom in their everyday lives. It's a report that calls for a change in culture all across the church.

Fully implemented, it could prove to be one of the most significant reports the synod had debated in recent years.

Then there was chance for a Private Members Motion, which sought to simplify admin and aid the mission of the church. This was passed and because the business for this group of sessions was completed, we got to go home early, but not before I had attended a lunchtime fringe event organised by the Church of England Research and Statistics unit. I go every time and its always something of a synodical highlight.

This year they threw out a few random stats to get us going: there are 12,500 parishes in England and 16,000 churches. Average Sunday attendance in 2015 was 51. 456 churches have a usual Sunday attendance of 200 or more. Birmingham has the highest proportion of socially deprived parishes; Guildford the least.

This meeting they introduced their new interactive parish maps (you can see them here ) and told us how they are using their research findings to aid the Church's mission. Excellent stuff.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the blog, Gary and the link to that excellent mapping stuff. Astonishing what can be done now.
    I'm sure I've seen that pic of the tea-room somewhere before...