Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Synod observer

General Synod, the Church of England's 'parliament' is meeting in Westminster this week. Adrian and I, both from Bermondsey, are part of the contingent from our diocese of Southwark (covering most of south London and East Surrey).

After opening worship yesterday afternoon first up was the report of the Business Committee, the chance for members to offer their views on the agenda set for the rest of the week. Next up was a very interesting debate on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, with some good speeches, and a positive welcome from the Synod for the Church of England's reformation heritage, and the growing unity of the churches across the reformation divides.

Next was a Presidential Address from the Archbishop of Canterbury (right), a thoughtful and powerful address centred on the temptations of Jesus. You can read it here.

Question Time followed (a bit like Prime Minister's Questions, but much less rowdy), before Evening Worship rounded off the synodical day.

After Holy Communion, today's meeting began with a tribute by the Archbishop of York, to Sir Andreas Whittam Smith, the First Church Estates Commissioner. Like the prime minister, he grew up in a vicarage. As a young lad he helped to ring the church bells and count the collection - the latter duty, standing him in good stead for managing the Church Commissioners investment fund which, under his stewardship, has grown to £8bn.

Whittam Smith (left), known by Private Eye as the 'saintly Whittam Smith', once said he would die 'for his church, for his country and for his family.'

The former editor of The Independent, had, said the Archbishop of York , served the Church with great skill and devotion, and the Synod gave him a standing ovation of gratitude for his service to the Church.

We then moved to a private member's motion which would have seen the abolition of banns of marriage, which have been read in churches since 1215. Synod liked the idea of simplifying bureacracy, but were reluctant to lose the link with couples coming to church to hear their banns being read, and accordingly the motion was defeated by small margins in all three houses (of bishops, clergy and laity). Ironically, an amendment which would have kept banns, but simplified things, was lost earlier in the debate. That might have been the best option.

The rest of the day was taken up with legislative business, a lot of detailled but important stuff, designed to produce a stronger, fitter church, better equipped to take the Gospel to the nation.

We weren't quite finished by the 7pm cut off, and a debate that had just got started on making clergy vesture (ie robes) optional, will have to be completed later in the week.

The day concluded with exuberant contemporary worship lead by a band of visiting musicians, with Matt Redman's 'Bless the Lord, O my Soul' resounding round the Synod chamber, before the Archbishop of York, closed the day's proceedings with a prayer of blessing.

You can watch the synod live here

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