Monday, 10 July 2017

Synod observer (3)

So the Synod has been prorogued - what we in primary school used to call 'home time' but before that we had a full day of business.

First up was a debate about the extraordinarilly high cost of acquiring British citizenship for people who already have permanently leave to stay in the UK.

It's far higher than in any other western nation and it causes real hardship. Our very own Nick Lebey (above), with personal experience of this in his own family, gave a very powerful and moving speech, quoting  Old Testament verses about the fair treatment of the foreigner or alien.

All three houses of synod voted unanimously (a virtually unheard of synodical event) in a motion that asked the Archbishops Council to investigate the matter and make recommendations to HM Government.

Next up was a presentation, followed by a kind of mini-referendum of synod members on the Synod electoral process. The big question was: should the electorate for Gen Syn remain deanery synods members, or should it be PCC members, diocesan synod memberas, electoral roll members or the members of a special electoral college. We await developments - in the meantime the next round of General Synod Elections in 2020 look likely to be conducted online as the default setting, with a paper option for those who prefer it or who are not internet-friendly.

Next we gave final approval to two changes to the Canons (the church's own law book). These need a two thirds majority in each house (which they achieved easilly) and will now be passed to Her Majesty for Royal Assent.

The first change permits clergy to dispense with robes if the PCC agrees and it seems appropriate for the mission of the church in the parish. This is a case of the law catching up with practise in many parishes.

The second concerns the funeral of people who have committed suicide and removes some outdated restrictions on what can be offered to families grappling with this tragic event. This came close to home for me, and I was able to speak about our own family's experience and welcome this wise and compassionate reform of the Church's law.

There was just time for a report on the work of the Archbishops Council before lunch, and then, suitably refreshed, we go to work on agreeing the budget of the Archbishops Council for the coming year. The biggest item was training for the ministry (£15 million) and the total budget run to a little over £38 million. Some good work is going on, including a 14 per cent increase in people training for the ordained ministry (a good step towards the target of a 50 per cent increase).

Farewells to retiring bishops followed and then it was home time. We meet again - in London - in February.

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