Monday, 9 July 2018

Synod observer (3)

After opening worship, we heard that the Archbishop of Canterbury, was in London for the baptism of Prince Louis (left). Synod spent a few months in silent prayer for the infant prince and for the royal family on this special day for them.

We spent the first part of the morning hearing about the work of the Archbishops' Council and agreeing its £43m budget for the coming year. Synod received news of the very encouraging increase of those coming forward for ordination, but this will have a big knock on effect on the budget of the Archbishops Council, a large proportion of which goes on clergy training.

None of this was a problem in itself, just the inevitable result of the growth we had prayed and worked for - but the money will have to be found for this investment in the Church's future.

Next we moved into a long session of legislative business which was to take up the rest of the morning and the greater part of the afternoon.

This was detailed work with many amendments, and many counted votes (using the electronic voting machines that are used for synod votes, either when a show of hands is inconclusive, or when, as with today, the nature of the business, to do with legislation, requires a counted vote). Our business was  all part of the simplification process designed to cut our unnecessary red tape and better equip the church for mission.

In one of these debates I got to make a speech - I didn't have one planned, but the opportunity presented itself to support an amendment I felt strongly about, namely, making voting for General Synod in the house of laity, more fair, and more proportionate.

Unfortunately, none of us who spoke were able to make the synod change its mind on this occasion, though, later Bermondsey's Adrian Greenwood, achieved success with a (very sensible) amendment that he tabled. So 1-0 to Bermondsey.

After all the legislative business, a very good debate followed on the long term sustainability of the National Health Service, after which synod unanimously passed the motion that had been tabled. Once again we benefited from in-house synod expertise, with many speakers testifying to many years experience working in the NHS, often in senior positions.

Sadly, we run out of time for the debate on the work of the Evangelism Task Force. I, as well as many others, had prepared a speech on this, but this will now have to wait for the February group of sessions in London.

Supper followed, and then I went to a fringe event, Setting God's People Free, about 7 day a week discipleship.

In the midst of all this a highlight of the day was the funny and moving address by the visiting Archbishop of South Asia, Moon Hing, delivered just after we returned from lunch.

It takes twelve hours to fly across his province which has a population of 500m, only one per cent of whom are Christians. But the Church is alive and growing, and committed to intentional discipleship.

They have planted 100 new churches in recent years, and are adding 10,000-12,000 new members each year. It was stirring stuff and encouraging to us back here in what the Archbishop called 'the mother church' of the communion.

And so ended a busy synodical day, but first let me tell you about Mr Freeman. It is a curious feature of synod rules that debates can only be ended by a motion proposed from the floor.

It is Mr Freeman's long accustomed role to perform that function for synod members. 'Point of Order, Mr Chairman, John Freeman, Chester 278. May I tempt you to a motion of closure on item number xx' is the familiar cry that rings out from synod. Sometimes the chair wants to hear more speeches, but often Mr Freeman times it just right.

Or sometimes the chair says 'after the next speaker I would like to hear from Mr Freeman.' We all know what that means and we once again bless the name of Mr Freeman.

Not even John can help us on certain debates, mainly ones affecting the Canons of the Church where no motion of closure can be made, and the debate must continue until there is no one standing to speak.

We had several of those situations today and then some of the sweetest words a synod member can ever hear come from the chair who says 'I see no one standing.' That means we can move to a vote. Sighs of relief all round. We can go and and have a cup of tea.

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