31 October 2000
Her Majesty The Queen will inaugurate the Seventh General Synod of the Church of England in Church House, Westminster, on Tuesday, 14 November. The inauguration ceremony will follow a Eucharist in Westminster Abbey at which the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, will preside and the Revd Dr Alister McGrath, Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, will preach.
[Almost half] the members of the new Synod have been elected to it for the first time. Among issues they will consider in the five years ahead are the result of Formal Conversations on unity with the Methodist Church, the further marriage of divorced people in church and the theological questions surrounding the possible consecration of women as bishops.
Themes for the New Quinquennium
This first meeting of the new Synod will begin its work with a scene-setting debate on a report by the Archbishops' Council suggesting four themes as a focus for the Council's work over the next five years. The four themes, which are intended to help the Church respond to current challenges, are:
- engaging with social issues, including helping the poor and building the Church's contribution to the nation's education system;
- co-ordinating a strategy for evangelism;
- welcoming and encouraging children and young people on their spiritual journey;
- developing the ministry of lay and ordained people.
The Council's report sets out a number of practical proposals to help deliver these themes. The Synod will be asked to comment on the themes and to help the Council develop them.
Two pieces of legislation carried over from the lifetime of the previous Synod will be considered further. The Clergy Discipline Measure - which introduces new disciplinary arrangements for the clergy - will be proposed for final drafting and approval. The Synodical Government (Amendment) Measure - which includes provisions altering the arrangements for the election of lay representatives to the Parochial Church Council - will be considered at revision stage.
Review of the Church Urban Fund
Three important justice issues are to be debated by the Synod. The first concerns the future of the Church Urban Fund (CUF), which over the last 13 years has awarded grants of £37 million to projects in urban communities. The Fund was originally set up with a limited life and the question now facing the Church is whether and, if so, how the Fund's life can be extended, A review chaired by the Bishop of Bradford has made proposals to extend the Fund's life indefinitely. The Archbishops' Council is recommending to Synod that the Trustees of the Fund (who are legally responsible for it) should be asked to conduct a feasibility study as a matter of urgency to see if the Fund's life can be extended at least until 2010 and possibly thereafter.
Follow-up to the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry
Racial justice is the second justice issue before the Synod. The Archbishops' Council is seeking Synod's support for the issue to be focused in the second stage of an action plan designed to bring more minority ethnic Anglicans into the ministry and leadership of the Church. The debate will be an opportunity for Synod to reflect on the challenges posed by the report of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry.
Iraq: A Decade of Sanctions
The third justice issue concerns sanctions against Iraq. The tenth anniversary of these sanctions has brought their effect on the Iraqi people back into prominence. In a carefully-worded motion - which follows a senior church leaders' visit to Iraq in 1999 - the Bishop of Selby (Chairman of the Church's International and Development Affairs Committee) will invite the Synod to recognise that, while the humanitarian crisis in Iraq is the result of its leaders' action, sanctions are not working and a new approach is needed.
Diocesan Synod Motions
The Synod will also debate two motions brought forward by diocesan synods. A motion from Southwell asks for a new name for non-stipendiary ministers (preferring the term 'self-supporting ministers'). One from Bristol asks the House of Bishops to make a clear-cut national decision as to whether confirmation before communion should remain the norm or whether communion before confirmation should become standard. (Under present House of Bishops' guidelines, confirmation before communion is the norm but communion before confirmation may be authorised by a diocesan bishop in certain circumstances.)
The inaugural meeting of the new Synod will close with an address by the Archbishop of Canterbury, in which he will share with the Synod something of his vision of the Church's future.