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Secretary of State for International Development to address February General Synod

Mission, human relationships, social issues, worship and ecumenical relations will be major themes in a challenging and broad ranging Synod agenda

The agenda for the February Sessions of the General Synod, February 9-13, is probably the most extensive and demanding for several years and includes two groups of related debates.
One group includes debates on church planting and fresh expressions of Church, followed by the Review of the Dioceses and Pastoral Measures, and the Strategic Spending Review. All these debates have a strong mission emphasis.

The second group includes three debates that explore aspects of human relationships and sexuality. The report of the Doctrine Commission, which examines themes of time, power, sex and money, helps to provide a context within which the following debates on Some Issues in Human Sexuality and Cohabitation may be set.

Mission Shaped Church: church planting and fresh expressions of Church
This major report, from the Mission and Public Affairs Council, looks at developments in church planting since l994 and at fresh expressions of Church, as new patterns of church community are established in the context of contemporary society.

Review of Dioceses and Pastoral Measures
The Review seeks to strengthen the operation of the Dioceses Measure and to simplify, devolve and make more flexible the operations of the Pastoral Measure, thereby making the procedures for the reorganisation of dioceses and parishes more effective.

Strategic Spending Review
This review was set up jointly by the Church Commissioners and the Archbishops' Council. It comes to Synod as part of an extensive consultation process. The consultation document can be seen at www.cofe.anglican.org/commissioners/articles/spendingreviewfinalreport.doc

Doctrine Commission Report: Being Human
The latest report from the Doctrine Commission explores a Christian understanding of what it is to be human, illustrated with reference to the themes of power, money, sex and time.

Some Issues in Human Sexuality
This report works within the parameters of the House of Bishops l991 statement Issues in Human Sexuality. It is a study guide designed to complement Issues, and is intended as a resource to enable people within the Church to understand these complex and sensitive issues and to reflect more deeply upon them. The Synod will be asked to commend the report for study and reflection.

Cohabitation
This debate will be on a motion passed by the York Diocesan Synod in 2002, before the Government's present intentions were known. The York motion would encompass opposite-sex partnerships. By contrast, the Government has published a Civil Partnership Bill, which will centre upon a registration process for people in committed same-sex partnerships. The debate is therefore particularly timely.

Asylum
This is another timely debate as the Government's Asylum Bill will be before Parliament. The Government's proposals are primarily concerned with the appeal process and the use of legal aid but they also provide a framework for the removal of support from families, in extreme circumstances, who are able but unwilling to return home once they have exhausted the appeals process. The debate is sponsored by the Mission and Public Affairs Council.

HIV/AIDS
HIV/AIDS is a global epidemic, which threatens human life, dignity and development; whilst it is a global problem, it is having a disproportionate impact on Africa, where its spread has undermined communities and reversed national economic and social development.

The debate provides an opportunity for Synod to consider the HIV/AIDS pandemic but with a particular focus on ways in which support can be given through the Church's mission and development agencies, diocesan companion links and the wider Anglican Communion generally.

The debate will be preceded by an address from the Rt Hon Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for International Development.

Worship
There are three items of liturgical business, the major item being the proposed Common Worship Ordinal, which will provide forms of service for the ordination of deacons, priests and bishops.

Ecumenical Relations
This debate, sponsored by the Council for Christian Unity, will provide Synod with an opportunity to consider the work of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), with special reference to the l999 report The Gift of Authority. The Council proposes that this report should be considered as a continuation of the statements on authority which were considered by Synod in l986, and that contentious doctrinal issues should continue to be studied in the context of the developing, lived relationship between Anglicans and Roman Catholics, as reflected in local ecumenism and inter-church dialogue.

Clergy Terms of Service
The first phase report of the Review of Clergy Terms of Service will be debated. The Review has examined the terms under which clergy without freehold hold office and recommended a new package of rights and responsibilities to include church legislation to provide greater job security for those clergy and to clarify their duties.

There will also be a substantial amount of legislative business, including the revision stage for the Synodical Government reform process. Altogether, the Synod promises a full and demanding agenda with a wide range of outward-looking debates, as well as the fruits of several key reviews which aim to streamline the Church's procedures and equip it for mission.