21 January 2008
Major debates on detention without charge, mental health issues and casinos will be on the agenda of the General Synod when it meets at Church House, Westminster, from Monday, February 11, to Thursday, February 14, 2008. There is a large programme of legislative business, the most substantial item being the Revision Stage of the Clergy Terms of Service legislation. Synod will have further opportunity to debate the Anglican Communion Covenant and Senior Church (Crown) Appointments, following earlier debates in July 2007, and there will also be a focus on Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue.
Detention without Charge
This debate will be on a motion that raises three issues about the balancing of the demand for security from terrorist attack with the protection of civil rights and liberties. They are the proposed extension of the 28-day limit on pre-charge detention, the use of control orders and issues raised by the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
The debate will address the need to improve mental health services in hospitals and in the community, and will challenge both the Government and Church to deepen their engagement in this area. It will be framed within the context of the 2007 Mental Health Act, and will also call for better treatment of people with mental disorders in relation to the criminal justice system.
The Synod will have the opportunity of debating, in the context of a Private Member’s Motion from Tom Benyon (Oxford), the subject of gambling, with specific reference to the Government’s stance in relation to the opening of casinos and the sharp increase in public spending on gambling.
Clergy Terms of Service
This legislation reaches its key Revision Stage. Following its introduction at the February 2007 Group of Sessions, various amendments have been made by the Revision Committee. After taking note of the Committee’s report the draft legislation will be considered in detail by the Synod. The draft legislation, which involves changes to the traditional ‘parson’s freehold’, provides for parsonages (for incumbents who hold office under common tenure) to vest in parsonages boards. Property matters, such as this, have been the subject of a number of representations by Synod members to the Revision Committee.
Other legislation includes provision to give effect to the recommendations in the review of parochial fees conducted on behalf of the Archbishops’ Council by the Deployment, Remuneration and Conditions of Service Committee (DRACSC).
Anglican Communion Covenant
In July, the Synod agreed a process for producing a response to the proposal for a Draft Covenant for the Anglican Communion. The House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council subsequently considered a Church of England response, putting forward proposed revisions to the Draft Covenant. This was agreed by the Archbishops and submitted to the Covenant Design Group at the end of last year. The Archbishop of York will invite the Synod to take note of the Church of England response.
Also in July, the Synod reached some decisions about senior appointments in the light of Talent and Calling (the report of a Review chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling) and of the Government’s Green Paper The Governance of Britain (which indicated that the Prime Minister would no longer exercise choice in senior church appointments). The Archbishops subsequently issued a consultation document that invited, by December, views on a number of key points. In the light of those responses, their discussions with the Government and consultation with the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council, the Archbishops will be tabling proposals as to how these Crown appointments should now be made. The Archbishop of Canterbury will move the motion.
Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue
The Council for Christian Unity will bring forward a major recent document in the area of Anglican-Roman Catholic theological dialogue: the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) report, Growing Together in Unity and Mission. This is the first major report of a body set up on the initiative of Archbishop George Carey and Cardinal Cassidy (the then President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity). The report, which is presented as an Agreed Statement, sets out areas of theological convergence and flags up currently unresolved issues that require further work between the two communions. It also sets out a range of recommendations for practical collaboration between Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops.
The Synod will be asked to debate a motion from the Diocese of Durham requesting the House of Bishops to consider the preparation of a Eucharistic prayer suitable for occasions when a significant number of children are present. Durham Diocese notes that the growing number of schools admitting children to communion before confirmation has added to the pressure for child-specific Eucharistic material.
There is also a Private Member’s Motion from Tim Cox (Blackburn) inviting the Synod to ask that anyone entering a church should have ready access to one of the versions of the Bible referred to in a note produced by the House of Bishops in 2002.
There will be a Presidential Address from the Archbishop of Canterbury, during which he will refer to the situation in Zimbabwe.
This will be the first Synod when the new electronic voting system will be in operation.
Parishioners can keep in touch with General Synod while it meets. Background papers and other information will be posted on the Church of England website (www.cofe.anglican.org) ahead of the General Synod sessions. Audio files of debates, along with updates on the days’ proceedings will be posted during the sessions.