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Agenda for July 2012 General Synod

General Synod meets in July for final stages of women bishops legislation, with an agenda that also includes world mission, church growth, the August 2011 riots, manifesting faith in public life, church schools, Palestine and Israel.

The General Synod will meet at York University from 5.15 p.m. on Friday 6 July until lunchtime on Tuesday 10 July. The meeting will be preceded by meetings of the House of Laity and the Convocations (provincial synods) of Canterbury and York at 2 p.m. on Friday 6 July.

The Agenda provides for the Synod to deal with the final stages of the major legislative process designed to make it possible for women to be bishops in the Church of England while also making some provision for those who, for theological reasons, will not be able to receive their ministry. If the legislation is approved, by simple majorities, by the House of Laity and the Convocations, the way will be clear for it to be presented for final approval on Monday 9 July. As with the women priests legislation in 1992, the whole of the morning and afternoon sittings has been allocated to the Final Approval debates. (See background Q & As).  

As in July 2011, part of the Saturday morning has been structured in such a way as to foster a culture of listening and reflection in the Synod. The groups that met last year, each comprising twelve members and led by a bishop, will reflect, in the context of worship, on a Bible passage and on the Church's contemporary mission.

This will be followed by a debate on the role of mission agencies and on partnership between the Church of England and other churches of the Anglican Communion.

The mission theme will continue on the Saturday evening with a debate on the 'fresh expressions' movement, which encourages new ways of being the Church within the contemporary context, in the light of a joint Anglican-Methodist report which considers how these initiatives relate to the doctrinal understanding of what it is to be a church.

Further aspects of the Church of England's engagement with society - corporately and individually - will be considered on the Sunday and on the Monday. The Synod will debate a report on the Church's role in local communities in the context of the August 2011 riots and a Private Member's Motion expressing the conviction that it is the calling of Christians to manifest their faith in public life as well as in private. It will also receive a presentation on the report 'The Church School of the Future', which looks at ways in which the Church of England could extend its role in the education system, in the context of the current changes to that system.

On the Sunday afternoon the Synod will be invited to authorize new Eucharistic Prayers for use from 1 September at services at which there are significant numbers of children present - at a Communion service in a church school, for example.

The Synod will also debate a Private Member's Motion affirming support for the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, for agencies working for justice and peace in the region, and for Palestinian Christians and organizations that work to ensure their continuing presence in the Holy Land.

Other items of legislative business will be taken on the Saturday afternoon. These include the final approval of a draft Measure amending aspects of the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 and of a draft Measure giving the Church Commissioners power to make financial provision for the mission of the growing Diocese in Europe.

The Synod will also receive presentations on the annual reports of the Archbishops' Council and the Church Commissioners, and will be invited to approve the Council's budget for 2013. It will debate a Diocesan Synod Motion relating to the size of the committees that elect diocesan representatives to participate in the choosing of diocesan bishops.

If the Synod completes its consideration of the women bishops legislation in July, there will be no need for a third group of sessions in November, and this will therefore be final occasion at which the Archbishop of Canterbury will preside, with the Archbishop of York, at a meeting of the General Synod. Dr Williams will preach at the Eucharist in York Minster on the Sunday morning. The final business for the group of sessions will be a motion, to be moved by the Archbishop of York, expressing the Synod's gratitude to Dr Williams and offering him and Mrs Williams its best wishes for the future.

One item not on the Agenda for July is the Anglican Communion Covenant. The Business Committee publishes today its report on the voting in the diocesan synods on the draft Act of Synod adopting the Covenant. 18 diocesan synods voted in favour and 26 against, so this draft Act of Synod cannot be presented to the General Synod for final approval. As the report shows, the voting was quite close. The majority of Houses of Clergy (26) voted against, but the majority of Houses of Laity (23) voted in favour. Overall, of the 1516 members of houses of clergy who voted, 732 (48%) voted in favour and 784 (52%) voted against, whereas, of the 1813 members of houses of laity who voted, 960 (53%) voted in favour and 853 (47%) voted against. The Business Committee believes that it would be helpful for members of the Synod to have time to reflect on the position before the Synod debates the report and the Diocesan Synod Motions about the Covenant that have been passed by nine diocesan synods. These will therefore be debated not in July but at the next group of sessions after July.

Communicating Synod
Parishioners can keep in touch with the General Synod while it meets. Background papers and other information will be posted on the Church of England website (www.churchofengland.org) ahead of the General Synod sessions.

A live feed will be available courtesy of Premier Radio (accessible from front page www.churchofengland.org), and audio files of debates, along with updates on each day's proceedings, will be posted during the sessions.