Saturday, 5 July 2008

Reporting on Manchester Reporting on the Manchester Report. UPDATED

Leaving my tent in the York Press Camp on my eco-friendly transport for another days reporting.

Synod members met in their small groups this morning at 9,30, then joined the greater assembly at 11am for the beginning of the Great Women Bishops Debateathon. It was thought by many that Terry Wogan should have been presenting it, being used to long nights of commentating on all sorts of questionable entertainment, but alas he was not available. The debates have been very sedate so far, but of course the crunch comes after lunch on Monday when the issue goes to the vote. Bishop Nigel of Manchester, chairman of the group which compiled the Manchester Report on the possible options for making provision for those who in conscience cannot accept the ministry of women Bishops, has just voiced a great fear.
He suggests that it would be terrible if the synod just ignored the report and decided not to vote at all on women Bishops, preferring to wait a few years in the hopes that things will be clearer (read 'anglo-Catholics all dead'). "We are aware of those who argue that now is not the right time, that there are too many other difficult issues around, that the balance of arithmetic within the Church may be different in a few years time'', he said, followed by "But the fact is of course that any legislative process is going to take several years to complete even if we take the first steps now." He added: "I think the one thing that we would all be sad about would be if this Synod on Monday simply were to kick the whole thing into touch."
This is, of course, a great fear, as Synod seems unnaturally cautious and on tenterhooks this year, presumably already saddened at the GAFCON not-a-schism-schism and anxious to avoid any more if they can help it. There is a mood to 'get Lambeth out of the way' and then come back to the debate. What a waste of time and effort all this would be! Bishop Nigel is right, women Bishops must be voted in now and provision made for us now, otherwise we stay in this ridiculous vacuum for another few years. We will see how things develop after tea.
Here is an outline of the work of the Synod this afternoon, once again courtesy of the Church Society. We shall become more involved as the debate focuses more on the women Bishops issue.
Final business of the afternoon was the Vacancy in See Regulations. Mostly this was tidying up the regulations but one matter related to the composition of the Diocesan reps on the Crown Nominations Committee for the appointment of a Bishop. The concern is that in some cases all the clergy places from the Diocese (at most 3) are taken by senior staff and it was stated that in 2 of the last 5 appointments this had been the case. In some Dioceses senior staff (Suffragan Bishops, Archdeacons and the Dean) can make up a substantial part of the Vacancy in See Committee. An amendment was passed, despite resistance from some Bishops, to ensure that no more than one member of senior staff could be appointed.
The Synod considered three broad changes to the involvement of the Crown in appointments. In each case the Archbishop of York read out a statement from the Queen stating that she was content for the Synod to make a decision in these matters.
The change relates to the appointment of Suffragan Bishops. The existing system requires that two names be submitted although for the past century it has been the understanding that the Prime Minister would advise the Queen to opt for the first. In line with the practice for Diocesan Bishops it is proposed that only one name be submitted, a request which came from the Prime Minister. Two people will be chosen but only one name put with the second as a fall-back if for some reason the first declines.
The second change relates to those parishes where the Queen, Lord Chancellor or Prince of Wales are the patron. Apparently this amounts to 8% of all parishes. Parish representatives have no formal say in these appointments and the proposed change will give them formal rights. However, it became clear that unlike other parishes presentation does not lapse to the Archbishop after 9 months. Therefore, whereas in most parishes the reps are only consulted after the 9 month deadline in the case of Crown livings it appears that they will have a perpetual power of veto.
The third change relates to patronage when an incumbent is made a Diocesan Bishop (patronage currently passes to the crown) or the exercise of Bishop’s patronage during a vacancy in See (which also passes to the crown). In the former case the patronage will remain with the normal patrons and in the latter another Bishop or someone else will be designated to exercise the patronage.
Debate began on an amendment to the Pensions Measure which was uneventful.
It is raining very heavily in York accompanied by thunder and lightning.
Synod debated the Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Measure. There was an initial debate on the report of the Revision Committee. Then followed several amendments most of which went through without debate but one was put to a vote because it appears to allow an exceptional circumstance in which a Priest-in-Charge could be removed from office without the proper procedures being followed. This was nevertheless passed by Synod.
The Final Approval debate then took place and the Measure was passed with only minimal opposition from Clergy and Laity. The Measure will now pass to Parliament and the work on Regulations and Codes of Practice will begin to be put to General Synod next year. Once enacted this will mark the beginning of the end of the ancient practice of clergy freehold and introduce a new concept of Common Tenure which the Measure, Regulations, Codes, use and abuse will define.
The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, gave his presidential address. During the course of this he gave a warm commendation of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the wake of criticism of the latter at the recent Global Anglican Futures Conference in Jerusalem. Sentamu spoke about the fact that the Church is not made of perfect people but of those who are imperfect and how we ought not therefore to be seeking to turn other people out. This is all very well but ignores the rather obvious fact that discipline is a mark of a true Church and indeed that later in the afternoon the Synod would be asked to approve legislation which allows clergy to be turned out of their office. Therefore it is not a matter of whether there should be discipline but on what grounds.