Here is the Area Council report from this years General Synod
General Synod started as usual with a Eucharist and then each morning there was morning prayer and business closed with evening prayer. My first Synod had been the one where the final decisions relating to the Canon on marriage which engendered lively debate. Last year things got heated related to quota so I really wondered what would stimulate much discussion this year.
The main underlying themes running through the proceedings were dialogue and reconciliation.
There were some very interesting presentations and also some troubling ones. Some pedantry over grammar and also over word choice.
Some Canons are in the process of review so will be coming to Synod in the future and hopefully a review of gender usage is to be presented to the Faith and Order board in an attempt to make the language used by the church in the liturgy more gender neutral, as well as the planned review of the liturgy. Not all for next year!!
The church’s attitude and that of society towards gender both in the UK and globally is as we all know a work in progress and this became more apparent following presentations on Saturday from the representative to the 63rd UN Commission on Women in Society in New York and then from one of the members of the Provincial Youth Committee who had attended ACC-17 in Hong Kong.
I would also like to mention the very lively debate relating to proposed revision of the Ethical Investment policy. The original motion from the Investment committee was defeated and an amended motion from the floor was passed which requires the committee actively to look towards a much more comprehensive ethical investment policy plan. This obviously won’t happen overnight but at least it was a move in the right direction. As speakers said the church should be seen to be looking after God’s creation. There was a report in the Church Times the next day about the decision.
One presentation, from the Personnel Committee, I found along with many others to be extremely worrying. Following on from an item at last year’s Synod, an anonymous survey was carried out of both Stipendiary and Self supporting clergy relating to clergy wellbeing and some of the responses were troubling. 39% of stipendiary clergy felt they had experienced bullying or harassment over the last 12 months. Some did not feel supported by their gestures. Around 70% felt there was not a good enough work/life balance (trying to have 1 day off a week). Not all doom and gloom though as 80% of stipendiary clergy said they enjoyed ministry within the SEC. Another session I enjoyed was a Bible Study and then group discussions relating in a general sense to reconciliation.
The Information and Communication board was dissolved after dissent last year and also discussion at Diocesan Synods this year. Essentially the board felt it served no purpose now and was basically defunct.
Canon 4 relating to episcopal election is also to be reviewed.
The importance of Safeguarding was emphasised and it was also highlighted that Officers should be reporting to vestries regularly (tick for us). In a recent survey some charges had 3 or 4 “red flags” come up.
I’ve already mentioned the CSW presentation and the PYC spoke about their various roles in church life and the impact and effect these have had. Both Rebecca Cromwell and Rebecca Fleming are representing the SEC at Kirchentag in Germany this summer.
By far the outstanding speaker for me and I think many others was the address to Synod by Imam Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi, Director-General and Chief Imam of the Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society. His whole address to Synod can be found on the SEC website and I would recommend that you access it. He was such a humble, gently spoken, learned man who along with other activities lectures about Ethics, Theology and Spirituality. His familiarity with the Bible was so apparent. He sees the teachings of Jesus as infallible, since in Islamic belief He is a prophet like Mohammed and so we all should love our neighbours – a teaching in both religions. He said he often reads the sermon in the mount and that the importance of dialogue comes through in both the teaching of Jesus and Mohammed. In times of difficulty, argument and tension, there is less dialogue and so people become more insular, less understanding and less ready to listen to someone who does not think the same way. He was truly inspiring and a man of great faith.
The social side was not lost!! It was good to meet people only seen once a year and to make new acquaintances. There was a Provincial dinner on Thursday evening and on Friday we had a Diocesan dinner so one way or another both body and soul were fed.
I feel privileged to represent the laity of the diocese and if anybody wishes to see the papers, either financial or the general ones, please get in touch with me.