Thursday, 5 April 2007

A different report on the March Diocesan Synod

Ed: This is Trevor Ireland's personal report on Diocesan Synod. It includes some details not contained on the Diocesan website (see the Questions section, for example).

Report on Diocesan Synod AD 10th March 2007 - D. T. Ireland


The Bishop did not make a Presidential Address and Synod opened with prayer led by the Dean. In what has become known as the Good News slot we were told by Revd. Eric Fisher of a "Fresh Expression" of church in Great Oakley and Wrabness called Table Talk. With an adult/child split and concentrating on the Word with shared tea and worship it had produced the largest congregation for the church. Scripture Union notes were the basis of the teaching. Praise the Lord.

Synod was directed to a motion from Braintree Deanery (attached to my November '05 report), which has had to be re-submitted due to new Synod term beginning last November and is still gathering signatures. This is the motion which, if passed, will hold our bishops to the Gospel through the expression of Lambeth Resolution 1.10. If it is not passed it will, in my opinion, reflect a leadership and a synod which seeks the path to schism. If you advise your views to me I will endeavour to present them in debate.

Church Urban Fund
This fund was intended to exist for a specific period only, however, during its life it developed an excellent reputation and became the catalyst for other bodies to co-fund projects. The Diocese will re-launch the Fund with a project to raise money from wealthy people in the Diocese. Details will be sent to Deaneries whose only task will be to identify people for the Diocese to approach. It was recognised that the parishes themselves could not be expected to contribute.

Back To Church Sunday
We learnt the Church has managed to put 30% of Christians off going to church and Sunday 30th September has been designated as the Sunday to attract them back. See

The Bishop's Council Report DS(06)1 and Finance Committee report DS(06)2 were presented and received. Reports available if required.

Dr. Susan Aitkin, "Chair of Lay Chairs" asked, "Is it true that the ABp of Kenya refused to take Communion in Zanzibar at the recent Primates meeting on the grounds that he would not share the Eucharist with Presiding Bp Katherine Jefferts Schori and if so would the Bishop consider writing to him expressing disappointment that the Eucharist had been used in this way for apparently political purposes?

The Bishop would not be drawn to the suggested conclusion and a supplementary "Question" stated the obvious. The way this matter has been treated in the press shows ignorance and indeed mischief and I was distressed that it was raised in Synod.

Rev. Simon Smallwood referred to the Diocese of Lichfield's Strategy for Growth featuring an Evangelism Sunday and asked for the Bishop to do the same in our Diocese. The Bishop commented that every Sunday should be Evangelism Sunday. The Lichfield Strategy for Growth has been very successful and relevant in view of the next question from Rev Smallwood. In response to "Re Deanery Vision - any news on how the exercise is going? Is a coherent strategy emerging to help deaneries grow and develop?" we were told that it was too early for sound conclusions to be drawn.

Women and the Episcopate
Synod was asked to debate that this Synod:
1 Commends parishes to reflect on the issue of women and the episcopate.
2 Asks Deanery Synods to discuss the issue and to send feedback to the Chief Executive at the Diocesan Office by 30th November 2007.

We were addressed "for" and "against" respectively by Christina Rees and Prebendiary David Houlding before the issue was thrown open to the floor. I noted comments from many speakers. They fell into two categories. Those "for" were largely patronising and uncaring, those "against" despairing and resigned, apart from one which noted a significant increase in parishes petitioning for "C" status in their deanery. That we were allowed to discuss the underlying issue rather than the straight motion, with which one can have no disagreement, was a useful guide to the future in this and other social engineering matters currently facing the church. In summary if you are a traditional priest or a traditional congregation petition to become a "C" parish now. Put it on the agenda of the next PCC. Support your priest if it is an issue of conscience for him. If you do not, you will be treated as a "little local difficulty" with counselling for your consciences. There is apparently no room for Reception, Conscience or Theology.

The last voice from the floor asked, "was it Christian not to trust your church to handle the matter appropriately?" Perhaps Caesar aided by 23 out of 26 Bishops may exclude a right to conscience, but for mother church to do it ...

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