General Synod digest: Agenda and Ghana discussed

November 26, 2021
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Business Committee report.

INTRODUCING the Business Committee’s report on Tuesday afternoon, the chair of the committee, Robert Hammond (Chelmsford), said that the past quinquennium had been one of the most unusual that anyone could imagine, owing to the pandemic. Meeting via Zoom had been hard and unsatisfactory, he said, and it was a pleasure to be with one another in person once again.

More people had stood for election this time than ever before, and about 60 per cent of the current Synod were attending a session for the first time. Mr Hammond urged members to be respectful of others’ views and pointed to the voluntary code of conduct available online.

Moving to the agenda, he said that there had been calls for an emergency debate about the situation in Ghana, and said that the Archbishop of Canterbury was ready to speak on this, if called.

Archbishop Welby rose to address the controversy about his conversations with the Church in Ghana. “As I said in my first statement, which still stands, homophobia, including the criminalisation of LGBTQ+ people, is always wrong in any context.”

Moments later, at the instigation of the Prolocutor for Canterbury, Canon Simon Butler, LGBT Synod members wearing signs saying “imprisonable in Ghana” stood to protest against the law and Archbishop Welby’s response (News, 19 November).

During further debate on the report, Helen King (Oxford) asked why the Hereford diocesan-synod motion had been set aside in favour of the Leeds one. Was this due to the moratorium on deferring anything asking about the Living in Love and Faith process? “How long is the list of topics that we are not allowed to discuss?”

Canon Simon Talbott (Ely) urged that momentum on reforming the Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) be kept up. He thanked the Business Committee for mentioning this, and urged it to make sure the timetable did not slip. “Your clergy need this Measure to be amended.”

Canon Priscilla White (Birmingham) was pleased to hear that there would be engagement with the new Racial Justice Commission during this Synod, but asked whether there could also be a timely discussion on the Archbishops’ Council’s decision not to implement an earlier recommendation to create racial-justice officers in each diocese (News, 16 July).

Peter Bruinvels (Guildford) said that there was still a need for a hybrid Synod, online and in-person. “I do not wish to see fellow colleagues being excluded because of Covid,” he said. He also reported problems with the new online system for voting for the Synod, and raised concerns about the personal manifestos from some candidates.

Sam Margrave (Coventry), agreeing, spoke of his deep concern about the exclusion of disabled people. He asked the committee to seek legal advice on whether the Equality Act on inclusion of disabled people applied to the Synod. He also criticised the lack of time set aside in the agenda for substantive debate and questions.

Debbie Buggs (London) noted that the official reports for the February, April, and July sessions of the Synod had yet to be published and asked for an update.

The Revd Sam Maginnis (Chelmsford) supported Canon Talbott’s comments on the CDM, but was concerned at the lack of an independent human-resources specialist presence on the committee steering reform of the Measure.

The Synod took note of the report.

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