Sunday, 8 July 2018

General Synod, York 2018 - Day 3

As the Sunday's of York Synod always do we started with Mass at York Minster.

Sitting behind me in the cathedral was the newly ordained the Rt Rev'd Viv Faull, Lord Bishop of Bristol. I knew Viv when she was Canon Pastor and Vice-Provost of Coventry so it was good to catch up with her. It must have been strange having just left as Dean of York to be back sitting the congregation.

After the minster in morning I had lunch (roast beef) with fellow Coventry representative Mthr Charlotte Gale before heading into this afternoon's sitting.

The afternoon kicked off with a presentation then a debate on the Church's investment strategy with regard to fossil fuels. The clear issue here was around whether it is better to be involved as an investor and drive the change or pull out. The Diocese of Oxford had moved an amendment to be dis-invested by 2020. A good debate on this tension was held. I think that the Church of England does have influence on these companies boards so I agreed that it would be unwise to set a target of 2020 as this would lessen influence as we'd be out of having any say after 2020. This amendment was lost. Canon Giles Goddard (Southwark) moved a further amendment suggesting that the date should be 2023. This was felt that this would give the time to allow proper engagement. The amendment and the motion passed.

A debate was held on the ethics of nuclear weapons. My view on this is that nuclear weapons are clearly a bad thing and it would be brilliant to get rid of them. The question is how? Unilaterally or multilaterally? I feel unilateral would be wrong as then if rogue states like North Korea develop weapons there would be no way to stop them using them as they would have a tactical advantage.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

General Synod, York 2018 - Day 2

Today's session started off with the Archbishop of York's presidential address. The full text of this may be found here.

Following on from this the synod moved on to the very important issue of safeguarding. A document (GS 2092) has been produced as the basis of this discussion.

Initially synod received a presentation from some abuse survivors before moving on to a debate.

It goes without saying that there is no doubt that the church has totally failed to live up to the standards expected of it and it is vital that the synod can make the culture change required within the church to make sure that it will not happen again and to find a way to help, in a way that is right for them, those to it did happen.

There were many excellent contributions to this debate, but I will mention only two.

Fr Andrew Dotchin (St Edmundsbury and Ipswich) in his speech mentioned a tweet from a friend :-
‘Church, we have got to stop introducing Safeguarding Training with comments like
“Sorry, I’m afraid we have to go through the boring safeguarding stuff, it’s the rules”
This is part of the problem.
Friends for as long as we see safeguarding as a chore and some kind of ‘necessary evil’ we will continue to allow darkness to grow in the home of light and the hope we are called to offer to a lost world will wither and die.
Jayne Ozanne (Oxford) asked what the church can do to victims to make reparations for what was done. An important question I think which needs to be asked more.

In the afternoon there was a number of seminars members could attend. Additionally the England vs Sweden football World Cup quarter final was shown on the big screen in the main synod chamber. (Clearly having synod in session helped as England cruised into the semi final - I wonder if it was down to the continuing praying presence that always happens when synod is in session)

I attended a session on Digital Evangelism. As well as covering the latest on a Church Near You and the 2018/19 Advent / Christmas / Epiphany campaign we saw a demo of the Alexa Church of England app

and heard some statistics about how it has been used.

Finally after the work of synod was over after diner I enjoyed a couple of pints with my friends and synod colleagues Ben Franks (Birmingham) and Fr Mark Bratton (Coventry)

Friday, 6 July 2018

General Synod, York 2018 - Day 1

Once again the odd collection of people that make up the members of The General Synod of The Church of England gathered at the University of York for the July group of sessions.

The central hall at the university where the synod meets has always been very very hot so I was not looking forward to it in this heatwave. However they seem to have improved the cooling system and it was quite pleasant in the synod chamber.

As ever the synod started off with greetings from Anglican and Ecumenical guests. Synod heard from The Most Revd Humphrey Peters, Bishop of Peshawar, Moderator and Primate of the Church of Pakistan. Bishop Humphrey told us about the issues facing the church in Pakistan and particularly the issues around the persecution of the church.

We then heard from The Archbishop of Central Africa and Bishop of Northern Zambia, The Most Revd Albert Chama. Archbishop Albert talked about working with the national government for peaceful, fair and free elections.

Finally Ralf Meister of the Evangelical Church in Germany, on behalf of the ecumenical guests spoke about the need to work together.
As usual the first substantive item of business on the agenda was the Business Committee report. This was given a bit of a hard time from floor around the decisions not to bring forward any private members motions to this group of sessions (aside from an contingency business item) and particularly around the issues of same sex relationships which the have been put on hold pending the production of the teaching document. This caused many synod members (including myself) to vote against or abstain on the business committee report. However it was still passed easily.

Following on from the business committee report we moved onto legislative business.

The items discussed were :-
Draft Amending Canon No 40 is quite interesting as it covers religious communities and how the new religious communities can have oversight from within the church.

Finally the session finished of with questions.

Later tonight is the ACiS (Affirming Catholics in Synod) group meeting.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Speech for The Cost of Citizenship motion at General Synod

Mr Chairman

Thank you for calling me to make my maiden speech on this item.

I’d like to thank Ben for bringing this motion forward today and am happy to support him.

While it is right that there should be a charge to apply for Citizenship this should relate directly to the actual costs of the application rather than an arbitrary figure, so I think it is right that we should call for the government to look at the figures and make them reflect a more realistic level.

We should also be clear also that this debate is not about migration, people applying for Citizenship are already here integrated in their communities speaking English (or perhaps for some Welsh or Scots Gaelic) and now want to fully become part of their adopted country.
And why shouldn't they? Being British is great and we should support and welcome those people who wish to join us in being British.

Please support this motion.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

General Synod, York 2015, Day 2

And so the second day of synod dawned.

After a good nights sleep in Alcuin College (the rooms are all en-suite now, not like my student days) I had an enjoyable Full English breakfast (one of the treats ofbeing away at Synod) in the Vanbrugh dining hall.

The mornings session consisted of a debate on presence and engagement, this was followed by dressing with various legislative matters.

After lunch I attended a very interesting workshop on Digital Evangelism. It looks like the church is (finally!) going to get to grips with this, and we'll be seeing updates and better integration of the websites and social media. And the websites at last will become mobile friendly.

There is also going to be training made available to the dioceses and parishes. I'll be urging my own diocese to take this up as Coventry's current digit offering is, not to put too much a point on it, distinctly sub par.

After this was the big debate of the day, Jayne Ozannne's private members motion against conversion therapy. After some extremely moving testimony in speeches from people  and some amendments including that  rare synod beast an amendment to an anmendment and multiple recorded votes by houses I am delighted to say that not only did synod vote to condemn conversion therapy we votes to call on the government to ban it.

Following the end of the days sessions and the evening meal, a very pleasant evening was spent on the terrace outside Vanbrugh College's bar drinking real ale overlooking the lake.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

General Synod, York 2015, Day 1

Thanks to Fr Mark Bratton the Rector of Berkswell who is one of Coventry's clergy members of synod I got a lift up to York and so was there in good time.

After the normal meeting up with people I'd not seen since February.

After opening worship, was a welcome to various visiting Anglican and Ecumenical guests, including the Bishop of Edinburgh how was warmly applauded by the majority of synod (although some hardline ConEvos seemed to think we should have invited a GAFCON schismatic bishop instead.) We then had a short speech of greetings from The Rt Rev'd Matti Repo, Bishop of Tampere of the Church of Finland. Reference was made to the Nordic churches' attitude on sexuality, at  present they are all more inclusive than the CofE

As usual the first substantive item was the business committee report.

During this there was a discussion whether members should have a code conduct. As someone who was a City Councillor on a met borough for 14 years, where there is a code of conduct for elected members I'm actually surprised this is even a discussion point.

The rest of the afternoon was pretty much taken up with the Archbishops' motion on "After the General Election a Still Small Voice of Calm"

There was an attempt to politicise this with various amendments such as reducing the voting age to 16 and introduction of STV, although the amendment Senegal to think this on its own would bring in PR without changes to multi member cobstituencies. Fortunately all the amendments were defeated.

One important issue raised in the speeches was how when parish priests become too partisan party political it can act as barrier to reaching people and hinder mission. I wholeheartedly agree with this point and would encourage certain clergy of my acquaintance to reflect on it.

In the end the motion overwhelmingly passed.

In my personal opinion this debate achieved nothing ave I think synod could have used it's time better, discussing much more important issues or extending the time on later debates

After dinner (lamb) there was a chance to attend fringe events ( I went to the GAS Human Sexuality Group meeting and then the Affirming Catholics in Synod [ACiS] group meeting) followed by a couple of enjoyable pints in the Vanburgh bar, before heading back to my room on the outer reaches of the campus known as Alcuin College.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Best Man's speech at the Wedding of Kevin Foster and Hazel Noonan

Ladies and Gentlemen, and I suppose MPs as well,, we all know why we are here today. It's is a very special day. As we all know today is World Gin Appreciation day!

No, no, I am mistaken we are here to celebrate Kevin and Hazel being joined in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.

I first met Kevin when I was chairman of City of Coventry Conservative Future and he was chairman of the Warwick University branch. Despite that fact that he was attending Coventry’s second university we became firm friends and served together on Coventry City Council for a number of years including the opportunity to be the cabinet together and I served as Kevin’s Chief Whip when he was Leader and deputy leader.

Kevin was my best man when I got married and it is an honour to return the favour. Although any chance of a stag do was wrecked by a certain national event that happened a couple of days ago.

It is lucky that the General Election was not next week otherwise Kevin would have had a leafleting and canvassing session rather than a reception!

I’m sure we are all delighted Kevin was re-elected to parliament with a hugely increased majority, which is wholly down to the fact he is such a hard working representative.

Although I met Kevin when he was at university in Coventry he, like me, was a first generation immigrant to Coventry and originally came from Plymouth.

As he always remained a Devonian in his heart it is no surprise that his second love, politics, brought him back here to be the MP.

I say his second love of course, because his first love is Hazel whom he married today. Even if he didn’t realise that for a while!

I first met Hazel on a hit squad delivering leaflets. (it is amazing how many different people you meet over leaflets as a political activist) That year, 1999, was also the year we both first stood for the council, although we both had to wait another year to actually contest a seat successfully.

When Hazel took the first Cheylesmore seat off the Labour party she was keen to take the other two as well so turned to Kevin to do so. It’s wonderful that years later these two former ward colleagues have decided to become life colleagues. That’s what an interest in politics does for you. Certainly we all wish them a landslide of happyness!

I’d like to thank Fr John and the team at St Mathias for such a good service today. St Matthias was the Apostle chosen by lot to replace Judas. We are all glad there were no lots needed last Thursday! I believe Kevin is involved with parish, so well done for managing that. When I first met Kevin he told me on a Sunday morning he religiously observed his lie in.

If you believe what you see in Disney movies then marriage is all about bluebirds dropping showers of hearts on you. In real life marriage is not like. There will always be disagreements. Indeed in the Chronicles of Narnia, the great theologian and philosopher CS Lewis wrote “They had many quarrels, but they always made up again: so that years later, when they were grown up they were so used to quarreling and making up again that they got married so as to go on doing it more conveniently.”

Marriages work when two people are so atuned to other, and their souls are so connected that the bumps in the road are just that an annoyance that is easily overcome rather than something that throws you totally off course. Anyone who looks at Kevin and Hazel can see that this is the case with them and I wish them many happy years together.

Ladies and Gentlemen: The Bride and Groom.