Wednesday 2 December 2015

General Synod November 2015

Papers relating to the November Group of Sessions are available on The Church of England Website.

Tuesday 24th November

Tuesday started with the official inauguration of the General Synod with a Mass in Westminster Abbey and the official opening speech afterwards by Her Majesty the Queen in the Assembly Hall

As the Queen was going to be present the security a Church House was tighter with a bag search on entry.

As synod members we all had to gather in cloisters of Westminster Abbey to form up in our dioceses to process into the abbey.

The Coventry Representatives on The General Synod The Coventry Representatives on The General Synod

The Eucharist was celebrated by The Archbishop of Canterbury and the sermon was preached by the Preacher to the Papal Household, Fr Raniero Cantalamessa.

Following the services we all trooped back to the Assembly Hall to hear Her Majesty's speech officially opening the synod.

After lunch in the afternoon the main work of synod began.

It kicked off with a presidential address to the synod from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Following this there was a report of the Business Committee.

This was followed by a report on the Reform and Renewal programme. This is a far reaching plan to shape the Church of England for the future. It will impact on areas of the church, and will no doubt for a large amount of the business over the next few years at synod. The timescale is for scrutiny by Synod of the Resourcing the Future and Resourcing Ministerial Education changes will take place in February 2016. Also in February Synod is expected to receive the legislative proposals for Simplification. As part of the process of legislative simplification consultation document on a new enabling measure was brought forward.

Finally supplementary questions to those previously submitted were asked.

Wednesday 24th November

After starting the day with worship the first item of the day was a motion to present a loyal address to the Queen.

This was followed by presentation from the Archbishop of York and Margaret Sentamu on Global Warming.

The assembly hall then filled for a debate debate on the migrant crisis.

What was of particular note was the Archbishop of Canterbury stating that the motion (as outlined on the order paper) could commit the Synod to supporting the use of force to protect migrants (and presumably potential migrants.)

The motion was passed with 333 in favour, none against and 3 abstentions.

Next the discussion turned to legislation with Ecclesiastical Judges, Legal Officers and Others (Fees) Order 2015 which helpfully came with an explanatory memorandum. Although this sort of work is not what comes to mind when you think of General Synod (if you have only seen the big debates on the TV or read about them in press) it is important work as part of the synod's legislative role.

This was followed by two reports on Public Perceptions of Jesus report (and booklet) and secondly the report of the Church Buildings review group.

Finally the Archbishop of Canterbury said farewell to William Fittall, Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council, who was attending his last meeting of the Synod and then progued the synod until the February group of sessions.

One last thing to do before heading to catch the train back to Coventry was a meeting of the House of Laity on it's own to hear from those wishing to stand as Chairman or Vice Chairman of the House and those standing for the Archbishops Council.

Such was my first group of sessions for General Synod. I very deliberately did not speak as I wanted to see how everything works first and get a feel for it. I will probably be making my maiden speech at the February sessions, but of course it depends on the debates, as there is not guarantee you will be called to speak on any debate, but on your maiden speech it is quite likely you will.

Monday 23 November 2015

General Synod Induction

Today I had my induction as a new member of the General Synod.

This mornings train was only five minutes late, but it reminded me of all the years I spent commuting to jobs in Northampton and Milton Keynes - so glad I don't have to do that anymore!

Got to Church House no problem at all, it wasn't my first visit as I was there some 16 years ago for the Archbishop of Canterbury's Millennium Youth Event "The Time of our Lives"

After getting my id badge and voting card (more on voting later) I went to the cloakroom to deposit coats and bags. Just like primary school I have my own hook in the cloakroom. Unlike primary school however it has a label with my synod number rather than a picture of a key!

Church House is a bit of a rabbit warren but is pretty well sign posted and there are also loss of people around to point out the right directions (and also scrutinising your I'd badge to check that you are a synod member and are allowed through that does!)

In the morning session, after starting with a short service of worship, we covered the role of General Synod, including the fact that as The Church of England is an established church we are the only body other than parliament that can make laws of the land (though I should point out that this is only in relation to the Church of England not secular matters!) We looked at the main roles of the Synod - as a legislative body, a deliberative body and holding the various church commissions and boards to account.

We got to try out the voting machines, very flash have an individual smart card which goes in a handheld device that looks a bit like a BlackBerry, then hit the appropriator button 1 for yes, 2 for no or 3 for with abstain.

Apparently if the electronic system ever fails we will to go back to the original system of voting by walking through doors.

Finally we ended the morning's session with a briefing from the Met Police on security matters at the Synod.

The afternoons session we had a dramatised example of (curtailed) debates / motions / questions / points of order with a running commentary just to give us a flavour of how it all hangs together. As sometime who was a local councillor for 14 years it all sounds straightforward.

Also in the afternoon we had presentations on the shared conversations on human sexuality from Canon David Porter whom I am used to hearing back home in Coventry Cathedral!

We also had a presentation on the reform and renewal programme from John Spense.

And that was induction. Tomorrow we have the inauguration with a service at Westminster Abbey and a speech by HM The Queen in the Assembly Hall before starting the season properly in the afternoon.

Sunday 22 November 2015

First General Synod Meeting Approaches

Following my election last month as one of the three lay members from the Diocese of Coventry to Church of England's General Synod (on my second attempt I stood five years ago and was not successful), I'll be heading down to London tomorrow for my first sessions.

It feels a bit like a cross between my first day at university (got an induction session on Monday, where we get ID cards, told about how the synod works and no doubt get told where the Church House loos are too!) and my time on the council (all the paperwork to read!)

Please remember all the General Synod members in your prayers especially us new ones!

Almighty God,
you have given your
Holy Spirit to the Church
to lead us into all truth:
bless with the Spirit's grace and presence
the members of the General Synod;
keep them steadfast in faith and united in love,
that they may manifest your glory
and prepare the way of your kingdom;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

(From the General Synod prayer card)

Sunday 26 July 2015

Petition calls for all 54 Coventry City Councillors to resign

A petition has been created by a resident of Tile Hill, Robin Elms, calling on all the city's councillors to resign.

Clearly this is not going to happen and Mr Elms would be better using his energies to run a campaign to get himself elected to the council.

This story has been making think about whether the current council setup is the best for purpose.

At the moment there is are 18 wards each with three councillors. Each ward has around 12,000 electors. This means that the electoral wards do not necessarily match local self identified communities. I represented Bablake ward from 2000 (when I was the youngest councillor) until 2014 and my former constituents didn't think of themselves as Bablake residents, but instead residents of Allesley or Keresley or Whitmore Park or Coundon. Indeed some of these areas are split between wards!

Also at the moment the council is elected by thirds so rather the whole council being up, one councillor in ward ward is up for election over a three year cycle with no elections in the fourth year. This can mean that it is impossible for the political control of the council to change before a vote has been cast!

I think the structure of the council needs to change to allow a greater connection between councillors and their communities and also to allow the chance of changing the council at every election (albeit at the cost of one election every four years rather than three every four)

So in summary the council should change to 54 single member wards of 4,000 people each rather than the current 3 member wards of 12,000. This would allow wards to match local communities better and also allow councillors to connect with their residents better. The council should also switch to all out elections every four years rather than the current election by thirds.

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Saturday 25 July 2015

Greece, the Euro and Sovereignty

It looks like the terms required for the Greek bailout have passed in their parliament. This of course happened after the Greeks had rejected similar terms in a referendum.

This has resulted in questions about where sovereignty lies and tweets with the hash tag #ThisIsACoup

While it is not a coup it does show that joining a currency union does have an impact on a nations sovereignty and underlines why a country needs it's own currency. It demonstrates the wisdom of the UK in keeping the pound, and it's good to note it appears to have stopped the argument about joining.

The other thing to note is the reaction that Greece might leave the euro generated. It clearly showed that there are those in EU who believe as an article of faith that there can be no moves away from European Integration. In February 2015 Jean-Claude Junker saidsaid (in French) "Il ne peut y avoir de choix démocratique contre les traités européens" or in English "There can be no democratic choice against the European treaties" By putting their articles of faith of European integration above democratic choices and economic facts they are just like flat earthers or young earth creationists who not only put their faith above recognised facts but reject generally accepted scientific fact in favour of pseudoscience. We listen to the pseudoscience of the European federalists at our peril.

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Sunday 28 June 2015

Coventry Healthy Churches and Same Sex Relationships

I have just had an interesting twitter exchange with Fr Martin Saxby the Healthy Churches Development Mentor in the Diocese of Coventry.

It started when he posted a link to an evangelical news site that appeared to compare euthanasia with homosexuality. When I called him out on this he said

@a_j_williams Turning away from God in any form, particularly by institutions, is a sign of a decaying society.

I asked him to clarify yes or no whether he thought homosexuality was a sign of a decaying society. His response :-

@a_j_williams My last tweet to you tonight: are you usually so aggressive? Yes or No?

Ignoring the fact this a standard response from somebody who does not want to justify themselves so prefers to attack their opponent (I believe the traditional version of this question is "When did you stop beating your wife") it is interesting that Fr Saxby refuses to respond to me despite the fact I am both Lay Chairman of a Deanery Synod and a member of the House of Laity of the Coventry Dioscean Synod.

While we all know there are bigoted priests out there what is particularly concerning about Fr Saxby is not only did he refuse to give me, a deanery lay chair and diocesan synod rep answer, his substantive post is Healthy Churches Development Mentor. Presumably Fr Saxby does not think gay and lesbian people belong in a healthy church.

I do not believe that people who are born with attraction to the same sex as themselves are sinners. I do not believe that someone who finds their life partner and enters into a life long relationship with someone who just so happens to be the same sex are sinners.

I believe a healthy church includes and celebrates the relationships of everyone, heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual and celibate. If Fr Martin Saxby, the Diocese of Coventry Healthy Churches Development Mentor does not support this he should resign.

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Thursday 23 April 2015

Happy St George's Day

St George was probably a soldier living in Palestine at the beginning of the fourth century. He was martyred at Lydda in about the year 304, the beginning of the Diocletian persecution, and became known throughout the East as 'The Great Martyr'. There were churches in England dedicated to St George before the Norman conquest. The story of his slaying the dragon is probably due to his being mistaken in iconography for St Michael, himself usually depicted wearing armour; or it may again be a mistaken identity representing Perseus's slaying of the sea monster, a myth also associated with the area of Lydda. George replaced Edward the Confessor as Patron Saint of England following the Crusades, when returning soldiers brought back with them a renewed cult of St George. Edward III made St George patron of the Order of the Garter, which seems finally to have confirmed his position.


God of hosts,
who so kindled the flame of love
in the heart of your servant George
that he bore witness to the risen Lord
by his life and by his death:
give us the same faith and power of love
that we who rejoice in his triumphs
may come to share with him the fullness of the resurrection;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Readings for today :

1 Maccabees 2. 59-64
2 Timothy 2. 3-13
John 15. 18-21

Taken from Exciting Holiness Collects & Readings for the Festivals & Lesser Festivals of the Calendar of the Church of England

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