Pre-Synod Meeting

Crossed to the dark south side of the city last night for our pre-synod meeting. This is where General Synod members from the Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway go through the synod agenda and mull it over before actually going to synod to do the business in a fortnight.

This year promises to be quite a technically complex synod. There are a lot of changes to canon law being considered and it seems that we are not all of one mind about them all.

There seemed to be quite a small turn-out last night, which is a bit worrying. I find it immensely helpful to hear what others from the diocese think before actually going to synod. There are always views that you don’t expect to hear and it is fascinating hearing people try to articulate why they do or do not agree about things.

This year there are several obvious points of interest. Canonically, we are looking again at congregational status. The idea is that Independent congregations would become incumbencies, those who are priests in charge would all become rectors and as if by magic sleight of hand, it will then be possible to link congregations together in a sensible way. I approve of the latter strongly, but find it hard to understand why all the changes are necessary.

There is a similar complex issue about the church trying to identify who its members are. This sounds easy, but the truth is, we have little idea. Not everyone who thinks of themselves as an Episcopalian appears on any church roll. Not everyone who appears on a church roll thinks of themselves as belonging to the Episcopal church. Trying to sort this out brings about new anomalies.

Then there is a debate to be had about Local Collaborative Ministry and related matters. My latest on this is that I believe in an increasingly participatory ministry but am not yet convinced by the Whole Total Full Body Ministry of All the Baptised People of God.

And finally, we are getting a real substantive vote on the Anglican Covenant proposals. Motion 3 this year is stated thus:

That this Synod affirm an ‘in principle’ commitment to the Covenant process at this time (without committing itself to the details of any text).

This is going to be difficult. I suspect that like a lot of people who will be at synod, I want to vote for the motion which follows this one, which commits us to engage in the processes of the Communion by discussion and debate. But do you think my arm is going in the air to vote in principle in favour of the Covenant process?

Not in my name, Bishop Rowan. Not in my name.

I wonder whether we might be able to find an amended text for Motion 3 that will keep the church together and which we could all vote for.


  1. I think it will be a hard motion to amend. Does it not come directly from one of the questions all provinces have from Lambeth? I think we will be required to give a clear answer whether we would have chosen to frame it that way or not.

    I envy you the pre-synod meeting. I missed the one in my diocese this year, which is a shame, since I’d love to know how they got on given that the meeting took place before synod papers were distributed.

  2. I think that there is much we can learn from the American church. If the Anglican Communion Office ask a question which demands a yes/no response and we would find it more helpful to give a more nuanced one, then our response must be more nuanced. Anything less falls short of the truth.

    However, if the Motion does stand when it comes to Synod, the answer is clear.

  3. Away from the official business of your meeting – and concentrating on the first sentence of your posting – ,I think you found that the south side of Glasgow was quite sunny last night. Hope you remembered your passport to cross the river 😉

    However from my point of view – or more to the point – from the view out of the back of my house, I can see the whole panorama of Glasgow spread out.

    From an ex-south-sider who moved even further south – beyond the stockade?

  4. Beyond the Pale.

  5. Kennedy says

    Given that ++Rowan has said:

    ‘it is essential that those who come to Lambeth will arrive genuinely willing to engage fully in that growth towards closer unity that the Windsor Report and the Covenant Process envisage.’

    might not a refusal to move forward ‘in principle’ with the covenant cause our bishops some problems.

    Or do you envisage a some other mechanisms for ‘;closer unity’ that don’t involve a Covenant (a document and process I personally think is a waste of time and effort since it means different things to different people.)


  6. Thanks for your comment Kennedy. I don’t think that voting for or against Motion 3 can really impede the attendence of the bishops at Lambeth. We must be careful to read the words of Rowan Williams with caution and not be distracted from our deliberations by thos such as Tom Wright who seem to claim inner knowledge of the truth of those words.

    If Motion 3 were in actual fact a motion which would have the consequence of our bishops being disinvited to Lambeth, then it would have been bad faith not to make that explicit in the text.

    As it happens, if Motion 3 said, “This Synod believes that the Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church should attend the Lambeth conference” then I would also vote against. I don’t really think that it is helpful or wise of them to go. Their presence will be misunderstood. That is a view that I’ve kept more or less to myself until now and have only shared with one of them.

    However, go they will, and if they are going to go, we need to support them as best we can, bless them on their way and give them such clarity of the mind of the church as synod can express.

    Not in our name. Not in our name.

  7. Eamonn says

    I, too, have a problem with Motion 3. I don’t understand the concept of a process detached from an outcome. If we commit ourselves to the process, we are committing ourselves implicitly to some sort of result, which will either be one which large sections of the Church can’t accept, or one which is couched in such bland terms as to make one wonder why so much time and effort has been invested over the last five years.

    On LCM: perhaps it might clear the air if we used the terminology of discipleship rather than ministry to denote what all Christians are called to by virtue of their baptism. This would distinguish it from authorised ministries, which are characterised by (a) communal affirmation; (b) official endorsement through a rigorous selection process; (c) active involvement with Word and Sacrament; (d) episcopal commissioning by the laying on of hands.

    Nevertheless, there is an area of informal and unofficial activity which goes beyond the basic requirements of discipleship and which, in my view, merits the title ‘ministry’. If a person whose contribution is normally confined to baking scones or serving coffee sits down with someone who is troubled or distressed, and offers empathetic listening, advice and support, then that person should be encouraged to feel that s/he is taking part in the overall ministry of the Church. In many cases, of course, this would involve advising the distressed person to seek help from an authorised minister.

  8. Robin says

    Kennedy wrote:

    “Given that ++Rowan has said:

    “‘it is essential that those who come to Lambeth will arrive genuinely willing to engage fully in that growth towards closer unity that the Windsor Report and the Covenant Process envisage.’

    “might not a refusal to move forward ‘in principle’ with the covenant cause our bishops some problems.”

    I hope so!!!!

    Our Bishops should not go to Lambeth. To do so would be for them to become complicit in the war against gay people that is being waged in parts of the Anglican Communion and which ++ Rowan has done nothing to stop.

    The best Christian witness our Bishops could possibly give would be to say that they refuse to attend such a gathering.

  9. Kennedy says

    Bonnie Anderson of TEC has been considering the same sort of questions of the role of bishops and Lambeth


  10. Eamonn, please be careful. Because I know you, I am sure that you meant no harm by the phrase ‘confined to baking scones or serving coffee’, but it still made me flinch.

  11. Ryan Dunne says

    I fail to see what benefits LCM offer that outweigh its drawbacks, and am curious what the imptetus behind it is. It’s a bit like when they diluted Batman’s appeal by giving him endless sidekicks :-).

  12. Well Ryan, without LCM, we would not have had the moon-landings nor ended world poverty.

    Or so it would sometimes seem.

  13. Eamonn says

    Oh dear! I have been infelicitous in my choice of words, Kimberly, and I am justly taken to task. What I was trying to say is that some members of congregations adopt a fairly passive approach to church membership, which doesn’t prevent some of the literature broadening the term ‘ministry’ to include activities ranging from the most mundane to core activities such as preaching, leading worship and leading intercessions. All contributions to the life of the congregation are valuable (and valued) in different ways, I know, but we need a terminology which respects the centrality and the indispensable character of the ministries of Word and Sacrament.

  14. Seems to me that Motion 3 carries too much assumption or reliance on the outcome of the Covenant process, as though its role is determined. That is where the `nuance’ is missing, in that the Faith & Order folks’ response was to think of a more positive document instead.

    I’d be tempted to vote against that motion as stated at this stage myself, for sure. Let all the primates play nice or not at all.

  15. Eamonn says

    How about this as an amended text for Motion 3?

    ‘That this Synod affirms its commitment to the fellowship of churches in the Anglican Communion and to the pursuit of agreement on matters of contention through discussion and debate via the consultative and synodical structures of the Communion.’

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