[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] Ecumenism, the Anglican Communion, and legislation will dominate next month’s meeting of the Church of England’s general synod; but it is a “take-note” debate on human sexuality that is likely to dominate the headlines. On ecumenism, the Synod will consider the first draft of new legislation designed to simplify the way the C of E relates to other churches; and will also debate a motion on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon will address the Synod. And the House of Bishops will report back on their deliberations on human sexuality.
The Bishops of Norwich and Willesden, Graham James and Pete Broadbent, will report to the Synod on the work of the Bishops’ Reflection Group on Sexuality – that group was established last year following the completion of a process of shared conversations throughout the C of E. Synod members will then take part in group discussions before a debate on a motion that “the Synod do take note of [a] Report” from the House of Bishops. That report has not yet been published.
It will debate a proposal to replace the traditional banns of marriage with civil preliminaries. Currently, couples wishing to marry in church have their banns – formal notice of their intention to marry – read in the church they wish to marry in and where they reside or are on the electoral roll. The Revd Stephen Trott, from the Diocese of Peterborough, will use a private members’ motion to propose that legislation be introduced “to replace ecclesiastical preliminaries to marriage by universal civil preliminaries, such as those which have been in operation in Scotland since 1977, when banns were replaced by a Marriage Schedule issued by the civil registrar.”
And the Synod will consider a request from the Bishop of Leicester for their consent to him petitioning The Queen, as supreme governor of the Church of England, for the creation of a new suffragan see at Loughborough. Currently the Diocese of Leicester has no suffragan bishop. Under English ecclesiastical law, the creation of new bishoprics have to be approved by the Privy Council – an ancient law-making body which acts on behalf of the monarch – and requires the consent of the General Synod.
There will also be a debate on “Fixed Odds Betting Terminals” – high-stake electronic gaming machines which have become a popular fixture in Britain’s high streets in recent years. There has been widespread publicity of people losing thousands of pounds on the machines in a very short space of time. The Diocese of London wants to General Synod to call on the government to “reduce very substantially from £100 the maximum amount which may be wagered on a single game at such terminals in order to reduce the risk of harm to large numbers of vulnerable people.”
The C of E’s General Synod will meet in Church House, Westminster, London, from 13 to 16 February. The agenda and some of the papers have been published online. The remaining papers are expected to be published this coming Friday.