The General Synod of the Church of England, the church's governing body, meets in Westminster from 9 - 13 February 2009, with major issues on the agenda including the international financial crisis, human trafficking, asylum, the Church’s approach to the BNP, Anglican-Roman Catholic relations, and inter-faith issues.
'Internal' Anglican concerns which have gained a large public profile - notably the implementation of a commitment to consecrating women as bishops for the first time, and the the Anglican Covenant (designed to broker peace on disputed issues like human sexuality) - will also loom large.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is set to give a Presidential Address which will include a reflection on the recent Lambeth Conference and the recent Primates Meeting in Alexandria, Egypt.
On Tuesday 10 February the focus will be on the financial crisis, with a discussion featuring Dr Peter Selby, former Bishop of Worcester, whose book Grace and Mortgage asks deep questions about the church's economic engagement - and prefigured much recent comment on the unsustainability of debt, the dislocation of the fiscal economy, and the need to embed economics in social and moral community.
Also speaking will be Lord Griffiths, a former adviser to past Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and a Christian advocate of the kind of deregulated economy now coming under extensive criticism.
On Thursday 12 February the Synod will examine the challenges to the Church's ministry in the hardest-hit areas.
The General Synod comprises three 'houses', bishops, clergy and laity.
KEY SYNOD ISSUES
[Ekklesia, the religion and society thinktank, is available to comment on specific issues - including econmy, asylum, and the BNP.]
Monday 9th February
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster addresses C of E Synod with introduction by Archbishop of Canterbury, followed by debate on the report by the Second Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission on Church as Communion.
Tuesday 10th February
Morning: Presentation on five-yearly review of boards and councils. 'Radical review of the structures' anticipated.
Afternoon: Archbishop of Canterbury gives Presidential address. Private member’s motions:
Vasantha Gnanadoss (Southwark) asks House of Bishops for policy, comparable to that adopted by the Association of Chief Police Officers, that no clergy, ordinands or lay persons employed by church should be member of an organisation such as BNP.
International financial crisis. Andreas Whittam Smith (First Church Estates Commissioner) facilitates presentations with Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach and the Rt Revd Peter Selby.
Diocesan-synod motion from Chester, arising from airline employee refused permission to wear a gold cross. (C of E by its own admission used leverage of its BA shareholding to change decision). Motion asks for a clearer understanding of the Christian faith in society and claims of the Church to take its place in society.
Wednesday 11th February
Morning: First consideration of draft legislation for ordination of women as bishops. Synod must decide whether to send draft to a revision committee for detailed scrutiny. Would then come back to Synod for revision in February 2010. Then submitted to diocesan synods, and final approval debate likely in 2012. Then with two-thirds majority in each House of Synod, still has to go through Parliament. (Therefore unlikely to appoint woman bishop before 2014).
Afternoon: Synod to debate two private member’s motions, and one from a diocesan synod. Martin Dales (York) on “massive rises” in water bills for churches, wants Government to remind OFWAT to ensure water companies do not treat churches as businesses. Paul Eddy on 'uniqueness of Christ in multifaith Britain' (likely to be controversial). Then motion from Newcastle and Winchester, celebrating centenary of reformer Josephine Butler, raises “continuing evil of human trafficking”, and calls for effective measures against it before 2012 Olympics.
Thursday 12th February
Morning: Bishop of Rochester introduces debate on Anglican Covenant, considering St Andrew’s Draft. Then more detailed legislative business, including amendment to Church’s pension scheme.
Afternoon: Debate on implications of financial crisis introduced by Archbishop of York. Synod will consider Church’s response and help for communities as unemployment rises. (It is 'not intended' to discuss Church’s own finances although Church has been in headlines for "short-selling" and has £6 billion of assets). Then debate introduced by Bishop of Bradford on report on interfaith presence and engagement. Diocesan-synod motion from Leicester on Church of England retreat houses.
Friday 13th February
Diocesan motion from Southwell & Nottingham, urging more compassion for asylum-seekers, right to work, amnesty for “legacy cases”, and solution to plight of destitute “refused” asylum-seekers.
Motion from Worcester diocesan synod on climate change and church property. Asks for amendments to relevant church legislation so church land can be disposed of in a way that gives weight to environmental as well as financial considerations.
General Synod of Church of England ends.