Synod hears update on Prayers of Love and Faith as concentrated work phase begins
Concentrated drafting work to prepare new pastoral guidance and other material needed for the Prayers of Love and Faith to come into use, is now underway.
General Synod members recently spent time scrutinising the work which has taken place since the landmark debate in February that welcomed proposals to enable same-sex couples to come to church following a civil marriage or civil partnership, for prayers of dedication, thanksgiving and for God’s blessing on the two people.
Since February a draft set of texts known as Prayers of Love and Faith have been further refined, and work to develop new pastoral guidance for the Church of England and proposals on pastoral reassurance have been underway.
Members of the Steering Group overseeing that work, led by the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, and the Bishop of Truro, Philip Mounstephen, provided an update on progress since February and took questions.
Churches urged to help in re-settlement of people leaving prison
The General Synod has backed a call for churches to join partnerships working to help resettle and rehabilitate people leaving prison.
The Probation Service is already working with churches, bishops and Diocesan Safeguarding Panels to help support people leaving prison. Yet even so, many ex-prisoners are currently unable to find a welcoming faith community in which to settle.
The Bishop of Gloucester, Rachel Treweek, who is Bishop for Prisons, said: “We need a holistic approach in everything, and this includes partnership with our probation and our amazing prison chaplains. When people leave prison, our chaplains play a key role in trying to pass on the baton and this is where this motion comes in,” she said.
She urged that the churches should be “more imaginative and more connected with the probation service,” which would help with “God’s work of reconciliation and transformation.”
The Chaplain General for Prisons, the Ven James Ridge, said the motion “confidently asserts and acknowledges that faith makes a difference in the rehabilitation and resettlement of offenders.”
Currently, following risk assessments, people can be connected to community chaplaincy projects or faith communities such as those in the Welcome Directory, connecting prisoners with faith communities that have prepared to welcome them.
A background paper for the General Synod showed that between 30-45% of adults released from prison in any given year will be reconvicted within a year of release and for those on short sentences (less than 12 months) this rises to 55-60%.
General Synod calls on Church and Government to move faster on climate emergency
The Church of England’s General Synod has recently called for renewed action from the Church and Government to tackle the impact and causes of climate change.
A motion brought by the Diocese of Oxford called on all parts of the Church to review policies and procedures in order to give due priority to creation care. It also asked the Government to review planning regulations to aid the installation of renewable technology on church buildings that are listed or in conservation areas.
It also commended the National Investment Bodies for their decisions to divest from fossil fuels, called for regular prayer, and encouraged the opportunity for confirmation candidates to make commitments to safeguard the integrity of creation.
Synod members also heard from National Advisors on Net Zero and Environmental Affairs, who said the recent approval of solar panels on the roof of King’s College Cambridge could prompt acceptance of more renewable installations elsewhere.
The motion asked for national services, such as the Parish Buying scheme, to build capacity to put cost-effective utilities and supplies within the reach of all parishes.
Additionally, it asks Bishops and the Liturgical Commission to encourage Confirmation services to consider including an additional question, inviting candidates to commit to striving to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
New safeguarding practice review policy approved
A new comprehensive policy on safeguarding practice reviews has been approved by General Synod. This was the first safeguarding code of practice to come to General Synod since the new Code of Practice Measure was approved in 2021.
Introducing the new policy, Bishop Joanne Grenfell, the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop, said: “The vital, underlying aim…is understanding the past as a means of strengthening preventative work for the future.”
Bishop Joanne outlined the different processes that exist in respect of safeguarding, so that people are clear what to expect from each, stressing “learning lessons,” is about taking a step back to try to understand why the events happened in the way they did; answering the “why” question enables an organisation to learn and make improvements that will keep people safe in the future.
Parish ‘at very heart’ of God’s mission, General Synod hears
The General Synod has recently backed the parish as key to the spreading of the message of the Christian faith, in a debate where the local church was described as ‘at the very heart’ of God’s mission.
Members were told that the parish system is central to the Church of England’s Vision for growth, in a debate led by Revd Canon Kate Wharton, from the Diocese of Liverpool.
“The parish system exists not so that we can be territorial and protective of ‘our patch’ and work only in our own silos, but so that we can ensure that every single soul in the land is held within a system in which they matter and can be known.”
The General Synod members voted to welcome the Church’s commitment to increasing the numbers of ordinands, as well as an increasing emphasis on lay ministry and the expansion of Licenced Lay Ministers.
“This isn’t about survival, somehow bringing in enough people and enough cash to ensure we can keep going,” Canon Wharton said. “Rather, this is about a community of believers coming together to dream dreams with God about what might be possible in His perfect plan for their future.”
General Synod approves Governance Reform recommendations
General Synod has recently approved the recommendations of the National Church Governance Project Board.
The Governance Project Board’s recommendations include reducing the number of National Church Institutions (NCIs) from seven to four trustee bodies, and the creation of a new NCI, Church of England National Services (CENS).
CENS would, through a transitional process, replace the Archbishops’ Council and Church of England Central Services and integrate some of the activities of the Office of the Archbishops and the Church Commissioners (excluding investments).
The proposal seeks to make clear the interfaces between the NCIs and other National Church bodies, primarily the House of Bishops.
Sir David Lidington, Chair of the National Church Governance Project Board, said: “The aim of the Project Board’s recommendations is to build a simpler, more joined up national church governance structure that is better able to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. We look forward to working with Synod members to achieve this important objective.”
The recommendations will now be taken forward for drafting of legislation to come back to Synod.