30 Jul 2018

General Synod York 2018 - Summary

Below is a summary of the key points of interest to the Diocese from the July 2018 sessions of the General Synod of the Church of England, held in York. If you would like more details (e.g. papers and actual wording of the various motions) you can find these here.

General Synod Representatives for the Diocese in Europe

House of Bishops: Bishop Robert Innes

House of Clergy (elected members): Debbie Flach, Giles Williams, Tuomas Makipaa

House of Laity (elected members): Madeleine Holmes, David Coulston, Tjeerd Bijl


Safeguarding: The Saturday Safeguarding session was preceded by 2 presentations on the issue of ‘survivors’ and the long term effects on all concerned. It is suggested that we should approach the matter with enthusiasm and good, sensitive care. This was very moving and powerful and completely changed the emotional tone of the synod discussion for the better. The House of Bishops Safeguarding group have proposed to run 3 workstreams covering: the improvement of support to those abused; a more robust approach to clergy selection and disciplinary proceedings; and independent oversight. These were all agreed by Synod. A related issue of a more centralised approach to Safeguarding did not gain much support largely on the grounds of the perceived need to keep delivery at a more local diocesan level (and indeed good safeguarding is really delivered at a local parish/chaplaincy level).


Environmental Issues: Two papers were considered:

  • The Church of England’s approach to active investment putting pressure on companies to improve their environmental impact is having a real impact and has been applauded by the UN and other agencies. The first matter debated and agreed focussed on further sharpening up the church’s approach to ethical investment particularly in regards of fossil fuel producers.
  • The second debate sought to introduce measures to quantify how well the church is progressing towards meeting its Carbon Dioxide emission targets set some time ago (a reduction of 42% by 2020 and 80% by 2050). In the event this was adjourned, for further consideration of the methodology and related costing, for discussion in February 2019.


Nuclear Weapons: The general tenor of the debate was not supportive of the possession of nuclear weapons and Synod resolved by a large majority to urge the UK Government to progress nuclear non-proliferation etc issues with greater urgency and clarity.


The (UK) National Health Service: Synod resolved to call upon the UK Government to implement the findings of House of Lords Select committee report with particular regard to: care in transposing urban models to rural contexts; the adequacy of social care as population ages, and recruitment of health professionals.


Report of the Cathedrals Working Group: This group has been looking into governance issues in Cathedrals prompted particularly following issues at Peterborough and Exeter (NB there is no truth in the media stories that the Church is looking to sell-off these two Cathedrals!). The report makes a series of recommendations (all accepted by synod) to improve the governance and management of cathedrals in order to ‘sustain and enhance the vital role that cathedrals play across the landscape of the Church’s mission and public life’. The recommendations cover: overall governance systems (and the need to separate overarching matters from day to day management), improving leadership and management, more robust financial arrangements, better consideration of issues relating to major building projects and improved safeguarding (essentially to be aligned with that of the relevant diocese). You can find the details in GS2101A.


Workshops and seminars – including Human Sexuality: The work of the House of Bishops is continuing on the topic of human sexuality and the next tranche of papers will not be before 2020. Though not formally part of the Synod’s business, an important feature of the York session was a series of workshops/seminars which brought members up to speed with the initial progress on related research into biblical, theological and biological matters. Please continue to pray for those involved in this complex task.

There were also some very good seminars on evangelism including the launch of a new resource: ‘Talking Jesus’ available at


Legislative issues: A considerable number of legislative issues were considered. They are all at differing stages in the synodical process with only one (the first listed below) being fully completed. Many of the documents have emerged consequent upon previously passed ‘enabling’ legislation which should in due course reduce the timescale for enactment.

Ecumenical Relations Measure (and Canon 38): This is aimed at providing a greater degree of coherency in application and in particular now embraces all other Trinitarian Christian denominations (the previous version was limited to ‘UK national’ churches (URC etc) so this is of particular value to our diocese). This will now be presented to Her Majesty for adoption.

The Church Representation Rules: The ‘rules’ have been updated and now provide greater flexibility. They are inevitably written around English parishes/dioceses and hence, as in the current ‘Rules’, there are a few rough edges insofar as we are concerned (but nothing that can’t be ‘fixed’ by diocesan agreement as previously). Points of particular interest to our diocese are:

  • There is an opportunity to give a reason why someone applying for membership of an Electoral Roll does not meet the preceding 6 month regular attendance criteria - particularly important for chaplaincies where members of the congregation may not have been residing in the chaplaincy immediately prior to the application.
  • There is greater flexibility in respect of determining numbers elected from chaplaincies to Archdeaconry/Deanery Synods which could be of assistance to very small chaplaincies.
  • The new rules will give our diocese a special provision for elections of lay members to general Synod. Each Chaplaincy’s Annual Meeting will nominate an Elector/electors. Watch this space for details as to how that will work!

The ‘Rules’ now enter the next stage of the General Synod process – it will be some time before they can be enacted and used.

Ministers Measure: Of particular interest is the introduction of flexibility in respect of the requirements for the reading of Morning and Evening prayer. This was agreed by Synod and the Canon will now undergo final drafting.

Canon 40 (Religious Communities): This was an initial paper seeking consider the questions of ownership, support, facilitation and safeguarding issues in Religious Communities.

Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure: This seeks to tidy to a number of uncontroversial issues – but of particular interest is more flexibility afforded to the Church Commissioners in respect of funds available through Archbishop’s Council and making it simpler for a family to ask someone other than the local incumbent to take a funeral service (eg at a crematorium). A large number of detailed amendments were rejected by synod and this issue now passes to the ‘Revisions Committee’.

Church Property Measure: Of primary interest to UK dioceses, this simplifies matters associated with disposal of property etc. It now passes to the Legislative Committee.

Church of England Pensions Measure: No changes of principle, this consolidates a considerable amount of procedural documentation. It too passes to the Legislative Committee.

Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Measure: This is a mixed bag of measures all aimed at simplifying current documentation including the national clergy register. Nothing particularly noteworthy – it now passes to the Revision Committee.


The relevant General Synod website is at: