- Trying to square the circle
The opening days of the Synod on the Family have revealed distinct differences of opinion between the participants. How can their commitment to church teaching be matched with compassion for those who struggle with it?
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The Church of England today voted overwhelmingly to fast track legislation to ordain women bishops, opting to halve the amount of time that individual dioceses have to debate the proposals.
Today’s vote to temporarily suspend the rules that give dioceses six months of consultation passed with 358 votes to 39, with nine abstentions.
Under the revised procedure, which was drafted by the House of Bishops to accompany the latest form of the legislation, dioceses now have just three months to debate, which means that the final General Synod vote will take place in July rather than November.
Thus if Synod backs the women bishops legislation when it next meets in July, the first candidates could be appointed by Christmas.
Today Synod also rescinded the 1993 Act that made explicit provision for parishes who would not accept women priests by allowing them to be overseen by alternative bishops.
The whole of the second day of General Synod’s February meeting, which is being held over three days at London’s Church House, was devoted to debate on the issue of women bishops. By midday Synod had voted to welcome the legislation in its most recent form, and in a rare move went on to revise the legislation in session by debating each clause individually.
The final vote – to suspend the rules that would have delayed the legislation by three months – took place early in the afternoon.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is due to address Synod tomorrow morning. Synod’s remaining business includes a debate on environmental issues and the recent dropping of the mention of God from the Girl Guide’s Promise.
The Church of England is to keep its stake in the controversial payday loans company Wonga for the time being, despite the Archbishop of Canterbury’s decrying the investment as "embarrassing".
The chairman of the Church’s ethical investment advisory group (EIAG), James Featherby, told a meeting of the General Synod in London yesterday that the Church Commissioners, who manage an investment fund of £5.5bn for the CofE to help cover ministry costs, mission activities and pensions, were stuck with the investment “for a little while”.
He told Synod: “To dispose early might damage other investments because Wonga is held in a pool fund along with a sizeable number of other, much more positive, investments, and one simply can't sell one without the other.”
Details of the Church’s £80,000 investment in Wonga emerged in July, days after Archbishop Justin Welby strongly criticised the payday lender and said he wanted to “compete it out of existence”.
Read how the CofE invests its money: The £8 billion question by EAIG secretary Edward Mason, The Tablet 3 August 2013
Archbishop Welby said he was irritated by the "embarrassing" Wonga revelation and ordered an investigation into how the investment occurred. In December he admitted on BBC Radio 4 that the Church was still trying to find a way to get rid of the shares.
But yesterday Mr Featherby said that such exposure was unavoidable. He said that the Wonga investment had been known about “on a junior level” and blamed a communication failure between Lambeth Palace and the Church Commissioners.
"Can we guarantee that this won't happen again? No we can't … I'm afraid it is inevitable about being involved in this kind of world that you do occasionally graze your knee," he said.
It was important that the Church invested in "vital" infrastructure and new business sectors, he added, not least because it meant that it could exert an influence over the companies it had invested in.
Today, the second day of General Synod’s February meeting, was devoted to efforts to fast-track legislation that would allow women to be ordained bishops.
By midday Synod had voted to welcome the legislation in its most recent form, as drafted by the House of Bishops, and in a rare move went on to revise the legislation in session by debating each clause individually.
Significantly, it rescinded the 1993 Act of Synod that made explicit provision for parishes who would not accept women priests by allowing them to be overseen by alternative bishops.
After lunch Synod was due to debate the most controversial proposal, to halve the amount of time dioceses are given to debate the legislation.