The House of Lords and EU Citizens

The House of Lords has recently voted to amend the Brexit bill to guarantee the right of EU nationals to remaining the UK continued residency.

While some may say this is a good thing and the Lords are doing their job, let's actually stop and think about this.

If the House of Lords is to do their job as a revising chamber properly, why are they passing amendments supporting the rights of the EU citizens in Europe to remain in Britain, but saying nothing about British Citizens in EU?

In actual fact of course both sets of people should have their existing rights grandfathered.

So why has this not been done? Well the EU does not wish to discuss anything before Article 50 is triggered. They say they can not discuss anything until then. This is sheer hypocrisy. If Donald Tusk and the European Council were prepared to, they could easily come to an agreement with the UK government to allow those people who already are living across the forthcoming EU / UK to remain with grandfathered rights in their current country of residence.

It is right and proper that EU citizens in the UK should be allowed to stay post Brexit. However this can only be guaranteed if the UK citizens elsewhere in the EU have the same right. This could be sorted now if the EU were prepared to discuss this now ahead of the main Brexit negotiations. They won't do this for dogmatic reasons. It's the EU that is stopping a clarification of expats status. This is an example of what's wrong with the EU. They are more interested in their processes and dogma than real people with their concerns. This just shows that we are right to leave.

Disappointed the Bishop of Coventry admits voted in error

Disappointed that the Bishop of Coventry admitted his vote against was accidental.

I had hoped that the Spirit had moved him to listen to those who called upon Synod to vote against.

The Diocese of Coventry, the Laity of which I represent on the General Synod, has always been at the forefront of reconciliation, led by Coventry Cathedral. It is a shame Bishop Christopher had missed such an opportunity for reconciliation with LGBT people within the dioocese and indeed throughout the whole church.

I look forward to my home diocese through the work of cathedral, where I worship every Sunday, taking a lead in the radical inclusion the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke about yesterday.

General Synod - Speech for take not debate on the shared conversations.

Disappointed not to be called to speak at synod this evening.

Here is what I would have said :-

Mr Chairman,
Thank you for inviting me to speak on this item.

Last weekend when talking to my Scots Presbyterian mother and told her that I was here at Synod this week, she asked me "Are you talking about sex again?"

She then proceeded to tell me that the problem was due to bishops and she didn't believe in bishops. For once I almost had sympathy with her.

Seriously though her response to hearing I was going to Synod undlerlines the problem we have as a church, people think the Church of England is against the inclusion of gay people.

This is a major challange to mission. Why do we allow interest in people's intimate relationships get in the way of the people about Christ's incarnation, death and resurrection?

How many people have been put off from attending church because of a perceived over interest in the fact that they were built in a way that meant they came into a loving relationship with someone of their own sex.

This report will do nothing to change this. People have told me it puts them off attending church again, or makes them consider why they do come. It could be the last straw for many people who were looking for a better outcome from the shared conversations.

I urge Synod not to take note to send a message that they are welcome.

Finally let us remember, we are warned in the scriptures that if you turn people away from Christ it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.

With this report we are in danger of doing just that.

Why a Nave Altar does not work at Coventry Cathedral

This morning, as often happens on Sundays, I served Mass at Coventry Cathedral. The service went really well unlike last week.

Last week we used a nave Altar.

Now in some cathedrals such as Peterborough Cathedral, where I was a server for a year in 1997-98 during my industrial placement year at Perkins Engines (Peterborough) Ltd, you need a nave Altar as due to distance and architecture since you can't actually see the High Altar.

However in Coventry there are no thick pillars, there is no rood screen. The High Altar can be easily seen from anywhere in the nave.

In actual fact a nave Altar is harder to see as it is on the same level as the nave so if you are not sitting at the front your sight line is blocked. Do people not realise that the High Altar, being raised several steps above the floor is designed to be seen from the back of nave.

It is therefore clear that, in Coventry's case anyway, there is no architectural need for a nave Altar.

So why use one?

Clearly it can only be for theological reasons.

So therefore, having established there is no architectural reasons for a nave Altar at Coventry we need to consider what theological point those clergy who support a nave Altar are trying to push.

The general theory seems to be that bringing the "action" closer to the people is a good thing. However as we have established above the use of the nave Altar actually blocks sight lines and therefore moves the "action" away from the people.

Therefore we must ignore the reason stated and look for the real reason.

Unfortunately we must then consider the only reason is because people are wishing to downgrade what we actually do.

Let's stop a moment consider what we do in Eucharist.

Bread and Wine becomes the actual and real Body and Blood of Christ to us. So therefore then just standing around a nave Altar rather than kneeling at an Altar rail means we are not considering what we are doing. We should kneel. This is Christ himself we are receiving. As Cardinal Arinze said with regards to receiving the Eucharist kneeling. "If we believe, if we truly believe that it is Jesus, the Son of God, then why don't we kneel, why don't we crawl?"

This is God himself we receive. Ignoring our architecture, standing around a small table that is hard to see apart from the first few rows at the front, is this really a foretaste of the heavenly banquet? Is this really the House of God? Is this really the Gate of Heaven?

Now some people might say, it's only planned for a couple of times a term, why not be flexible. That is fair point. But are the cathedral being flexible or are they pushing an agenda? If they truly believe that this is about being flexible in our worship, then I would hope to match the twice a term nave Altar that twice a term we have the Eucharist celebrated at the High Altar with the celebrant facing east.

Yes that's right, not a service with clergy behind the altar looking out over the congregation, making the Mass look like a coffee shop, but the Mass being celebrated by a priest facing the same way as the people. A priest leading his/her people to God not being the star of show. Or, as I fear, is all the flexibility just one way?

General Synod, York, July 2016

At the start of July I headed up to my first York General Synod group of sessions.

[ York General Synod ]

I was able to share a taxi from the station to the University of York (where the General Synod takes place) as I heard the person behind me in the queue saying "Convocation of the Province Canterbury" so I was sure we were there for the same reason!

We were all staying in Halls of Residence at the university and I was really surprised with my room - it was even en-suite - much different to Coventry's Priory Hall where I spent 2 years.

[ York Hall of Residence Room ]

The first item on the agenda was a debate on Brexit. I was hoping to speak in this debate, as someone who voted to leave in the referendum I felt it was important to make it clear that it was OK to be Christian and believe in leaving the European Union. Unfortunately I was not called to speak Jayne Ozanne (Laity, Oxford) covered most of the points I wanted to make.

After a good debate both those for and against the EU in chamber voted for unanimously for the following motion :-

That this Synod, recognising the result of the recent referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union, welcome the Archbishops’ call for all to unite in the common task of building a generous and forward looking country, contributing to human flourishing around the world, and encourage all members of the Church of England to play their part actively in partnership with everyone in Civil Society in pursuit of this task.

There was a request that a recorded vote be taken, but a number of people (including me) had voting machines that were displaying the wrong name. Rather than vote the old way (by walking through doors just like parliament still do) the request for a recorded vote was withdrawn.

There were various other technical debates and items discussed a full set of decisions made cane be found at https://www.churchofengland.org/media/2547456/bd_july_2016.pdf

The next day they had been fixed and were back in operation.

[ Synod voting device ]

There were various other technical debates and items discussed

One interesting debate was on moving legislation forward to the next stage. This covered two items a change in the (ecclesiastical) law to remove any remaining restrictions on church burials for those who commit suicide and a change regarding the rules of vesture for Divine Service. As I support the former but not the latter I and many others did not understand what these had to be taken together. After these have been through a revision committee they will of course come separately.

It was a curtailed synod due to the Shared Conversations on Human Sexuality which were held in private from, Sunday afternoon to Tuesday morning. (On Sunday morning there was an opportunity to attend Mass at York Minster. I enjoyed the service and was particularly pleased to see that York have a number of children servers. This is something I have been pushing for at Coventry Cathedral and we have just starting doing.)

I was a bit unsure about the shared conversations (or as I heard some people refer to them as “The dreaded shared conversations”) But I think they went reasonably well, probably helped by the fact I appeared to have a reasonable group. I don't know how the other groups were.

I can't really say anymore about the shared conversations as what was said was confidential.
Following the end of the synod I travelled back to Coventry on the train Tuesday evening and then started a new job on the Wednesday!

General Synod November 2015

Papers relating to the November Group of Sessions are available on The Church of England Website.

Tuesday 24th November

Tuesday started with the official inauguration of the General Synod with a Mass in Westminster Abbey and the official opening speech afterwards by Her Majesty the Queen in the Assembly Hall

As the Queen was going to be present the security a Church House was tighter with a bag search on entry.

As synod members we all had to gather in cloisters of Westminster Abbey to form up in our dioceses to process into the abbey.

The Coventry Representatives on The General Synod
The Coventry Representatives on The General Synod

The Eucharist was celebrated by The Archbishop of Canterbury and the sermon was preached by the Preacher to the Papal Household, Fr Raniero Cantalamessa.

Following the services we all trooped back to the Assembly Hall to hear Her Majesty's speech officially opening the synod.

After lunch in the afternoon the main work of synod began.

It kicked off with a presidential address to the synod from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Following this there was a report of the Business Committee.

This was followed by a report on the Reform and Renewal programme. This is a far reaching plan to shape the Church of England for the future. It will impact on areas of the church, and will no doubt for a large amount of the business over the next few years at synod. The timescale is for scrutiny by Synod of the Resourcing the Future and Resourcing Ministerial Education changes will take place in February 2016. Also in February Synod is expected to receive the legislative proposals for Simplification. As part of the process of legislative simplification consultation document on a new enabling measure was brought forward.

Finally supplementary questions to those previously submitted were asked.

Wednesday 24th November

After starting the day with worship the first item of the day was a motion to present a loyal address to the Queen.

This was followed by presentation from the Archbishop of York and Margaret Sentamu on Global Warming.

The assembly hall then filled for a debate debate on the migrant crisis.

What was of particular note was the Archbishop of Canterbury stating that the motion (as outlined on the order paper) could commit the Synod to supporting the use of force to protect migrants (and presumably potential migrants.)

The motion was passed with 333 in favour, none against and 3 abstentions.

Next the discussion turned to legislation with Ecclesiastical Judges, Legal Officers and Others (Fees) Order 2015 which helpfully came with an explanatory memorandum. Although this sort of work is not what comes to mind when you think of General Synod (if you have only seen the big debates on the TV or read about them in press) it is important work as part of the synod's legislative role.

This was followed by two reports on Public Perceptions of Jesus report (and booklet) and secondly the report of the Church Buildings review group.

Finally the Archbishop of Canterbury said farewell to William Fittall, Secretary General of the Archbishops’ Council, who was attending his last meeting of the Synod and then progued the synod until the February group of sessions.

One last thing to do before heading to catch the train back to Coventry was a meeting of the House of Laity on it's own to hear from those wishing to stand as Chairman or Vice Chairman of the House and those standing for the Archbishops Council.

Such was my first group of sessions for General Synod. I very deliberately did not speak as I wanted to see how everything works first and get a feel for it. I will probably be making my maiden speech at the February sessions, but of course it depends on the debates, as there is not guarantee you will be called to speak on any debate, but on your maiden speech it is quite likely you will.

General Synod Induction

Today I had my induction as a new member of the General Synod.

This mornings train was only five minutes late, but it reminded me of all the years I spent commuting to jobs in Northampton and Milton Keynes - so glad I don't have to do that anymore!

Got to Church House no problem at all, it wasn't my first visit as I was there some 16 years ago for the Archbishop of Canterbury's Millennium Youth Event "The Time of our Lives"

After getting my id badge and voting card (more on voting later) I went to the cloakroom to deposit coats and bags. Just like primary school I have my own hook in the cloakroom. Unlike primary school however it has a label with my synod number rather than a picture of a key!

Church House is a bit of a rabbit warren but is pretty well sign posted and there are also loss of people around to point out the right directions (and also scrutinising your I'd badge to check that you are a synod member and are allowed through that does!)

In the morning session, after starting with a short service of worship, we covered the role of General Synod, including the fact that as The Church of England is an established church we are the only body other than parliament that can make laws of the land (though I should point out that this is only in relation to the Church of England not secular matters!) We looked at the main roles of the Synod - as a legislative body, a deliberative body and holding the various church commissions and boards to account.

We got to try out the voting machines, very flash have an individual smart card which goes in a handheld device that looks a bit like a BlackBerry, then hit the appropriator button 1 for yes, 2 for no or 3 for with abstain.

Apparently if the electronic system ever fails we will to go back to the original system of voting by walking through doors.

Finally we ended the morning's session with a briefing from the Met Police on security matters at the Synod.

The afternoons session we had a dramatised example of (curtailed) debates / motions / questions / points of order with a running commentary just to give us a flavour of how it all hangs together. As sometime who was a local councillor for 14 years it all sounds straight forward.

Also in the afternoon we had presentations on the shared conversations on human sexuality from Canon David Porter whom I am used to hearing back home in Coventry Cathedral!

We also had a presentation on the reform and renewal programme from John Spense.

And that was induction. Tomorrow we have the inauguration with a service at Westminster Abbey and a speach by HM The Queen in the Assembly Hall before starting the season properly in the afternoon.

First General Synod Meeting Approaches

Following my election last month as one of the three lay members from the Diocese of Coventry to Church of England's General Synod (on my second attempt I stood five years ago and was not successful), I'll be heading down to London tomorrow for my first sessions.

It feels a bit like a cross between my first day at university (got an induction session on Monday, where we get ID cards, told about how the synod works and no doubt get told where the Church House loos are too!) and my time on the council (all the paperwork to read!)

Please remember all the General Synod members in your prayers especially us new ones!


Almighty God,
you have given your
Holy Spirit to the Church
to lead us into all truth:
bless with the Spirit's grace and presence
the members of the General Synod;
keep them steadfast in faith and united in love,
that they may manifest your glory
and prepare the way of your kingdom;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen.

(https://www.churchofengland.org/media/2011223/prayer%20card%20one%20sided.pdf)