Clergy on campus: Church of England synod
One of the three meetings this year held to organise the running of the Church of England, took place in York this month.
Central Hall housed the main meetings now that the students have gone, so you may well have spotted your own college behind some of the country’s most important clergy on the news.
A brief jargon-buster A bishop is an area manager with many churches under his(/her) care. They have their own cathedral to look after as well, with assistants. The bosses of the bishops are archbishops, with two in the UK at York and Canterbury, where Synods are held.
In terms of what was being discussed, the headline item was women bishops. Women have been able to be ordinary clergy since the 1990s, however the next step up, bishop, has so far been closed to them.
Both sides in the argument are able to cite biblical verses to support their position, although it seems that the majority are in favour within the UK, in the wider Anglican/Episcopalian Church some have already appointed women bishops, whilst others resist the move.
Attempts have, however, been made to try and prevent forcing the change on those who don’t want it, with provisions made for churches to not serve under women bishops if they don’t want to.
After much debate, centred around such issues as the issue of quite how much association with women bishops churches against it should have, the vote was put off until November by 288 votes to 144.
When the issue is eventually decided then it has to get approval from Parliament. Along with several other denominations, the Church of England is governed by various Acts of Parliament, and so a change in the rules, such as appointing women Bishops, would require a new act.
The rules governing the Church of England are part of English law, a legacy of the Church’s founding in Henry VIII’s reign.
Bishops are also members of the House of Lords, known collectively as “The Lords Spiritual”. Bishops can sit in the Lords either because of their length of service or if they hold certain key diocese. This may however change, with the reforms currently being discussed in Parliament.
Other measures were discussed at York, including preventing clergy and other church employees from joining groups decided by bishops to be racist, as part of the Church’s general attempts to become more diverse.
The big item omitted from the agenda was the next boss. The Archbishop of Canterbury is to step down soon, however the decision on his replacement has yet to be made. Although the Archbishop of York is second only to Canterbury, any Bishop can theoretically be chosen for the post. The highest position in the Church of England however is occupied by the Queen.