Diocesan Synod Meets In Dorset

by Gerry Lynch last modified 26 Jun, 2018 03:40 PM

Diocesan Synod discusses social justice and Magna Carta in St Nicholas', Corfe Mullen.

Diocesan Synod met in St Nicholas' Church in Corfe Mullen on Saturday 21 February. After morning worship, Bishop Nicholas gave his Presidential Address (full text of the Presidential Address here). He is delighted that attendance at the Renewing Hope meetings in deaneries has exceeded expectations. Over 1400 people have attended the 13 meetings which have taken place so far: the final 6 Deanery meetings will take place in March. Click here for full details of the remaining Renewing Hope meetings

Bishop Nicholas then asked delegates to share stories with one another of what has renewed their hope over the past few weeks in small groups. 

Responding to the buzz of conversation around the room, the Bishop noted that it is not hard for us to change our culture to a more hopeful one. There are stories of hope everywhere and we have much to be thankful for. Another point that has come through in different examples at every Deanery meeting is that when we face difficult issues honestly and well, our hope is renewed. 

The Bishop paid tribute paid to our late Diocesan Registrar, Andrew Johnson, whose funeral took place the previous day. Andrew was a dedicated churchman and church musician with deep roots in the Diocese, and was not only a talented ecclesiastical lawyer, but a caring and pastoral one. 

Bishop Nicholas also paid tribute to Bishop of Sherborne, Graham Kings, who will soon be moving on to a new role as Mission Theologian in the Anglican Communion: "a job made for him". With the Archdeacon of Dorset has also having moved on to become Dean of Chichester; this puts considerable pressure on Paul Taylor, the Archdeacon of Sherborne. 

A new Archdeacon should be in place soon, but the timetable for appointing a new Bishop of Sherborne is much longer; in Bishop Nicholas' view, "madness". 

Feb 2015 Diocesan Synod +ECOn the House of Bishops' pastoral letter, Bishop Nicholas said those who read the letter as an attack on the government must not have read the letter. It is a document which poses questions of all parties. The privilege of living in a democracy means we should use our votes thoughtfully, prayerfully and with the wellbeing of others in mind. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Christ taught us to model ourselves on the despised outsider who teaches religious people how to be good disciples, loving our neighbours as ourselves. 

A point not made in the letter, but an important one, is that we are struggling to articulate what it means to be good English, British, European and global citizens in a globalised world. 

The Archdeacon of Sherborne introduced the social justice debate. "Most of us", he said, "some of the time, find it hard to respond to our neighbours inclusively". He challenged delegates to ask themselves, "Who do we serve? Who is my neighbour?" 

The Bishop of Ramsbury, Edward Condry, spoke on the House of Bishops' Pastoral Letter. He welcomed the controversy - the real secularisation comes not when people are annoyed at what the Church says but when they simply don't care. He said there was a need for a fresh moral vision for the country we are called to be. He warned against politics that divided society into competing blocs rather than seeing it as an organic whole. 

Synod then broke into twelve small groups to discuss three questions relating to social justice and the upcoming General Election: 

  • What are the values we bring as Christans?
  • What are the issues we wish to see debated?
  • How can we make a difference?

Feb 2015 Diocesan Synod Small GroupsFeedback from the groups was wide ranging. Christians should, it was proposed, have a longer perspective than politicians and the media, an antidote to the endemic short-termism of contemporary public debate. We should argue for a commitment to our physical communities: the Church of England does this through the parish system. Christians should listen carefully but sit lightly to what we're hearing in public debate.

It was suggested on a number of occasions that a key role for the Church was in challenging the cyncism about voting, especially among the young; this was a key strand of the Archbishops' Pastoral Letter. We believe that every individual matters, and therefore that every vote should matter.

There was warm approval for the idea that Christians should be able to value one another across political differences, both challenging and respecting one another, and that we should pray thoughtfully for those exercising their right to vote.

One particularly interesting suggestion was that we should consider the impact of the constant contemporary drive for efficiency on individuals.

Finally, delegates asked how Christians could create a safe space for politicians to discuss the really difficult issues, for example around long term environmental and financial sustainability. At present all parties seem afraid to discuss these honestly.

Feb 2015 Diocesan Synod DAC Award WinnersAfter that exercise, awards were presented for social justice projects and from the Diocesan Advisory Committee for excellent church restoration projects. The social justice prizes were won by Pewsey Deanery's Epic youth employment project, the Cathedral's Magna Carta work, and the Footprints project, supporting released prisoners in Dorset.

The restoration prizes were won by Blandford Forum Parish Church, St Mary the Virgin in Calne, St Michael the Archangel in Mere, St Nicholas in Moreton (for the Whistler forgiveness window) and Lady St Mary in Wareham.

Bishop Nicholas then introduced his statement on developments in the partnership between the Diocese and the Episcopal Church in South Sudan and Sudan (full text of statement here). At present, the relationship between the Diocese and the ECSSS has been formally suspended by the Archbishop of South Sudan and Sudan, although relationships between parishes, deaneries, dioceses and individuals continue.

There was a time of feedback on the five years of the General Synod which is soon to come to an end, including questions to the members of General Synod elected from the Diocese. General Synod members were asked about the Green Report and current attendance trends in the Church of England, as well as the work of General Synod and Archbishops' Council members and the time commitment involved in serving in each capacity.

A short report on the Magna Carta 800 celebrations followed; both the Archdeacon of Sarum and Rob Key laid particular importance on attending the Diocesan pilgrimage on Sunday 14 June. The Diocesan Secretary encouraged people to "bring their picnics, their children and their dogs". The Canon Chancellor reminded delegates there is no charge for visiting the Cathedral. 

There was a final substantive debate on changes to the size and composition of the Diocesan Advisory Committee (details here). An amendment to the proposed changes made by Bishops's Council was lost 18 to 28 but with 14 abstentions. The final motion was passed by a considerably greater margin, with only 2 votes against but 8 abstentions.

A full gallery of photos from the day is available here.

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