General Synod – Friday 10 June

June 10, 2016

Day two of General Synod 2016 began with a report from the Convener of the Committee for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults, Mr Hugh Donald, who highlighted the work that the Committee had undertaken throughout the previous year and identified a number of areas that the Committee and the Provincial Officers were focusing on. This included the Church’s compliance with PVG legislation, the training and familiarisation of those with responsibility for protecting the vulnerable within the Church and ensuring the robustness of the Church’s systems and processes. Mr Donald, in this his concluding function in the role of Convener, was thanked by Professor Hart for the work that he had undertaken on behalf of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

Motion 13 proposing an amendment to Canon 22 was debated with a proposed amendment; amendment being defeated and the original Motion as contained in the Synod papers was carried.
Synod then passed a first reading of a change to its Canon on marriage (Canon 31). The change is to remove from the Canon the doctrinal statement regarding marriage that marriage is to be understood as a union “of one man and one woman.”

A first reading of the change is the first step in a process and does not represent a final decision. The proposed change now passes from the General Synod to the Church’s seven dioceses for discussion and comment in their Diocesan Synods in the coming year. The opinions from the dioceses will then be relayed back to the General Synod which will be invited to give a second reading of the Canon in June 2017. At that stage, for a second reading to be passed, it must achieve a majority of two thirds in the “houses” of bishops, clergy and laity within the General Synod. The change to the canon would include a conscience clause ensuring that clergy opposed to the change are not required to marry people of the same sex.

Commenting on the first reading today, the Rt Rev Dr Gregor Duncan, Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway and Acting Convener of the Church’s Faith and Order Board, said: “General Synod last year engaged in extensive debate in relation to possible changes to our Canon on marriage. It asked the Board to bring forward canonical legislation this year to remove from the Canon any doctrinal statement regarding marriage. That would pave the way for clergy of the Church who wish to be able to solemnise weddings between people of the same sex. Synod has this year accepted the proposals brought forward by the Board by giving a first reading to the canonical change. The process will now continue and not be completed until General Synod 2017. If second reading is agreed at that stage, the change to the Canon will take effect.

The Synod’s decision this year is important because it represents the beginning of a formal process of canonical change. The Church has been engaged in recent years in a series of discussions at all levels. The current process will enable the Church come to a formal decision on the matter. Views within the Church are, of course, wide and diverse. The passing of the first reading today will bring great joy to some; for others it will be matter of great difficulty. The wording of the proposed change recognises that there are differing views of marriage within our Church and we have attempted, and will continue to attempt, to sustain our unity in the midst of our diversity.”
The Rev Jane Ross, Convener of the Mission Board, reported on the work of the Mission Board in Inspiring Mission and introduced three short videos highlighting a variety of approaches to Mission carried out in a selection of churches.

The Rev Professor David Atkinson, Convener of the Church and Society Committee introduced three items that the Committee was focusing on in its work, poverty, climate related issues and the proposed renewal of Trident. The Motion that asked Synod to call on HM Government to cancel the renewal of Trident failed to pass.

After lunch, the Rt Rev Kevin Pearson updated Synod on the work of the Scottish Episcopal Institute (SEI) and the excellent progress that was being made. He spoke about Mission, Ministry and Money and said “The Scottish Episcopal Institute was brought into being because there were those of us in this General Synod who believed that the Holy Spirit whispers in the still small voice ‘You must be the change you want to see’ and in its mode of collaborative working the Institute Council makes real that Holy Spirit imperative. You must be, will be, can be, the change you want to see.” Synod then passed a Motion that will pave the way for more flexibility in the level of curate grants and hopefully enable a wider range of training opportunities to be made available for the increased number of ordinands being trained by the SEI.

The penultimate item of business for the day was a presentation from the Rev Cole Maynard CF, Deputy Assistant Chaplain General, HQ 51 Infantry Brigade & HQ Scotland who provided Synod with an overview of the work of the Army Chaplaincy in Scotland. Day two of General Synod 2016 was brought to a conclusion with a presentation by Mr Richard McIndoe from the Pension Fund Trustees who provided details of the work and administration of the Church’s Pension Fund.