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Truth and falsehood in Synod debates

Simon Butler has today made a response to my claim that he ‘lied to Synod’ about me and, though I don’t think that public exchanges of statements are the best way to resolve things, his statement requires that I clarify further than I have already done. (My first explanation and his statement can be found in the comments on the previous post.)

In his speech on Synod, Simon made several claims.

He stated that he had been sent a text. He had not; I had sent him a long and detailed message via Facebook messenger.
He strongly implied that this had been a one-off message. It had not. It was part of a correspondence which had been continuing for the previous 8 days.
He also implied that it was unsolicited. The conversation has in fact been initiated by Simon, and had been moved by him onto issues related to the Synod debate.
He claimed that it was asking intrusive personal questions about his private life. It did not. It did list the public statements Simon himself had made on his own initiative.
He claimed that it was ‘borderline harassment’ and mentioned the question of safeguarding. In fact, I specifically gave Simon the option to question anything I had said, and included these paragraphs:

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On Synod, sexuality, and not ‘Taking note’

Yesterday the General Synod of the Church of England debated the report offered by the House of Bishops outlining where we had got to in the debate about sexuality. The form of the debate was unusual; rather than proposing anything, the motion was simply to ‘Take note’ of the report, which essentially means acknowledging that it exists. In most contexts, this functions as an opportunity for general discussion, after which a substantive motion is offered which proposes action in the light of the report. Because of this, ‘Take note’ votes are usually uncontroversial; a Synod ‘old hand’ commented that, in 28 years of experience, the person had only known of 2 or 3 occasions where a ‘Take note’ motion had not been passed.

But because there was no substantive motion offered, many of those who were unhappy with the report saw the ‘Take note’ motion as the only opportunity to express their view about the contents, even though such a motion technically does not mean that. Jayne Ozanne, a lay member from Oxford, seems to have spent the last weeks and months working full time on a PR campaign against the report, and this bore fruit in the voting. Overall, Synod ‘took note’ by 242 to 184, with 6 abstentions (and about 20 members of Synod not present or not voting). But, as is common when there is controversy or a close vote, there was a call for a vote ‘by houses’ i.e. the votes of bishops, clergy and laity are counted separately, and a motion is only passed if it passed by all three groups. The votes were:

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Synod’s Shared Conversations

Through a mixture of rain and shine, cool breezes and muggy stillness, General Synod spent three days engaged in ‘Shared Conversations’ about the Church and sexuality, the final event in a two-year process of conversations involving representatives from dioceses meeting to do the same around the country. Feedback from previous events had been somewhat mixed, and […]

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Why our leaders need good training

On today’s General Synod agenda, we were scheduled to discuss a report on ‘Nurturing and discerning senior leaders’. In the event, we ended up adding a debate on the EU Referendum and the consequences for our thinking about division in society, and the debate on leadership has been postponed (I am not entirely sure until […]

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Is the future of leadership lay or ordained?

It is arguable that the greatest challenge currently facing the C of E is not to do with sexuality, not related to changes in culture and moral values, and unconnected with Church-State relations. It actually arises from a decision made around the time I started ordination training in 1989, that candidates needed ‘more experience of […]

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Can the C of E do evangelism?

One of Justin Welby’s personal commitments for his time in office is to prioritise evangelism. With the Archbishop of York he set up the Evangelism Task Group as part of Archbishops’ Council, and it reported to Synod earlier this month. Introducing it, Welby emphasised the centrality of evangelism to the life of the church: On […]

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Coherence and variety in ordained ministry

One of the many fascinating debates at Synod this week was on the proposals for Resourcing Ministerial Education (RME) on which I have written a couple of times before. I had put down one of four amendments to the motion from Steven Croft, Bishop of Sheffield, and I was asking for work to be done to check that RME was not undermining ‘our shared, catholic understanding of ordination as expressed in the Ordinal’ prior to implementation in September 2017.

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What is the future of ministerial training?

One of the important issues coming up in this session of Synod is the reconfiguration of ministerial training as part of the Renewal and Reform programme, under the title ‘Resourcing Ministerial Education.’ I commented on it last year, and had an exchange with Steven Croft, Bishop of Sheffield, who is leading on this. In view […]

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How should we pray for evangelism?

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have announced a focus on mission in May. Cathedrals and churches are being urged to set aside the week before Pentecost as a week of prayer for evangelism. The plan has arisen from the Evangelism Task Group, which is itself and interesting venture. The briefing paper for the next session […]

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