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In which direction is Leicester leading the Church of England?

On 9th October, Leicester Diocesan Synod voted to move to what they call a ‘Minister communities framework’ for ministry:

The Diocese of Leicester Synod has voted in favour of a Minster Community framework with an amendment that the stipendiary (paid) leadership team of at least four people (including lay and ordained roles) in each of the 20-25 MCs will be led by an Oversight Minister who is ordained.

One of the team will be a Growing Faith focussed minister (lay or ordained) to increase inclusion of children and young people within the ministry of our churches and fresh expressions. As well as the Oversight Minister, the leadership teams will comprise at least (but not limited, to depending on resources) three other stipendiary posts.

A Minster Community will be a “group of parishes” who work together to collaborate in mission without losing their individual identity, and who work alongside their church schools, fresh expressions of Church, chaplaincies etc.

The framework was overwhelmingly supported (72%) by Synod and it is intended it will gradually be brought into place by 2026, depending on discussions between parishes, schools and fresh expressions working together to decide what their local leadership will be.
It cause quite a stir nationally, and for some good reasons. Angela Tilby immediately criticised the move in the Church Times, principally for its confusion between lay and clergy roles:

[T]he Church of England remains the Church of the English people and understands itself as part of the Church Catholic. Adherence to the threefold order of ordained ministry is part of the deal. Historically, lay influence has been led by the Sovereign and expressed through Parliament and the exercise of patronage. In parishes, the churchwardens embody lay governance at local level. The true work of the laity is to witness to Christ in the world: “Let your light so shine before men. . .”

The distinction between ordained and lay is important not only for the catholicity of the Church, but also for the integrity of the laity. Before ordination, I was a Reader for ten years, and I relished the freedom of that ministry, accepting its limitations. I expected priests to be selected and trained to criteria beyond enthusiasm, Bible knowledge, and faith. The Leicester plan reveals either sheer ignorance of C of E polity or an attempt to overthrow it, because “every-member ministry” boils down to congregationalism under episcopal management.

 

The healing of blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10

The gospel lectionary reading for the so-called Last Sunday after Trinity (or Trinity 21) in Year B is the story of the healing of blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10.46–52. (Apologies to my regular readers for the lack of comment on the previous two weeks of readings.)

This reading has an appeal at two levels. First, it is in Mark’s usual lively and direct style, and has a similar feeling to some of the very personal accounts in Luke; it bears comparison with the other story set in Jericho, the call of Zacchaeus in Luke 19.1–10, since both stories offer a concise but vivid characterisation of the main character in the story, and both are named. This is the only healing story in Mark where the one healed is also named.

But it also forms a satisfying end to this section of Mark’s gospel, completing the journey to Jerusalem that began in chapter 8, and will reach its denouement in the coming chapters. In his chapter on Mark 10 in Reading Mark in Context, John Goodrich highlights the place of this story in the overall shape of this section:

So this healing forms a closing bracket with the gradual healing we read of in chapter 8.

The story is included in all three Synoptic gospels, and even a brief comparison raises some issues. Matthew’s version is quite abbreviated, at only two-thirds the length. Like Mark, it is set in the context of leaving Jericho, though Matthew never tells us that Jesus has entered Jericho, so this comes as a surprise! Matthew agrees on the form of the story, including the address to Jesus, Jesus’ call and question, the request, and the healing—but he records two unnamed people as the recipients, rather than the one named man.

Luke sets the story at Jesus’ arrival to Jericho, not his departure, and follows it with the story of Zacchaeus. He agrees more closely with Mark than Matthew, so his account is only slightly shorter; as happens elsewhere, he reports Jesus’ comments rather than including direct speech as Mark does, and he emphasises the wonder of the crowds at the healing.

The change in detail of location in Luke is not particularly significant; both accounts agree that the blind man is at the entrance to the city (depicted in the painting above as a classical gateway). The discrepancy with Matthew warrants a little more reflection.

What will the new General Synod look like?

Peter Ould writes: The General Synod Elections 2021 are over and the results are in. Sadly we didn’t get David Dimbleby or Huw Edwards bringing us an exit poll and wall to wall coverage, but there are still plenty of things for psephologists to get their teeth into.

I have spent the last week analysing the election results as they have come in for the Houses of Clergy and Laity. As new members of Synod have been announced, I’ve been able to categorise them on the basis of their stance on same-sex blessings, not least because many of the candidates were on one of two official slates from the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) and Inclusive Church (IC). By looking at these lists, by reading election addresses, watching hustings videos or looking at voting records, it is possible very accurately to assess who sits in which camp and what the balance of power is in the new Synod (at least in the House of Clergy and Laity).

So here it is—Peter’s preliminary analysis of the elections, broken down into a number of categories.

Turnout

Almost uniformly, turnout is up in both Houses, particularly amongst the Clergy. This is obviously good news for the democratic process, but it’s worth reflecting why it happened. The primary reason was that two large campaigning organisations did their best to run an effective “Get Out the Vote” (GOTV) campaign, motivated by the one major issue that divided them. Yes, other campaigning groups also tried to stand on particular platforms, not least the “Save the Parish” movement, but they were on the whole swept aside by the two main groups.

For over half a century the Church of England has tried to present Synod elections as being devoid of party politics, but with the 2021 election that pretence must be consigned to the dustbin. The majority of elected members are going to associate with the two largest groupings in Synod (Evangelical Group on General Synod, ‘EGGS’, and the Human Sexuality Group) which mirror pretty much the two pressure groups, CEEC and IC, who recommended slates of candidates. Turnout was up simply because electors knew exactly where their candidates stood on the key issue of the day, knew who they agreed with and didn’t, and were advised by the “party” they agreed with how to cast their vote.

Like it or not, Synod is now dominated by two main parties, much in the same way our Westminster politics is. One of the things that General Synod should consider is whether in 2026, candidates should be able to provide an official allegiance or party loyalty in order to further educate the electorate where they stand. They can still have a personal address, but knowing that particular candidates officially belong to a certain grouping would make it even clearer what they were (and weren’t voting for). And wouldn’t it be fun if next time round I could even provide you with a swingometer to show you how voting patterns have changed since 2021?

Results

And so to the results. As I wrote above, I was able to analyse the loyalties of elected members, which gives us the following results. The labels Orthodox and Revisionist refer to the member’s position on blessing same-sex unions.