The Spring session of the Peterborough Diocese Synod was held at the Bishop Stopford School in Kettering on 25 March.
The Opening Worship was led by Brackley Deanery.
Bishop Donald gave the Presidential Address, talking about 25 March being the feast of Annunciation, or “Lady’s Day.” He said we often think about Jesus as either a baby or a man in his 30’s, but we do not think of him as someone at conception or a fetus – a baby to be born.
“God honours human life by taking on that form himself. We forget the pregnancy of Mary and the significance of that. He wasn’t just a baby or a grown man, he was also an unborn child. This says so much about our attitude for the most vulnerable.”
Bishop Donald said that the new Safeguarding Policy principles that we were adopting were part of the very thing that as Christians were meant to do, look after the most vulnerable. The Presidential Address is available here.
Next there was a presentation by Mary Hawes, the National Youth and Children’s Adviser. She spoke about The Church of England’s Education Office commission to Research by Design. She said that the Church needed to reflect on the four strong messages that came out of the survey in order to better understand what helps young people stay rooted in their faith and church lives. The video, Rooted in the Church explains the findings.
She went on to say that the peak ages for young people to leave the church was 14, 16 and 18.
Mary said we need to see young people as being part of the whole church. This was done by building a culture of inter-generational relationships, being inclusive of all ages in both leadership and worship, and to recognise young people and adults as equal members of the body of Christ. She said it is good to consider the possibility of admitting the baptised children to communion before confirmation. Churches needed to become unconditionally welcoming places for young people, and should support youth workers, leaders and volunteers. Mary pointed out that none of this required a large congregation or money, “You can do all this by smiling.”
Following Mary was the Report from the Safeguarding Adviser, Bev Huff. After the report the chair proposed that the Synod confirmed the adoption of the House of Bishops Policy for Safeguarding Children and Adults, which was passed. The Peterborough Diocese Policy is available here.
It was then time to receive the annual reports from the Boards and Committees. Dr Paul Buckingham gave a presentation as the Chair of the Board of Finance as part of the report from the board. Diocesan Plan Where are we 2017. He said that the statistics show that we are growing, we can “Banish the word ‘dwindle’.”
Liz Holdworth then gave her report on the General Synod February 2017 Groups of Sessions. In it were the Shared Conversations, a farewell to the Bishop of London, and the report from the Archbishops’ council “Setting Gods People Free”. General Synod report – February 2017.
It was time for item nine: Questions. There was one written question from Revd Mark Lucas, General Synod.
“How does Bishop Donald plan to defend the existing Canons of the church of England, its liturgy, and the content of Lambeth Resolution 1.10 in the discussions within the House of Bishops following the General Synod vote on GS2055?
- Do you have the support of your Diocesan senior staff team?
- What would you consider a satisfactory resolution to the current impass?
- How can we, as a diocese and as individuals, support you?
- How can we best teach fidelity, morality and Biblical family values in our parishes knowing we have LGBT members of our congregations?
Response from Bishop Donald:
“I see no need to defend the Church of England’s doctrine, canons, or liturgy in the House of Bishops, because there has been no move or suggestion within the House to change any of these things, and I do not anticipate any.
“I believe I have the support of my senior staff, but that is for them to say. The current impasse is widely misunderstood. The bishops are still the guardians of the Church’s doctrine, still intend to lead the church in resisting homophobia and discrimination, and still intend to produce a teaching document on marriage and sexuality.
“There will inevitably be further discussions on these matters. I hope that Mark will continue to teach that marriage is between a man and a woman, that all people are made in the image of God and precious to him, that all of us are sinful but still loved by Christ, and that our churches must be places of welcome and safety for all.”
After the formal question, the Spring Session of the Peterborough Diocesan Synod was closed.