The General Synod of the Church of England, underway in York from 11-15 July, is mainly focusing on outward mission and social responsibility this year, reports Matthew Davies. Other areas of emphasis and debate are ministry matters and ecumenical affairs. During the opening session the synod almost unanimously supported a motion to implement guidelines for the professional conduct of the clergy. The Chairman of the working group, the Revd Canon Hugh Wilcox, was concerned about the risks that clergy face throughout their ministry. "Faced with a pastoral situation the minister has to take immediate decisions about what to say or do," he said. "These [clergy guidelines] are offered to support and develop the church's foundation." The principal debates at the July Synod include: A children's' strategy for the Church; racial justice; embryo research; ethical investment; financial issues facing the Church; ordination training; clergy professional conduct and the Anglican-Methodist Covenant The second day of the Synod was subject to an unexpected interruption when campaigner, Peter Tatchell, gate-crashed the floor and led a protest against what he called "homophobic apartheid". Some members of the synod walked out calling for immediate reinforcement in security, whereas others welcomed the protest and applauded the group, further demonstrating the church's divide on issues in human sexuality. Mr Tatchell's main request was for the church to talk, listen and understand the alienation that the gay community feels in light of Canon Jeffrey John's recent decision not to take up the post as Bishop of Reading because of objections to his homosexuality from parts of the Anglican Church. There were discussions about whether or not the synod should introduce an emergency agenda item to debate the issue. But it was decided last night that an addition would not be appropriate and that a "period of reflection" was necessary. The protesters left peacefully before the synod resumed its agenda. Several other groups held peaceful protests outside the meeting, including the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement and Changing Attitude, an organisation working for gay and lesbian affirmation within the Anglican Church. Source: CoE Comms
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