Church of England Announces ‘Challenging’ General Synod Agenda

The Church of England has announced a “full and challenging” agenda for the upcoming General Synod, which will include key meetings on the Church’s position on homosexual members as well as “standards of taste and decency in the media.”

The Secretary General of the General Synod William Fittall announced Monday that the February Synod would confront a number of challenging issues for the Church, including two high profile members’ motions on different aspects of issues in human sexuality.

On the morning of Feb. 28, the General Synod will face a challenging discussion on a motion put forward by the Rev. Mary Gilbert of the Lichfield Diocese which calls for the Church of England to welcome and affirm lesbian and gay Christians, lay and ordained, at every level of the Church.

The Bishop of Gloucester will move an amendment commending “continuing efforts to prevent the diversity of opinion about human sexuality creating further division and impaired fellowship within the Church of England and the Anglican Communion”.

Also in the debate will be a motion put forward by the Rev. Paul Perkin of Southwark who said the House of Bishops did not state clearly that “civil partnerships entered into under the Civil Partnership Act would be inconsistent with Christian teaching.”

The Civil Partnership Act was enacted in 2004, granting same-sex couples the same rights and responsibilities to those of civil marriage.

The Archbishop of Canterbury will open Synod with a statement on the conclusion of next week’s meeting of the Anglican Communion’s 38 Primates in Tanzania and Mr Fittall conceded that the mood of Synod would be greatly affected by the meeting’s outcome.

“The feel of the debates will depend on what the mood of the Communion is after Tanzania,” he said.

Meanwhile, a background paper has been prepared by the Diocese of Lichfield ahead of the March 1 debate on pornographic videos and broadcasts in the media. In the paper, the diocese complained of “falling standards of taste and decency” and said that the debate in society had to go beyond the age-old retort, “If you don’t like it, use the switch off.”

The diocese’s concern arose after the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) awarded an 18 – as opposed to R18 – certificate to the sexually explicit DVD ‘Districted’ despite admissions from one of the film’s producers that it was porn.

“…the BBFC, as the relevant authority, is making pornography easier to access by giving hardcore material 18 certificates. And material which previously would have been classified 18 is now being classified as 15. And material previously classified as 15 is now being classified as 12.”
The Diocese of Lichfield is now calling on the Government to set up an inquiry into sexually explicit videos and broadcasts in the media.

“The boundaries are continually being pushed back. If you continue to walk closer and closer to the edge of the cliff you must, eventually, either stop or fall off. Those pushing the boundaries in the media show no sign of doing either.”

It warned, however, that the motion on standards of decency in the media was not confined only to sex, as it warned that the Big Brother racism controversy demonstrated that “people can be exploited in many ways”.

“The message that came out from Channel Four, whether intentionally or not, was that it is acceptable to abuse and bully people so long as you aren’t racist about it. Clearly this position is unjustifiable.”

Synod will also debate clergy pensions, Trident and Church of England schools, among other issues when it takes place at Church House in London from February 26 to March 1.