HL Deb 20 May 1974 vol 351 cc1245-7

3.2 p.m.

THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON rose to move, That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Synodical Government (Amendment) Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent. The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, I have to invite your Lordships' agreement to two general Synod measures. They are, I trust, entirely non-controversial, but your Lordships may like to know what they are about and I shall endeavour, as shortly as possible, to inform your Lordships. However, in so doing I may have to ask your Lordships to follow down some avenues of ecclesiastical affairs which may not be altogether familiar to noble Lords.

First of all, I shall deal with the Synodical Government (Amendment) Measure. The General Synod of the Church of England was inaugurated by Her Majesty the Queen in November, 1970, and it is governed by the Synodical Government Measure 1969 and its ancillary provisions. During the three and a half years of its working certain areas where reform is needed have revealed themselves and this Measure is designed to put those things right. Clause 1 is intended to make the membership of the Synod rather more representative and comprehensive than it is at the moment. As at present constituted, the diocesan bishops, the clergy, the laity, the deans and provosts, the archdeacons, the clerical members of the universities and the chief lay officers of the Church are all represented in one way or another in the Synod. But the bishops suffragan have no official representation. That is now considered to be an injustice, and the Measure provides that a Canon shall constitute the bishops suffragan for this purpose an electoral college, and that they shall elect from their number six in the province of Canterbury and three in the province of York to sit in the House of Bishops in the General Synod and the Upper Houses of the Convocations. Subsection (2) consequentially prevents the bishops suffragan from standing for election as members of the Lower Houses or from exercising a vote in that election.

Clause 2 deals with a practical issue. Article 8(1) of the Constitution lays down that alterations in the relationships of the Church of England with other churches cannot be approved, unless at sonic stage a scheme has been approved by a majority of Diocesan Synods. When that provision was made it was envisaged that it applied to relationships with other churches in this country. But sometimes the Church of England is required to decide what shall be its relationship with new churches, formed, for instance, by schemes of reunion not in Great Britain. Such a case arose over the new United Church of North India and Pakistan. In that case it was decided that it fell within the provisions of Article 8, and so all the dioceses of the Church of England were required to pronounce upon the relationships of the Church of England generally to the Church of North India and Pakistan. That produced a good deal of bewilderment, irritation and criticism, for such matters which are of concern generally should, it is felt, be decided centrally. Clause 2 of the Measure therefore ensures that in future Article 8 shall refer to churches a substantial number of whose members reside in Great Britain, though subsection (2) empowers the archbishops to apply the Article to churches falling outside the provisions of Clause 2(1) if, in their discretion, they think that would be desirable.

Clause 3 similarly deals with a practical point. It is a legal requirement that certain business of the General Synod shall be decided on a division of houses—bishops, clergy and laity—and that means that members must leave their seats and pass through the division lobbies. Your Lordships know that a Division in this House takes a considerable length of time. It takes at least the same amount of time, with a great deal more physical discomfiture, to conduct a division in the debating chamber of Church House, Westminster. Moreover, the General Synod meets for only twelve days in the year and therefore every minute is of value. It is not conducive to well-tempered proceedings when the Synod has to go through this rigmarole in voting on matters which sometimes are agreed unanimously or with only a tiny minority in opposition. The Measure therefore provides that where a vote is to be taken on a division by houses, it may be taken either by an actual division or in such other manner as the standing orders may provide. Your Lordships may rest assured that the Synod will ensure that in appropriate cases the exact number of votes cast will be recorded. This Measure passed through all its stages in the General Synod with no divisions being called. Therefore my Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Synodical Government (Amendment) Measure be presented to Her Majesty for Royal Assent.—(The Lord Bishop of London.)


My Lords, I should like to ask the right reverend Prelate whether there are more suffragan Bishops in being in the Province of Canterbury than in the province of York. I should not like to think that the Province of York was being done down in numbers.


My Lords, there are considerably more Bishops suffragan in the Province of Canterbury than in York, and this is a normal division when matters have to be decided as between the two provinces.

On Question, Motion agreed to.