Will the Archbishops allow General Synod to speak?

General Synod in York(Photo: Reuters)

As the summer session of the Church of England's General Synod opens in York, the mood is more than a little "niggly" according to the former Chair of the Prayer Book Society, Prudence Dailey.

In the first debate, on the Business Report, Jayne Ozanne, a lay member from Oxford Diocese, described the Church as "an unholy mess" and called for an "Emergency Debate on the Broken State of our Church."

She went on, "The record number of questions we have is a clear reflection of our concerns. We, Synod, know we are being managed! We are something to get around – to ignore, an inconvenient body that gets in the way of those who want to 'get on with things'."

Ozanne was not alone - those who spoke after her echoed her concerns.

Rev Robert Thompson, a member of clergy from London Diocese complained, "There is a complete lack of trust and Synod feels marginalised and their voices are not represented."

Helen King, another lay member from Oxford Diocese, spoke of the "agenda underneath the agenda" and raised concerns about the lack of transparency, accountability and trust.

Dailey described Synod as being "bypassed and managed" – pointing to the record number of 'presentations' that Synod was being asked to endure. Ironically, her suggestion that Synod use an obscure standing order to refuse to allow the presentations to take place was rejected by the Chair of the Business Committee on the basis that standing orders had been changed so Synod could no longer do that.

But it's not just the lay people and clergy who are concerned. Even the bishops are concerned that General Synod is being sidelined.

Twenty-one serving bishops have written to their episcopal colleagues calling on them to use General Synod's liturgical processes, rather than Archepiscopal fiat, to introduce the Prayers of Love and Faith which will allow same-sex couples to come to church to receive a blessing.

The bishops claim that "other routes risk not only damaging the unity of the Church of England but, in so doing, also damaging the integrity of the Church's episcopate".

After the debate, Ozanne said, "I am very concerned about the breakdown in trust in our governance structures and think we urgently need a space to be honest and open about this in order for us to be able to move forward. Without it, things will only get worse."

Ironically the only people who can authorise such a debate are the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. The ball is in their court.

Susie Leafe is director of Anglican Futures, which supports orthodox Anglicans in the UK.