Friday, September 04, 2015

General Synod election address 2015

Simon Taylor
Proposed by David Truby
Seconded by Karen Hamblin

Dear friends,

I am the Continuing Ministerial Development Officer and Canon Chancellor of Derby Cathedral.  It has been my privilege to serve on General Synod on behalf of the clergy of the Diocese for the last two and a half years.  I’m standing again because I believe I have both experience and insight to offer.

End of Term Report
Over the past 2½ years I have spoken in debates about reimagining ministry; women bishops; discipleship; leadership and clergy robes.  I have asked questions about pensions and deployment. I have written in to consultations about safeguarding and women bishops.  I have also brought back information to the diocese; through a paper for Diocesan Synod, a presentation to Self-Supporting Ministers, and reports in the Cathedral magazine.  A full account of my contributions to the General Synod can be found here.

These are the major challenges that the Church of England faces, and which the General Synod will address in the next five years:

Reform and Renewal
A major programme of change has already been launched, called Reform and Renewal.  This is founded on the discipleship of all God's people and has implications for ministerial formation; leadership; funding; and simplifying the way that the Church of England works.  In principle there is much to commend here.  However, some of the detail is problematic and I have already begun to suggest improvements in the areas identified below.

The importance of the local church.  In a time of decline, the temptation is to centralise.  A recent motion at General Synod about the discipleship of the whole people of God gave actions to Bishops and dioceses, but not to parishes, clergy or laypeople (an omission that I challenged).  The reduction in funding for the Diocese of Derby under the new Church Commissioners funding arrangements will mean a greater reliance on our local resources.  If elected I will support measures that empower the Church at parish and diocesan level as I whole heartedly endorse Bill Hybels' insight that “the local church is the hope of the world”.

The voices of a broad church.  The working groups that produced the Reform and Renewal process contained only a very few people. The voices of women, SSMs and minority ethnic groups were barely heard.  This is not a challenge of representation, but a danger of not hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit.  The Church of England faces “wicked problems” (in contrast to “tame problems”) and the best method of dealing with such problems is to seek as many voices as possible.  St Benedict's rule says that when facing difficult problems the whole community should come together because “the Lord often revealeth to the youngest what is best”.  If elected, I will continue to ask which voices are not being heard.

Confidence in public mission.  The Church of England has a unique opportunity for mission due to its role as the established church.  At times this missionary opportunity may appear inconvenient, perhaps especially so in challenging times.  But to step away from our calling to promote the common good is a mistake.  If elected, I will encourage confidence in our public mission and resist any changes that make the Church more inward-looking.

This has been the elephant in the room for many years now.  The Church of England has suffered from a lack of honesty in conversations about this.  This has been to the detriment of our mission, especially mission to young people.  Honest conversation has begun, and needs to continue. My view, founded on the Bible, is that there should be an equal place for LGBTI people within the Church, and that we should welcome the extension of the discipline of marriage to all couples.  We need to find ways of allowing one another to hold different views on this subject, and of welcoming our gay brothers and sisters.  If elected, I will support honesty and openness in the church.  I will oppose any Synod measures that do not allow for the conscience of those who disagree.

With the national historic cases review and on-going developments in the Church of England, safeguarding is a major current issue.  It is important that the resulting rules are useable by clergy and volunteers.  If elected I will use my experience in safeguarding at parish, cathedral and diocesan levels to ensure that the Church is a safe place and that the rules are workable for all.

Thank you for your consideration.  Please be in touch if I can answer any questions that you have. 

I would be honoured if you would vote for me.  Please make me your first or second choice in this election.


Paul Hitchcock said...

Though I agree that sexuality is the elephant in the room, I completely disagree with your view. In order to reject the sin aspect of homosexuality, you simply have to twist scripture and there is no excuses around this fact. The church therefore is faced with a similar situation as the Israelites in 1st Kings 18:21, either you are with the Bible which is supposed to be the word of God, or it's outdated nonsense and truth comes from the minds of men. It's plain to me in this current age where the fickle rule of man is becoming more favored than the unchanging word of God that it will take a much braver man to stand, declare that homosexuality is a sin, offer support for those who struggle with it, and bring them to Jesus who can save them from that lifestyle as opposed to someone who will go with the flow with no care for the souls of those who are ultimately the victims of this LBGT-anti Biblical agenda.

Simon said...

Hi Paul,

Thanks for the comment.

Not sure it is as simple as that. No twisting required. Scripture has the oft-quoted texts that say homosexuality is an abomination. But it also has (far more) sections that speak of the generous love of God and human love as showing God to the world.

My paper 'An invitation to the Feast' has my full Biblical argument in favour of marriage for all - see under 'online writing' in the right hand column!

We certainly need to be better at listening and more generous with those with whom we disagree than immediately dismissing a line as having 'no excuse' or painting a false 'either-or' position.

Good to hear from you.


Anonymous said...

Hi Simon, many thanks for your response - it's great to converse with you.
I'm afraid your document 'an invitation to the feast' uses loaded language, equal marriage is described very adequately in Ephesians 5:22 to 5:29, since there is an absence of either a husband or a wife in a same sex relationship, the term is therefore attributable. Quite plainly, use of the term 'equal marriage' within these discussions is to provoke a negative representation of unfairness to people who hold the position that marriage is solely between a man and a woman. The use this term shows an agenda rather than a coherent argument, and for that I'm very disappointed in you.