A private members motion proposing the withdrawal of a Bill which sought to establish a proportional and representative formula for the allocation of seats in the House of Representatives of General Synod and to reduce its membership, was passed by members of Synod in Armagh today.
The proposal had provoked a passionate debate on the opening day of the 148th Synod yesterday. However, on day two, the Archbishop of Armagh reported that he had received a private members motion - proposed by Sam Harper (Diocese of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory) - that Bill No 7 be withdrawn and that Standing Committee be requested to consider the contents of the Bill and the proposed amendments, and with that focus return to next year's General Synod in Londonderry with a report and legislative proposals for decision by the Synod.
Mr Harper said that the resolution had been brought in the interests of the whole Church. He said the decision was too important to make in a matter of minutes. The effect of this motion would be to give a year for the consideration of the bill as proposed (and the amendments), and to allow Standing Committee to come back next year to let the Synod reconsider the matter; he said it would still be in time to take effect before the next triennium.
Mrs Eithne Harkness (Armagh) seconded the motion to support the thrust of the Bill which she said addressed an important matter. “The Bill addresses a matter of real concern to the church which was illustrated by the range of contributions heard yesterday. It is an issue that merits really serious consideration and reflection. There has not been time to reflect on the consequences and unintended consequences, and if the Bill goes forward today we will be denying ourselves that time. This Bill is in danger of being destroyed by weight of amendments,” she said.
“I agree that the issue should not be delayed unduly but this motion allows for just one year to consider this through the mechanism of Standing Committee and then to bring legislative proposals focused on this Bill, not a general opening of the floodgates. I would hope we would have as much contribution next year as the issue merits,” she added.
Lady Brenda Sheil (Down and Dromore) said that consultation and a sharing of views were important in a caring Church. This motion would allow Standing Committee to come back with carefully considered proposals with time to reflect and above all to consult.
Andrew Brannigan, who proposed the original Bill No 7, said that the focus of the motion meant that the Bill would go back to Standing Committee with the amendments, with the focus which cared for and valued each cure equally.
He said he had prayed and agonised over the Bill for many years in the knowledge that it would cause hurt. He said he had been convinced and convicted that it was the right idea to bring before Synod, the restoration of balance which would bring a missional focus to the Church. He said he believed it would work because of the graciousness of others.
Archdeacon Wayne Carney (Limerick and Killaloe) said that the motion would help deal with the unintended consequences of the Bill. He said that the Church of Ireland was balanced and there was a balance in General Synod; the effect of the Bill would be to reduce the balance of General Synod, he suggested, and he strongly urged support of the motion.
Joc Sanders (Killaloe) thanked Andrew Brannigan for his friendship and said that the motion brought to General Synod was the right way to approach the issue.
In reply Mr Harper thanked the Bill's proposers and said it was a step in the right direction. There had been several attempts to do something at Synod to address the issue. They had brought something that Synod could build on, he said. This motion allowed time to give detailed, careful consideration to the subject, he said, urging support for the resolution.
Members of Synod voted to carry the motion. Archbishop Richard Clarke said that Mr Brannigan and Canon Calvin were brave in bringing the Bill and said Synod was going to have to find the balance.