Confidence in safeguarding structures and same-sex prayers are expected to be critical topics dominating the agenda of the General Synod, the legislative body of the Church of England, as its members convene this weekend to discuss issues affecting parishes across the country.
The five-day meeting at York University will feature discussions on the church's safeguarding structures and an update on the progress of the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) process.
Both of these subjects have garnered significant attention in recent months. Just this week, a leaked letter revealed concerns raised by several prominent Anglican leaders regarding the process through which the approval of the Living in Love and Faith Prayers is expected to take place.
Among the 27 leaders who urged the College of Bishops to approve the prayers by Canon B2 - a rule that requires a two-thirds majority in each of the Synod's three Houses for any proposal to be approved - were Nicky Gumbel from HTB and John Coles from New Wine. They argued that deviating from this canon law would result in "disunity" and "disrepute" within the church.
According to the Church Times, the letter has caused division among the bishops. While 22 bishops expressed their support for the 27 leaders, it's believed 40 others cautioned that adopting the canon B2 proposal would further delay the process. The Living in Love and Faith initiative has been under official discussion in the Church of England since 2017.
The discussion of how the Church of England has handled safeguarding cases and its creation of independent structures is also expected to be a heated one. Recent cases involving high-profile Anglican church leaders have severely undermined confidence in the church's safeguarding measures.
Earlier this year, the Diocese of St Albans announced an investigation into the founder of the popular Soul Survivor church network, Mike Pilavachi, after safeguarding concerns were raised. Additionally, the former Archbishop of York, Most Rev John Sentamu, was suspended from active ministry following a highly critical report on safeguarding failures in an historical abuse case.
Most recently, the Independent Safeguarding Board (ISB) – created to hold the Church accountable for safeguarding matters – was disbanded by the Archbishop’s Council following a “breakdown” in relationships between two of the board members and the church.
The decision to terminate the contracts of both Jasvinder Sanghera and Steve Reeves sparked significant backlash from several church leaders, including from the church’s deputy safeguarding lead, Bishop Julie Conalty of Birkenhead, who tweeted that the church “feels less safe” as a result of the council’s decision.
An update on the Living in Love and Faith process will take place on Saturday, while a presentation on developments relating to the Independent Safeguarding Board is scheduled for Sunday afternoon.