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Inauguration of the General Synod of the Church of England

Tuesday, 15th November 2005

Inauguration of the General Synod of the Church of England

On Tuesday 15th November, HM The Queen attended the service of Holy Communion at the Inauguration of the Eighth General Synod of the Church of England at Westminster Abbey.

Since the Middle Ages, the Provinces of Canterbury and York have each had a provincial synod called a Convocation, consisting of an Upper House of bishops and a Lower House of clergy. Advisory Houses of Laymen were added in 1886 (Canterbury) and 1892 (York). In 1919 a Church Assembly, consisting of the Convocations and a House of Laity, was established. It had the power to pass Measures which, if approved by Parliament, received the Royal Assent and became part of the statue law of England, but the right to make canon law remained with the Convocations.

In 1979 the Church Assemblys powers and most of those of the Convocations passed to a new body, the General Synod, again consisting of the Convocations of a House of Laity. In 1974 the General Synod was also given the power to approve liturgies for use alongside those in The Book of Common Prayer and also to decide on the form in which the clergy should declare their assent to the doctrine of the Church of England.

A new General Synod is elected every five years, and the General Synod elected in 2005 is the eighth. Each of them has been inaugurated by Her Majesty The Queen. The Convocations and the House of Laity are summoned to an inaugural service of Holy Communion in Westminster Abbey. Afterwards they assemble in the Assembly Hall in Church House, where Her Majesty declares that the Convocations of Canterbury and York are joined together and the House of Laity added to them so as to constitute the new General Synod.

The Eighth General Synod has a potential membership of 476, whereas its predecessor had up to 581 members. There is no longer a place reserved for one archdeacon from each diocese; there are fewer suffragan bishops and deans; and lay membership has been reduced in proportion, so that the Houses of Clergy and Laity remain equal in size. The Forces Synodical Council is, however, represented for the first time. Representatives of sister churches, of the Church of England Youth Council and (for the first time) of Deaf Anglicans Together will participate in meetings with the right to speak but not to vote.

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You are surrounded by history at the Abbey, not like a museum where it’s just displayed, but here you are standing where history has happened.

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Gerlinde - Abbey Marshal

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