General Synod digest: Member urged to mend their manners

Mar 2, 2024 by

by Pat Ashworth, Church Times:

THE General Synod requested the Business Committee to revise the current Members’ Code of Conduct and to present proposals at a future group of sessions.

The debate followed a curtailed debate on the complaints process last summer (Synod, 14 July 2023), when the Committee acknowledged itself divided on whether there should be a binding code of conduct.

The paper put before the Synod on Saturday reported the results of a survey conducted since last July, to which 165 members had responded. Forty-four felt that the current code of conduct was effective and no change was needed; 36 wanted legislative change, with formal sanctions for breach of the code; and 85 wanted a tougher code of conduct, but no legislative change.

Of the 165, 37 thought that the code of conduct should apply to members only during groups of sessions, and 128 believed that it should apply throughout the year. Concerns were expressed about inappropriate language, personal attacks, and behaviour on social media. Comments spoke of the importance of respectful engagement.

Reporting on progress since last July, Canon Paul Cartwright (Leeds), vice-chair of the Business Committee, urged members to be wise in how they made their contributions, in the knowledge that, “often, the things we discuss are the things most pertinent to us.”

The Committee was minded to strengthen the code, but without further legislation. “How we behave with each other . . . cannot be something imposed on Synod by the Business Committee.” He proposed a working group to take the matter forward, with a view to bringing more detailed proposals to the chamber in July.

Nigel Bacon (Lincoln) said: “Whatever side of the issue we stand on, the tenor of recent debates has, sadly, done us all a disservice.” He suggested that a revised code of conduct could be backed up by using appropriate provisions in Standing Orders (SOs), and he encouraged their full use. The Committee could consider revising SOs to allow members to withdraw “derogative and unseemly remarks.”

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