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General Synod of the Church of England: Wikis


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The General Synod is the deliberative and legislative body of the Church of England. The Synod was instituted in 1970, replacing the Church Assembly, and is the culmination of a process of rediscovering self-government for the Church of England that had started in the 1850s.


The Church Assembly: 1919 to 1970

Prior to 1919, any change to the Church's worship or governance had to be by Act of Parliament, which resulted in little being done. In 1919, the Convocations of the Provinces of Canterbury and York proposed that a National Assembly of the Church of England be established and be given power to legislate for the Church.

This proposal was given effect through the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919. The Act gave the assembly power to pass Measures - laws which were to "have the force and effect of an Act of Parliament" on "any matter concerning the Church of England", and included the power to repeal or amend Acts of Parliament concerning the Church.[1]

The Act required that, after being passed by the Assembly, the Measure had to be examined by a joint committee of both Houses of Parliament and then approved by a vote of each House before being submitted to the Queen for Royal Assent. If MPs or members of the House of Lords are not content with a Measure then they can vote to reject it, but cannot amend it. Once a measure has been agreed ("deemed expedient") by both Houses of Parliament, and received Royal Assent, it is printed with the Acts of Parliament for the year in question.

The General Synod: from 1970


By the Synodical Government Measure 1969,[2] the Church Assembly renamed and reconstituted itself as the General Synod of the Church of England. It also took over the powers formerly exercised by the Convocations of Canterbury and York.


The Synod is tricameral, consisting of the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy and the House of Laity. There are currently 467 members in total.

The House of Bishops is made up the 30 diocesan bishops in the Province of Canterbury (plus the Bishop of Dover), the 14 bishops of the Province of York, seven suffragan bishops (four from Canterbury and three from York) elected by all suffragan bishops, and the Bishop to the Forces.

The House of Clergy comprises clergy elected by the following:

Members of the House of Laity are elected by lay members of the Deanery Synod in each Diocese every five years by a system of Single Transferable Vote. There are:

There are two or three synodical sessions per year (4–5 days each), one or two in Church House, Westminster, the other at the University of York, and each session is officially opened by the monarch. Meetings are presided over by the Archishops of Canterbury and York as joint presidents.


The functions of the Synod are:

  • legislation:
    • to pass Measures dealing with the government of the Church and its institutions,
    • to pass Canons,[3] determining doctrine and the form of worship,[4]
  • to approve the liturgy, and make other rules and regulations through Acts of Synod,[5]
  • to regulate relations with other Churches,
  • to consider and express their opinion on any other matters of religious or public interest, and
  • to approve or reject the annual budget of the church.

Measures or Canons must be passed by a majority of the members of each House of the Synod. Most other business can be passed by a majority of the members of the Synod overall. However changes to church doctrine, rites and ceremonies, or the administration of the Sacraments, can only be made in the form agreed by the House of Bishops. Also, changes in the services of Baptism or Holy Communion, and proposals for a union with any other Church, cannot be approved unless they have also been approved by a majority of the Diocesan Synods.[6] Some Measures do not extend to the Diocese of Sodor and Man unless so provided by a measure passed by the Sodor and Man Diocesan Synod and approved by Tynwald.[7]

The General Synod also elects some members of the Archbishops' Council.

See also



  1. ^ Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919 (1919 c.76 9 and 10 Geo 5) on the UK Statute Law Database website - retrieved 9 May 2008
  2. ^ Synodical Government Measure 1969 on the UK Statute Law Database - retrieved 9 May 2008
  3. ^ 16th Edition of the Canons of the Church of England - retrieved 9 May 2008
  4. ^ It was through an amendment to the Canons that women were admitted to the priesthood - Canon C4B. The making of the Canon was authorised by the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993.
  5. ^ For example, the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993 (retrieved 9 May 2008) makes provision for those parishes which would not accept women priests to be overseen by alternative bishops)
  6. ^ Constitution of the General Synod, set out in Schedule 2 of the Synodical Government Measure
  7. ^ Gumbley, K F W (July 1994). "Church Legislation in the Isle of Man". Ecclesiastical Law Journal 3: 240.   [1]

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