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The General Synod of the Church of England, which covers a worldwide family of churches in more than 160 different countries, voted to change a law that has existed since the 17th century. This law required priests to hold a Sunday service in every church they looked after. The changes made to the long-standing law means that instead of mandatory services in every church, the service should be held in at least one church in each benefice.
Pete Broadbent, bishop of Willesden — who leads a task group simplifying and modernizing the rules governing daily church life formed in 2014 — said the move was intended to bring canon law in line with practice. “At the moment if you have 12 parishes you need a special dispensation [from the bishop] not to hold morning and evening prayers in every church,” he said. The change would make “honest people” of clergy, who were already flouting the technicality of the law. “People can’t look after loads of parishes, but [canon] law doesn’t recognize that reality.”
Following the vote, Pete Broadbent said: "You're meant to get a dispensation from the bishop - this just changes the rules to make it easier for people to do what they're already doing. It stops the bureaucracy.
This was just one (amendment) where we said, 'Out of date, doesn't work, we're operating differently in the countryside now, therefore let's find a way of making it work.'"
As the Guardian reports, most rural priests have multiple benefices, with some in charge of up to 20 churches, but were required to maintain regular services even if only a handful of worshippers turned up. The main reason for Synod to approve change was to ease burden on rural priests, who may have up to 20 churches.
The synod voted overwhelmingly in favor of the change. Instead of Sunday services in “every parish church,” the rule will now say “morning and evening prayer shall be said or sung in at least one church in each benefice.” It adds, “Each service shall be said or sung distinctly, reverently, and in an audible voice.”
Meanwhile, the General Synod has introduced six "pastoral principles" for living well together to improve the treatment of LGBT people. As Church of England explains, these Pastoral Principles invite church communities to examine afresh their life together. The focus relates to LGBTI+ people, but they apply to all sorts of difference and diversity among God’s people. Some of the principles are: acknowledge prejudice, admit hypocrisy, address ignorance and cast out fear.