By Robert Pigott
Religious affairs correspondent
Suggestions were made to reduce the number of bishops
The Synod - or governing body - of the Church of England can seem a rarified event to an outsider.
Its location on the campus of the University of York, and its timing in early July, can give it the feel of a works outing.
With the students absent, and clergy and bishops in mufti, strolling through the lakeside grounds among the considerable population of geese, the cares of the world often appear remote.
But anxiety about the effects of the economic downturn did penetrate the meeting in the university's concrete Central Hall, a semi-circular bowl in the Brutalist style jutting out into the lake.
The clergy, bishops and lay members of the Synod met in the knowledge that the Church's pension fund had a hole in it of more than a third of a million pounds.
Increasingly long-living clergy are putting pressure on the fund and the income from the Church's other assets is largely soaked up in maintaining thousands of listed medieval parish churches.
This bleak outlook gave added urgency to a motion calling on churchgoers significantly to increase what they put in the collection plate.
As congregations have dwindled, churchgoers have been giving more.
'Less about willies'
The average Anglican now donates more than 3.5% of take-home pay to the Church, supplying half of its income.
But the Synod asked them to increase that figure to at least 5%, equivalent to another £300 million.
Anglicans were told they should be giving another 5% to good causes beyond the Church.
Canon Simon Butler deftly referred to the Anglicans' preoccupation with sexuality when he said it was time for Anglicans to worry "less about willies and more about wallets".
Delegates were told Anglicans should be giving more to good causes
Perhaps the Church has missed a better opportunity, during the boom years, to make a concerted effort to ratchet up giving by congregations.
But the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, John Packer, said the Church should be challenging the desire he had detected to return to a pre-recession lifestyle.
Bishop Packer said selfishness had crept into the lives of Christians almost unnoticed.
As well as the call to boost income, there was also a bold plan to save money.
A vicar from Eccleshill, near Bradford, suggested that the number of bishops and other senior staff should be reduced in line with the deep cuts in more junior parish clergy.
The Rev John Hartley pointed out that the number of "frontline" parish clergy has all but halved in the last 50 years.
But in the same period, the number of bishops has risen to a total of 113.
Unpaid and part-time
Dr Hartley suggested some of the £21 million that it costs to maintain bishops and their staff should be redeployed to what he called the "frontline".
Were it all to be spent on clergy, it would fund an extra 400 full-time priests.
But as full-time paid clergy have declined in numbers, each one often responsible for several parish churches, another workforce has joined the Church.
These are the "non-stipendiary" clergy, a high proportion of them women, who act unpaid, and often part-time, and help keep the Church afloat.
Rowan Williams is concerned about ordaining gay Bishops in the US
So, argued the bishops, they have to manage these volunteers too.
Bishops are central to the Church's character and tradition.
The state of being a bishop has been passed on by the "laying on of hands" from one to another down the centuries since the time of Jesus' apostles 2,000 years ago.
It is the bishop's job to lead and teach, to ordain - create - clergy, and to confirm people as new members of the Church.
But they have turned into chief executives, administrators who are preoccupied with legislation and their membership of bodies such as the House of Lords.
One senior bishop said he could devote only a third of his time to his diocese.
So the Synod decided against a reduction in the number of bishops, and voted instead for a fundamental review of what it is to be a bishop.
One member said it sounded as though the issue was getting "the long grass treatment", but there was little appetite for a short-term cut.
Indeed Synod members are more interested in the nature of bishops - in particular their sexuality - rather than their number.
A formal question-and-answer session raised the election of a lesbian bishop by the Swedish Lutheran Church.
The Swedish Church has such a close relationship with the Church of England that - subject to the agreement of bishops - the clergy of each can work in the other.
The Swedish church could soon clear the way for homosexual couples to be married, raising further questions about the relationship with the Church of England.
But just as the Synod was drawing to a close, even more significant news was arriving from the Episcopal Church in the United States.
The Episcopal Church - the American wing of the Anglican Communion - is meeting in California for its three-yearly General Convention, equivalent to the Synod.
Lay and clergy members of the Convention have voted to allow individual dioceses to elect openly-gay bishops - ending a moratorium they agreed three years ago in order to maintain an uneasy unity in the world-wide association or Communion of Anglican churches.
Even before the vote was endorsed by the Episcopal Church's bishops, it was enough for the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to express his concern.
"I regret the fact that there is no will to observe the moratorium in such a significant part of the Church in North America", said Dr Williams.
If the Episcopal Church does elect more gay bishops - as it did the Bishop of New Hampshire Gene Robinson in 2003 - it is hard to see how it could stay inside an unbroken Communion.
The drafters of the motion say it still leaves room for dioceses to exercise restraint, and keep in effect to a moratorium, but there are several more items on the agenda in California that could go further.
One calls for the way to be opened to gay relationships to be blessed in church services.
It seems that the Synod's respite from the crisis about homosexuality might turn out to be short-lived.