Council of General Synod (CoGS) members today began discussing changes to the structures of General Synod, which were proposed by a national consultation convened last January by the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.
Consultation representatives outlined the recommendations, which ranged from reducing the frequency of CoGS’ face-to-face meetings to four times in the triennium, to decentralizing the staffing of some ministries, to reviewing the focus and frequency of House of Bishops meetings. Other proposals include an operational review the effectiveness of the church’s stewardship initiatives as well as its communications strategies.
A sampling of initial impressions from CoGS members – who gathered in table group discussions – was mixed. Some members said they recognized the need for change and expressed willingness to move towards the direction of having shorter meetings. Some said they were enthusiastic about the church’s willingness to invest in ministry and to seek change.
Others expressed concern about a proposal to reduce the membership of some of the church’s standing committees to five and for them to meet electronically. There were concerns about what the “optics” of such a move would be to the wider church and whether “downsizing” would give rise to “clique management” of a select few.
Some identified possible issues around technology, particularly around the proposal for CoGS to have some meetings electronically, saying there are who may not be up to speed with it or have access to it.
Monica Patten, a member of the national consultation working group, assured CoGS that their comments would form the basis for the next set of discussions and possible decisions on what to do with the proposals. [The proposals emerged from the consultation involving 40 participants who gathered last January 8 to 10 “to identify desirable changes in the structures and roles by which the Anglican Church of Canada carries out its ministry in the service to God’s mission,” as mandated by the General Synod strategic plan, Vision 2019. Participants included lay, clergy and bishops from all regions of Canada, various generations, as well as representatives from the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).]
Archdeacon Michael Thompson, the church’s general secretary, said the proposed changes were meant to renew the church and did not simply arise because of financial necessity. “God is asking us to consider a new thing,” he said. “We’re not new to this… We’ve been having the start of this conversation for a long time.” But, he added, “Seldom has a new way blossomed.” While conversations will continue, the church must also “work towards its application.”
Thompson emphasized that the work of restructuring involves the whole church saying, “We’re in this together in a big way.”
He added said that the national consultation shifted away from the oft-raised question of “what are the areas of work that only General Synod can do?” to “what are we (as a church) doing together? What does each contribute to the church’s life of ministry? What are the charisms and gifts that General Synod contributes?”
Thompson identified General Synod’s role of “connecting” things and people together at the parish and diocesan level as one gift. He cited the example of how a partnership between General Synod and the diocese of Ottawa enabled interfaith chaplains across the country to immediately connect last fall when the federal government decided to cancel the contracts of part-time, including many non-Christian, chaplains in federal prisons. He also cited the partnership between the Anglican Journal and the diocesan papers. “We are already in the connecting business,” and the goal is “to enhance the business we’re in,” he said.