General Synod and CoGS membership to be reduced?

Published December 12, 2008

The Council of General Synod (CoGS) met from Nov. 14 to 16 in Toronto.

The Governance Working Group (GWG) will be “testing the will” of the 2010 General Synod in terms of reducing its membership, currently at 302.

The GWG is also proposing that General Synod change the way it determines entitlement to additional members – from number of licensed clergy to “average weekly attendance in the diocese (excluding weddings and funerals).”

As mandated by General Synod in 2007, the GWG is also looking at reducing the composition of the Council of General Synod (CoGS), the church’s governing body between General Synods, which has 42 members.

In a presentation at the fall meeting of CoGS in Toronto, the GWG identified three principles that underlie the current composition of General Synod: All of the 30 dioceses should have a significant representation regardless of size, the number of members from each diocese should be proportional to the number of Anglicans in the diocese, and the body “should not have so many members that it cannot function effectively as a forum for the exchange of views, the advocacy of positions, and the formulation of policy.”

If each of the 30 dioceses is represented by the diocesan bishop, one clergy, one lay person and one youth member, it adds up to 120 members, the GWG said. There are an additional 12 bishops (suffragan, co-adjutor and bishop ordinary to the Armed Forces), and about 10 ex-officio members (primate, chancellor, general secretary, and representatives of the Canadian Forces and religious orders), which brings the total number of “core constituencies” to 142.

If General Synod remains the same size and 142 are required to represent “core constituencies,” the GWG said, an additional 160 members are to be allocated “proportionately according to population.” The number of members could be cut by reducing the 160 additional members, the GWG said. “For example, if the size of General Synod were to be reduced from 302 to 200, there would be 58 (instead of 160) members available for proportional representation,” the GWG said in a written report to CoGS. The 58 would then be divided equally between clergy and lay members.

The GWG said calculating the number of licensed clergy “is no longer a satisfactory measure of the number of Anglicans in a diocese,” since “there is a considerable variation in licensing across the country.” “Focusing on the number of licensed clergy does not take into account our emphasis on the Whole People of God.”

The GWG said it was prepared to draft the formula for allocating additional members based on average weekly attendance in the diocese.

Changes in the number of members and in the formula for allocating additional members require the approval of two General Synods since it involves amending the Anglican Church of Canada’s Declaration of Principles.

With regards to CoGS, the GWG suggests reducing the size of CoGS by cutting the number of elected members from each province. The GWG said the election of CoGS’ 32 members by the four provincial caucuses is governed by “an arcane formula.” The formula requires that “the number of ordained representatives on CoGS from a province will be equal to 45 per cent of the number of dioceses in the province rounded to the next higher whole number, with an equal number of lay representatives.” It also requires that the ordained representatives include at least one bishop and at least one clergy, and each diocese must have at least one representative but no more than one ordained person.

The GWG said changing the formula from 45 per cent to 25 per cent would reduce the number of elected representatives from 32 to 18, and consequently, reducing the size of CoGS by one-third, or from 42 to 28.

The other CoGS members include five officers (primate, prolocutor, deputy prolocutor, chancellor and general secretary), four youth members elected by provincial caucuses, and a representative of the ordinariate.

The proposal, the GWG said, would still maintain the principle of provincial election of CoGS members, the equal representation of clergy and lay members, the requirement for at least one bishop and one clergy from each province, the rule that no diocese could be represented by more than one ordained person, the election of a youth member for each province, and the representation of a member of the ordinariate.

The amendment would mean that not every diocese would have a representative. However, the GWG said, it was still acceptable since the executive function of CoGS does not require “the comprehensive representation of each order from every diocese,” unlike General Synod which has a legislative function. It also said that “it is inaccurate to describe a member of CoGS as a ‘representative’ of the diocese in which they live.” Provincial caucuses elect CoGS members and dioceses merely “create the pool of eligible persons.” The GWG also said that the degree to which CoGS members report back to their dioceses varies and that, in the end, it is the responsibility of CoGS as a whole to inform Anglicans about its work.


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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