General Synod may revisit rules for membership, voting

For the second time in its history, General Synod will be meeting jointly with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada’s National Convention. The July 12-17 gathering will be known simply as the Assembly. Image: Saskia Rowley
By on January 1, 2022
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When it meets next summer, General Synod is expected to vote on a set of proposals concerning its own rules for membership and voting.

On Nov. 5, CoGS voted to direct the Governance Working Group (GWG)—a body tasked to review rules around order, procedure and composition of General Synod—to draft resolutions for General Synod necessary to implement the five proposals in a report it made to CoGS in May 2021.

These proposals include a modification to the rules determining the number of elected clergy and lay members from each diocese; changing the threshold for required votes, in the case of votes by order, from two-thirds of each order to two-thirds of General Synod as a whole with a majority in each order; and eliminating the need for certain resolutions to be approved by two successive sessions of General Synod.

The working group stems from a resolution (C005) passed at General Synod in 2019, moved by Canon David Harrison of the diocese of Toronto.

“I think some of us have felt that we haven’t had the kind of mechanisms that we might need, as the Order of Clergy or Order of Laity, to speak into this synod as the Order of Bishops has,” Harrison said at the time.

In its May report to CoGS, the GWG states that its work has been perceived by some in the church to have come in response to the 2019 vote on same-sex marriage, which did not pass due to the votes of two bishops. But work on the resolution, the report states, was begun before General Synod that year.

“Although C005 may have been initiated prior to General Synod 2019 dealing with the marriage canon issue, a considerable number of persons perceive that it was a reaction to the outcome of that vote,” the report stated.

“Some see that issue as a failure of governance on an issue that took too long to be considered and thwarted the significant majority of the members of General Synod. Others are wary of changes that would have led to a different result on that (or any) particular issue.”

For the second time in its history, General Synod will be meeting jointly with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada’s corresponding body, the National Convention. The first such gathering, known as Joint Assembly, took place in Ottawa in 2013. The word “joint” will be left out of the name of summer’s gathering, slated for July 12-17 in Calgary.

“We decided to drop that term because we are in full communion together and when we are together, we are one,” Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, told CoGS Nov. 6.

The theme of both the Assembly and General Synod is “Let There Be Greening.”

“We liked the play on the word greening, which has both a creation stewardship theme to it, but also a sense of greening of the church—what will it be for the church to green and blossom and flourish?” Nicholls said.

An in-person gathering is still planned, with a deadline until Jan. 14 to make a final decision. Though there may be some restrictions, the primate said, there are currently no indications to suggest that an in-person gathering will not be possible. Nicholls also said she hoped a tentative agenda would be ready to show CoGS at its next meeting, scheduled for March 2022.

International partners, she said, will not be present at the Assembly directly, due to pandemic uncertainties regarding travel and time limitations.

Author

  • Matthew Puddister (aka Matt Gardner) is a staff writer for the Anglican Journal. Most recently, Puddister worked as corporate communicator for the Anglican Church of Canada, a position he held since Dec. 1, 2014. He previously served as a city reporter for the Prince Albert Daily Herald. A former resident of Kingston, Ont., Puddister has a degree in English literature from Queen’s University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario. He will continue to support corporate communications efforts during his time at the Journal.