Last week’s Diocesan Synod demonstrated a significant culture change. It was a continuation of last year’s meeting when the Synod overwhelmingly endorsed the Diocesan mission. It indicated that some significant and real change is happening to our diocesan life.
Synod is something that you either love or hate but either way must endure. For five nights each year the representatives of the parishes of the Diocese meet to discuss the matters of common concern.
Generally, Synod business is occupied with household chores like passing the budget, electing members to the multitude of committees that govern our common life, and receiving reports from these committees. There is also the opportunity for members to present petitions, ask questions or to move motions.
But Synod is also the scene of legislative changes to the rules that apply within the life of the diocese. These legislative changes often involve long protracted debates over the minutiae of wording. As ‘the devil is in the detail’ the changes must be studied carefully, but as several hundred people try to do it together the process gets bogged down in interminably boring debates about trivia.
However, the whole mood and agenda in 2003 was different to previous years. The chores were all accomplished: the reports from the committees were received, the budget was passed and there were some legislative changes. But the life of the Synod was notably different. For one thing there were no contested elections. Furthermore, the legislation that passed did so with almost no amendments or debate. There were some lively debates over some of the member’s motions, but they were all decided on the voices without the need for a show of hands or any counting.
But more significantly the issue that dominated the proceedings was the mission. This meant that there were reports and presentations of the work of the mission in its first year of operation. It meant that time was given to talking, planning and praying about the work of evangelism in our diocese (yes – praying in Synod- and not just saying some formal prayers at the commencement of the day). It meant the budget was devised and presented in accordance with the mission priorities. It meant that time was given to considering the property and personnel needs that we will have as we continue to bring the gospel to the city.
The culture shift that has happened in Synod reminded me of a particular student group that has two habits: running evangelistic missions and changing their constitution.
These two activities never seem to happen at the same time. The year that they seek to evangelise the University by running an evangelistic mission they do not change their constitution. The year that they do not run a mission all their energies are consumed in a do or die effort of constitutional reform.
Hopefully the change in focus within last week’s Synod is symbolic of a change in focus in the parishes of the Diocese – more prayer, more evangelism and less legislative reform.