by Keith Stephens, Diocesan Registrar & Secretary of Synod
In 2015 the Diocese of Adelaide celebrated one hundred and sixty years of Synodal Governance in our Church. It could be said it was an unusual event to celebrate, however, the vision of Bishop Augustus Short (the first Bishop of Adelaide) to bring the whole Church in South Australia together as a unit of governance was ground breaking in institution and ecclesiology. We may take it for granted, but as a result of the work undertaken by Short to establish the Synod as a primary unit of governance in the Church each of us, whether clergy or lay, has a voice and responsibility in how we order ourselves, and strive to grow God’s Kingdom in Adelaide and beyond.
It is especially noteworthy that Short had a firm conviction that the laity, as the people of God, should be in the majority on the floor of Synod, and lead the mood of Synod by casting their votes first. At that time, this was in contrast to the Diocese of Sydney, where Bishop Broughton desired that any diocesan synod should consist entirely of clergy. Only in the small colony of South Australia, the ‘paradise of dissent’, could such church reform take place!
As 2016 is a new triennium of Synod, the 43rd to be precise, there will be a number of people who have had very little experience with Synod until now. With the history lesson behind us we should ask the question “What is Synod?” The Synod is the major governance body within each Diocese of the Anglican Church of Australia. “Synod” means 'a council of the church meeting to decide doctrine and administration'. The modern Synod is a theologically informed governance structure that allows all the people of God, both lay and ordained, to provide not only for the life and growth but also the order and good governance of the Church.
Synod is similar to an Annual General Meeting of a large organisation, however, it is far more than just the receiving of reports and approving policy - it is an opportunity for the church to share its stories of faith, and collectively discern our part in God's mission in Adelaide.
The Synod of the Diocese of Adelaide is legally structured as an incorporated association, with approximately 260 members, being around 140 lay people elected by local churches and 120 licensed clergy. The laity are elected by parish according to the size of that parish and the clergy are summoned to Synod on account of their holding a license from the Archbishop. Generally, Synods in Adelaide are summoned once a year, but can be called at other times to consider items of business pertinent to the good order or the Diocese. Later this year, 3 and 4 December, there will be a special Election Synod, where all members of the Synod will be summoned to elect the 10th Archbishop of Adelaide.
If you are new to Synod you may be wondering “How does Synod work?” The Standing Orders Ordinance is a useful document for understanding how the Synodal process works, including how to submit motions, questions, and petitions. Other Ordinances directly relevant to the conduct and composition of Synod include, the Constitution of the Diocese of Adelaide, Election of Members of Synod Ordinance and the Elections and Appointments Ordinance. These are available on the Adelaide Anglicans website.
In the lead up to Synod, all members will receive an information pack that will include the Notice Paper (Agenda) and supporting documents. There will also be the Reports and Accounts Book that will contain the consolidated financial statements of the Synod as well as reports from each parish, mission partners and agencies such as Anglicare SA, ABM and CMS.
At the beginning of a new triennium, many of the governing bodies in the Diocese are refreshed through an election process. Included in this year’s Notice Paper are the names and biographical information for those seeking to be elected in the various boards, councils and committees of the Diocese.
Over the two days of Synod members will be asked to consider items of business that include the annual financial presentation, which includes a look at the financial performance of the Synod over the past twelve months as well as the budget for the year ahead. There will also be a period of time set aside for a forum to explore and discuss the development of a Diocesan Reconciliation Action Plan. On the Sunday, The Rev’d Sandy Jones, from the Diocese of Melbourne, who was invited by the Bishop Nomination Committee to lead a consultation process in July exploring the key issues that should be considered in the election of the next Archbishop of Adelaide, will be presenting the findings of the consultation process so as to keep members of Synod informed in the lead up to the December election. As well as these three significant items there will be a number of motions put forward by Synod members covering a range of issues from the Diocesan Companion Diocese of Bor, youth ministry and St Barnabas’ College.
Synod first gathers in worship at St Peter’s Cathedral at 7pm on Friday 28 October. This is a chance for the whole Diocese, not just Synod members, to come before God in prayer as we approach the significant task before us over the weekend. All members of the Diocese are welcome to join in this service.
If you are new to Synod, I would very much like to meet you over the course of the weekend. Please do not hesitate to find me during one of the breaks and say hello. I look forward to welcoming old and new members of Synod later in the month.