The end is nigh

Robert Forsyth

It is now well towards the end of the General Synod here in Melbourne.  It is towards the end of the last full day. Let me tell you what goes on down here.

There are four things that happen.

Firstly, there are the presentations. By this I mean events in the Dull But Worthy category where various bodies come along and talk to us about what they are doing, usually under the guise of some motion to the Synod. We have had the Anglican Schools Network, we’ve had the Defence Force chaplains, the Christian Council of Asia and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Anglican Council. We listen politely.

The one exception to all this was a highlight of the Synod for me, the “Fresh Expressions” presentations in which we heard exciting stories of new churches and outreach from Anglican ministries in a number of dioceses and a very positive attitude to creative church planting. (Quite an eye opener for the General Synod, including us from Sydney) 

Secondly, we have what is called here legislation, that is, various canons, rules and changes of constitution. This occurs in the daytime and it's given priority in the Synod. It can be tedious, although it is usually streamlined by the process of sending things off for a “huddle” if there is a deadlock or too much complexity. However when I watch the lawyers (real and bush) at work, it can fell at little like calling 25 plumbers to fix only one tap. 

Thirdly, there are motions. This is where the Synod expresses its point of view or opinion on a range of everything from immigration, freedom of religion to the state of Anglicanism worldwide and anything else you might think of.  Normally the motions are pretty straightforward although occasionally a really interesting matter comes up.

Just the other night we had a huge battle over whether or not we would note "The Jerusalem Declaration" from GAFCON. It's here that the bigger pressures of the wider Anglican churches and shifting movements in Anglicanism most come to bear.

At the time of writing we have just concluded a remarkable debate on a motion that would have imposed on the Diocese of Sydney a requirement to contribute to the Anglican Consutative Council (ACC), which at present it has chosen not to do. The synod voted not to do so, but only after two fine speeches from non Sydney people who while unhappy with our refusal to pay for the ACC voluntarily, did not want compulsion to damage fellowship further.

And I must say I have been impressed at the contribution of a number of the younger Sydney delegates to debates on motions. There is a genuine changing of the guard beginning to take place that promises positive changes to Sydney’s engagement with the General Synod.

And lastly there are the elections. By secret ballot we elect members of the Standing Committee and other groups. The interesting thing about this aspect of General Synod is the existence of discreet how-to-vote “tickets.” I have discovered at least two:  one from the evangelicals which comes out Sydney, and one from the more liberal catholics which comes out of Melbourne. The latter usually does slightly better in the results, as it did again this time. (I feel a lttle like Prime Minister Gillard, I got on to the Standing Committee by just one vote.)

Overall this has turned out to be a friendlier occasion than I can remember in nearly seven General Synods. Unexpectedly. 

Melbourne itself is quite a wonderful city, although rather strange. It is, for a start, unnaturally flat. Also, for reasons I’ve not understood, the sun never seems to shine here. And this morning while going on my long walk I noticed a very unusual event - cyclists stopping at red lights. How weird is that!