Faith Matters

Virtual meeting for Church of Ireland General Synod

Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh John McDowell

IN a Covid-affected change of schedule, the Church of Ireland's General Synod will meet from today in an online format.

The Synod traditionally takes place in the spring, but has been moved in response to the pandemic.

The three-day meeting of the lay people, clergy and bishops who make up the Church's decision-making body opens with a service of Holy Communion in St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh which can be viewed this morning.

Archbishop of Armagh John McDowell will make his keynote speech, known as the Presidential Address, shortly after the day's business opens at 11am.

To reflect the changed circumstances around this year's meeting, the General Synod will meet until 1pm today and then adjourn until an evening session from 7pm.

Tomorrow, the Synod will meet from 2.30pm to 4.30pm, followed by a further evening session; on Saturday, it will meet from 10am.

The General Synod is the forum at which the Church's various committees and its central trustee and administrative body, the Representative Church Body, present reports on their work during the past year and what they intend to do in the future.

It is also where legislation is proposed, debated and passed, and motions considered.

This year's Synod is being asked to look at five Bills. Three of these relate to how clergy are selected to serve in parishes, including the gender balance of parochial nominators and seeking to avoid conflicts of interest that can arise when someone acting on behalf of the diocese is involved in the nomination process for their own parish.

Another Bill sets out how a bishop should be elected to the United Dioceses of Tuam, Limerick and Killaloe and the United Dioceses of Limerick and Killaloe - in 2019, the General Synod agreed to unite the two dioceses.

The first Bill to be considered sees the General Synod return to a long-running and vexed issue: how its own membership is constituted, including the level of representation for each diocese.

The Bill proposes reducing the size of the General Synod's House of Representatives - its clerical and lay members - from the current 648 members to 597 members between 2024 and 2026, and then to 534 members by 2030.

Meanwhile, the Representative Church Body's report notes total funds available increased by €5 million to €208 million in 2020. Expenditure from General Funds in 2020 decreased by €100,000 to €7.1 million.

Climate change and the environment is also shaping the RCB's activities. Its investment committee has divested from companies involved in the extraction of thermal coal and tar sands as these companies are unlikely to be able to align with a future that limits temperature rises to a level that is well below 2C above pre-industrial levels.


WHILE the Church of Ireland has decided to keep its Synod business online this year, the Presbyterian Church is holding its General Assembly 'in-person', albeit with limited numbers, next week.

It will meet in Belfast from Monday until Wednesday.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 General Assembly was cancelled.

As well as not taking place in the traditional June slot, at three days' long, next week's event is shorter than usual.

Among other matters, the pandemic and its impact on society, the lives of individuals, families, church families and frontline workers at home in Ireland and Covid's impact overseas are expected to be recognised during the three days.

Other business will relate to a range of Church, organisational, political and environmental issues.

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Faith Matters