A day trip to Synod…

Written on Tuesday…

So I’ve just spent a mere 3 hours at Synod and I want to say that this post is not by any means a judgement (heaven forbid) or true reflection of what the whole is like. However what this is, is some rambling thoughts on the proceedings from a total newbie.

I don’t know much about the inner workings of the CofE although I find myself attempting to catch up in the wake of the good Lord calling me into the midst of it. But I have to say that Synod was pretty much as I imagined it would be: incredibly structured, a few inspiring leaders, and some tweed-clad-full-of-their-own-importance-(or point)-interlopers, some marginally funny in-jokes, some time wasting, and amongst it all some absolute gems. The Archbishop of Iraq was one of those who shone out in the greyness of clerical shirts, who gave a heart-breakingly honest view of the life of a persecuted Christian, in many cases refusing to give up their country as a nation where Jesus is worshipped despite huge and real personal cost and danger. He littered his talk with requests for prayer, a thing so fundamental to our faith that we so often overlook in times of others crisis. I would have thought the very least we could do as a church is to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ and yet he asked for nothing more.

It was almost laughable that this deeply concerning talk was followed shortly after with a report and response which included such delights as ‘this report is printed in the wrong font/colour’. 
I mean I am all for inclusivity and accessibility but is a meeting of the governing body of the entire church the place to air this crap? I’m sorry to sound so rude and I wish no ill to the person in question but this just smacks of the reasons why an organisation like the C of E is seen as a dinosaur by so many. If you have structures in place to run this kind of thing then use them, why on earth should this kind of thing be raised in a meeting where people have travelled the length of the country to attend? Surely there must be a system in place to deal with these things? Otherwise it allows Joe Blogs with a gripe to go off on it for 3 minutes, and believe me 3 mins is a lot longer than you think, especially when there are lots of them…

It strikes me also from my limited experience of deanery synods and the like that there are some folk (& I shall be very unkind here) who are rather full of their own self importance. I do wonder sometimes if deanery/general synod reps are a mix of those who delight in the role, of having a title and being noticed, and those who have frankly been press ganged into it…

Then there was the ridiculous pride that since November screens had been used for worship (really since November? what is this, 1988?) and in order to count the number of people present, they used the voting pads which frankly took twice as long as if someone had just stood up and counted them. ARGH!!! Is this the modern face of the CofE?

Ok, ok, I’m really not being very nice, I know, I’m sorry. I know people give up a lot of time and effort to work/volunteer in these roles but personally I came away thinking for goodness sake, this would drive me around the bend. And this is an organisation I work for!

Thankfully the ABC (who I think I am secretly a little bit in love with) saved the day with a stirring speech on evangelism and sharing the gospel. (Although I have to say, it was sad that he even had to say it at all. I mean, surely, if we have devoted our lives to Christ enough that we are even working for the church, or volunteering or whatever, surely there should be enough of Christ in us to compel us to share him with those around us?)

His point that he highlighted several times was that the love and joy of Christ should urge us on to share the most compelling of announcements that is the good news of the gospel. 
Yes! Yes! And yes! 
So often it feels like this church is apologising for simply whispering the name of Jesus and I want to shout it from the rooftops: 
Jesus. Only Jesus.

In Jeremiah chapter 20, he is complaining of the persecution towards him and yet even then he says that if he were to try and hold in talking of God that

‘his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot’

He simply cannot stop talking of the God who he is committed to and he hadn’t even met Jesus yet! Surely as church and as Christians we should be as committed and overcome with God’s love, as Jeremiah was, and if not I think we should question our faith. Yes, truly I do, controversial as that sounds, oh yes some are called to be evangelists, blah blah, but at the end of the day our job is to make disciples, to share the good news and if you’re not doing that, then why bloomin’ not? 

Ok enough of my slightly irritated ranting. In Summary, General Synod was exactly as I expected (rather frustrating), and so was the ABC (rather brilliant). Could have just posted 2 lines really….

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  • Reply
    February 12, 2015 at 11:51 am

    Im getting some comments on Facebook which isn't public, so I'm copying them here. Please do comment/join the conversation 🙂

    Danny Lee Pegg/
    I am on deanery synod and yes, it is sometimes all the things you mention Jules – it cannot be denied. But we have to work with what we have got. This is our Church. This is our portion of the broken body of Christ on Earth and whilst the joint may be aching, we have to get on and work in his name and glory! Remember, God often makes the unsuitable thing, the perfect thing.
    1 hr · Edited · Like · 2

    Sara-Jane Stevens /
    I was trying to come up with a similar reply … well said.
    1 hr · Like

    Matt Freestone /
    Brilliant Jules. Those with a gift of encouragement should use it to move on the font police to somewhere that isn't here!
    1 hr · Like

    Pollyanna Hollebon /
    Jules I really enjoyed reading this. Thank you xx
    43 mins · Like

    Jules Middleton /
    ha! this post is clearly touching something in people, replies here and on Twitter with a range of thoughts! *yikes* Anyway… Danny you are absolutely right, we have to work with what we've got, and it is our church (well it's God's actually but let's not be pedantic, and I should say a church I love and am committed to, which is why I get so frustrated. And as I said in the opening para I wasn't making a judgement, it was simply my thoughts on the 3 hours I spent there (and it was only 3 hours). However… if a joint is aching, to use your analogy, what do you do with it? treat it, medicate it, change your movement to affect it less? or in extreme cases get it replaced with a new one. I'm afraid I am not someone who can just put up with things the way they are, I always want to find ways to do things better (which is possibly a failing of mine). So if this system needs some attention, then why doesn't that happen? I wonder how many other broken systems carry on going because no one wants or has the energy maybe, to change or fix them? Lastly, as I said in the piece, I don't know enough about the workings of Synod to make any intelligent suggestions as to what this might be, I'm just poinintg out what I noticed. I am very careful when I write not to be critical all the time, as it annoys me when others criticise something either for the sake of it, or just to let off steam and move on. However when I am slightly (!) critical it is because I care and am passionate about something. It has been suggested to me more than once I should get on Synod and use my voice but TBH I'm not sure I could hack it without going insane. I hope there are others braver than I who will do just that…

  • Reply
    February 12, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    My idea of governance in the Church isn't synod in it's current form. It's too much a forum for those who have the time (and resources) to get themselves elected. I wonder why they're not standing for Parliament or Local Government? Perhaps the hurly, burly of politics is to rough for them to handle?

    And the trivia you describe, detracts from the important stuff that they're supposed to be debating. And the comment about the printing in the wrong font & colour jut serves to highlight the nonsense that the current synod system is.

    Not sure I can say any more. Apart from total disillusioned.

  • Reply
    Gordon B
    February 12, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    With you on the ABC – we need a good dose of reality. In my recent experience I am meeting more and more clergy who get it and understand the need for change, radical change in the way we are being 'Church' – but some of their 'congregations' 'aren’t for shifting or changing, thinking that they can continue to do the same old same old and somehow the tide will turn and the people will come flocking back into the Church. 'Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living, tradition is the living faith of the dead.' (Not my quote!)

  • Reply
    Beverley Hughes
    February 13, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    Very much enjoyed reading this. I've recently joined our Deanery Synod and as a relative youngster aged 47(!) I wonder if it's the make up of the body of people, set in their ways and as you say, some liking the 'profile'.

    But, I was encouraged to attend and feel I'm there to responsibly fulfil a purpose so you, me, others of like mind have to keep trying and maybe pushing things in order to change a few things.

    I reckon I'll read a few more of your ramblings as we're probably on the same page!

  • Reply
    February 13, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    Thanks for the comments.
    Yes Ernie, I feel your pain! But don't be too disillusioned, I am truly hopeful that God will rise people up, just like Gordon and Beverley have mentioned, to make a difference and see some real change.
    Gordon, good to hear others are feeling the same, I do think it needs some 'radicals' to push forward. Way too many in leadership settle for not alienating their congregations when a bit of 'strong leadership' could really help! not that I'm saying we should alienate our congregations but just that we should walk in the leadership roles that we've been given!
    Beverley thanks for the comment, yes there's usually a bit of rambling on here! Keep pushing forward! You are one of those God has called to make a difference 🙂

    red x

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