What is synod?
Synod is the gathering of the clergy and lay representatives of the Diocese with the Archbishop to make decisions about our corporate life in Christ. We begin each Synod session by coming together as the Body of Christ in a celebration of the Eucharist; the business meetings that follow are an extension of the Eucharistic gathering.
Synod governs our corporate life as Anglicans in Melbourne – and our relationships within the Anglican Church generally and with wider society – in many ways. Synod members elect Archbishops, most members of Diocesan Council, other diocesan committees, and representatives on wider church bodies. They also make decisions in many important areas, such as:
- Establishing how clergy are appointed to – and removed from – parishes, and how parishes function in terms of their finances, property and office-bearers;
- Ensuring children and vulnerable people are protected in church and church-related activities;
- Monitoring and reviewing diocesan finances and budgets, and the oversight of diocesan property; and
- Encouraging and sometimes implementing change in areas such as who can be ordained (Melbourne Synod was a pioneer in the women’s ordination movement, for example), and in ecumenical relationships.
Synod also comments on issues and concerns in Australian society from the Gospel perspective, such as care of the environment, marriage and family life, education, and refugees.
Sometimes described as the Church’s “parliament”, Synod conducts its business on a model based on the Westminster parliamentary system, similar to that followed by Australia’s federal and state parliaments. As with parliaments, each Synod is elected for a term, usually of three years. The minimum is two and a half years; the maximum is three and a half. Meetings must be held annually (except when there is no Archbishop in place), and generally they are held over a four-day session in October each year. Occasionally additional meetings are called for specific purposes.
Acts of Synod
Melbourne Synod, which first met in 1856, was one of the first Synods in the worldwide Anglican Communion. Its creation by Melbourne’s first bishop, Charles Perry, recognised the importance of clergy and laity sharing the governance of the Diocese with the Archbishop.
The Synod has its legal basis in the Church of England Act 1854 of the Victorian Parliament, which provides that Acts, resolutions, and regulations of the Synod that are within its competence to make, are binding on the members of the Church if they are agreed to by the clergy and the laity and assented to by the Archbishop.