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Putting Your Hand Up for Deanery Synod

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Posted by Ros Clarke, 28 Mar 2019

Ros Clarke encourages us to consider the opportunities for gospel flourishing through election to Deanery Synod.

I wonder whether yours is the kind of church where elections to the Deanery Synod are hotly contested, or whether it’s an annual struggle to persuade anyone at all to be willing to do it. My experience in many churches is more of the latter than the former, and from my experience of visiting upwards of twenty different Deanery Synods (in my previous job, working for Lichfield Diocese), I think it shows. When I asked on social media for examples of positive experiences of Deanery Synod there was a resounding silence. Eventually a few did pop up, but people certainly weren’t brimming over with exciting stories of gospel flourishing through Deanery Synods.

But as we enter into APCM season once again, I want to encourage you to think again about Deanery Synods, what they are for and why we should make sure that we fill our quota of representatives.

First, Deanery Synod reps have an extremely important role in the diocese and in the national church because these are the people who elect Diocesan Synod representatives and General Synod representatives. If we are at all concerned about the decisions being made by General Synod – and we should be – we need to do everything we can to elect people who will represent us there. If your church does not elect its full quota of Deanery Synod reps, then it is simply handing votes away.

And since it is Deanery Synod reps who elect Diocesan and General Synod members, if you are considering standing for either of those in the future, a really good first step is to join the Deanery Synod. You’ll get a better understanding of how the Church of England works, you’ll get to know people from churches which are different from yours, you’ll see what issues people are concerned with, you’ll learn to speak their language. Perhaps you’ll realise that being on a synod isn’t for you, or perhaps other people will recognise that you are someone they want to represent them in the wider church and encourage you to stand for Diocesan or General Synod.

Third, Deanery Synods can influence the agenda of Diocesan Synods.  At the most recent meeting of my Diocesan Synod, we debated a motion which had been put forward by a Deanery Synod. It was a really significant motion concerning diocesan training for Readers and post-ordination, and since it was passed at Diocesan Synod, that training will now be reviewed and potentially significant changes may be made. Another Deanery Synod in a different diocese recently put a motion forward to their Diocesan Synod concerning wedding fees. That’s something which has already been debated at General Synod, but continuing pressure from deaneries, and then dioceses, may prompt another debate and change at a national level. Deanery Synods can make a substantive difference to what the national church and the diocese are talking about and doing.

Fourth, Deanery Synods can be involved in diocesan consultations about anything from clergy deployment to parish share to setting the overall vision for the diocese. If we aren’t present and engaged in those kinds of conversations, we have only ourselves to blame when the outcomes are unfavourable.

And fifth, but not least significant, in my opinion, Deanery Synods can make a big difference in the deanery itself. I know of Deanery Synods which have organised conferences, Lent courses, quiet days and training events, many of which have happened because evangelicals have taken the initiative. By being on the Synod, you can start to see where the opportunities are, and build the relationships that will allow you to have some influence. Could you organise a deanery quiet day with a good Bible teacher, or perhaps a training day for Sunday school teachers, or a Lent course open to all, using trusted materials? It’s often easier to work together with other evangelical churches, but I think we also need to love and serve people in other churches where we can.  They are our brothers and sisters, and many of them are sheep who are starving for lack of gospel teaching.

Maybe you can’t do all of that. Maybe you wouldn’t know where to start in proposing a motion to a synod. Maybe you’d have no idea how to organise an event, and anyway, in your deanery the chances of being able to do anything worthwhile are non-existent. But if you love the Lord, know the gospel, and are concerned for the Church of England, could you step up for Deanery Synod anyway? If nothing else, to make sure that someone from your church has a say in who else will represent you in the diocese and in the national church?

Ros Clarke is Associate Director of Church Society, Course Leader of the Priscilla Programme and a member of Lichfield Diocesan Synod.

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