Sunday, October 31, 2010

The point about synods

Our one day synod session for the Diocese of Christchurch is now over. It was the usual synodical mix of moments of high interest, medium interest, and low interest, punctuated by cherished moments of fellowship and food. One point of celebration was learning that the appeal for funds for Haiti earthquake recovery, aimed at $100,000 has raised $120,000!

Looking over the day I think of a conversation about the heavily structured character of the Anglican church as an institution in which the argument put to me was that we are badly structured for mission. That may be so; such conversations are ongoing in the life of any church with more than one congregation, let alone one with dioceses plural, and those dioceses having multiple parishes. But in my reflection on the day I juxtapose a contribution made by a member from one of the badly effected parishes following the earthquake. He praised the diocese for its excellent insurance cover for buildings, and cited business colleagues who were amazed at how good this insurance is. When that is compared with another speaker noting a non-Anglican church in the city which has discovered it has no copy of the original construction plans of its badly damaged building (and thus the reconstruction begins with an engineer configuring plans from scratch), the point is made that structures which enhance things such as insurance schemes and archival records enable mission in the long-term rather than impede it.

Since Synod is, among other functions, the AGM of a Diocese in which financial accounts are accounted for, budget plans approved, and decisions made which underpin the maintenance of archives and administration, despite appearances that it is a time consuming talkfest which (depending on the character of resolutions passed) may appear to achieve nothing, it is a vital cog in the gearing of a diocese for engaging with the mission of God.

In the end a church without structure is likely to end up an unaccountable dictatorship which for a time will forward the mission of God remade in the likeness of the dictator. Embracing structure, with all its costs in time and money for meetings, is likely to end in a true forwarding of God's mission over the long-term, a mission which is remade in the likeness of God's people as a body, and not of any one invdividual.

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