Friday, August 26, 2016

Youth at the Christchurch Diocesan Synod

The following is a post by Etienne Wain, a member of the Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch, about the relationship between youth and the Synod. My posting it here is to assist public dissemination and discussion of Etienne's viewpoint ahead of our Synod which meets next week, 1 - 3 September 2016. One of the motions we will consider concerns youth representation and presence in the Synod. My posting does not signal agreement or approval of the viewpoint. I will be reading it as reflectively as other readers here.

It’s no secret that the number of youth attending Synods is low. Listening to a bunch of older people talk finances and strategic plans was never going to make it onto a teenager’s top ten ways to spend a weekend, so it was always going to be a hard ask.

That being said, youth care about social justice. The high youth participation in causes such as the 40 Hour Famine and the fairtrade movement is heartening evidence that youth want to follow in the steps of Christ and clothe, feed and minister to those in need.

Compare this with Synod. Synod is a way to influence the direction and behaviour of a Church that has concern for the poor and marginalised as a central tenet. It’s an instruments by which positive social change can be set in motion. However, youth, with all their passion for social justice, aren’t exactly filling up Synod venues.

So why the disparity? Why so little youth interest?

Part of the reason is that some youth aren’t interested in meetings and constitutions regardless of potential and cause, but this is certainly not all of them.

Another reason is youth not knowing that Synod exists. A motion at this session of Christchurch Synod looks to address this by encouraging ministry units to educate their youth on Synod and commit themselves to finding a youth representative. This is a step in the right direction.
Another part of the puzzle for those who might otherwise be inclined to go is that most youth representatives do not get a vote, which can make their participation look rather token. A number of dioceses are currently exploring the possibility of granting all youth representatives a vote. This is a vital discussion for the Church to have and it’s encouraging that dioceses are having conversations around it at present.

But there is a fourth reason that I believe raises a wider question for the Church. There is a perception that little actual change results from Synod motions. This perception can lead youth to dismiss Synod as irrelevant, which doesn’t exactly encourage youth attendance. To check if this perception was substantial or just cynicism some youth from the Diocese of Christchurch conducted a survey asking around 50 ministry units about their responses to past motions they had supported. The number of ministry units happy to respond was a positive sign. The actual results weren’t quite as encouraging.

One example was a 2006 motion encouraging all ministry units to become fairtrade. As mentioned earlier, many of the youth I know support the fairtrade movement as it guarantees producers in third-world countries prices that equitably compensate their efforts, rather than perpetuating the poverty cycle in the name of cheaper prices for consumers.

Becoming fairtrade is not difficult. It involves providing fairtrade tea and coffee instead of, or as an option over, their non-fairtrade alternatives and promoting the use of these products. Here are the results of the survey:

Of the 12 respondents, none became fairtrade, only a quarter often buy fairtrade products and two do not buy fairtrade products at all.

This is disheartening.

Yes, the motion was ten years ago. However, the fact remains that none of these ministry units follow the motion precisely and two don’t even buy any fairtrade products at all. This indicates that the motion achieved very little.

Another motion, this one in 2009, asked ministry units to approach their youth and provide mentoring to those who request it. It produced the following results in practice:

Of the ministry units with youth, a third have not been asking them whether they would like mentoring. The trend appears to be that Synods make aspirational promises that struggle to translate into effective action.

From a youth perspective, how do you inspire youth who might want to go to Synod to take part in shaping their future Church when the chance that their participation actually makes a difference in an area they care about is slim? Finances, working groups and canons can mean little to youth. Actual change in areas that matter to youth, resulting from debates, votes and conversations that include them, however, would inspire them.

Please note that this is not a criticism of the processes that shape Synod, or its constitutional framework. Nor is it an attack on the discussions on financial, strategic and doctrinal matters that Synod must discuss. It is an observation that these are less tangible and salient topics to youth, many of whom lack the clerical, financial or experiential knowledge to fully engage with them. What youth have to offer at Synod is not ideas on how safety policies should be amended, or questions scrutinising complex Bills. But youth have a passion for the least, the last and the lost, and the energy to fight for their needs relentlessly. To get young people to Synod, we need to recognise this passion and encourage it, not least by ensuring that motions result in actual change.

I have two suggestions. First, those attending Synod should not accept aspirational motions too easily. Debate them. Counter them. Bring any opposition against them out onto the Synod floor. Give yourselves no leeway to shrug them off in vestry meetings as too hard, too costly or referring to someone else. Build a culture that expects ministry units to turn motions into action.

Second, we should become a fairtrade Church. This alone wouldn’t solve everything, but it would show that the Church cares about the social justice causes that youth do.

In the end, the message is clear: if Synod started taking youth seriously, then youth would do the same for Synod.

Etienne Wain


Jean said...

Food for thought ...

In the distant past when I was a youth rep my Minister and lay rep almost fell off their seats when I actually got up to say something : ), my Pastor was wide eyed "wow I've never said anything before". Truth being after sitting there listening for so long, there was only so many lollies I could eat before I thought perhaps I better actually do something.

I think there is a point in what it written re the following up on motions and seriously discussing them before they are passed (e.g. no token gestures or agreeing to things that people think might be impossible to implement).

I also think there is a point in explaining the importance of synod, giving youth representatives some voting power and encouraging young people to go. I think I was 24 at the time so pretty able to make a sound choice.

However, on the other hand re making synod 'youth friendly;' I think part of the education is the awful induction into the world of meetings such as church governance or AGM's which are often concerned with finances and details of governance, boring as it may be. Seeing it as a necessary 'good' rather than trying to make it what it is not.

Perhaps the positive aspects adults get from Synod aside from the formalities, such as the networking and opportunities to view resources could harnessed providing youth rep's the same opportunities but more targeted at their areas of interests or ways of gathering?

Oh and re fair trade products - have been in one Parish where all tea/coffee was fair trade; and one parish where you might have to wrestle someone to the floor to persuade them spending an extra 50c was worth the cost.

Cheers Jean

Rosemary Behan said...

I don’t suppose any youth will give the time of day to this 71 year old Christian and veteran of many a Synod meeting, even General Synod once. But I feel I must say at least a few things.

1. I think this post proves above all, that we have failed our youth.
2. Synod is business, hard work, and those of us who have tried hard to promote God’s Word and protect our precious Doctrine’s from the predations of the world, have NOT been supported by the few youth who partake.
3. I can think of many motions that have ‘fizzled’ .. and fairtrade anything is not included in my memories.
4. If a motion regarding justice, social justice or anything remotely resembling that is put forward it is nothing but a shame. Far from walking in the steps of Christ, that is NOT to understand why Jesus came.
5. I have a question too. Should a motion be passed that every member of the church should leave their nice warm and comfortable homes to doorknock up and down the streets of Christchurch trying to share their faith in Our Lord Jesus, pointing out that He, and He alone is the hope of our world, would the writer of this post obey?

Christchurch Anglican Social Justice Unit said...

Hi Rosemary,
Interesting post thank you. If i can suggest a change point number 5? synod motions are usually about the life of the church rather than attempting to legislate the individual behaviour of each and every member, so would you be happy if the question was put to the author like this; "If a motion was passed that asked every parish/ministry group to conduct a door knocking campaign up and down the street to share faith in the Lord Jesus, would the author support his church in doing so (regardless of personal belief in the efficacy of such an action), and be dissapointed if they did not?"

Christchurch Anglican Social Justice Unit said...

Regarding point 3, I believe the authors point is that the motion didn't fizz. Moved by P Trotter and seconded by youth rep K Alexander it passed soundly. The fizz was any action following it. Regardless of wherher Jesus has any interest in economic exploitation (#4), followthrough on our collective word as a church is a "let your yes be yes" issue.

Squeaky travels said...

in order to pass motions are often moderated, so when the wording of a motion is to 'encourage' parishes to become fair trade what do you expect? Often motions appear to be halfhearted, the intention is good, but I'm not convinced that our lives are so shaped by the gospel that we want to enact difficult challenges which are costly personally and financially. A motion from Synod can't enforce a cross shaped heart, we all know Synod Reps who don't assent to doctrine the Church requires them to as office bearers, buying fair trade tea and coffee isn't going to change the shape of hearts in synod.

If we really want to hear the voice of younger people in our Diocese I suggest convening a group of young Christians selected for godliness not gifted mess who could advise the Bishop and Standing Committee about key issues. This would give a real voice to younger Anglicans, and would certainly be more effective than expecting them to sit through a synod where they are unable to vote.

Anonymous said...

The assumption here is that "fair trade" os actually fair, and that it makes such a difference to the lives of fair trade ceterfied farmers that we should encourage all parishes to adopt it.

I'm sceptical.

'The Problem with Fair Trade Coffee'

Rosemary Behan said...

Hello Social Justice unit .. we certainly cannot ‘legislate’ for each church member, but we COULD try to make sure that church members know WHY Jesus came, and that it wasn’t for social justice. As far as I’m concerned, we shouldn’t need a Social Justice Unit because each church member, KNOWING why Jesus came, would be well aware of the justice issues in their community. Mind you, efficacy is a good word, we used to say that what we had to share was GOOD NEWS. Unfortunately these days there appears to be a notion that only social justice issues will get us new members, rather than the GOOD NEWS.

With regards to my point three. A LOT of motions pass at Synod, but unfortunately go no further. How do you think a motion such as .. “We all agree that Jesus is the Word, the Truth and the Life.” would fare? Would it pass? Would it make a difference in our churches? We have all agreed to have a decade of Evangelism. I remember one year when we were asked what we would do for said decade of Evangelism, what our church promised to do. I wrote it down, and indeed, our church grew in all ways. However, it was never asked why, the written promise was never pointed out. We all have disappointments I’m afraid.

Thank you Squeaky travels and Shawn.

Jean said...

Seriously, social justice to me is inherently connected to the gospel Jesus preached. Actually before I came 'back' to faith it was in studying social injustice at a tertiary level that made me realise Jesus represented the most radical of all social justice figures, way more radical than the ones we were studying. I do not see it as in competition with salvation or evangelism but part of the whole, part of "The Way". To do unto others as you would have them do unto you, to care for the poor and the outcast, if one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

The need for a social justice unit. Well ideally yes social justice should be a part of who we are and what we just do as Christian's, albeit this isn't always the case, people to remind us of this part of our faith and encourage us to take action I see as a positive. I can't comment on Fair Trade coffee as I don't drink coffee but I am an advocate for Fair Trade Tea. I don't undertake to pay more for better quality, I pay more for knowing the product is organic and that producers meet social and economic criteria for the treatment of their workers - at present even if the system may have some flaws, I have no guarantee this is the case or even remotely the case with the multitude of other products on the market.

No doubt one could have an online debate versus fair trade works/doesn't work with multiple links supporting the different points of view. If anyone is interested in a ChCh example I recommend looking into Luminal Apparel and their relationship with Freeset in India, run by two Kiwi Christians.

I do know simply by promotional material that there must have been some encouragement for churches to take up buying fair trade products. And if cost is the issue, well I researched it some time back, as a church you can register as an organisation with Fair Trade in NZ and buy the products wholesale; for very little if any difference from what you would by them for at a supermarket.

Andrew Reid said...

Thank you to Etienne for a great post, which is similar to our Australian experience, although we don't even have dedicated youth reps. While Etienne is too diplomatic to criticise the legal structure of the Synod, I'm not. Why should a meeting of believers in Christ be structured like a parliament? We are not established churches. I realise a large meeting needs rules and structures, but why do we mimic our society rather than show a better way, encouraging us to show love and grace to one another, rather than making it a lawyers' and politicians' picnic? I would encourage young people in our church to get involved in ministry within the parish, rather than risk disillusioning them at Synod.

Glen Young said...

While, it is understandable,that the ACANZP needs a governing body to manage the day to day affairs of the Church;it,G.S. & D.S. must recognize that they were brought into being by the AUTHORITY of the CONSTITUTION 1857;and required to abide by that CONSTITUTION and hold the DOCTRINE as defined in it.

G.S. would have saved the ACANZP a lot of time,money and angst if it stuck to it's function and not wandered into the nacht and nebel.

It would be a great idea to see our youth being properly prepared to govern the Church according to Her DOCTRINE and CONSTITUTION.Then perhaps, THE DECADE OF MINISTRY might have the POWER and AUTHORITY to fulfill CHRIST'S commandment"All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.Go ye therefore,and teach all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father,and of the Son,and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:and lo,I am with you alway,even unto the end of the world".Matt. 28:18/20.

Father Ron said...

I'm afraid, Glen, that your cherished desire for the Youth of ACANZP too grow into their leadership role in the Church 'according to the existing Constitution', may just NOT happen according to your limited prescription. The youth of today are quite capable of thinking for themselves - and if that should include forming opinions towards the progress of justice and human rights for all, then so be it. We older people have to leave our young people free to 'Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church' - TODAY! "Let go, and let God".

Glen Young said...

Hi Peter,

In having used the expression,"wandered into the nacht and nebel";I wish to state categorically,that it was not my intention to demean or belittle the memories of those who experienced this sad fate at the hands of Hitler's henchmen.
I would also like to acknowledge the debt, that the Western world and the Christian Church owes to the courage and bravery of these people.


Glen Young said...

Ron: I find your constant bashing of the Doctrine of the ACANZP and the Constitution which defines it; rather irksome. I did not write the Doctrine, Constitution, or the Church of England Empowering Act of 1928. It is not me who says that G.S or D.S must hold and abide by the Doctrine of the Constitution. It is not me who wrote the Canons.

In his speech to the first G.S. of the church in New Zealand (March, 8th 1859) Bishop Selwyn explained that the establishment of the Constitution had been "On the basis of mutual and voluntary compact. No one has to subscribe to it; no one has to belong. But if we choose to be members of this Province of the Anglican Church, we agree to the Constitution and what it declares to be foundational truths. If we reject those beliefs we are free to find another church which better suits our beliefs. We believe that the doctrine of marriage as explained in the book of Common Prayer is part of that doctrine of the church to which all who receive a Bishops License pledge their allegiance. We do not see how that allegiance is consistent with affirming views which are clearly contrary to that doctrine of marriage. If one party persistently and actively takes measures to walk away from that Doctrine, we fail to see a way in which we can walk together."

These words of Bishop Selwyn clearly throws the onus of holding true to the doctrine of the church, as defined in the Constitution; on to all of those, including members of G.S; who have signed a submission to G.S.

I have asked you previously - 25th Aug. 2016 at 8.19pm (Sudden surge of vacancies for Archbishops) - as to whether you stated in the blog Kiwianglo, regarding Bishop Phillip Richardson's statement re Gays in the church. "Bishop Phillip is surely correct when he states, at this point in time, whatever his own views about homosexuality and its significance for the doctrine of our church, he is bound by his terms of appointment as a Bishop in ACANZP to abide by the Constitution". At this point in time I do not see any response from you regarding that request for you to give us a straight answer on this matter.


Rosemary Behan said...

Well I always listen when Jean speaks, and I’m also feeling somewhat guilty for stating the obvious [to me] rather than pastorally caring for Etienne, which I suspect is something Andrew has done well. Of course you are correct Jean, social justice is completely integral with Salvation and Evangelism. What I have poorly stated is, that far too many youth are attracted to Jesus for the same reasons that you were Jean, but without ANY knowledge of the Salvation and Evangelism parts. I know it’s old fashioned, and many in the church don’t like to talk about it these days, but Jesus is the only person I can go to when I sin. I don’t deserve to have Him on my side, I’m horrified that Our Father knows about my sin. I’m horrified about the damage my sin has caused, the hurt I’ve done or allowed .. but there is nothing I can DO to put it right, certainly not buy free trade tea or coffee. The only thing I can do is trust Jesus, and try better to obey Him in future. As Etienne says, walk in His steps .. what a privilege that is. You can’t legislate for it. Mandate that everyone buy free trade, or seek social justice in some other area. Acting with what I hope is social justice is a RESPONSE to what Jesus has done .. already DONE for those He loves. It cannot be earned, only accepted with the complete knowledge that you don’t deserve it.

Jean said...

Hi Rosemary

It is not old fashioned at all to talk about sin, just unpopular : ) .My realisation of the radical nature of Jesus' stance on social issues was illuminating after growing up going to church, but was not what caused me to come back to Church - that involved a tragedy happened during my first year working that created a desperate need to know if God was real. Plus a somewhat enthusiastic church member who chased me up a hill to invite me to an Alpha course... Sin was not something I was totally unaware of but, as it is said, as I was drawn back into the sheep pen I was convicted of more and more by the Holy Spirit to desire what God does and join the life-long process of being sanctified, . Interestingly I found/find forgiveness harder to grasp than sin but we are all different.

I agree, personally, that a heart for social justice or simply for the care of others is a natural response to faith in Christ. Although we are not saved by works, faith without works is dead because true faith prompts us to act. Which is probably the reason so many of our social and aid agencies in existence today are Christian or have Christian roots/founders.

It would be a travesty if younger folk saw the good they do as a path to earning salvation, or seeing Jesus only as a person who did good - and I am not sure if this is the case. At the same time I support Christians encouraging Christians to support economic transactions that protect the welfare of all those involved as a way of 'knowing the good we ought to do.'

Best Wishes

Father Ron said...

Glen, it is certainly not my idea to - as you keep saying - 'bash' the existing constitution of ACANZP. I signed up to it when I was ordained priest some years ago now. However, I do not necessarily believe that our Constitution was like the Ten Commandments - wrought in stone. Jesus promised that "When the Spirit Comes, S/He will LEAD YOU INTO all the Truth" (N.B. Not immediately reveal ALL the Truth at one fell swoop - it might be too much for everyone!)

The work of the Holy Spirit, Glen, in this direction, is still going on. It just takes some of us a little more time to realise that man-made commandments and Institutional Constitutions sometimes need revision, to keep up with the Breath of the Spirit - Who is still leading us into ALL the Truth.

"Come, Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of your people with the fire of your Love; through Christ our Lord. Amen!" Refreshment, indeed!

Glen Young said...


"In the beginning was the Word,and the Word was with God,and the Word was God.The same was in the beginning with God.All things were made by him,and without him was not anything made that was not made".John 1:1/3.

Do you accept that CHRIST was the author of all matter and life?Do accept that He knew what he had created, when he said:"In the beginning,He who made them, made them male and female"???Do you believe that the Holy Spirit is contradicting what Christ,Himself,said???Do you believe that the logos did not inspire the writers of the Scriptures to reveal all the TRUTH????What is ALL THE TRUTH,about CHRIST'S statement :...made them male and female;that I need to be led into???Do you accept the Revelation,once given???

Am I correct in detecting that behind your posting is an belief in the tenets of Progressive Christianity???

There is a decided difference between accepting, that the Holy Spirit will lead each and everyone of us into ALL THE TRUTH;and that not ALL THE TRUTH has already been revealed in the Scriptures.In short,there is a great gulf between each and every one of us being led into ALL TRUTH and NEW REVELATION being given.The latter would seem very contrary to our CATHOLIC tradition.

And lastly,Ron,whether you like it or not,EVERY LEGAL OPINION I have seen,agrees that the FUNDAMENTAL PROVISIONS of the CONSTITUTION CANNOT BE ALTERED.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Glen (and Ron)
I am normally loathe to publish questions directed "at" or "to" a fellow commenter, however in this instance I am happy to publish the questions you pose, Ron, because they get to the heart of some significant theological questions about the relationships between constitution, doctrine and practice in our church.
However, Ron, you are under no compulsion or expectation that you should respond to these questions ... I do not want this thread to be a personalised debate between commenters. But I do want the issues discussed!

Father Ron said...

Dear Glen, my faith, as a priest in ACANZP, is based on the historic Creeds - not necessarily on any legal opinion about what they contain. Also, have you thought that the legal opinions you are seeking are only those with which you might agree?

But to further our Host - Peter's intention to keep personalities out of this important discusssion, I would just like to say that the Scriptures are still being mined for their underlying meaning - otherwise, we might all be confined to the social and psychological perceptions of the time in which they were written.

As an example of this - in my presentation of what I believe to be the 'deeper meaning of MATT.19:12-13, and the possible impact on the outcome on the latest sexuality discussions in the Church relating to Jesus' statement about: "Eunuchs who are so from their mother's womb" - on a U.K. conservative web-site; the host there has dismissed my idea as being invalid, because of his understanding that these verses of Matthew's Gospel do not appear in that of Mark and are, therefore, inadmisssable! So much then, for 'Sola Scriptura' pick & mix theology which seems to only use the verses of Scripture congenial to its arguments.

In answer to those who believe that individual Church Constitutions are vital to Faith and never subject to change; which of the many Church Constitutions does one have to believe in to be an authentic Christian? Is it the Roman Catholic, the Eastern Orthodox, one of the Provincial Anglican; or the one of many Protestant Churches that proliferate across the spectrum? Constitutions are for local consumption only - and not a Mark of Faith in Christ Jesus! They can, are are, sometimes subject to amendment, as understanding of our complex human environment changes. God is constant, but human beings are still evolving.

Glen Young said...

Hi Peter and Ron,

In the closing of my input into this thread,simply because my forehead is getting rather bruised;I would like to make some comments in clarification:
(1)To the best of my knowledge,I have never said that the acceptance of any Church Constitution is 'vital to faith and never subject to change'.What I have said, is that the Constitution of the ACANZP is a very legitimate legal instrument,to PROTECT and SAFEGUARD Her HOLY WRIT against any HERESY.;from those within or outside the Church who wish to alter or diminish the legitimate DOCTRINE to suit their own agenda .I,myself.only feel inclined to contend for the ACANZP DOCTRINE.That DOCTRINE IS VITAL TO MY FAITH and I accept that the REVELATION ONCE GIVEN, IS NOT SUBJECT TO CHANGE.
(2)I believe also that God is constant;but I do not believe that man is EVOLVING.If anything,he is probably devolving.Twenty first century man,who thinks he has discovered so much, and is now heading into the BRAVE NEW WORLD OF SECULARISM.Go for it and see where it leads.Redefine God's commandments and see what the results are.There are no new sins,modern man has just found new ways to commit and justify them."The thing that hath been is that which shall be;and that which is done shall be that which shall be done:there is nothing new under the sun".Ecc.1:9. "Plus ca change,plus c'est la meme chose" Jean Baptiste Karr.
(3)I accept that people who are "mining the Scriptures for their underlying meaning:"This simply leads to endless dialogue,designed to wear down resistance while all the time ,western revisionist Anglicans pursue their self determined mandate of radical inclusion.They want us to step back from the plain meaning of Scripture and excavate 'deeper truths' of God's revelation concealed below the words themselves.It is little surprise then that we find Scripture can be bent into all sorts of convenient shapes and that the so called 'gospel truths' can contradict the plain meaning of Scripture".Archbishop Ellud Wabukala--April 25,2012.


Father Ron said...

Ah, Glen! Do you mean Archbishop Wabakula of GAFCON; the rival Anglican Church with its own Council of Primates; its own ('Jerusalem Statement') Constitution, and aversion to Lambeth and ACC Meetings - but not recognised by the A.C.C.?

That fully explains your stance, which is not, generally, that of main-line Anglicans. However, you do have some fellow thinkers; in N.Z.F.O.C.A., as well as in the 'Shadow Synod' movement in the Mother Church of England. However, in the words of the good old eucharistic hymn:

"Types and Shadows have their ending, for the newer rite is here."

Glen Young said...


Do you mean the A.C.C. which commissioned Presiding Bishop,Katharine Jefferts Schori (TEC) onto the Anglican Communion Standing Committee during the closing Eucharist at Auckland in Nov,2012???

Lets have a look at a couple of statements she has made. In an interview with the Arkansas Democrat Gazette,on the question that no one comes to the Father, but by the Son. KJS:"Again in its narrow construction it tends to eliminate other possibilities. In its broader construction,yes human beings come to relationship with God largely through their experience of holiness in other human beings.Through seeing God at work in other people's lives.In that sense,yes,I will affirm that statement.But not in the narrow sense,that people can only come to relationship with God through consciously believing in Jesus".Jan 7/2007.
"The overarching connection in all these crises has to do with the great Western heresy-that we can be saved as individuals,that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God.It's caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends upon reciting specific formula about Jesus.That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in a place only God can occupy,at the center of existence,as the ground of all being".KJS. General Convention Opening Address,July 7/2009.

Is this what the SPIRIT is saying to the Church////