I understand that the General Synod of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia meets this year from 10 to 14 May in Gisborne. I understand this – because I asked a General Synod member. Good luck to anyone trying to find this information online. It certainly isn’t mentioned on the General Synod website, “the official Web Site” of our province. (This has “General Synod / te Hinota Whanui ?? (sic.)” for “16/7 – 3/8/08”. Next: good luck to anyone trying to find out what might possibly be discussed at General Synod this year! Does our provincial leadership think that Anglicans have no interest either in knowing that our central governing body is meeting – or what about? Or worse (do they have a reason to be so “discreet” ;-)?) Those who are unsure about the three Tikanga structure of our province regularly hear, “ah – but you haven’t experienced the great three-Tikanga events such as the meeting of General Synod [not verbalised: the meeting of which we only publicise to members of General Synod] you are always welcome as a visitor to these great meetings [which we will tell you about in the magazine Taonga after it has met]”

So, had you known that General Synod was meeting (and it’s probably too late to make suggestions to your diocesan representatives now) what might you have had on your wish list that General Synod might discuss? Here are some of mine (in no particular order):

An outward-looking serving church

Far too much of our time, energy (etc.) as a church is devoted to inward-looking, often proportionately minor issues. We need to become, and be seen to be, an outward-looking, serving community; missional in the sense of being alongside and of service beyond our worshipping community. More than half of our 5-fold mission statement is outward looking. Debate, financing, statistics, resourcing, etc needs to be about Haiti, government financial plans, climate change, ecology, …

Episcopal nominations

Recently we have had four dioceses convene Electoral Colleges to discern whom God is calling to be the new diocesan bishop. Each diocese proceeded in a way significantly different from each other. To an outside observer it would have been difficult to realise that these four dioceses actually belong to the same province. The canons were clearly found to be inadequate in each case. Terminology and methodology used did not even conform to the binding canons. It is beyond my comprehension why, a few years ago when it was obvious a significant number of diocesan bishops would be retiring, General Synod did not have the leadership to review these canons. I do not know when they were written – but canons excellent for a time when people and information moved by sailing ship does not appear to function appropriately in a digital age. I hope these canons are high on the agenda of this year’s General Synod.

Statistics

It must be possible to ascertain how many clergy we have in our province, what their qualifications and training are, and what their age and gender distribution is. It must be possible to work out how many people attend Anglican churches in our province, and what their age and gender distribution is. And what the trends have been in these statistics. I just have no idea where one goes for such basic planning and reflection information. IMO General Synod should collect and publish statistics.

Covenant

Although increasingly it is clear that energy for the covenant is decreasing, and if anyone does actually sign up to anything it will not make the slightest bit of difference to the real issues facing us, but, I guess the proposed Anglican Covenant will be discussed at General Synod. Currently the only “Instrument of Communion” that we recognise canonically in our constitution is the Archbishop of Canterbury. General Synod will have to set in motion the complex process of recognising the increasing number of instruments of communion (is it 5 now or 6 – I get so confused) if it decides to set us on the path of signing up to the Anglican Covenant. But I am sure it will remember its own report (PDF download):

Most respondents remained concerned about Provincial autonomy. They reiterated the previous response from this Province that had an earlier Covenant been in place, it is unlikely that the ordination of women, the Constitutional Changes which enabled this Church to act more justly to our indigenous partner, and the Shared Primacy, may not have been accomplished. [Since this report, of course, one might add having two cathedrals in the one diocese, and two co-equal diocesan bishops to that list]

The report anticipates that Tikanga Māori will not support the Covenant, and under our system that means the Covenant will not be signed. Further reflections on the Covenant are here and here.

Clergy formation

Only a small proportion of our clergy are trained at the College of St John the Evangelist (we do not know what proportion – see statistics above). This was once one of the best resourced Anglican seminaries in the Anglican Communion. Its deterioration appeared to have happened under the governance of General Synod, and there is now an attempt to make what it offers of a more appropriate standard. Older clergy will remember examinations prior to ordination. Other provinces require a certain standard of formation and training for their clergy. One example from The Episcopal Church:

The canons of the church (Title III, Canon 8, Section 5g) require that before ordination a candidate must be examined and show proficiency in:

* The Holy Scriptures
* Church History, including the Ecumenical Movement
* Christian Theology, including Missionary Theology and Missiology
* Christian Ethics and Moral Theology
* Studies in Contemporary Society, including Racial and Minority Groups
* Liturgics and Church Music
* Theory and practice of Ministry

Outside the church, in every area, leadership has demanded increased competency, training, and ongoing formation. The Anglican church in this province has been inappropriately (IMO) counter-cultural in what is expected from church leadership. A province-wide raising of standards to the highest levels will IMO redound to a far healthier church. Further neglect of this by General Synod is IMO scandalous.

Common Prayer

Whatever else the liturgical life of this province might be described as, it could not be termed “common prayer”. There is no pattern of what might be encountered in any randomly-chosen Sunday service within our province. One cannot predict the readings, collect, liturgical colour, or responses that one will find.

The following should be rescinded as soon as possible IMO:

The Worship Template – supporters of blessing of same-sex couples will lose the allowance of that rite (our province being the first within the Anglican Communion to allow it) but that rite should IMO be discussed on its own merit – not slipped in through a statute that allows everything.
The Alternative Form for Ordering the Eucharist – this allows for the use of any responses whatsoever, and any Eucharistic Prayer authorised within the Anglican Communion.
The Two Year Lectionary pp 550-641 in the Prayer Book. The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) should become the standard, also replacing the Three Year Series pp. 691-723.
A Form for Ordering the Eucharist should have its rubric restored to it being “not for the regular Sunday Celebration of the Eucharist” – common prayer includes agreed responses
Options for choosing the collect (currently you can choose or construct any collect you like). The suggested linking of the collect to the readings should be rejected.

The Prayer Book and all other authorised liturgical resources should be online. This is urgent.

The Lectionary should only provide one liturgical colour per celebration (not up to four as currently). The RCL readings should be the ones used at a parish’s main service, only after that might other readings provided by the lectionary be used at second services.

The requirement for clergy to pray the daily office was removed. Strong encouragement to pray the daily office should be introduced, clearly noting which is the official office of our province. Currently more than one office is encouraged by General Synod and the Lectionary.

The calendar should be revised taking into account suggestions in Celebrating Eucharist, the CofE calendar in Common Worship,and Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints (TEC)

The “listening process”

Diocesan motions passed relating to the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution I.10 on human sexuality appear to be one-sided and neglecting the listening process called for by that Conference. Again I can find little to nothing online about what is happening within the dioceses with this process in the 12 years since that call.

Websites

The province should have a website that actually functions. This is not a matter that needs lengthy consultation, committees and reports. Here is a website I created in half an hour. It is a scandal that we have such a poor web presence in the 21st century. It is both a symbol of, and no doubt causally related to, the aging presence in our pews (for which I have no statistical evidence). The Prayer Book and all other authorised liturgical resources should be online (see above). Every ministry unit should be required to have a web presence. Clergy should be encouraged to have a blog, facebook page, twitter profile, or other web-presence. All clergy in active service should have computer skills to achieve this with ease.

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