What's it like to be on General Synod?

First published 8th June 2015
At the last meeting of Diocesan Synod in May, Diocesan Secretary Oliver Home talked about the forthcoming General Synod elections in September, encouraging people to think about standing.

Oliver also interviewed two current General Synod members from our diocese, Revd Emma Ineson and Ian Yemm, about their experiences.

This is what they said.

What do you enjoy most about being on General Synod?

Emma Ineson: Theres a sense of being able to be part of shaping what happens in the Church. I will always remember the debate on women bishops. I made a speech in that debate and I was there as we prayed and heard each other. There was such a sense of making history on that day.

Ian Yemm: What Ive enjoyed most is getting a sense of what the Church looks like in England, and the infinite variety within that. Ive also enjoyed the incredible levels of engagement that can happen, mostly in conversations and workshops outside the chamber itself. Ive learned an awful lot and I feel that your representatives have really done everything they could to represent our Diocese, as much as their own particular interests, which has been really important. We have met together and have got to know each other really well and shared each others wisdom. I really enjoy the relational aspect of General Synod, and realising what the Church has to offer our country.

What extra perspective has General Synod given you?

Ian Yemm: There are a couple of things that stick in my mind. One of the things I am really passionate about is education and the importance of our schools and Further Education to the life of the Church. It is really key, right down to the parish level. I sit on the Education Forum, which is an informal group at Synod to tackle all the kinds of issues that are coming up nationally, and those are the things that I am able to bring back to our own DBE.

Weve done some really good work on the DBE in the last year around Further Education in the Diocese and that has been informed by some of the things that have happened at General Synod, so I feel really passionate about that. It is an enormous privilege to be able to speak into some of the things that are coming up very quickly at General Synod.

Another area I feel really passionate about is Lay Ministry, and there is a lot of talk at General Synod about increasing the number of lay people in paid ministry in the Church. I am one of those people doing that work. I have no idea how the Church will bring this forward, but I am able to play a part in it, and thats really great.

What qualities would you say an effective General Synod member should have?

Emma Ineson: Time and energy! Being on Synod does take quite a lot of time; there are two or three meetings a year, lasting three or four, or sometimes five days. Then theres a wad of paperwork to read, so you really do need the impetus to read that and to prepare properly.

Also a willingness to get stuck in, both in listening and in contributing, and both of those are important. An openness of heart that means you enjoy engaging with people who are different from yourself, and having good discussions around differences, but also a clear sense of conviction about the things that matter to you and the things you want to see change (or not change). Finally, you need the sense of calling to the task.

Ian Yemm: There are lots of people at General Synod who think its only about business. I dont feel like that: it is also a praying community of the Church gathered together. To be somebody who is prepared to really commit to praying for the work of Synod, I think, is really important.

The other thing is that you need a very strong lower back, as the Church provides, in York and in London, two of the most uncomfortable venues you will ever sit in for very, very long periods. So having the will and courage to sit there and listen for hours is really key!

What would you say is the biggest issue facing General Synod over the next five years that people will be stepping into?

Ian Yemm: I think that the Reform and Renewal programme is the big one. There is a lot there to get our teeth into, and at the last group of sessions we did some really good work on Discipleship, and I think that in terms of Ministerial Education going forward, thats going to be very significant. The discussion about human sexuality is going to occupy us in the next five years. I am happy to confess that I am one of the people in the room that took part in the Shared Conversations. How that informs what happens locally and at General Synod is going to be very important.

Emma Ineson: I hope the agenda will be how to win this nation for Jesus Christ. There will be different ways that we can approach that. Human sexuality is going to be high on the agenda, and then therell be a whole load of other things, so if we get bored we could discuss things like vestments and liturgy and all sorts of other exciting things!

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