Background to General Synod

The first General Synod met in Toronto 130 years ago (1893). Three fundamental decisions were made at that time; that Synod consist of three orders (bishops and equal members from the clergy and laity); that the Provincial system be maintained; and that the Solemn Declaration be adopted as the basis of the constitution. The balance of clergy and laity was modified in the early seventies when one youth member (usually lay) from each diocese was added; today there are four ecclesiastical provinces instead of two. General Synod continues to adhere to the Solemn Declaration, which cannot be amended, as the basis for the constitution.

The first General Synod also laid out specific areas of responsibility delegated by the dioceses and provinces to the national body. These responsibilities include such matters as doctrine and worship, and relations with the Anglican Communion, other denominations, and other faiths – areas where it was seemed important to have a common national vision.

But much has changed since the first Synod. In the early days, Synod concerned itself mostly with the internal government of the Church. Gradually, that changed as the Church began more and more, to see itself as an active player in the life of the nation. During World War II, Synod discussed the internment of the Japanese. The Hendry Report of 1969 was a landmark document calling for changes in the way church and society related to Indigenous peoples. In 1983, General Synod called on the government and the Church to fight the nuclear arms race, reaffirming its stand of 1955, 1962 and 1965. In 1989, Synod discussed the ethics of surrogate motherhood. In 1995 the minimum age of youth members was changed from twenty-five to sixteen years old.

Another significant change took place in 1969 when Synod moved to a unicameral system (a single legislative chamber) for meeting and debate. Formerly, the upper house (the House of Bishops) and the lower house (clergy and laity) met separately and communicated with each other by relaying messages. The change means that there is common debate and bishops now vote publicly, whereas before, the actual breakdown of the bishops’ vote was confidential. Bishops continued to vote separately from the clergy and laity until 2013.

A series of strategic plans, frameworks, visions, and consultations have shaped the priorities of the General Synod over the years. Two in particular “Vision 2019” and “Embodying God’s Call”, have recently served as touchstones for the national ministries of the General Synod.

Generally speaking, Synods today are less formal, less confrontational, and more open and conciliatory than they once were. The formal dress and lengthy speeches have given way to a more relaxed atmosphere and a sense of being “in this together” – not to mention shorter speeches!

Matthew 10:40-42


40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous, 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

John 15:12-17

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing, but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

John 21:15-19

Jesus and Peter

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Luke 11:33-36

The Light of the Body

33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a bushel basket; rather, one puts it on the lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but if it is unhealthy, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore consider whether the light in you is not darkness. 36 But if your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be as full of light as when a lamp gives you light with its rays.”

Matthew 8:1-4

Jesus Cleanses a Man

8 When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him, and there was a man with a skin disease who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing. Be made clean!” Immediately his skin disease was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”