A Guide to General Synod, 2004

The theme of the Synod is from Revelation 21: 5 See, I Am Making All Things New. As Anglicans we live in a diversity of relationships, differing theological paradigms, unique challenges and controversies. At the same time, we are on the verge of new directions: a new strategic plan, the new agape a new Primate, and, we pray, a renewed sense of the church’s unity in its diversity. We remain God’s people, living in hope that grace is indeed stronger than any of our challenges; that God’s faithfulness can indeed do more than we can ask or imagine.

The Structure of the Anglican Church of Canada

The Anglican Church of Canada comprises 30 dioceses, each under the jurisdiction and pastoral care of a diocesan bishop. The dioceses together comprise 2,872 congregations, organized into 1,818 parishes. Along with the bishops, each diocese sends lay and clerical representatives to the General Synod.

Dioceses are part of ecclesiastical provinces; Canada has four such provinces, each headed by a Metropolitan: British Columbia (B.C. and Yukon), Rupert's Land ( Prairie provinces and the Arctic), Ontario, and Canada ( Quebec and Atlantic Canada).

General Synod consists of elected lay and clerical members and the bishops from across Canada who come together to discuss national and international concerns of the Church. General Synod meets every three years for about a week and is the sovereign body of the national Church. The Primate chairs the proceedings. As the current Primate, The Most Rev. Michael Peers, will retire before the 37 th General Synod convenes, the first sessions of this Synod will be chaired by the Acting Primate, the Most Rev. David Crawley. From time to time the responsibility for chairing sessions of the General Synod may be delegated to the Prolocutor of General Synod.

Council of General Synod is the body that oversees the implementation of General Synod decisions, and exercises executive powers of Synod between sessions. It includes representative episcopal, clerical and lay members from the dioceses; members-at-large; and officers of General Synod.

Anglican Communion

The Anglican Communion is a world-wide family of autonomous, interrelated, and interdependent provinces and national churches, all of which are in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Anglicans speak many languages, come from many races and cultures, and are spread around the world. The Anglican Church is episcopally led (that is, by bishops) and synodically governed (that is, elected lay and clergy members together with the bishops).

Lambeth Conference meets every 10 years and is attended by bishops from around the world. It is a forum for sharing and consultation rather than for legislation and it is chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The next Lambeth Conference is scheduled for 2008.

The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) assembles every three years, with up to three representatives from each national church within the Anglican Communion. ACC is a synodical body. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the President of the Consultative Council and its proceedings are chaired by one of its members.

Background to General Synod

The first General Synod met in Toronto over a century 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 by adding one youth member (usually lay) from each diocese; and 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 doctrinal decisions.

The first General Synod also laid out specific areas of responsibility delegated by the dioceses 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 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.

In 1969 Synod moved to a unicameral system. 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.

Due to downsizing in the early 1990s and a need for a new vision for the church the 34 th General Synod passed, in 1995, a new strategic plan called Preparing the Way. This plan for the national church was revised at the last General Synod in 2001. Over the last three years, the Council of General Synod has been preparing a new framework for the work of the General Synod, Strengthening the Church, Serving God’s World, which you will receive with your Convening Circular.

Preparation for General Synod

The Convening Circular contains the agenda, the reports and proposed resolutions from the standing committees and councils of General Synod; "Memorials" from dioceses and provinces; and other relevant information.

Most of our meeting time will take place in the Bob Davis Gymnasium in the Walker Complex of Brock University. Members will be seated at large round tables of 8 people. The head table will be on a raised stage and there will be microphones at various points around the gym to allow members to ask questions or speak in debate. There will be a special seating area set aside for visitors who wish to see the General Synod in action. Across from the plenary hall will be a display area with exhibits of interest and items for sale from a number of church related organizations including the Anglican Book Centre.

The Opening Eucharist of General Synod will take place at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, May 28 in the Sean O’Sullivan Theatre on the Brock campus. The Acting Primate will preside at the eucharist and will deliver the Opening Address of General Synod as part of the liturgy.

The Holy Eucharist will be celebrated midday on Saturday, May 29; Tuesday, June 1; Wednesday, June 2; and Thursday, June 3. Each morning in plenary will begin with Morning Prayer, and each night’s work concludes with Night Prayer, also in plenary.

Two very special liturgical moments will also take place: on Monday morning, May 31, Synod will gather, again in the O’Sullivan Theatre, for the Primatial Election, which will begin with a celebration of the eucharist. Then, as Synod draws to a close, we will again celebrate the eucharist together as we install the new Primate. This service will take place in the diocesan Cathedral, Christ’s Church in Hamilton. The special guest preacher at that service will be The Most Reverend Frank Griswold, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church of the USA.


An important task for this General Synod will be the election of a new Primate. The “upper house” of General Synod (the Order of Bishops) will nominate candidates from among its members prior to the convening of Synod. On Monday, May 31, the “lower house” (the Orders of Clergy and Laity) will vote in the Sean O’Sullivan Theatre.

In addition, elections will be held for Prolocutor and Deputy Prolocutor of General Synod. The Prolocutor will be elected on May 29 and the Deputy Prolocutor on May 31, time permitting, or June 1. Members of standing committees and councils will also be elected at Synod.

Resolutions and motions

"Ideas" reach Synod in the form of Resolutions, which have been developed by the various standing committees of General Synod or by members of General Synod. Ideas are also in the form of Memorials which come from dioceses and individuals and express a concern or opinion. In order for a Memorial to reach the floor of Synod, the authors need to shape it into a Resolution. Resolutions are motions requesting Synod to take specific actions relating to the mission of the Church.

The mover of a motion is allowed to speak for a maximum of five minutes, and the seconder and other speakers for a maximum of three minutes. No one but the mover, who may speak for an additional three minutes at the close of debate, may speak more than once to a single motion. Only members of Synod may speak in debate.


When the Chairperson perceives that the debate is ended, or when Synod votes to end debate, the "question" will be "put" to a vote and no more debate is allowed. Bishops vote as one order, and clergy and laity usually vote together, with the issues decided by a simple majority in both groups. There are some types of motions which require larger majorities or "Votes by Orders" [i.e. bishops, clergy and laity voting separately] A vote by diocese may also be requested. Where a special type of vote is required the chairperson will announce it.


This is a short glossary of some of the more common terms you will find used in this booklet, in the Convening Circular and at General Synod. A more complete glossary is found on page 1 of the Handbook of General Synod.