Friday, May 11, 2007

The Invisible Synod Members?

If you've heard anything about General Synod, you've probably heard about the Synodical Representation Bill, which failed once again. The proposers were seeking a review of the numbers of synod members from each diocese, using the criteria of cures (parishes) in each diocese to reckon the representation. It was rejected, being called unfair by members of those dioceses (generally in the south) who would lose seats.

Some speakers during the debate called for the Synod to be made more representative in other ways - perhaps by ensuring that there were more women, and more younger people. One speaker went so far as to ask where the students were (inferring that there were none). Ruth and me just looked at each other, wondering if we were invisible. Then another member of synod, in a later debate, made the sweeping statement that there was only one member under the age of thirty. This caused a bit of a stir on the bench of bishops as those who knew Ruth and me looked at us, wondering which of us looks over thirty - ok, yeah, it was probably me, and probably on account of my beard... But his facts were very wrong. The youngest member of synod is from Cashel and Ossory, and he's about 22, then Ruth and myself are around 25/26, and a member from Derry diocese is about 24.

The same speaker then called for diocesan synods to elect younger members, to ensure that they were present and represented. Yet here's the thing that I can't quite understand. The synod wants younger members to come along and take part, but don't seem to want to encourage, or even acknowledge us.

In the main synod hall, in the exhibition area outside and in the hotel, it was as if I was invisible for most of the time. I would smile and say hello to members, both clerical and lay, and be greeted with stony silence, or them staring right through me. Not a very encouraging situation to be in - especially as the synod wants more of us there! How would they treat 50 or more young people - with the same stony silence?

Full credit to (among others) Trevor Williams, George Davison and a lady from Killaloe diocese who did talk to us - as well as those who knew us already, of course.

Let's hope that in future, synod members take seriously their own call for more young people, and properly make us feel welcome at General Synod.

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