General Synod 2016 might seem far away, but preparations for the meeting of the Anglican Church of Canada’s governing body are well underway, according to Dean Peter Wall, chair of the planning committee.
“We’re just about where we should be eight or nine months out,” said Wall in an interview. “We’ve got lots of work done on the site and on the physical requirements.”
From July 7-12, delegates from across the Anglican Church of Canada will meet in Richmond Hill, Ont., for the triennial gathering, where they will discuss and vote on issues ranging from same-sex marriage to a call from the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples for a greater degree of self-determination.
Because the formula to determine membership has changed since 2013, Wall was unable to say exactly how many delegates are expected. He estimated it would be between 275 and 280. However, Canon (lay) David Jones, Chancellor of General Synod, suggested it will be closer to 245-250. Both estimates would be a decrease from the approximately 290 who met in 2013, and do not including officers of General Synod, directors of various departments, observers and guests.
Whatever the final number is, Wall noted that the new formula would lower the number of delegates from the more populous dioceses, while it would favour those in smaller dioceses.
“A very small diocese could have had, in the past, as few as three members plus a youth member-that is, one lay, one clergy, one bishop, one youth,” he explained. “Now the minimum from any diocese is two clergy, two lay, plus their bishop and a youth.”
With feelings about the marriage canon vote running high, a major concern in planning the synod has been ensuring that discussions and debates around same-sex marriage take place in “healthy and helpful ways,” said Wall. To that end, a working group has been set up by Council of General Synod to shape how the discussion leading up to the vote takes place.
Wall said it has yet to be decided how much of the synod will be dedicated to discussions around the marriage canon, but was willing to hazard a guess.
“My personal opinion is that we’re probably looking at the equivalent of one day’s worth of meeting time, but not all at once,” he said, stressing the importance of giving people breaks in between sessions to consider what was discussed.
Another significant issue that has come up in planning the synod, given the presence of Indigenous delegates, is translation.
“We are looking very, very carefully at translation issues, and how-in a way that is a responsible use of our resources and an appropriate thing to do-how to provide, in the best way we can, translation resources for First Nations peoples,” he said.
“It’s more complicated than it looks because there are so many languages and so many nations, and simultaneous translation is a very different thing from having someone sit beside you and tell you what’s going on,” he said, noting that simultaneous translation involves equipment and translator booths.
As is its custom, General Synod will also host observers from across the Communion and from among its ecumenical partners. This year’s special guests, Archbishop Suheil Dawani of the diocese of Jerusalem and Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio of the Episcopal diocese of Cuba, have confirmed their attendance.
This story has been updated from an earlier version, which listed the General Synod dates as being July 7-13.