What is the Synod and what does it do?

What is the General Synod and what does it do?

The General Synod is the national assembly of the Church of England, commonly referred to as the Church's Parliament. It considers and approves legislation affecting the whole of the Church of England, authorises new forms of worship, debates matters of religious and public interest, and approves the annual budget for the work of the Church at national level.

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Why stand?

Because your voice counts! To serve the breadth of the Church of England, Synod needs to hear the voices of clergy and lay people of all ages, backgrounds and traditions and with a wide range of experience and skills. Teachers, stay at home parents, students, counsellors and fulltime volunteers were among the laity in this Synod. Clergy range from people in the early years of their ordained ministry to those with extensive senior ministry experience.

Everyone has something to offer and the Synod can learn from everyone. Don't let age put you off - we need younger as well as older members! If you are 18 or above, you are eligible to stand. We particularly encourage BAME and people with disabilities to stand as both groups are currently underrepresented amongst the membership of the General Synod.

Why your voice counts - watch interviews with current members here.



Who can stand?

Any serving clergy or retired clergy with permission to officiate in a diocese and any communicant lay person who is on a church electoral roll (or cathedral roll) and is 18 or above can stand.  There is no need for lay candidates to be on a PCC, deanery synod or diocesan synod.

Suffragan bishops, deans, service chaplains, clergy and lay members of religious communities and clergy employed to teach and research at universities and theological education institutions have their own separate elections.

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Time commitment and expectations?

Being a member of Synod can be a confusing experience in the beginning. But it can also be tremendously rewarding and make you feel that you are part of something really worthwhile.

Listen again to what some members have to say about serving on the General Synod!

Each year being on Synod involves a commitment of up to around eight working days and one weekend. If you are elected this will be for a five year period from 2015-2020, (but if you move from your diocese, you normally have to leave the Synod, too).

Many people take some annual holiday to attend Synod. Some employers allow staff additional time off to attend. Some employers allow staff to take unpaid leave (see also Do I get paid?). If you are employed, it's a good idea to check with your employer what the position is.

The new General Synod will meet for the first time from 23-25 November this year and then meets each year for up to five weekdays (usually less) in February in London and over a long weekend in July at the University of York. November meetings are only called if business requires it (up to three weekdays in London).

All dates are published well in advance here:

Nobody will expect you to feel confident with the Synod's procedures immediately and returning members and staff will do what they can to help you get into the swing of things. As a minimum, it is important that all members read the papers that are circulated to them in advance of each meeting of the Synod. This will make it easier to take an active role in listening to debates, contributing when you feel able to do so and voting in an informed way.

Once a member, you might stand for election to a committee or be appointed to one. This will involve an additional commitment of time. You also automatically become a member of your local church council, deanery synod and diocesan synod and you will be expected to make regular reports to one or more deaneries in your diocese.



Do I get paid?

No. Like serving on a jury or as a school governor, being a member of the General Synod is unpaid, but you can claim expenses from your diocese.

Your travel costs to and from Synod are normally met in full, but accommodation and meal costs may only be met up to a certain level. The expenses policies are set locally by your diocese, so it's always a good idea to check what you can claim for before you commit to spending any money.

Accommodation and meal costs when the Synod meets at the University of York are paid directly by your diocese, but you will have to pay travel costs to and from York and London yourself as well as accommodation and food costs in London and then reclaim them from your diocese.

You may, in some circumstances, also be able to claim a care allowance or claim for loss of earnings. Check with your diocese.



Next steps?

Get nominated!

Both clergy and laity need to find a proposer and seconder (clergy need to be nominated by clergy electors in their diocese and lay people need to be nominated by two lay members of a deanery synod in their diocese).

Your diocese will send nomination papers to those eligible to vote. Your diocesan office will also be able to provide you with nomination papers if you are not yourself an elector. The nomination paper and your diocesan website will include the exact closing date for nominations (around the beginning of September).

You can find your Diocesan contact here.

You will also need to think about producing an election address to send to the electors. Your diocese will print and circulate this for you (along with the election addresses of other candidates) so long as you keep it to one sheet of A4 (both sides). Photos are really important to put a face to a name.

Remember: you bring your own views to the Synod. You are elected to represent the electors in your diocese, but they cannot tell you what to say or how to vote. So, what you stand for will be an important factor in the elections. Be as clear and honest about that in your election address as you can!

The election period is between mid-July  (after the current Synod is dissolved) and mid-October. Each diocese is responsible for its own elections and there is some flexibility on dates so do check with your diocesan office or on your diocesan website for the exact timetable and for specific advice about submitting nomination forms and election addresses.

Find your local diocesan website here.



Who can vote?

Clergy in the diocese vote for clergy candidates, while lay members of deanery synods vote for lay candidates.



What is the voting system?

The Church of England uses the Single Transferable Vote, STV, system for General Synod elections. If you are eligible to vote (ie you are clergy or a lay member of deanery synod) please read Making the most of your vote. There can be misunderstandings about how the STV system works and important votes can be lost if instructions are not followed. The document has been written drawing on past misunderstandings about the voting system! For further information, please see the Explaining STV document.

Once the deadline for nominations has passed every voter will receive a ballot paper. There is a minimum voting period of 21 days - in 2015 the close of the voting period will be in the first half of October (again, check with your diocese for the exact date).  But if the number of nominations is the same as or is less than the number of seats to be filled there is no need for a voting period and the results will just be declared.



Can I be involved if I am not standing?

Absolutely. Encouraging a broad range of people to stand is vital to make General Synod as representative as possible. It may be you are coming off Synod or have decided not to stand but this should not stop you seeking out suitable candidates and encouraging them to be nominated (see Why Stand?).

There are many people involved in our churches, particularly lay members, who will have much to offer but may be unaware about the important work of General Synod and that they are eligible to stand for election. Your encouragement and support may make all the difference.

Do use this downloadable leaflet Your voice counts: Make a difference on General Synod which sets out basic information (there is a black and white version available here).