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General Synod digest: System flounders at Questions

04 December 2020

Pat Ashworth sits through an online endurance test

YouTube/Church of England

The Revd Zoe Heming chairs Synod questions

The Revd Zoe Heming chairs Synod questions

SYNOD Questions on Monday evening exposed all the drawbacks of a virtual Synod experience, and the Revd Zoe Heming (Lichfield) drew what proved to be the very short straw of chairing the session. She was capable and valiant, but, as the system floundered, you could see her wilting, and we ended up hoping that someone would hand her a stiff drink when she went offline.

At the most recent in-the-flesh Synod meeting, in February, there were 200 questions tabled. This time there were 81; so there was every chance that, in a 90-minute session extended by 15 minutes, a majority would be taken. There was special interest in the blocks of questions on the use of individual cups for holy communion (five questions); on safeguarding and the IICSA report (nine); and especially — because there had been no debate — on Living in Love and Faith (six). Each was allowed two supplementaries.

The Synod made it only to Question 41, however. The usually quick-fire, cunning, leaping-to-the-feet process of probing beyond the written reply — “Supplementary!” — was agonisingly drawn-out. “Blue hands” were apparently waving without any clarity about which question they were applied to, and speakers were slow to get themselves into view: “Can you hear me?”

It simply didn’t work, which is a pity, because it is here that the killer questions can come out and everyone is on an equal footing. Better luck next time.

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