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Campaign launched to encourage diversity of people to join diocesan synods

10 May 2024

Young people in particular urged to apply as nominations open

PEOPLE of many different perspectives are being encouraged to stand for election to diocesan synods this year. The current triennium comes to an end on 31 July, and nominations opened this week.

The Church Changemakers campaign, in Salisbury diocese, typifies the emphasis being placed on hearing the voices of young people in particular. It wants them to express their hopes and fears for the Church, and also seeks to highlight the skills that they can gain, including debating, shaping policy, advocacy, and financial scrutiny.

One of those responding is Taizé Haine, from Weymouth, who hopes to stand in her area. “I think it’s really important for young people to stand,” she said. “The younger generation get to see what is happening now, and in the future, and provide a new perspective which needs to be heard.”

The Revd Leila Mather, a current diocesan-synod member, echoes that: “I think we need a greater diversity of voices on synod, both younger and from different walks of life, because we can’t have decisions being made that aren’t being contributed to by the people who are going to be affected by them in the long term.”

The diocese serves one million people, something of which the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Stephen Lake, is very conscious. “We need more people involved in the life of their local churches to bring their voices to synod, to enrich our vision. Synod is the place where people who care about the Church and its impact on our communities and the wider world debate passionately and set our future direction,” he said.

“If we don’t hear from people, then we are less able to serve everybody. I hope that sharing more widely the impact that people can have on synod and the skills that are earned by members, will encourage more people to put themselves forward.”

Bristol is one of several dioceses with YouTube videos encouraging people to stand. One serving cleric who is featured, the Revd Jones Mutemwakwenda, says: “I joined the synod to make a contribution to the diocese, and at one time when I looked at the composition of the synod, I couldn’t see any black person there.

“So I said, ‘Well, that’s one way of moving together as one people in the diocese.’ It’s so crucial that all voices are being heard by the Church.”

Truro has issued a poster saying, “Is God calling you to diocesan synod?” The Bishop, the Rt Revd Hugh Nelson, has written to every parish asking for information to be shared with all eligible people.

He said: “To do this well, we need members from different communities and traditions who represent the whole life of the Church in Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly, and our parishes in Devon. We work best when we hear voices from different backgrounds, experience, and ages. Synod is an opportunity to speak up and be heard, to listen carefully, and to take part in leadership.

“You matter in this work; you matter for your church and your community, and for the diocese. Your faith, tradition, and experience matter. I want to hear your voice on diocesan synod.”

Derby has posted a list about what is involved in standing for the synod. It makes clear: “We particularly encourage applications from eligible UK minority ethnic/global majority heritage (UKME/GMH) members of clergy and laity, and eligible youth representatives, minimum age 16.”

The diocese is preparing to publish a promotional leaflet, an article for newsletters and parish magazines, a poster for church noticeboards, and a PowerPoint slide for churches displaying notices on TV monitors.

The Blackburn and Lancaster campaigns have featured in the local press: the Lancashire Telegraph has the headline “Blackburn and Lancaster Bishops fronting stand for synod campaign”. The story describes the two Bishops — the Rt Revd Philip North and Dr Jill Duff — as “calling on people of all ages from parishes across the county to become members of its key decision-making bodies”.

Dr Duff told the paper, “We want our synod to represent all the different communities in Lancashire: all ages and stages. If you think your face might not fit, that might be exactly why God is calling you. Diocesan synod is open to everybody, subject to the criteria that you will find on the diocesan website, and we’d love you to step out and join us.”

Timetables will be set by individual dioceses, but all elections must be completed by 15 July.

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