Diocesan Synod Report (May 12-13, 2023)

The Synod of the Diocese of New Westminster met for the first time in person since the pandemic on May 12-13 in Vancouver.  Synod is the Annual General Meeting of the diocese.  Over 200 clergy, lay, and youth delegates attended the meeting, chaired by Bishop John Stephens.  The documents for the Synod contained 139 pages of subcommittee reports, budgets, candidates for election to diocesan roles, and resolutions for the consideration of the meeting.  Under the strict guidance of the chair and the discipline of speakers keeping their interventions short, we managed to complete an enormous amount of work in two days.

St. James’ was represented by Father Kevin, Mother Amanda, Father Matthew, Deacon Joyce, and Father Neil Gray (retired clergy), with  lay delegates Ross Hornby (Trustee) and Jerry Adams (Alternate), who opened the meeting with a Nisga’a greeting and gave thanks to the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations on whose land we met.

Of particular interest to St. James’ were the resolutions.  The Synod decided that Homelessness and Housing Affordability should be a priority of the diocese.  There was a vigorous debate over the use of church property for affordable housing.  It was recognized that not all parishes have surplus lands and all need expert assistance from the diocese.  Two resolutions on establishing a $5000 grant to parishes to explore options and the creation of a new position of an animator on homelessness and housing affordability were hotly debated.  Synod arrived at a solution that mandates the Diocesan Council, to which Mother Amanda was elected, to explore next steps.

It was heart warming to see the prominence and support given to the Street Outreach Initiative.  Delegates put their money where their mouths were and raised over $8000 for the Initiative led by Father Matthew and Deacon Joyce.  There was great enthusiam also on greening our buildings and lands, meeting a net zero emissions goal by 2030.  This will require urgently examining how to move off fossil fuels for heating and reducing water use through recycling and rain water collection.  [Fr Kevin observes:  The Trustees of St James’ have commissioned an Energy Audit of our buildings, with grant assistance from the Diocese.]

On a personal note, what struck me was the enthusiasm of the delegates and the breadth of what is already being done by all parishes in the diocese.  This should be more widely shared across the diocese and with the broader community.  All agreed we have credibility and a story to tell, and that we should engage in advocacy on the issues we care about.

Ross Hornby