I stood for General Synod at the Dublin diocesan elections in 1999 and came last (or last but one, it makes little difference), so ignore the following as sour grapes from a jaundiced viewpoint.
Katharine, who is elected comfortably to things, received papers for next month’s General Synod in Galway. At one time General Synod was a newsworthy event, now much of it seems to have become an exercise in pedantic discussion. Six hundred people will gather for three days at considerable cost to achieve an outcome that is entirely predictable.
There was a time during the Troubles in the North when the media men would have lined up to hear what the Archbishop of Armagh might say, now there is barely a flicker of interest. The church had something to say to the world in those years, now it just talks to itself. The Dublin media might take note of what is said about education or medical ethics by speakers from the Republic, but for the most part it has no more general appeal than the annual convention of those who make models from matchsticks (not to disparage matchstick modellers).
The papers that came this morning included motions to be discussed by the General Synod, one of which calls for the publication of the cost of paying the bishops. Why would anyone want to know how much the bishops get paid? Why would anyone be even interested? If they are going to publish the bishops salaries, why not ask for everyone else’s details, including the annual income of the various lawyers who are synod members?
It was alleged some years ago that the ordinary bishops received 1.8 times the minimum stipend and the archbishops more than that, which actually seemed fairly mean levels of pay, given that clergy in some of the big Northern parishes would probably be on comparable rates. (I took a cut of £5,000 Sterling to move south nine years ago).
But is this really a matter for General Synod? The world is poised on the edge of environmental disaster; there are riots because of rising food prices; a barrel of oil reaches a new record price each day; and international banking wobbles through each new crisis; and the dear old Church of Ireland is going to have a motion asking how much the bishops are paid.
Did something of the Gospel get lost in translation or am I reading the wrong Bible? Can you imagine Jesus at Synod?
Here’s Jesus’ speech in the synagogue at Nazareth,
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Luke 4:16-19
Any sense there at all that Jesus would have spent time at synod discussing bishops’ pay? I don’t find one, but maybe that’s why I was never elected.