Synods are gatherings of church officers that convene for the purpose of deliberating what church policy should be. Their agenda may include resolving disputes that have arisen as well, as making plans for the future development of the life of the church.
They are typically representative bodies, though who they represent varies from time to time and from church to church. They have been held from the very earliest days of Christianity, and for many centuries they were understood to be assemblies of bishops. That is still the case in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, but Anglican practice is much broader in scope, including clergy and laity as well. Modern synods also meet on a regular basis and operate according to a fixed constitution. They share some features in common with those of other times and places, but they are not direct descendants of any particular ancient tradition. There is no form of Anglican synodical government beyond the level of the national church, a fact that has become increasingly problematic in the worldwide Anglican Communion. Reform of the national synodical structure and the development of an effective form of synodical government that will be regarded as authoritative by the entire Communion are the greatest challenges we face today and it is these that this essay seeks to address.
Gerald Bray is an ordained clergyman of the Church of England and Research Professor of Theologyat Beeson Divinity School and Director of research for the Latimer Trust. He is the editor of many works of Anglican history, including twenty volumes of Convocation records, the Anglican Canons from 1529 to 1947 and the Reformatio Legum Ecclesiasticarum. He was editor of Churchman from 1983 to 2018 and is currently working on a history of Christianity in the British Isles. His recent publications include a commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, a monograph on the Church, a systematic theology (God is Love) and a historical companion to it (God has Spoken).
ISBN: 978 1 906327 57 6
Pages: 74 pages