Arriving as a newbie at Synod can be quite frightening. So many people, procedures; standing orders, and members standing to contend with.
As part of the induction for new members, a dramatised and light-hearted example of a synod debate, with full commentary, helped members to understand synodical processes. When I first joined synod 5 years ago, I found a similar presentation very helpful, and many new members I have spoken to found this one similarly so.
Actually, it was such a useful case-study in debating procedure, that I managed to procure a copy of the script, and the permission to publish it. It may well be an aid to Diocesan Synod members too, especially the Chairs of House of Laity and Clergy.
Here are a couple of snippets:
Margery Kempe: Margery Kempe, Norwich, 1438. Mr. Chair, I am delighted to move this motion in my name. The Joint Ecumenical commission for motherhood and apple pie has spent the last two years considering both motherhood and apple pie from a variety of angles, as detailed in GS 1592…
Narrator: You will have noticed that she correctly started her speech by addressing the Chair. All speeches should be addressed to the Chair: only the person in the Chair addresses the Synod directly. After the opening speech the debate will be opened up to members... [etc.]
Narrator: Let’s hear how the first speaker gets on.
Hilda of Whitby: Hilda of Whitby, Religious Communities, 680. There are two points I want to make. First, in GS 1592 paragraph 23…
Narrator: Now this is good start – short, sharp, focused and directly to the point.
HW: … I could say more, but as the amber light has come on, I would say in conclusion that my main points are these … [etc.]
Other participants include (!):
Thomas Aquinas, Julian of Norwich, Catherine Parr, Hieronymous Bosch & Richard Hooker
Download the full sketch here, or continue reading it below the fold:
Alastair Cutting 96 Chichester
here you are sitting madam!
Staff member comes on and rings the five minute bell
The Chair consults with administrator and registrar
r request is not a valid point of order, so we continue; Margery Kempe.
: only the person in the Chair addresses the Synod directly. After the opening speech the debate will be opened up to members, so I should say something now about what to do if you want to speak. First of all, you should complete a “Request to Speak” form as far in advance as possible before the debate. These are available at the Information Desk, where they should also be handed in when completed. As far as is possible, the Chair of a debate will seek to have a balanced debate, that is to say he or she will attempt to call an equal number of speakers for and against, and (subject to that) to ensure that there is a broad balance of speakers who are male and female, from each of the Houses etc. It’s obviously not an exact science but in order to do this as effectively as possible it is helpful for the Chair to know who wants to speak beforehand and to have an idea of what they want to say. Ah, it looks like she is just about to finish, so we’ll soon see what to do next.
if one of the other Officer
s stands, he or she will be called to speak unless that is impossible in the time available. But the normal form is for the Chair, when faced with all those faces to say …
: the mover will be asked to respond to the debate before a vote is taken. While she is doing that, I should mention what to do if you are not speaking. First of all, don’t feel that you have somehow wasted your time if you have not spoken. It’s just as important to listen carefully to the debate so that you can make an informed decision at the end and also, not to be overlooked, so that you are in a position to make a full and accurate report once you return to the diocese.
Members hands go up
, after which I shall call the movers of all the amendments to speak to
, and move their amendments in turn. As I have a large number of Requests to Speak for this debate, after the mover of the motion has spoken for ten minutes I shall be imposing a three minute speech limit from the outset. About half way through our allotted time, I shall ask for each of the amendments to be moved and for each to be voted on; we shall then resume the debate on the substantive motion as amended or not as the case may be. I hope that is clear …
- it therefore brings the debate on that item effectively to an end.
‘imputation’ (that is, any criticism of anyone) or ask for any expression of opinion or for the solution of any hypothetical problem. Fair enough! The other important point to remember is that your question must be directed at the work of a Synodical body. For example you cannot ask the Archbishop of Canterbury what is his favourite colour, but you can ask him as Chairman of the House of Bishops, “Has the House considered issuing guidelines to bishops on how to choose their favourite colour?”
to attend as many of the debates as you can, get to know as many of your fellow members as you can and read, listen, speak and vote carefully and prayerfully. And remember the mentors at this group of sessions who are here to help you. I’m sure that you will all play your part, now I’m off to the tearoom!