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General Synod 2024: a preview

by the Honorary Secretaries of the General Synod

From left: Canon Malcolm Kingston, Canon Gillian Wharton, Mr Ken Gibson and Ms Hazel Corrigan.
From left: Canon Malcolm Kingston, Canon Gillian Wharton, Mr Ken Gibson and Ms Hazel Corrigan.

For the first time since 2018, General Synod will this year be meeting in Armagh City Hotel, at the heart of the Orchard County and in the home of Ireland’s ecclesiastical capital.  Visitors may also wish to explore the Visit Armagh website – www.visitarmagh.com – for local attractions and events for their stay in the area.

A short summary

New members of Synod may find it helpful to follow this brief running order for the three days, although of course it’s much more than a business meeting and also a great opportunity to meet, socialise and learn from others around the Church:

  • General Synod Service of Holy Communion
  • Start of business in the venue (at 11.00am)
  • Presidential Address by the Primate
  • First day of business (to 6.30pm)
  • Opening devotions for the second day (at 9.45am)
  • Second day – morning session (to 1.00pm)
  • Second day – afternoon session (from 2.00pm to 4.30pm)
  • Third day – taking place online this year (from 7.00pm)

On the first day of its meeting (Friday, 10th May), the Service of Holy Communion will take place at 10.00am in St Patrick’s Cathedral, on the Hill of Armagh where St Patrick built his ‘Great Stone Church’.  The preacher will be the Bishop of Clogher, the Rt Revd Ian W Ellis.

The Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, the Most Revd John McDowell, will make his Presidential Address shortly after the start of business on the first day. General Synod will continue in person on Saturday, 11th May, with the third day’s proceedings held remotely on the evening of Tuesday, 14th May, and (if required) on the evening of Thursday 16th May.

Two presentations – from the Mind Matters COI project and the Primate’s Reference Group on Ethnic Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Justice – are scheduled to be made just before lunch–time on Saturday.


General Synod’s primary purpose is to consider proposals for legislation (bills) with a view to improving the Church of Ireland’s governance, and therefore enabling its administration, mission and ministry to be as effective as possible.

At the time of going to press, eight bills had been presented for consideration by General Synod:

Bill No. 1 proposes an amendment to the Book of Common Prayer to observe the Second Sunday in November as Remembrance Sunday.

Bill No. 2 seeks to ensure that persons elected by a parish to act as members of diocesan synod are part of the parish by which they are elected, and that they are invested in their parish to the extent of at least being a registered vestry member.

Bill No. 3 would align the retirement age for an archdeacon (currently 70 years) with the retirement age for clergy (75 years).

Bill No. 4 intends to recognise and authorise the licensing of clergy or laity as pioneer ministers within the Church of Ireland, and the establishment of a Pioneer Ministry at diocesan or parochial level.  In particular, for a Pioneer Ministry having its own income and/or property, recognition and authorisation within the Constitution will enable the ministry to register as a charity with the Constitution of the Church of Ireland as its governing document.

Bill No. 5 would allow for the review of the register of vestry members during the course of a year, rather than solely at the annual review of vestry members.

Bill No. 6 would authorize a Select Vestry to co–opt an additional registered vestry member (or members) onto the Select Vestry, where the Easter General Vestry has failed to elect a full complement of select vestry members.

Bill No. 7 relates to the bills procedure at General Synod and proposes changes to the terminology surrounding the procedure with the aim of making the process easier to understand and, thus, encourage greater participation of members.

Bill No. 8 draws on the work of the working group which has reviewed the Episcopal Electoral College process since it was last revised in 2016, and proposes related amendments to the Constitution.

The bills will be considered, in principle, on the first day and then again in more detail on the third day after a time of reflection.


The Book of Reports covers the work of the range of committees and organisations reporting to General Synod and gives members an opportunity to discuss and debate each area reported.  Subject to the approval of the timetable motion, by members, reports from the following committees will be on the first day’s agenda:

  • Marriage Council
  • Board of Education
  • Commission on Ministry
  • Church of Ireland Youth Department

The second day’s business will begin with the report of the Representative Church Body (RCB), covering the financial, property and other operations of the central trustee body on behalf of the Church and including the report of the Church of Ireland Pensions Board and the Allocations Board motion to approve financial support from the RCB in 2024.  This will be followed by the reports of the:

  • Liturgical Advisory Committee
  • Standing Committee
  • Pioneer Ministry Governing Council

The Standing Committee report includes a wide breadth of areas of policy and ministry, including the work of the Board for Ministry with Children and Families (looking back over progress made since it took shape in 2021), the Church and Society Commission, and the Priorities Fund.  Three working groups will bring forward focused reports on the proposed ways ahead for third level chaplaincy, curacies, and the Episcopal Electoral College process.

Children and Families Ministry has seen significant progress over the last three years through the work of our full–time Development Officer, Mrs Rachael Murphy.  A wide range of resources and strong (and growing) online presence have been established, backed up by numerous training events and a network of committed diocesan representatives.  The Board will present a vision for its work to build, strengthen, equip and encourage in this vital area over the next three years, which will recognise the valuable ministry of many volunteers across our Church.

This will be the first year in which the Pioneer Ministry Governing Council will report to General Synod, following its formation in 2023.

The third day’s business, following the further consideration of bills as ordered on the first day, will incorporate the reports of the:

  • Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue
  • Council for Mission
  • Church of Ireland–Methodist Covenant Council

Please note that notices of motion should be submitted by email to honsecs@ireland.anglican.org by Wednesday, 10th April 2024.

We very much look forward to welcoming Synod members to Armagh, either for the first time or returning to the city and county.  For more information on General Synod, including motions, please visit the General Synod website: https://synod.ireland.anglican.org/2024 

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