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Update on General Synod and triennial elections from Honorary Secretaries

Following the announcement in April that the meeting of the General Synod of 7th-9th May 2020 could not be held, the Honorary Secretaries have continued to monitor government advice and to consider the Constitutional and operational requirements of the Church.

Having met last week with the Archbishops and Assessor to discuss the current situation, they wish to provide the following update.

General Synod 2020

The Constitution of the Church of Ireland provides that there shall be an ordinary meeting of the General Synod “in every year” (Chapter I, 14). The possibility of holding of such meeting in 2020 is, of course, subject to government regulations. At present, there is no indication of when a meeting of that size may be held indoors in either jurisdiction. If indoor meetings of at least 700 people were to be permitted in either jurisdiction before 31st December 2020, then the Constitutional direction to hold an ordinary meeting of the General Synod this year would apply, and the Honorary Secretaries would endeavour to comply. The safety of members is, of course, paramount.

If it is not possible to hold a meeting of the General Synod in 2020, then the work of the episcopacy, the training of ordinands, and the work of General Synod itself will have to be sustained. The Assessor, Mr Lyndon MacCann S.C., has advised that in this instance, the RB's financial resolutions will be treated as if they have been passed, and the General Synod of 2021 will be asked to give retrospective approval.

Triennial elections

General Synod members are elected for a period of 3 years, not for 3 meetings of the General Synod (Constitution, Chapter I, 5). Consequently, the term of office of current members will end on the day before General Synod 2021, regardless of whether or not a meeting of the General Synod can be held in 2020.

Thus, triennial elections will have to take place in dioceses by 31st December 2020. Without the holding of these elections, dioceses cannot send representatives to the 2021 General Synod, as the term of the current membership will have expired.

In the event that a meeting of the General Synod cannot be held in 2020, there will not be the usual opportunity to thank members, particularly those who will not return in 2021, for their contribution to the activities of the General Synod. The Honorary Secretaries would, therefore, now like to offer those thanks to them for their attendance and their participation in the work of General Synod during this triennium.