The Synod meeting has agreed to adopt a new strategy to change its future trajectory.
Building off the growth proposal from the 2019 Synod, Future Directions for the People of God on the Way sets a number of priorities for the Synod, including a focus on growing the church’s younger membership and developing healthy congregations.
Future Directions was introduced by members of the Synod Standing Committee on Wednesday night and discussed in discernment groups before being amended and agreed to by consensus this morning at Synod 2021.
The proposal calls for the church to “affirm a commitment to being a contemporary, courageous, and growing church proclaiming Jesus Christ in worship, witness, and service.” It canvasses possible outcomes such as church attendance growth from 21,000 regular church attendees to 30,000.
The proposal aims to decrease the average age of church attendees, with the intent of taking the current 13 percent of regular attendees who are under the age of 50 and increasing this number to 21 percent of overall attendees. Synod 2021 was told the figures in the document were not targets but indicative of where the proposal could take the church.
The proposal was six-months in the making and four members of the 19-member Standing Committee were millennials (aged under 40). There were some amendments to the proposal which included an amendment that the resourcing framework for the proposal to be discussed at the June meeting of Synod 2021.
Prior to passing the proposal, the General Secretary, Rev. Jane Fry, compared the proposal to planning for an overseas holiday. “You first have to ask: Where you want to go?” she said. “This proposal is about direction setting … other tactical questions about how we will do this (the funding, resources and strategy) we will get to this later.”
The Chair of the Synod Business Committee, Kent Crawford, said the discernment groups had been largely warm to the proposal with strong feedback that discipleship must be central. He said there was also widespread acceptance with the proposal to engage with young people.
“There was also a tension between impatience and inertia … it reflected a view that we should just get on with it against questions about the strategy guiding how we will do this.”
Earlier, Mr Crawford, said there were 190 delegates who participated online in the first stanza of Synod 2021 on Wednesday evening. He said there were 173 members engaged in discernment groups.
He urged delegates who could not make sessions of Synod 2021 to ensure they register as an apology so that discernment groups are not disrupted and also to identify those who were having technical problems and were lost due to technical problems.
Synod 2021 also agreed by consensus to the Walking Together Action Plan amid a strong commitment to work together on this plan and to support the work of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress.
“I would ask the wider Church to please understand the plea that the heavy lifting is our responsibility as a Church,” said Nathan Tyson of the commitment needed by the Synod.
“We can’t expect those distadvanged, dealing with actual social work and trauma in their communities, to come to us. The heavy lifting is on us and we have to work at it together.”
Synod members were also updated on Synod’s Climate Change Strategy by Emma Maiden, Head of Advocacy & Media at Uniting and Erin Lewis, from Christian Students’ Uniting.
Synod 2021 also heard the first of three pre-recorded devotions from Dr Sathianathan “Sathi” Clarke, Bishop Sundo Kim Chair in World Christianity and Professor of Theology, Culture, and Mission at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC who spoke on ‘Where the wild God is”.
This year, the Synod general meeting is taking place online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Insights will provide full coverage of all proposals.
The next Synod in Session meeting will be held at the Centre for Ministry, North Parramatta on June 2 & 5.