Diocesan Synod June 2022

Diocesan Synod came together for four days in Köln, at the beginning of June, to reflect, worship, be in community, and discuss topics such as Racial Justice, Trauma, Care for Creation, and more. It was the first time in two years that Synod was able to meet face to face, and even more significantly, the first time the newly elected members joined.

Bishop Robert opened the session with a presidential address that acknowledged the particularly challenging times we find ourselves in, citing the seemingly international mood at the moment:

“One of the impacts of Covid has been that ordinary discourse and social interaction has become harder to sustain. We have become shoutier and more aggressive in our dealings with one another. Many institutions, including the church, have found that complaints have significantly increased. A recent survey in the UK indicates that assaults on local doctors by patients including violent assaults have doubled.” 

Drawing comparison from Revelations horsemen, or “preparatory agents of divine judgement”, Bishop David acknowledged the Diocese in Europe’s own horsemen - unsurprisingly covid was the first. However he also mentioned the ongoing negative socio-economic impact of Brexit, the war in Ukraine, climate change, and the Conference on the future of Europe. 

Bishop David welcomed the new opportunity to gather face to face, outlined what lay ahead for synod, and drew to a close in focussing not on the challenges of today, but the hope we have in spite of them:

“A synod is a walking together in faith. I hope that the stories, the experiences and yes the business that is shared amongst us in these coming days will strengthen us for our walk with Christ. That is what it is really about. We are called to be witnesses to Jesus in our own time, just as St. John the Divine was in his. We live in an era of multiple crises. More than ever, the world needs faith and hope and love. We are to be completely realistic about the scale of the challenges, fully alert to the signs of the times, and at the same time to stay faithful to our calling to bear witness to Jesus. We are to remember always the hope of our calling, even unto death, aware that our hope spans both this life and the life of the world to come.”

The group spent two sessions focussing on Trauma Informed Ministry for Times Such as These, the first, led by the Revd Hilary Ison, about individual trauma - presenting the impact that trauma has on us personally, and within our bodies. Revd Hilary followed this teaching the next day, with a session on two types of collective trauma: events involving one person or family that affect a church as a whole, and, secondly, incidents that affect the entire church family directly.

Racial Justice was also a topic of significance, the discussion for which was led by the Venerable Leslie Nathaniel, the Revd Canon Smitha Prasadam, and Oziche Baron. The Racial Justice Working Group came together in response to the murder of George Floyd in 2020, and they created a policy document which was then circulated to all bishops in the Church of England. Fast forward to 2021, and they conducted an audit of this policy across chaplaincies in the Diocese in Europe - at synod they were happily able to report that this was a success story.

Another of the key challenges mentioned in Bishop Robert’s address was climate change, so it was apt that diocesan synod gave space for the Net Zero Working Group to speak. They presented their caring for creation policy, and how the diocese can work towards Net Zero. This policy was approved, alongside the motion urging chaplaincies to strive to meet the stated objectives.

Members of synod thoroughly enjoyed their time in Köln, reaping the relational benefits of being together, as well as the opportunity to discuss, at times heavy, important matters in the same room. Sadly, the Revd Malcolm Rogers was unable to attend in person, but thanks to technology was able to join virtually. He said, ““Powerless and vulnerably is what it’s all about. We are here to pray for Russian people and be an open door when many are being shut”.

Diocesan Synod closed with the joyful commissioning of the new Dean and Assistant Dean of Women’s Ministry, the Revd Debbie Flach, and the Revd Catriona Laing - much joyful whooping and applause was heard coming from the chapel. 

You can read about some of the key issues such as care for creation, and trauma, in much more depth in the July issue of European Anglicans, the diocesan magazine.