General Synod 2023 highlights include Net Zero Action Plan and first ever address by Moderator

May 23, 2023

The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church will meet at St Paul’s & St George’s Episcopal Church in Edinburgh, from Thursday 8 June to Saturday 10 June 2023.

The agenda and papers have now been sent to members and published here on the Scottish Episcopal Church website, detailing the business scheduled. Among the headline items are the presentation of the Net Zero Action Plan, a historic first address to Synod by a Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and a second reading of Canon 4 on the election of bishops.

The meeting has been arranged in hybrid format, to allow a small number of members to join remotely. Proceedings will begin on the Thursday with the Opening Eucharist at Ps&Gs, with the offering donated to the Scottish Refugee Council. Offerings will be taken online here.

One of the main items of Synod business on day one will be consideration of the Net Zero Action Plan prepared by the Provincial Environment Group following a period of consultation, which has included a series of webinars and presentations at diocesan synods. The consultation has helped to shape Synod’s response to the climate emergency it acknowledged in 2020 when it set the goal of working towards achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2030. In light of the feedback received during the consultation process, the Action Plan has been substantially revised.

Two motions regarding the Net Zero Action Plan will go before Synod on Thursday afternoon: one to affirm the direction of the Plan as enabling fulfilment of the 2020 resolution, and the other to request Standing Committee to approve the provision of funding to support implementation of the Plan.

Other business on day one includes Standing Committee items of accounts, budget and quota overview and Board & Committee work plans, presentations from the Investment Committee and College of Bishops (the latter with discussion in table groups), and a report on the recent Anglican Consultative Council gathering in Ghana.

On day two of Synod, there will be a presentation on the Season for Christian Life, which has been created “to offer to the church a season which would enliven Christian faith and life”. The Season is intended to provide a focus for three to five years, starting in 2023, and is part of the Anglican Consultative Council’s call to Churches across the Communion to have a Season for Intentional Discipleship.

The Season for Christian Life session at Synod will be followed by a proposal to formalise a Local Mission Development Committee in the Synod structure, as a pendant committee of Mission Board.

Synod will then be addressed by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt Rev Sally Foster-Fulton (pictured right). This will be the first time that a Moderator has addressed General Synod since the body first met in 1982. The Moderator, who was installed at the weekend, is expected to talk about her hopes and vision for the Church in Scotland at this time.

Other prominent business on day two includes a second reading of Canon 4, on the calling and election of bishops to vacant sees, and after lunch there will be a 30-minute ‘Meet the Board Conveners’ session, where members will have the opportunity to hear from Conveners about their Board’s workplan and ask questions. This session will take place in break-out rooms, and members are free to choose which session they wish to attend.

Day two continues with an Institute Council presentation and a Buildings Committee report. The pastoral offices which received first reading last year will be presented for a second reading, and liturgies for Lent, Holy Week and Easter which have been subject to experimental use for the last few years will be presented for a first reading. Official business closes for the day with a question and answer session held by the College of Bishops, which will be a follow-up to the College’s presentation the previous day.

The agenda for Saturday, the final day of Synod, features the first reading of Canon 65, on safeguarding in the Church; the Ethical Investment Advisory Group; budgets and quota; the future size of General Synod, elections, and a presentation from the Provincial Youth Committee.

As usual, the proceedings at Synod will be live-streamed online. Further details are available at this page.

On the evening of day one, the Synod Dinner will be held at the new venue of the Royal Scots Club in Abercromby Place. On the Friday evening, a Gaelic eucharist will be held by the Gaelic Society of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and Cornerstone Bookshop will host a reception for Synod members at its premises on St John’s Church Terrace, Princes Street, from 5.30pm.

Additionally, the opening day will see the Provincial Global Partnerships Committee warmly invite Synod members to take part in Thursdays in Black, where participants wear black every Thursday as part of the campaign to end violence against women.

The full General Synod papers for 2023 can be accessed here.

(Photo of Rt Rev Sally Foster-Fulton courtesy of the Church of Scotland)