This year’s General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) has been postponed because of the outbreak of coronavirus.
The Standing Committee of the SEC reached the difficult decision with regret, having considered the latest information available, the estimated timetable for the spread of COVID-19 and the peak period of infection, the welfare and wellbeing of the vulnerable, and the mood of uncertainty over travel and accommodation arrangements.
The General Synod was scheduled to take place on 11 to 13 June at St Paul’s and St George’s Episcopal Church in Edinburgh. A new date will be considered for later in the year, potentially for a shorter gathering.
All General Synod Members, Alternate Synod Members, Diocesan Secretaries and members of Provincial Board and Committees were informed of the decision today, which was described as having been taken because of several reasons.
Those factors include:
- According to recent news, the virus is expected to peak around 10 – 14 weeks from now. General Synod falls squarely within that period.
- If significant numbers of people have the virus, Synod may be considerably depleted if the meeting were to go ahead.
- The holding of Synod would risk exposing those who come to Synod to the possibility of infection, particularly if it is more prevalent in the general population at that time. Some Synod members are likely to be in the category of higher risk and the SEC wishes to ensure their welfare and wellbeing.
- If the virus peaks around that time, it may be that there are significant staff absences both in relation to General Synod Office and St Paul’s and St George’s staff. Staff absences between now and then might also be expected. All of these could make it difficult to deliver the Synod from a practical point of view.
- In announcing the postponement of Synod now, the SEC avoids a climate of uncertainty prevailing in the coming weeks as to whether the meeting will go ahead or not and it will mean that Synod members do not have to make, and then cancel, travel and accommodation arrangements.
The Standing Committee is due to meet towards the end of April, and it will take stock of the situation at that point and consider the possibility of arranging Synod later in the year, possibly for a shortened period. Synod members will be advised of any proposed new date as soon as it is decided upon.
Meanwhile, the College of Bishops has issued updated guidelines on how clergy and members should respond to the spread of coronavirus, to help protect the most vulnerable. While the Scottish Government has advised that places of worship do not need to close, the SEC is ensuring that clear precautions are being taken in churches to protect those most at risk.
The new SEC guidelines can be read here: https://www.scotland.anglican.org/coronavirus-updates/
Any further significant updates will be posted on the SEC website, and on social media.