Role and responsibilities of Synod members

        What is the Synod?

        The Synod is the annual gathering of representatives of the churches of the Diocese with the Archbishop.  The Synod meets to consider matters affecting the order and good government of the Diocese.  It has been doing so since 1866!

        At present there are 830 members of the Synod.  The membership is broadly divided into clergy and laity.  Usually clergy and laity vote on matters together.  Sometimes, on important matters, clergy and laity vote separately when there is a need for both to agree on a matter.

        A new Synod is elected every three years.

        What does the Synod do?

        The Synod has 5 main functions.  These are - 

        *       Electing persons to diocesan bodies

        *       Making ordinances

        *       Passing resolutions and making policy

        *       Receiving reports

        *       Providing a time for diocesan-wide fellowship.


        There are currently about 45 diocesan bodies to which Synod elects members.  These include the councils of diocesan schools and other large diocesan organisations, such as Moore Theological College, Youthworks and Anglican Community Services.

        Before each meeting or session of the Synod, members are asked to nominate persons to fill these positions.  During the session, members cast their votes in contested elections (i.e., where the number of nominees is greater than the number of positions to be filled).

        Nominating and electing people with appropriate experience, qualifications and Christian commitment to positions on diocesan bodies is generally considered one of the most important functions that Synod members undertake.


        The Synod also makes ordinances (i.e., diocesan legislation).  Ordinances establish formal diocesan structures and set out the rules by which activities within those structures are to be conducted.

        Formal structures and rules are clearly no substitute for dealing with one another in a godly manner.  However good structures and rules can help the churches, organisations and office holders within the Diocese work together in an orderly and effective manner.

        Examples of ordinances recently passed by the Synod include -

        *      Parish Administration Ordinance 2008 - which provides for the rules by which parishes in the Diocese are administered.

        *      Archbishop of Sydney Appointment Ordinance 2009 which altered the process for electing a new Archbishop.

        *     Moore Theological College Ordinance 1984 Amendment Ordinance 2009 which provided for a new constitution for Moore Theological College.

        *      Parochial Cost Recoveries Ordinance 2009 which provides an estimate of the ministry and property costs to be incurred on behalf of parishes during 2010, 2011 and 2012 and the way in which such costs will be recovered from parishes.

        *      Synod Appropriations and Allocations Ordinance 2009 which provides for Synod funding of about $20 million in 2010, 2011 and 2012 to be distributed to various ministries and support activities across the Diocese.

        Resolutions and policy

        The Synod can pass resolutions to enable Synod members to express their collective mind on a wide range of matters.  Resolutions are also the way in which the Synod transacts its business. 

        For example, in recent sessions the Synod has passed resolutions on matters such as gambling reform, asylum seekers, funding for urban renewal, debate concerning same-sex marriage and safe learning environment for all students.


        At each session, the diocesan leadership reports on progress in mission and other important issues. This occurs principally through an address given by the Archbishop (i.e., the Archbishop's Presidential Address) and various sessions highlighting specific diocesan activities.

        The Synod also receives reports and audited accounts from about 45 diocesan and other organisations.

        Diocesan-wide fellowship

        Synod also provides a time for diocesan-wide fellowship.  This mainly happens through shared bible teaching, prayer and a Synod service. 

        What are the responsibilities of parish representatives on the Synod?

        Parish representatives form the largest group in the total membership of the Synod.  At present there are 760 parish representatives out of a total Synod membership of 830.  Accordingly parish representatives play an important role in the functions exercised by Synod.

        To enable Synod to fulfil its functions effectively, parish representatives have 4 basic responsibilities.  These are -

        1.    Attending the Synod sessions over the 3-year Synod cycle (or as much of each session as possible).  Sessions for the 52nd Synod are due to be held between 3.15pm and 9.30pm on the following days -

        3 May 2021 (1st session of the 52nd Synod)

        4, 5, 6, 7 May 2021 (2nd session of the 52nd Synod -- Archbishop Election Synod)

        12, 13, 14, 19 and 20 September 2022 (3rd session of the 52nd Synod)

        [Previously scheduled dates in October 2020, September 2021 and February 2022 were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic]

        2.    Preparing for the matters to be considered at the Synod.  This generally involves reading the materials which are sent to you before the Synod (or as much of the materials as you can).

        3.    Understanding the basic processes at Synod, or at least coming to Synod ready to learn the basic processes.  An overview of the basic processes can be found under Synod Procedures.  However words cannot fully describe all that goes on at Synod.  The best way to understand Synod is by experiencing it first hand!

        4.    Participating in Synod as far as you are able.  This may involve nominating candidates for elections and should involve voting in those elections.  It may also involve contributing on the floor of Synod by moving and/or speaking to motions and, when ordinances are considered, asking questions about the ordinances.  Possibly the most important way of participating in Synod is the informal networking that goes on before, during and even after the Synod session.

        Who is eligible to be a parish representative on the Synod?

        You are eligible to be a parish representative if you are a lay person who is -

        1.    18 years of age or older, and

        2.    a communicant member of the Anglican Church of Australia.

        You are a communicant member of the Anglican Church of Australia if you are baptised and regularly participate in Holy Communion or the Lord's Supper at an Anglican church.

        Consider standing for election?

        The role of a parochial representative is an important one.  The quality of the decisions made by the Synod is directly related to the quality of the representatives that are on Synod.

        If you consider you have the capacity to undertake the role and responsibilities of a parochial representative and are eligible to do so, you may want to consider standing for election at a forthcoming annual general meeting of parishioners.




        Current as at 14 February 2022