2010 ARP General Synod: Themes & Thoughts

It's hard to believe that this was my eighth Synod.  I've attended as a Guest, a Page, a Ruling Elder, and a Teaching Elder.  I've been content to sit on the sidelines for several years, but this year I realized that no thought can be taken for granted.

I regretted not speaking up in March as I felt Synod had the right idea but the wrong implementation.  My opinion would not have swayed the court, but at least it would have been stated.  There are few "big" speeches on the floor of Synod.  Rather, there is a mosaic of minor opinion and point that makes up a larger picture.  I've not spoken in the past because I had nothing "important" to say.  This year, I began to understand that few of us do.  The many small statements build together for one important vote.  In that sense, every statement is important.

Like any group, Synod is filled with several different viewpoints.  The folks who are passionate are the ones who speak-- "squeaky wheels" on one side and "cheerleaders" on the other.  We often joke on who will speak next since it tends to be the same dozen or so each year.  They're usually the same ones who speak out a lot in Presbytery meetings, too.  But there is a place for those who are somewhere in the middle, and they need to speak up.

The greatest weakness of Synod is that sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees.  For example, we spent an inordinate amount of time debating over the recommendations from the Board of Nominations.  This is a common theme every year: boards and committees meet on their own. They sweat, debate, pray, etc.  Then, when they bring the results of their work to Synod, we question their motives and choices and try to undo their work.  There is a fine line between accountability and micro-management.

We waste time debating things at the Synod level that should be addressed within Presbytery or even local church Sessions.  Synod can be dramatic, even theatrical at times.  I use those terms in their best and worst senses.

At the end of the day, Synod is a good example an imperfect creation serving a perfect Creator.  We serve the Kingdom and call on Christ for grace, wisdom, patience, fortitude, and foresight.  We don't always get it right.  In this and any other ways, Synod is like your local church.  We're in a constant state of tension between seeing the world through our own eyes and seeing it through God's eyes.

As we prepare for our next Session and Presbytery meetings, we pray that the Lord will unite our hearts with His-- that our hearts will break with His and rejoice with His.

Image: FlatRockOnline.com


  1. Rev. Howard, I have referenced this post in a post of my own, found here: http://www.therulingelder.com/2010/06/mosaic-of-minor-opinion.html

    You make a great point about the "mosaic of minor opinion" and "not seeing the forest for the trees."

  2. Thanks for your comments.

    James- I don't think ARPs can say "Amen" like that. It's better just to solemnly nod your head lest anyone mistake you for a Baptist : )

    Seth- I commented on your post at "The Ruling Elder." You've encouraged me to clarify my thoughts. I hope others will read what you have to say.


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