The Silence of the Synod

So the Synod has just ended: my twelfth, and there was less speaking from the floor during the whole Synod than during just the Monday evening session last year. Of course, the people who did speak were lovingly ridiculed and required to joyfully accept that.

Synod has been reduced to four microphones on the floor in the plenary, and that is probably too many. I am sure that one of the great contributions by the current staff before it retires will be a Synod where no one speaks from the floor.

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6 thoughts on “The Silence of the Synod

  1. It does seem that what is valued most by Synods is brevity. I can relate to that. I tell my boards and committees, “The purpose of a meeting is for it to end.” But I recognize that other values must, on occasion, have equal or greater weight. It is perfectly understandable that staff would value brevity and a smooth flow above most anything else. (I certainly would if I were in their shoes.) The delegates, however, have the freedom and the obligation to emphasize other values.

    At the few Synods I’ve attended, I have been disappointed when, so often, a recommendation will have little discussion, and nothing offered against the motion, and yet the vote tally will show that some fifty-odd people voted “No.” I find this sad. I wonder what their reasons were for voting as they did, what they had against the recommendation. There is no opportunity for me, and the rest in attendance, to learn from them. Shouldn’t at least one of them have said why they disagreed with the recommendation? A “symbolic stance” has little meaning if no one is told what is symbolized.

    James, you and I are known for our willingness to speak at Synod. Some wish we’d shut up. I think most, however, are grateful for our willingness to help the Synod in that fashion.

  2. And yet, what is so interesting is how we have been trained to express our gratitude by belittling such leaders.

  3. I can’t, of course, speak for either one of you. But I have been a “frequent speaker” at some Synods in the past. What I’ve come to believe about my own participation is that sometimes I know far more about an issue than many in the room — and I assume that others will be just as interested in, or confused by, arcane details as I; or, that people will be as engaged as I am by philosophical, theological, or historical matters. History shows that not to be the case. Thus, once, I have made a comment or two that people don’t find particularly compelling, the bulk of the house turns off their ears when I stand. So over the years I’ve learned to be extremely judicious about when to speak and when to remain silent, with the balance swinging more to the latter.
    Again — I’m not referring to either James or Dan — I used to speak, thinking that it was helping, but in all honesty, sometimes it was to hear myself speak.

  4. But what does it say when over 40% of the Synod votes against something, yet no one came to a microphone to express a negative opinion? What does it say when we have only two nominees for vice president, both from the same regional synod? My concern here is not with being out there on a limb personally, or with apathy about “my” issue, but with the general quietude of the gathering. We did not converse, we did not debate, we did not question . . . and I have a feeling we will be doing even less of it in the next few years, not necessarily because we are content, but because we don’t care.

  5. You have a better sense that I, of course: you were there. All I can say is that some Synods are different. Maybe there was an odd mix of people there this year. Maybe people are generally happy with the direction of things. Maybe they didn’t perceive a horrendous hot-button issue. Maybe the coffee wasn’t strong enough. Maybe the body took a conflict-sabbatical. Who knows?

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