The General Synod’s action in response to the overtures on homosexuality was unwise — and unloving. It also disclosed a fundamental problem with how the process of the synod has evolved.
My primary reservation arises from the nature of the General Synod itself. If one understands the office-bearers as representatives of Christ to the church — and not as a parliament that represents its constituents — then the body is to gather in the Spirit as it listens to the Word. As the synod debated the issue, there was no consultation with the Word. There were only brief references to “what Scripture says” without even stating Scripture, let alone wrestling with it — or better allowing it to wrestle with the synod.
Nor was there time. That’s where the structural issue comes into play. The synod has become so compressed, and so little time given to full debate or mutual consultation, that by the time the substance was put on the floor, the delegates were limited in their debate. The thing needed several hours, at the very least.
The second reason that it was unwise is that there was clearly no consensus. Nor could there be. You could get a vote, which happened. But to move forward on an issue where so much hurt could be inflicted is unwise, even if possible. The synod has taken an action that has no direct effect on the classes and consistories, but suggests that classes and consistories that are dealing with the issue must consider it settled. That becomes a matter of church order in that it silences elders, deacons and ministers.
It was unwise because it will confuse. The general synod has no authority, on its own, to tell anyone what a “disciplineable offense” is. That is reserved to lower bodies which must determine whether an offense meets the criteria stated in the BCO.
It was not the synod’s finest hour.