In a first for the LCANZ, the church’s next Convention of General Synod will be held in two parts – an online meeting in October 2021 and an in-person meeting in 2022.

LCANZ Bishop John Henderson announced the change in a special eNews to the church on 10 June after the General Church Board (GCB) decided on the move on 9 June. The six-day face-to-face convention scheduled to be held in Melbourne from 28 September to 3 October will not go ahead.

‘After making every effort to hold the Convention by the usual means, ongoing uncertainty about travel restrictions, exacerbated by the recent lockdown in Victoria and its potential flow-on impact in parts of Queensland and New South Wales, meant the time had come to make the very difficult call on a COVID contingency plan’, Bishop Henderson said.

Taking into account the extraordinary circumstances relating to COVID-19, the GCB unanimously agreed to hold the 20th regular Convention of General Synod in two parts: an online meeting in early October 2021, which will then be adjourned until the meeting resumes in person at a location to be determined in September or October 2022.

‘The GCB has adopted this approach, a first for the LCANZ, so we can keep the regular constitutional cycle of three-year synodical terms and make the necessary decisions in a timely and orderly way, allowing proper opportunity for consideration and discussion’, Bishop Henderson said. ‘With the risks to travel at present, that will mean an online format in 2021 and an in-person meeting in 2022, God willing.’

The 2021 online component of the Convention, likely to be held over two days, will be for essential business items necessary for the regular transition into the next synodical term, such as the election of the LCANZ bishop, assistant bishop and GCB; board and council reporting; and voting on essential constitutional and other matters that for various reasons cannot be held over until 2022.

Delegates will receive the Book of Reports, which also contains proposals to General Synod, before the 2021 online meeting.

The 2022 in-person component of the meeting, likely to be held over two to three days, will be for matters of a theological or doctrinal nature and the proposals that will require robust ‘live’ debate in the usual Synod format.

‘The planning team will do its best to make sure all delegates can participate in both the online and in-person components of the Convention’, Bishop Henderson said.

The General Pastors Conference (GPC), scheduled for 6–8 July 2021 in Tanunda South Australia, will now take place as an online conference on Tuesday 6 July.

GPC will still need to ensure that nominations for LCANZ bishop and assistant bishop reach the opening session of Convention of General Synod in 2021 and that its advice on theological and doctrinal issues reaches delegates suitably in advance of the second meeting of Synod in 2022.

Regarding General Synod, GCB was mindful of the financial risk to the LCANZ and its parishes in the event of a snap COVID lockdown in Melbourne. Also taken into account was the considerable burden a physical Convention of General Synod in Melbourne would place on ‘already exhausted leaders, pastors and people in Victoria, the state that has borne the brunt of the COVID pandemic in Australia’.

‘In making this weighty decision, the GCB has considered not only the potential impact on delegates and others but also the risk to the wider church’, Bishop Henderson said. ‘While the financial risk is one factor, there is also the possibility that any decisions made by a depleted Convention of General Synod might later be contested as not being fully legitimate.’

As details about the online component of the convention become available, registered delegates will be informed via the Synod eNews, and there will be regular updates in LCA eNews for the wider church.

Bearing in mind that specific details for the new format for Convention of General Synod are not yet available, if you have questions or concerns, please contact the General Synod planning team via synod@lca.org.au

For more, go to www.lca.org.au/changes-to-general-synod/

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