22 April 2024

Women, families and same-sex marriage on the agenda for General Synod

The imbalance of gender is set to be a key agenda item at General Synod. Picture: iStock.

Jenan Taylor

20 April 2022

Gender balance and family violence will be key issues on the agenda at the 18th Anglican General Synod in May, according to agenda documents.

The solemnisation of same sex marriage is also set to be debated by delegates.

Family violence and the equal representation of women were among issues listed as strategic priorities for the assembly in a Standing Committee report detailing the agenda, as were same-sex unions.

Domestic Violence

The synod will be asked to ratify a new Families and Cultures Commission to help support the Anglican Church’s activities to address widespread family violence.  

Established to investigate and make recommendations on domestic violence matters, the Families and Cultures Commission arose out of resolutions from the 2017 General Synod.

It also aims to underscore the commitment of Anglican churches as safe places for all people and prioritise protecting those experiencing domestic violence.

Work done at that assembly also resulted in the Family Violence Working Group and the National Anglican Family Violence Research Project, which published outcomes in June 2021.

Other resolutions included the release of Ten Commitments for prevention of family violence to be undertaken by all dioceses and a call for churches to review any material that potentially gave rise to “unhealthy views about power and the marginalisation of women”.

Gender Balance

A resolution in respect to increasing women’s membership of General Synod groups has not being passed since 2007 according to the standing committee. But a policy approved after the 2017 assembly aimed to address that and should be actioned at the forthcoming synod.

Under the new gender balance policy a woman would be nominated for any vacancy on a General Synod body if less than 40 per cent of the body’s membership constituted women.

Read more: First ever livestream for General Synod

According to a report by the synod’s standing committee, considering the period up to December last year, some of those groups included the current Appellate Tribunal and Doctrine Commission.

The new gender balance policy sets a target of 40 per cent women, 40 per cent men, and 20 per cent discretionary membership to pursue equal representation, instead of aiming for a 50:50 balance of men and women.

Same-sex marriage

The issue of the blessing of same-sex marriage will also be revisited by delegates at the General Synod. 

Two statements with respect to the topic of human sexuality and same-sex marriages were submitted by the Sydney Diocese for discussion on the synod’s first day.

A book of essays on marriage and same-sex relationships through a theological lens has been produced to help support respectful conversations about the topic in the church. It had been distributed for the General Synod in 2019 before the planned 2020 session was deferred because of the pandemic.

A contentious issue, debate was underscored by the 2019 Wangaratta same-sex marriage blessing, which then Primate Philip Freier later referred to the Appellate Tribunal.

Since the 2017 synod, other work the approach to same-sex unions included the church liaising with the Scottish Episcopal Church regarding their amendment of the Canon on Marriage.

The report also noted a range of other resolutions adopted since the seventeenth synod.

These included ministry plans for children and young people and outreach efforts, ecumenical relations, the expansion of liturgical resources, support for the Mission to Seafarers and a resource about Clergy Professional Supervision.

Indigenous communities also had a strong focus with youth suicides, supporting Indigenous calls to end activities such as fracking and other degradations of Indigenous lands areas of cultural significance highlighted.

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