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Anglican Schools Commission

Synod and Schools

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The Reverend Peter Laurence OAM, CEO, Anglican Schools Commission WA

Ah, don’t we love October…it’s Synod time. Who possibly couldn’t enjoy coming together for two days of a weekend with fellow Anglicans to discuss and debate bills and motions that impact our Church and our world? Surely it’s everyone’s idea of a good time!

Whilst many might prefer to be on the beach or in the garden on a balmy spring Saturday or Sunday afternoon, it’s our duty to be part of the governance processes of our Church.

A curious reality of Synod membership, dating back a very long way, is reflected in the numbers sitting on the floor of Synod. The overwhelming majority of delegates comprise clergy and lay representatives from the 105 parishes across the Diocese. There are almost twenty Anglican schools in the Diocese eligible to attend, each with two delegates. The agencies also get a couple of seats each, no matter how large they might be.

These comments are made not out of criticism, but rather simply stating the reality of an institution operating much as it has for a very long time, under the strict rules and regulations that govern Synod. The Church’s ministry through schools and agencies is vastly larger than it was only a couple of decades ago. From the past, when schools and agencies might be seen as ministry ‘on the Church’s fringe’, today we are right smack dab in the middle of it. Schools and agencies in WA directly serve tens of thousands of young and older people each year, reaching even more through their extended networks.

Chairs of School Council and Principals of Anglican schools generally are the ones who represent their schools at Synod. Ordained Chaplains also sit on the floor of Synod ‘as of right’. Last year, they participated in so many ways throughout the two days; from listening to speaking, praying to voting.

Whilst much has stayed the same, some things do change for the better. I recall the era when those who represented schools were less engaged with Synod. We celebrate that schools today see themselves as central to Christ’s mission and therefore the Church’s ministry. This means participating fully in Synod.

Possibly the greatest change in the corporate and not-for-profit world of the 21st century has been a heightened focus on good governance. Australia was known (indeed infamous) for ‘dodgy deals’ in the eighties and nineties. WA was not immune…indeed, shamefully we led in this space at times, in industry, commence, government…and the church. Thankfully, those times have changed. Those who sit on boards have a huge responsibility to ensure that their standards of behaviour, diligence and scrutiny are of the highest order. From finances to risk management, good governance is key to any institution becoming great.

Synod provides us an opportunity to show the world that we Anglicans take good governance seriously. From the business that we transact to the respectful way we treat one another, these two days in October speak volumes about how we govern, and our views on the importance of appropriate accountability and responsibility in Australia today.

Synod is also a time when we can catch up with Anglican friends from across the Diocese… the social element should not be discounted! So enjoy Synod 2023… now where else would you rather be?

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