In June 1998, the Standing Committee of the Church of
Ireland set up a committee to undertake a full review of the present
structures of General Synod.
At present, the General Synod, the legislative and
debating forum of the Church, meets once each year with a membership of
660 for three days. There are 216 clergy representatives, 432 Lay
representatives and twelve Bishops. The Synod operates on a
parliamentary system and has remained virtually unchanged since
Disestablishment in 1870, despite huge changes in the demography of the
The report, introduced by Lady Shiel & Denzil
Auchmuty, focused the Synods attention on the issues of the size and
representation of Synod.
It was argued that the Synod should be reduced by
half whilst retaining the current representation across the dioceses.
In the following debate, concern was expressed that a
reduction in the size of the Synod would lead to a narrow elite
"establishment" which would perpetuate itself without the full
authority of the church. There were also calls for a change to reflect
greater representation for the more populous areas of the church. Some
people also asked for more places for young people and women among synod
The motion was passed that :
1. The Report of the Standing Committees Working
Group on Synodical Structures be received and
2. That the Working Group on Synodical Structures be
requested to continue its work and, in particular, to prepare the
necessary legislation to implement its recommendations.
It was stressed by the Committee that the suggested
legislation could be rejected at a later stage and that no commitment
was being made at the moment. By accepting the motion, the Synod was
giving approval to the continuing work of the committee in its search
for a better system.