Guest Columnist – Deb Kirwan: General Synod
September 2 2021
Having attended a UCC General Synod in the past (and loving the experience), I wondered what it would be like to be a delegate to the 2021 virtual General Synod. I got to find out.
If you’ve never been to General Synod, you may be curious what goes on there, regardless of whether it’s virtual or in person. Well, every two years, representatives from UCC churches, Conferences and Associations across the country get together to do the work of the church. And much of what they do is vote on resolutions that have been brought to the church’s attention by members. These resolutions speak to issues that confront the church or society which the church may play an active role in addressing.
Some of the resolutions at the 2021 Synod concerned advocating to change the bail bond system; addressing racism as a public health crisis; promoting a just peace between Palestine and Israel; and endorsing Hawaiian self-governance. The latter was quite controversial as there was some disagreement about the wishes of various members of the native Hawaiian population.
As it turned out, the virtual Synod functioned pretty well. Software had been acquired from another denomination for giving delegates the ability to speak for or against motions, propose amendments, and otherwise carry out the formal interactions that would take place if the Synod were conducted in person. Overall, the software did its job, and the only major problem that I saw was the failure of the parliamentarians to come to quick agreements, since they were not at the same physical location and they had some technical communication issues.
The missing piece, and it was large, was the ability to interact informally with other delegates. Sharing thoughts and experiences after hours or over a meal is often the real substance of Synod. I hope that the next biannual UCC General Synod can be held in person. And I hope that I get to go!