General Synod 2019 has drawn to a close in the Millennium Forum, in Derry-Londonderry.
Among its final pieces of business was a motion calling on General Synod to acknowledge the rapidly increasing levels of the persecution of Christians worldwide and requesting that Standing Committee explore ways in which this issue might be brought more fully to the attention of next year’s Synod in Dublin.
Proposing the motion, Derek Neilson (Glendalough) referred to a recent article by Breda O’Brien highlighting the persecution of Christians around the globe and saying that Christians were the most persecuted people.
“Some people might say, why should this motion single out the persecution of Christians,” he said, “when there are many other peoples and religions persecuted throughout the world and I would accept that argument. I would be willing to support motions asking synod to support others who are persecuted. However, if this General Synod is going to highlight persecution and to make a real stand, then we must start that somewhere and this motion seeks to do that in asking that concrete action be taken to support persecuted Christians around the world”.
The Rev Mark Harvey—who had spent the night in Crumlin Road Prison for a fundraising opportunity—drove back to Synod to second the motion. He said freedom was something we took for granted. Synod members had gathered over the last three days free from the fear of attack or being watched by secret police, free to worship as they chose, as people who were free to work without prejudice.
He highlighted the Open Doors watchlist of the top 50 countries where Christians faced persecution. He said so many of our brothers and sisters around the world had no voice and we needed to be the voice for the voiceless.
Geoffrey McMaster (Glendalough) supported the motion and mentioned an article by David Quinn who said that governments were slow to react to the persecution of Christians, and churches were slow to let their people know of this persecution. He said the church had to show leadership.
The Revd Craig McAuley (Kilmore) said that on Easter Morning hearts were filled with sadness as the news of the devastating bombs in Sri Lanka. He said his mood changed to anger at the thought that Christians and holiday-makers were killed for celebrating the risen Christ. He was angry at the media and politicians, as there was no like-for-like response between the lack of reaction to Sri Lanka and the huge response to the shootings in Christ Church. He accused the media and politicians of failing Christians. He said it was a disgrace that so many politicians did not acknowledge that it was Christians who were killed in Sri Lanka. He said that many were persecuted for their faith and we in the church had to say we stood alongside them.
The motion was passed by members.
The report of the Commission on Ministry was presented on Saturday morning. The presentation included the launch of the Commission’s new video on vocations, which will be used widely on Vocation Sunday, September 15th. The video had a strong Diocese of Raphoe flavour – featuring shots of Inishowen, St Columb’s Church Moville, Donagh National School and its principal Mrs Caroline Carey (who is a member and Hon. Treasurer of Culdaff Parish).
The opening prayers before the start of business on Saturday were led by Claire Henderson, a Diocesan Ordinand from the Diocese of Drumragh with Mountfield. She was introduced by the Rector of Glendermott and Newbuildings, Rev Robert Boyd, and musical accompaniment for the opening hymns was provided by Rev Nigel Cairns.
The final business of synod was completed with a number of announcements.
The winner of the ‘caption competition’ was announced by Bishop Pat Storey. It was won by Christiaan Snell (Ardagh). As chair of the Central Communications Committee, the Bishop also congratulated the editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette and his team on the recent transition of the magazine.
Attendance figures were announced by the Archdeacon of Belfast. Attendance on Day One was 189 clergy and 281 lay (470 in total); Day Two was 188 clergy and 283 lay (471); Day Three was 138 clergy and 195 lay (333).
The final motion, regarding the publication of the Journal of the Proceedings of the General Synod, was agreed by members.
Concluding General Synod, Archbishop Richard Clarke thanked the Honorary Secretaries, and the Chief Officer and the Staff of Church House in Belfast and Dublin for their work in making Synod run smoothly. He also thanked the staff of the Millennium Forum for their wonderful helpfulness and cooperation throughout.
The Primate reflected on the past few days and said that Synod had done fine work, and he hoped and prayed that this would be for the purposes of God.