Billy Kennedy: The Church of Ireland prepares for its annual General Synod

The service will be led by the Dean of Belfast, the Reverend Stephen Forde and the presidential address will be delivered by the primate of the church, Archbishop John McDowell.

Among the congregation, along with representatives from other Christian churches and civic leaders, will be 649 synod delegates from Ireland’s 11 dioceses – 216 clergy and 432 lay.

After the service, the synod delegates will then travel to the nearby Presbyterian Assembly buildings in Belfast city center, where church business for three days will be administered.

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St. Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast

An Anglican Synod conducting its business in the spacious buildings of the Presbyterian Assembly is unprecedented in the history of the Irish Church.

It will be the first in-person general synod since May 2019, when the church met in Londonderry. The covid pandemic in 2020 and 2021 prevented the meeting of the general synod in plenary session.

The General Synod first met in 1871 in Dublin following the dissolution of the Church of Ireland. In recent years, the synod has moved to different towns in Ireland.

The main purpose of the synod is to enact legislation for the whole Church of Ireland. Bills, which are proposals for legislation, are considered and become acts or statutes if approved.

Less formal proposals are submitted as motions which, if approved, become resolutions.

The synod also receives reports from various committees and councils, which are debated by its members. Synod committees are normally elected for a three-year term.

The Church of Ireland operates in two constitutional jurisdictions – Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, with the headquarters and administration of the Church based in Dublin.

Over the three days, the General Synod will consider faith, education, health and social issues directly affecting its members at the diocesan and parish levels.

l The Church of Ireland is estimated to have a total membership of 375,000, with 249,000 in parishes in Northern Ireland and 126,000 in the Republic of Ireland. There are 1,100 CoI places of worship in 450 parishes.

Jerry B. Hatch