Commission Takes Bold Action to Heal Synod
The General Assembly Administrative Commission for the Synod of the Covenant has taken bold action toward healing conflicts in the Synod of the Covenant by taking temporary legal authority over the synod, dismissing all synod staff, and suspending synod operations for six months while it works to build trust and stability.
The Commission, formed by the 223
rd General Assembly (2018) in response to an overture submitted by five of the synod’s eleven presbyteries in Michigan and Ohio, was charged with addressing “allegations of disorder” within the Synod. The Presbytery of Lake Huron neither endorsed nor opposed the overture.
After a year of meetings, interviews, hearings, and document review, the Commission held an open hearing in Toledo on Wednesday, February 12 at which it announced its findings and received testimony on proposed actions. The Commission found:
- Disharmony within the Synod is systemic and long-standing
- The Synod and its presbyteries hold widely differing and inconsistent perspectives on their relationship and respective roles in common areas of ministry
- There is a lack of clear, ample, honest, and loving communications
- Divisions exist around deeply held organizational values and there is a lack of mutual trust
- The parties in conflict have largely disengaged from each other
The Commission proposed three actions: (1) engaging a professional consultant to mediate long-standing issues between the synod and its presbyteries; (2) taking original jurisdiction (i.e., temporary legal authority) over the synod; and (3) proposing revisions to the synod’s policies and procedures regarding its plan to fulfill Book of Order requirements for participation and representation.
After the hearing, Commission voted to take the extraordinary steps. As far as I can determine, it is the first time a GA Commission has taken full jurisdiction of a synod since regional synods were instituted in the early 1970s. The AC issued a statement on Friday explaining its process and actions, which is linked
What does this mean for our Presbytery?
Little will change in the mission and governance of our presbytery and congregations. However, all synod operations and programs are suspended through August, including Mission to the USA, Mobile Health Fair, Grants and Scholarships, Cabinet on Ethnic Church Affairs (but not the caucuses that support People of Color and Indigenous People). Synod assemblies scheduled for March, August, and November are cancelled. The Commission has assumed all functions of the Synod and is conducting an expedited search for a Transitional Synod Executive.
The Synod will continue to manage existing loans, scholarships, and other obligations. Per Capita obligations are still in effect. Churches are encouraged to continue their mission support as planned.
A process of reconciliation will begin to rebuild trust and mutuality around shared purposes. We can expect that our presbytery will be consulted and participate actively in the process. A synod-wide meeting “for transparency” will be announced soon.
submitted by our presbytery in December to provide greater flexibility for synods to fulfill requirements for racial-ethnic representation and participation is still valid and if adopted can facilitate the work of the Commission in our synod.
This is an evolving situation and more information will be shared as it is forthcoming. In the meantime, please pray for the Synod, for the Administrative Commission, and for the affected staff – Executive Raafat Zaki, Stated Clerk/Treasurer David Bartley, Administrative Assistant Melanie Shoop, and Mobile Health Fair Coordinator Lisa Florez.
Dan Saperstein, Executive Presbyter