by Rev. Dr. Dale Azevedo, Sr. Minister
Tomorrow, Thursday, I leave for General Synod 2023.
What is General Synod, you ask?
Unofficially, General Synod is the national gathering of the United Church of Christ (UCC), our parent denomination. It brings together lay and clergy delegates representing all conferences from around the country to discuss issues and make decisions on the present state of the world and the future of our denomination.
Officially, General Synod is a biennial gathering of representatives of conferences chosen from local churches of the United Church of Christ. Resolutions and pronouncements are brought for consideration to General Synod by groups and members of the church. When passed, resolutions and pronouncements become the witness of the General Synod and are commended to all members of the United Church of Christ for consideration. 1
This year there will be roughly 700 delegates representing all 36 regional conferences. Of those 700 delegates, 99 of them will be from the Southern New England Conference (SNEUCC), our conference, and four of those are from the Rhode Island Association, our association.
This General Synod has a few key highlights to mention.
- First, we will be electing our next General Minister & President. The Office of the General Minister & President is responsible for administration and common services for the National Setting. The Office of the General Minister & President oversees the finance office, human resources, legal counsel, and strategy and planning, in addition to philanthropy, research, technology, marketing. and communications.2 The nominee for next General Minister and President is Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson, who presently serves in the national setting as Associate General Minister for Wider Church Ministries and Co-Executive for Global Ministries and has previously served ministries in Florida and New York.
- Another highlight is a potential change to the UCC by-laws shifting General Synod from a biennial to triennial event. Since the UCC’s inception in 1957, General Synod has met every other year. The proposed change to meet every third year is recommended in an effort to address two main concerns: the overwhelming time commitment required of our national staff to plan, organize, implement, and follow through with the event as well as the increasing cost that the gathering passes along to our area conferences and associations. The hope is that by meeting every three years it will increase administrative efficiency while reducing costs.
- The final highlight for Synod 2023 is the presence of Nadia Bolz-Weber as the event’s keynote speaker. Rev. Bolz-Weber is well known as one of the most influential and innovative pastors and theologians in the modern generation. She is an ordained Lutheran and the founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints.
General Synod is also filled with numerous other tasks and opportunities.
- Worship is always a key component of any regional or national gathering of the church. It is powerful to gather along with 700-1000 people who are all intentionally engaged praying, learning, and singing together. There is a reason many people flock to megachurches. There is something Compelling about being a part of a large group unified to one purpose. And when praising and serving God is that one purpose, all the better.
- Next to worship, discussing and voting on resolutions is probably the next most important order of business, and takes up the majority of our time. This year we will be discussing 15 different resolutions covering topics from abortion as healthcare to discrimination of native peoples to encouraging a plant-based life. I have been appointed to the committee that will be discussing and moving on a resolution entitled Closing the Digital Divide: Calling on the United Church of Christ to Seek Digital Justice and Inclusion.
- And what is a UCC gathering without service and social witness? Our Synod service project this year is building Period Packs. Although it rarely garners public notice (perhaps for sexist or cultural reasons) lack of access to menstrual hygiene is a major issue within many populations around the world and even in our own communities. We will be working with Church World Service to prepare and distribute these kits. Additionally, we will be holding a Prayer Walk and Vigil at the Indiana Statehouse. The vigil will include music and brief remarks led by UCC leadership as well as representatives from the Indiana-Kentucky Conference, including two UCC Indiana State legislators.3
All in all, General Synod will prove to be an exciting, inspirational, exhausting, boring, and powerful week for me. I will return to the office on Thursday, July 6, and look forward to worshiping together the following Sunday. I will also follow up this blog with my post-Synod reactions the week after I return. In the meantime, please hold me and all those attending in your prayers as we do this important work and witness.
May God’s blessing be with you, and us.