Plymouth Synod report:
The Pope’s pleas for us to listen with the ear of the heart (article next page) resonates in Bishop Mark’s foreword to the Plymouth Diocese synod report. Observing that this initial “parish listening” exercise only reached some 10% of the church-going population, Bishop Mark urges us all to listen more intently: “We need to strain our bodies, our ears, and our hearts to reach out, to listen deeply to … voices of those who are not on the road with us, but who are nevertheless our brothers and sisters and who are perhaps silently pleading to us from the side of the road”
Assuring us that “we continue in our ongoing journey as a Precious place of God’s Grace” in these next months, Bishop Mark asks and challenges participants, non-participants and clergy: what can we take forward? How can we walk more authentically with one another? What can assist in giving you the confidence and the energy to be more intentionally part of this journey?
The report itself has 5 sections. Sections 1 and 2 summarise the process and the experience of synodal listening. Sections 3 and 4 do a good and fair job at trying to pick out the key issues as well as reflect the diversity of views expressed, while section 5 Future Growth identifies 6 key challenges that we need to reflect on and respond to as a next step. Encouragingly, it concludes that “ it can be challenging to ‘journey together’ but there is a strong desire to do this…”
England & Wales Diocesan Reports:
Dioceses around England and Wales have now submitted their responses which will be summarised for discernment by the Council of Bishops later this year.
As well as church governance and structures, local discussions inevitably centred on issues to do with role of the laity and in particular treatment of women, young people, ethnic minorities, LGBT+, the poor and people in irregular relationships; celebration of the liturgy; role of priests; clerical abuse, etc.
Without any unanimity, a number of common themes on synodality begin to emerge, including
- how most people welcomed and embraced the actual experience of a synodal process despite suspicion and scepticism.
- an acknowledgement that, with some notable exceptions, the synodal process has largely failed so far to include anyone other than a small proportion of regular church attenders. Those marginalised by the Church continue to be excluded from the synodal process so far!
- a general recognition that this “beginning” process needs to be followed up in parishes and dioceses, and that tools, resources and structures are needed for this.