How Does Synod Work?

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Most of our members know that synod meets once a year. Most of them are probably not aware of how much work is done beforehand to ensure that these meetings run well.

Preparations for synod begin months before synod actually convenes. Study committee reports must be available to the churches by November 1 of the previous year so churches and classes have time to consider them and to respond with overtures (requests for some kind of action) to synod if they desire.

Reports of standing committees and denominationally related agencies must be submitted to the denominational office by February 15. Reports of our denominational boards must be submitted by March 1, and though supplementary reports are permitted, the boards are encouraged to keep those to a minimum.

Overtures from classes must be submitted by March 15. Overtures received after that date will not be considered unless they deal with matters in the printed synodical agenda, available in early April.

Our forty-seven classes elect their synodical delegates at their winter/spring meeting. These delegates receive a couple forms from the denominational office. One asks what their areas of interest in the work of synod are so that, as much as possible, delegates serve where they are interested and gifted. The form also asks if they’re willing to serve as an officer of synod or as the chair or reporter of an advisory committee.

Based on the information received the officers of the previous synod, with the assistance of the Executive Director of Ministries, assign each delegate to one of approximately ten advisory committees. They also appoint chairs and reporters for these committees. Generally, delegates are not assigned to a committee considering an overture submitted by their own classis.

Advisory committees meet on the first couple days of synod to address the matters assigned to them and to prepare recommendations to the whole assembly. Synod then discusses and votes on each recommendation.

The second form asks delegates to nominate one person to serve as the president or vice president of synod and another to serve as the first or second clerk (secretary). The nine ministers and three elders who receive the highest number of votes in these two categories are placed on a ballot, and the delegates choose their officers. These four officers are responsible for scheduling the work of synod, chairing the meeting and recording the decisions.

As you think about synod, give thanks for delegates but also for the many people who prepare the materials and make the arrangements for this assembly. 

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Why nine ministers and three elders?

The committee that designed the one-week synod recommended that the 12 people who received the highest nominating votes of the delegates be placed on the ballot.  In an overture to synod Classis Lake Erie observed that this would almost certainly guarantee that all the officers would be ministers since ministers are more well known denomination wide than are elders.  The overture asked that three elders be placed on each ballot no matter how their vote totals compared to those of ministers.  Thus, three elders who receive the highest number of nomination votes are placed on each ballot.  If three elders are not nominated by the delegates, ministers are added so each ballot has 12 names.  This has made a big difference in the leadership of synod because since this provision has been in place elders have served regularly as one of synod's officers.

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