The Board of Trustees informs us that twenty-one people of color have been delegated to synod (Agenda, p. 27). That's quite an improvement over Synod 2010. Unfortunately, in 2010 a couple of those delegated dropped out. Hopefully, that won't happen this year. Four ethnic advisers, along with these twenty-one delegates, will assist synod in remaining sensitive to any cultural issues that may be involved in the decisions made.
This years' delegation of women is quite an improvement too as nineteen female delegates will be part of this assembly. Some of us were disappointed that women advisers were dropped immediately after the decision to permit women synodical delegates. As is true of ethnic advisers, we thought the position of women adviser should be phased out after a goal of something like twenty-five women delegates was achieved. We're almost there this year via elections by the regional groupings (classes) themselves
Eight classes that are not sending a woman as a delegate have elected a woman as an alternate. (An alternate serves if the delegate is unable to do so.) I’ve always reminded the classes of which I've been a member of synod's encouragement that one of our delegates be a person of color. To reflect the gender diversity of our denomination, perhaps someone in each classis that welcomes the service of women officebearers needs to suggest that all its delegates should not be males. Add these eight alternates to the nineteen women delegates, and twenty-seven of the delegates would be females. Sometimes the presence of women delegates blesses synod with a different perspective on issues.
In terms of elders, synodical agendas from 1990-1996, when synod met over two weeks, indicate that not all regional groupings (classes) could find enough elders to serve as alternates. During those years there was an average vacancy rate of nine. In 1997, when synod became a one-week gathering, we hoped more elders would be able to attend. However, from 1997-2010 the average vacancy rate in the elder alternate positions was twenty-four. This loss of interest in serving as a synodical delegate began affecting the actual assembly in 2001 when six elder delegate slots were vacant. From 2001-2010 synods have been short an average of two elder delegates at each meeting. This year only twenty elder alternate positions are vacant, compared to thirty-four last year. We’ll know in June if this mean that Synod 2011 will have less than it normal one hundred eight-eight delegates.
The numbers do raise some questions. Are folks less interested in the work of the church? Do people think their voice won’t make a difference? Do they feel synod is too conservative/progressive and not worth the effort? Are they unable to take a week off work to serve in this way? It would be interesting to hear some perspectives on that.