Prior to 1997 Synod began on the Tuesday of one week and ended in the middle or near the end of the next week. Because synod spanned two weeks it was called a “two-week synod.” In an attempt to increase the diversity of the delegates, Synod 1996 voted to go to a “one-week synod,” a gathering that began on the Saturday of one week and could meet till the Saturday of the next week. Attendees would have to take off only one week, not two, from their places of employment, and hopefully this would enable more people to serve as delegates.
In the years since that change was made, some have said that synod was losing its deliberate nature because delegates felt rushed, and discussions were curtailed by time limits. At Synod 2010 this sentiment was heard again. Synod 2010, by exception (Agenda for Synod 2010, p. 11) was scheduled to end at noon on Friday because denominational leaders had to be in Grand Rapids later that day to convene a special meeting of Reformed leaders. Thus, synod had five and a half days to do its work. (While in session, synod was informed that it had only five days because its meeting space was needed for a Friday funeral.)
Synod 2011 must end at noon on Thursday, June 16, because a joint session with the synod of the Reformed Church in America is scheduled for the afternoon of that day. Because synod must end then, it will begin on Friday, June 10, a day earlier than usual. Though unstated we have another exception and, like Synod 2010, this synod will have only five and a half days to do its work.
Will that be sufficient? The overtures in the Agenda indicate that the churches/classes are interested in addressing a number of the reports that will be presented. Will the delegates have adequate time to do that well? Will synod be the deliberative body we expect it to be? With an eye on the clock will someone make a motion to restrict speeches to three or five minutes so that, to use the words of one delegate, “we will not have a good discussion but will only be billiard balls bouncing off each other?
We’ll soon know the answers to those questions.