03 Aug GS 2010 art 64
GS 2010 Article 64 – Access to Committee Reports on the Internet
- 1.1 A ppeals from the churches at Carman East (8.5.f) and Langley (8.5.u).
- 1.2 Letter from Winnipeg-Redeemer (8.1.s).
- 2.1 Each committee appointed by Synod 2007 was given a mandate to “serve Synod 2010 with a report to be sent to the churches at least six months prior to the beginning of synod” (Article 74, 4.1.5; cf. similar mandates in Article 134, 4.4.7; Article142, 4.1.3; Article 173, 4.3.4 et al).
- 2.2 Synod 2007 mandated the Committee for the Official Website among other things, to include on the website: “Publication of the official reports of the synodical committees in a standardized format (e.g. PDF) with security measures restricting access only to consistories. These restrictions should be lifted after synod has dealt with them” (Article 74, 188.8.131.52).
- 2.3 The organizing committee for General Synod Burlington-Ebenezer 2010, in its correspondence regarding electronic access to the committee reports, gave the following reminder: “These credentials (i.e. username and password to the website) may be shared among the people who need access, keeping in mind that Synod intended the access to be restricted to consistories.”
- 2.4 The three churches contend that Synod reports ought to be made available to all members of all congregations, whether through the website or printed copies. Following are the considerations:
- 2.4.1 The consistent language of the general synods regarding the destination for the reports from synodically appointed committees is “the churches,” not “the consistories.”
- 2.4.2 Consistories have been recipients of these reports as overseers of the church, but the reports have never been restricted to the consistories.
- 2.4.3 Members of the congregations have long had access to these reports via their consistories (e.g. Acts of Synod 1980, Article 83 B.2; Acts of Synod 1983, Article 123 A, Article 160 A; Synod 1995, Article 72 1C and 2). Some were even published ahead of time in Clarion. No objections were ever raised to this practice.
- 2.4.4 Synod Chatham 2004, Article 20, made two specific considerations about the matter:
- [4.7] “….the reports of the various committees may be made available to the membership via the local consistory.”
- [4.3] “Individual members have opportunity to interact with these reports through their consistories.”
- 2.4.5 Committee reports are about matters in common to be considered by the churches in common (CO Article 30), and thus have a bearing on all individual members. Confidential matters coming from committees (e.g. names of persons suggested for various positions) are already sent by the committee directly to synod. As such individual members should not only have unfettered access to the reports, but should even be encouraged to interact with them with their local consistory. This will benefit the bond of churches.
- 2.4.6 Security measures restricting electronic access only to consistories promote a false clergy/laity distinction.
- 2.4.7 Security measures restricting electronic access only to consistories are not in force in any of our sister churches.
- 2.4.8 Committee reports ought to be readily available also for churches in EF to assist them in carrying out the first rule of EF.
- 2.4.9 Committee reports are essentially public documents, and especially in our electronic age can be made available to all members of the congregations quickly and cost effectively.
- 2.5 Carman East specifically asks that Synod 2010 decide:
- [1.] That Synod Smithers erred when, after mandating its committees to report to the churches, it then restricted access to those reports to the consistories.
- [2.] That reports by committees of Synod are, as a rule, to be considered public documents and access made available to all church members.
- [3.] That the Committee for the Official Website be mandated to make these reports available on the web site prior to the subsequent synod in a suitable electronic format with unrestricted access to all members of the churches and to the general public.
- 2.6 In the past, when churches in EF were invited to send delegates to each other’s assemblies, they were given hard copies of the synod committee reports. This is now done electronically.
- 3.1 The submissions from the churches, whether presented as appeals or overtures, presume the availability of reports from synodical committees to all church members.
- 3.2 It is important to understand the context of the decision of Synod Smithers, and just what Synod actually restricted:
- 3.2.1 Synod Smithers in Article 74 did not deal generally with the matter of publication of synod reports, but rather with the publication of synod reports electronically on the website.
- 3.2.2 Synod Smithers in Article 74 dealt with a new reality, namely the possibility of publishing synod committee reports also on the website. Its decision, therefore, pertained only to the matter of electronic publication. Synod Smithers did not restrict consistories from passing out copies of reports to members.
- 3.3 It is true that committee reports, which pertain to matters regarding the churches in common, were always sent to the churches – and that this did not mean “for the consistory only.”
- 3.4 It is important that the status of synod committee reports be kept in mind by all who review them. They are reports about which the churches (at general synod) still have to make decisions. Thus they belong to the churches in the first place. Therefore the consistories especially ought to receive these reports and deal with them. This does not, however, mean “to the exclusion of the members.” That would be contrary to the office of all believers and thus also with the considerations of Synod Chatham as listed in Observation 2.4.4 above. The members of the churches should therefore have these reports available to them and review them keeping in mind the above mentioned considerations of Synod Chatham.
- 3.5 It is true that making electronic copies of the committee reports available on the internet is a convenient and economical way of getting these reports into the hands of the delegates from these churches.
That Synod decide that reports from committees appointed by synod be made available on the internet before synod also for all members of the churches.