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August 2016
Issue No. 295

Opening Remarks of the Chairman of the Seventh General Synod of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui

(Paul Kwong, Archbishop and Primate of HKSKH)

Dear Synod Members,

Welcome to the Seventh General Synod of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui (HKSKH). The theme of this General Synod is “For A Better Tomorrow”. It means that the goal of this General Synod is to effectively and faithfully carry out God’s mission to us as a Church now and in future. As such, the main purpose of all motions is to perfect and to rationalize organisational structures, liturgies, and evangelizing ministries.

Motions proposed to this General Synod can be divided into three categories. The first category is the proposed amendments to the Constitution and Canons. This year is the 18th anniversary of the founding of the Province of HKSKH. Being a young Province, the operation of HKSKH requires continual improvements in response to its nature, environment and resources. Apart from perfecting relevant provisions, the principle and purpose of the proposed amendments aim to expand the three-tier system of the Church’s representative councils so that more lay people would be encouraged to participate in policy making and implementation at the levels of vestry, diocesan synod and General Synod, and in the election of bishops.

The second category is related to liturgy. Liturgy forms part and parcel of HKSKH. It is the expression of praise to God, which is the most important duty of Christians. Thus, the Church has to renew and enrich liturgy from time to time. Understanding liturgy is not a process of cognitive knowledge; it is through personal participation that liturgy is understood. Should all motions related to liturgy be passed by this General Synod, it would be our duty to implement them in our parishes on Sundays and in Feasts or in Seasons so that congregation members can express their praise and reverence to God through the unity in liturgy.

The third category covers the signature motions of this General Synod: Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui Church Policy Paper: For A Better Tomorrow. As stated in the preface of the document: “The purpose of drafting the Church policy paper is to serve as a reminder for every member of HKSKH that through probing the fundamental question of what is the purpose of the Church’s existence, we may envision the future of HKSKH...[so that] the Church...fulfils her mission in the world faithfully.” So, let us dream together to imagine what kind of a Church that HKSKH will be in the future. It is very meaningful for us because as members of the Church and as members of the General Synod, we can work together to build the future of our Church. The Church is the home of God and our God is the eternal God who always looks after us and leads us. In response, we should continue to renew ourselves and to willingly respond to God’s calling by faithfully fulfilling His mission.

Dear Members, one of the features of the HKSKH is its Synod. The word Synod comes from the Greek word Sunodos which is made up with syn and hodos. It means walking on the same road. In church history and for churches of the catholic tradition, the synod is where bishops meet. However, our Synod is a hybrid of the best of the reformed and the catholic traditions. Conventionally, reformed churches are led by congregation members, whilst churches in the catholic tradition have the clergy at the helm. A synod of HKSKH is made up by the laity and the clergy who participate in the discussion of matters related to the Church on equal footing. The purpose of such a make-up is to facilitate members of the Church to walk on the same road with one heart to work for the early coming of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Recently, I learned from social media that some members of the Church have questioned why they had not been consulted about matters decided upon by the Province. Such members might not be familiar with the polity of HKSKH. I would like to stress that representative system is the mode of operation in councils at all levels of the Church. Members of vestries and of diocesan synods are elected by qualified registered members on a one-person-one-vote basis. They work together on policy matters with clergy licensed by bishops. Members of the General Synod are elected also on one-person-one-vote basis by members of diocesan synods. At present, each diocesan synod elects six clerics and fifteen lay members to the General Synod. The number shows that the laity is in the majority. This illustrates the fact that the Church not only consults lay members, but also facilitates lay member to directly discuss and decide upon motions and other matters presented to the General Synod.

The “no consultation with church members” allegation misleads people, who have little or no knowledge of HKSKH, into believing that the clergy controls vestries, diocesan synods, and the General Synod; and that the Standing Committee of the General Synod, which is authorized to act on behalf of the General Synod when the latter is in recess, is made up entirely by the clergy without any lay participation and operates inside the black box. Such an allegation is not true and is irresponsible.

According to the present system, only a parish, a diocese or a commission/committee can present motions to a diocesan synod or the General Synod. No private member’s motions are allowed. Any motion must be first discussed, voted upon and vetted by the relevant standing commission before it formally becomes a motion. Based on the circumstance, it is up to the individual vestry, diocesan synod or the Standing Committee of the General Synod to decide whether to conduct a consultation before the adoption of the motion or report to the parties concerned after the adoption of the motion. Nevertheless, such discretion is not exercised by an individual but as a group. The most effective way of consultation is for members to report and explain to their own parishes or dioceses. It is the decision of respective Standing Committees that determines whether the agenda and results of the meeting are reported to all members of the Church, either before or after the meeting.

As a clergy or laity member of one of the three-tier system of the representative body of HKSKH, your duty and mission are not to fight for the best personal or parish or even diocesan interests, but for the well-being of the Church as a whole. Members of secular political institutions represent their constituencies, listen to their constituents, and scrutinize others. However, members of the Church have to listen to God’s will as well, to examine themselves before God so as to find out whether they have done their part to glorify God and edify people. This is the key difference between members of a Church representative body and members of secular political institutions. There is no ruling party and opposition party in the Church. All members are part of the Church. Therefore, members should not pretend to be agreeable and cooperative at the General Synod but then claim to be standing taller as an opposition member outside the General Synod. This is because all laity and clergy members involve in the discussion and decision processes together, in order to build up the whole Church, fervently focus their sight on God, and faithfully fulfill God’s mission.

Now, let us be fully committed in one mind and in one heart in the meetings of the General Synod through expressing views about the motions and voting in accordance with God’s will, so that HKSKH will have a better tomorrow to glorify God and honour people, to nurture the faithful, to serve the community, and to proclaim the Good News.

Finally, I would like to wish you all good health and full participation in this General Synod.

<The above article was published in "Echo" Issue No. 295. Please click here>


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