The annual Diocesan Synod this year promises to be lively with decisions being called for that may affect the future of the diocese for years to come.

The 103rd session of Diocesan Synod (the “annual general meeting”) gets underway on Friday, May 13, and continues through Saturday, May 14. About 350 delegates, about one-third clergy and the rest lay, are expected from the diocese’s 78 parishes.

Attracting the most media attention will be synod’s discussion on Saturday afternoon on how to respond to the Windsor Report, a document authored by an international group of Anglicans for the Archbishop of Canterbury, which tried to define the nature of Anglicanism.

One item in the Windsor Report is a call for a moratorium on the blessing of same sex unions until the next Lambeth Conference in 2008.

A proposed response is being put together by the Revs. Richard Leggett and John Oakes. The two priests, respectively at Vancouver School of Theology and Holy Trinity, Vancouver, come from the opposite ends of the theological spectrum, but together plan to come up with a single proposal.

A pre-synod session on April 16 at which the two men presented a draft response drew more than half of synod delegates, showing high interest in the issue.

Volunteering some of their time during school spring break to help prepare packages of papers for Synod delegates were Jen Nurse of St. George’s, Fort Langley, Stephanie McGee of St. Helen’s, Surrey, and Cara Ingham of St. Mary’s Kerrisdale.

Indicating national interest in New Westminster’s decision will be the presence of Canadian Primate Andrew Hutchison. He will preach at the opening worship Friday morning, and serve as the “synod partner” for the gathering.

At the Canadian House of Bishops meeting that Archbishop Hutchison chaired on April 27, Bishop Michael Ingham along with his 40 colleagues agreed "neither to encourage nor to initiate" the blessing rite until the national Canadian General Synod in 2007.

Bishop Ingham afterwards said that the phrase "neither to encourage nor to initiate" comes from a communiqué issued by Anglican Primates in February, and has been interpreted to mean there should be no further actions beyond those already started.

“I made it explicitly clear to the Canadian House that, in view of the upcoming Synod in New Westminster, I could sign the statement issued today only on the understanding that I would be governed very much by the advice of my own Synod,” said the bishop.

Meanwhile, the blessing of same sex unions continues within the Diocese of New Westminster as provided by the regulations stipulated by our Diocesan Synod in 2002.

Not as dramatic perhaps as Saturday’s session, but certainly crucial to the long-term diocesan ministry and financial health of the diocese, will be the Friday afternoon presentation of the Task Force on Diocesan Outreach and Ministry.

Creation of the task force was in large measure due to the continuing decline in revenues from the annual Stewards in Action campaign, which for the past 15 years has funded diocesan outreach, and still does.

However, members of the task force have said they don’t want to focus on dollars and cents of funding so much as to return to the basic question: what outreach programs does the diocese want to do together.

The task force’s report will be accompanied by a table exercise before a vote on a number of resolutions.

One recommendation of the task force is that the bishop call a special financial synod in November to come up with ways to fund any a new outreach and ministry program. The diocesan Administration and Finance Committee would first hold a series of meetings throughout the diocese to get feedback on a new formula for parish assessment and funding.

Synod is normally open to the public and guests are welcome. Registration Friday begins at 7:30 am and Opening Worship both days begins at 9 am.