Following are answers to some frequently asked questions regarding the decision to hold an in-person stated session of General Synod in October 2021. Additional questions may be added as needed.
General Synod 2021
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it safe to gather in October?
General Synod officers and staff consulted with medical professionals for specific guidance, and they advised that we can hold a General Synod meeting in October with safety measures in place. The more participants who are vaccinated, the safer the event will be, so, on the advice of medical professionals, synod officers strongly encourage participants to get fully vaccinated before coming to synod.
What safety protocols will be observed?
All participants are encouraged to get fully vaccinated before attending General Synod, and all participants will be lodged in single occupancy rooms. At the end of August, safety protocols will be determined for the event, based on guidance from the CDC and other medical professionals, and in deference to protocols in place at our venue, the Westin La Paloma. The space does allow for physical distancing in the plenary and breakout rooms, but mask-wearing, physical distancing, and other protocols will be decided in late August.
Will this be a full General Synod, or a special session?
This will be a regular meeting of the General Synod, not a special session. All of the regular items of business that come before a General Synod will be on the agenda for October, including the Vision 2020 report. Reporting bodies that submitted reports with actionable business to last year’s synod will have the opportunity to resubmit those items of business along with anything new that has arisen in the past year. There will be fewer scheduled items that do not involve actionable items of business, in order to reduce the number of guests and official observers who attend to participate in events and other programs.
How was this decision made?
On March 1, General Synod officers announced a postponement of the June 2021 General Synod; at that time, they tentatively planned for an October synod and committed to finalizing that decision by late May. Like with that earlier decision, the officers have consulted medical professionals, classis presidents, the General Synod Council, and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A team of GSC staff researched and selected a venue that allowed for pandemic safety protocols and adapted aspects of General Synod with a priority on safety. General Synod officers made the decisions informed by these consultations and research.
Can guests attend?
Likely not. If physical distancing is required for the General Synod event, we will be at capacity with synod delegates, participants, and necessary staff, and the plenary hall won’t have room for an observer gallery. In addition, limiting the number of people present acknowledges and respects that delegates will be at different levels of comfort with gathering in large groups. In late August, safety protocols for the event will be determined. In the meantime, delegates should not plan on bringing guests, and other interested people should plan to watch the video stream of the proceedings rather than travel to Tucson to watch live.
Will Canadian delegates be able to attend?
Pandemic conditions are different in Canada and the United States. Classis presidents in Canadian classes report that vaccine availability is increasing in Canada, and Canadians are able to travel to the United States and return home (though a two-week quarantine upon return is currently required). As vaccine rollout continues, we’re hopeful that the U.S./Canadian border will allow for easier travel, and we’re hopeful that delegates will have a chance to get vaccinated before coming to synod.
What about quarantine costs for Canadians?
Currently, travelers entering Canada by air have a mandatory three-day hotel stay. If that’s still in effect at the time of an October General Synod, hotel and meal costs would be borne by General Synod.
Where and when will synod be held?
Synod will be held at the Westin La Paloma in Tucson, Arizona, from October 14 to 19, 2021.
How was Tucson, Arizona, chosen?
RCA staff conducted extensive research to find a suitable location that meets the needs of General Synod and allowed for COVID-19 safety protocols. Options were limited for an event planned on such short notice and that required such extensive plenary and breakout space, and event planners did a number of site visits to choose a location that was most cost effective and would meet the event needs. The Westin La Paloma was the least expensive of the viable options available in October.
You’re having synod at a resort?
We can’t have a full synod at a college campus during the school year—students are living in the dorms where we’d normally stay, for one thing, and a fall break is generally shorter than General Synod, so colleges have other needs for the spaces we’d be using. Given the safety restrictions and the size of our event, very few venues could accommodate our group. We did a lot of research and negotiated an extremely competitive rate with the Westin La Paloma. It was the least expensive of the viable options available in October.
That sounds expensive. Will this raise assessments?
It does cost more to hold General Synod at a hotel even though we’ve negotiated superb rates, but the additional costs of this format of General Synod will not be covered through increased assessments. For this year, the denomination would be able to use cost savings realized elsewhere because of lessened travel, meetings and events, and other things due to the pandemic in order to cover the increased cost of General Synod.
Will there be a virtual option for delegates who aren’t comfortable attending in person?
While the video stream will be available to watch, as usual, we don’t have the capability at this time to have delegates participating in debate and voting virtually. Having delegates participating virtually would require the development of a system that could handle online voting and queueing for debate in a manner consistent with the General Synod’s rules for handling such things. While development of such a system would be possible, it would be very expensive, and it would be very unlikely it could be completed in time for an October meeting.
Who will the delegates be? What happens if someone who has already been named as a delegate doesn’t feel comfortable attending in October or is not able to attend in October?
Voting delegates to General Synod “shall be a member of the General Synod from the date of election or appointment and shall continue in that responsibility until the effective date of election or appointment of a successor” (BCO Chapter 1, Part IV, Article 3, Section 1, [2019 edition, p. 68]). If sending bodies have already appointed 2021 delegates, those appointees remain delegates at an October General Synod, unless their sending body appoints a different delegate in their place. If a delegate who planned to participate in General Synod 2021 is unable to attend in October, or if an appointed delegate does not feel comfortable attending in October, their sending body may appoint a different delegate in their place. (There may be other reasons that sending bodies choose to appoint different delegates, as well.)
I have a question that hasn’t been answered here. Who can I ask or where can I offer my question?
If you have a question that hasn’t been answered here, you may send it to the General Synod Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.