The 26th Queensland Synod of the Uniting Church was thrown into confusion when the recommendation of the Nominating Selection Committee for the appointment of a new General Secretary was not confirmed.
The Committee which included two former Moderators reported that it had interviewed four applicants for the position and was bringing its preferred candidate as a unanimous recommendation.
The General Secretary of the Synod is effectively the Chief Executive Officer of the Uniting Church in Queensland and is expected to provide leadership for the Synod in its ministry and mission, give leadership to the synod staff team and provide executive support for the Synod’s many boards and councils.
Members of the Synod had been provided with a written report describing the preferred candidate’s qualifications and experience for the position and a verbal report was presented to the Synod meeting on Sunday morning.
There were few questions directed to the Nominating Selection Committee from Synod members but many expressed annoyance that a question about the nominated person’s marital status and family situation was asked.
A proposal from a Synod member that 75% be required to confirm the appointment was passed by a show of cards.
Some later expressed regret that a simple majority was not seen to be enough.
When the Convenor of the Ballot Committee Rev David Wiltshire returned with the results of the ballot, the Moderator Rev Dr David Pitman closed the meeting to observers.
Journey staff and other non-members were required to leave while the Synod had what was later termed a “heart-to-heart” conversation.
Despite an attempt during a subsequent session to reopen the discussion on the recommendation the Synod was clear that it would not re-visit the matter.
The Moderator subsequently wrote to the candidate saying, “I want to assure you that the decision of the Synod does not reflect in any way on your personal integrity or your professional competence.”
Sunnybank Minister Rev Andrew Ross said, “For me the Gen. Sec. stuff was not about the person as such, for whom I have great respect… but rather a process of discernment.”
Banora Point Minister Rev Robert Brennan believed the Synod may have heard the Spirit though he was “reluctant to say that with too much strength”.
“Those who know me know I consider it heretical to say that, ‘God speaks to us in the councils of the church,’ rather than the more appropriate and accurate, ‘in the councils of the church we are most likely to hear God speak.’ The proof… is in the fruit a council’s decisions bears after the event.”
With a departure date set for current Synod General Secretary Rev Jenny Tymms, the Synod faced the dilemma of not having someone to fill the position and the Synod revisited this issue a number of times over the next two days.
The final decision of the Synod was that the Council of Synod, which acts for the Synod between meetings, would meet urgently to recommence the process for the selection of a General Secretary and appoint an Acting General Secretary if required.
The Synod also determined that a new Search Committee should bring the names of two acceptable candidates to a special meeting of the Synod expected to be held later in the year.
Frustrated by the proposed process Rev Dr Robert Bos of Bundamba said, “The irony is that we will probably now appoint a General Secretary who will gain a lesser percentage of support from the Synod than the person whose name was put forward by the search committee and, in the process, spend a good deal of money which could be better spent.”
Journey has since been advised that Rev Jenny Tymms will indicate to the Council of Synod that, if necessary, she is available to continue in the role of General Secretary for the remainder of the year.
In a Pastoral Letter to the church following the Synod the Moderator asked for prayer support for the work of the Council of Synod, Search Committee and subsequent Synod meeting.
“We seek your prayers for this very important process and for the ongoing life and witness of the Uniting Church.”
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