ACR JournalMinistry

A View from the Pew – Doug Marr

Mr Doug Marr served on the synod for more than 40 years. Most recently, he served in an ex-officio role as Registrar of the Diocese. Before that, he was a parish representative for the Parish of Ryde, and before that a parish representative for the Parish of (now) Macquarie. Doug has also been a member of the NSW Provincial Synod and the national General Synod.

  1. Why do you serve on the synod?

I have been a member of synod for most of the last 40 years but am not currently a member. For most of the time I was an ‘ordinary’ lay representative and saw my membership as a form of service to my parish and to the wider diocese. I subsequently served as an ex-officio member of the synod and standing committee but still saw my membership as an opportunity to use my personal skills, background and experience in the service of the Kingdom.

  1. What role do you see lay people having in this ministry? (i.e., How do you believe this ministry serves the Kingdom?)

Ordained people, and particularly those who have the responsibility of leading a parish, bring their own perspective to the issues of synodbut they approach matters in the context of their theological training and ministry experience. The vast majority of members of the church have different experience and lay members are better able to bring these perspectives.

  1. Do you need a specific skillset to serve as a lay representative? (i.e., Do you need formal theological or legal training to be useful?)

The best synod member is a mature Christian who has served as a parishioner in a local church. No formal training in theology, law or anything else is needed but it is important to be able to read substantial documents and carefully consider issues. However, my personal opinion is that the upfront involvement of lay people in the synod has dramatically declined in the course of the last 20 years with clergy dominating presentations and debate. Only a handful of lay ‘old timers’ now speak. This is a dangerous situation because at key times in the history of the diocese it was the lay people who took a strong stand and rescued the evangelical nature of Diocese of Sydney from initiatives supported by many of the clergy.

  1. Do you have any lessons for new lay representatives?

Most new members of synod will not be accustomed to the procedures and processes of synod so it takes a while to learn how things work. A single person cannot understand or make a contribution on a wide range of issues. I suggest new members focus on a couple of matters in which they have a particular interest. Do not hesitate to ask questions or to speak if the occasion arises. Each person has a right to raise something but listen and learn from the response.

  1. How can clergy help foster a desire and vision for lay folk to get involved in governance issues (i.e., Parish Council, Wardens, Synod Reps)?

It is concerning that this question seems to suggest only clergy should be encouraging parishioners to be involved in church governance. All mature Christians should be actively looking out for people who may have an interest in serving in various ways. There are multiple forms of ministry and administration is one of them. The best approach is to speak with people and learn about their general interests to see if they have the necessary interest and skills for the relevant role.