Anglican General Synod

Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia

Te Hahi Mihinare ki Aotearoa ki Niu Tireni, ki Nga Moutere o Te Moana Nui a Kiwa

Te Hīnota Whānui Kite/ An Introduction to the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui


Congratulations if you have been chosen or elected to be a member of the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. You have been called to a good work and to follow in the paths of many men and women who loved their God, loved their Church and sought to serve both through this body.

While many of you will have been members of Church Committees, Hui Amorangi, Vestries and Synods before, membership of the General Synod / Te Hīnota Whānui may be completely new. You may have heard of the long days and longer debates and of the often immense agenda and workload that the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui has to accomplish. As a result you may wonder what you have gotten yourself in for. What you may not have been told about are the wonderful moments when our three Tikanga Church speaks with one voice. Difference is accepted and accommodated. In the middle of the most tense debates, a moment of humour arises and the ensuing laughter draws us all back together as children of God seeking to do God's work. You may not have heard of the immense satisfaction that you feel going away after the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui knowing that the work of the Church has been done and done well, and that God through grace has enabled you to be a small part of that achievement.

The richest part of the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui is the friendships forged and renewed as Anglicans come together to worship, to sing, to study, to work, to eat to debate and plan for the future years ahead.

This kite is an attempt to steer you through the processes of the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui. It is not intended to be exhaustive as the process is dynamic and constantly evolving. We pray that it will prove helpful to you on this new journey.

A Brief History of the General Synod / Te Hīnota Whānui

The first General Synod was held in Aotearoa/ New Zealand under the new Constitution of the Church in Wellington in 1859. The President was Bishop Selwyn and William Williams was consecrated Bishop of Waiapu. At this General Synod, it was agreed that while individual churches were to be governed by Diocesan Synods, the work of the Diocesan Synods was to be co-ordinated under the General Synod of the whole Church. Bishop Selwyn wanted laity to play a key part in the organisation of the Church and he urged all ‘to do his appointed work and use his special gift that they might see their Church grow into a holy temple of the Lord.’ (Creighton, 1923: 104, JH Evans, 1964: 56)

The Second General Synod was held in Nelson 1862. This was to be a less successful General Synod and only 11 of 20 lay representatives attended. At this time there was animosity towards Bishop Selwyn due to wording of the new Constitution and the proposal to centralise the management of diocesan church property. (Evans, 1964:148)

The “Great Synod’ of 1865 was held in Christchurch. Evans writes, “The first clash of arms seemed formidable; but very soon, by the blessing of God, a spirit of concession and mutual conciliation began to manifest itself; and, before the close of the session, the clouds had entirely cleared away, and there was left behind a sense of relief, and of general contentment and satisfaction” (Evans, 1964: 151). A great deal was achieved at this General Synod. There was a revision of the Constitution and the procedure for election of a Bishop was made clear and precise. (Evans, 161). One of the strengths of Bishop Selwyn was his emphasis on the importance of each of the three orders or houses or the Church. Bishop Selwyn was the first bishop to enshrine the importance of the laity in the church Constitution and he “never ceased to insist that the laity were just as much members of the Body of Christ as the bishops and clergy were, and shared with them the three-fold obligation of the baptismal commission …and they had a right to share in the councils of the bishop and the clergy” (Evans, 1964: 163)

The fourth General Synod was under in Auckland in 1868. Bishop Selwyn presided over six bishops and clerical and lay representatives (Evans, 1964: 168). In the farewell address to him after 26 years service in this country, the General Synod spoke how it was representative of three races including the Maori Church and the Melanesian Mission.

The Constitution and processes of the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia is rooted in these fundamental principles. The first is that each order has a unique and essential role in the governing and life of our Church. The second is that the three fundamental foundations of this Church from its inception were Māori, Pākehā and Polynesian.

Getting Prepared

In the weeks before the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui you will receive postings of reports, agendas, Bills and all the paperwork that will be dealt with in the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui. They usually arrive in batches. Most people start enthusiastically to go through their papers but others get bogged down by the detail. It is very important that you try to read this material before you come to the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui because this gives you time to discuss things with other representatives and to find out more information if you don’t understand what it is about. An early reading also helps you to think about the issues that might arise and whether there are things that you need to address. Remember you are a representative of your Hui Amorangi or Diocese and you should, to the best of your ability, try to represent and pass on their concerns, ideas and views.

It often helps as you read the various papers, to highlight areas you need to find out more about and to write down any thoughts and questions in the margins that you might have. Buy an exercise book or writing pad so that when you go to General Synod, you can keep a record of what is happening. This will also jog your memory when you are reporting back to your Hui Amorangi or Diocese.

Travel and Accommodation

Travel is arranged to General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui through the office of the General Secretary. Try to make early travel plans and stick to them so as to minimise the cost of travel on the wider Church. Late changes are very expensive.

You will be notified of the accommodation arrangements before arrival. Usually representatives share a room with another General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui member. Every effort is made to accommodate people within a short distance from the main venue. All meals are provided but you must wear and present your name-tag and any meal tickets in order to be admitted for meals. If you have special transport or dietary needs you should notify the staff at the office of the General Secretary as early as possible, so these can be accommodated.


After the representatives arrive, and immediately after the convening of the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui, they meet in their individual Tikanga to go through the Agenda and to formulate responses to the various matters arising. Sometimes at caucus decisions are made on motions to support, amendments to Bills are discussed, speakers will be identified, nominations are considered for key Committees and so on. The purpose of caucusing is to discuss the Tikanga priorities, share any concerns and where possible to arrive at common views.

Caucusing is also used during the business of the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui. If unexpected issues arise or if debate seems stymied, someone may move a motion to caucus. Generally members caucus in Tikanga, but on occasions, they also caucus in Orders/ Houses (Bishops/ Clergy/ Laity). Either option is possible. Caucusing is a healthy initiative and often helps give people some needed time out. It enables people to discuss the issue under debate and frequently representatives can identify a way forward. After caucusing, someone from each Tikanga or House will report back to the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui on what has been agreed and any consensus that has been reached. After this the debate resumes and the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui often able to come to a common view and move on through an earlier log jam.

Convening the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui

The General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui generally convenes on a Saturday morning with a Powhiri followed by a meal. The General Secretary will declare that a quorum is present and the President will constitute the Synod/ Te Hīnota. There is usually a time prior to this when delegates sign in and are given any additional papers and small welcoming packs. There is an Opening Service at the venue which may be attended by guests and local Church members as well as members of the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui.

The Primate’s Address

The Primate / te Pīhopa Mātāmua then gives an address welcoming members, remembering those who have died and reporting on the work of the Church over the past year. There is usually a Motion of Thanks for the address and sometimes a Motion requesting that the address be printed in the proceedings.

Procedural Motion and Notices

After the address\ various notices are given and a procedural motion is adopted. This sets out the hours of business, refers to the various elections that will be held; introduces the first reading of the Bills; introduces the Officers of the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui; lists the reports that have been tabled and mentions any orders of the day. Generally these orders refer to the presentations and reports that will be individually presented to the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui. Other reports will have been circulated to members and it is assumed that they will have been read.

The Officers of the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui have an important role. They have to take minutes of the entire proceedings, record all the decisions, motions and resolutions during the proceedings and prepare a final report for publication. (Minutes of each day’s proceedings will be distributed and can be checked.)

Finally, at the end of this first day motions can be withdrawn or leave (permission) can be given to introduce motions that had not been previously notified. The day finishes with concluding prayers and the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui stands adjourned until the next morning.

Starting the Day

An optional Church Service is held before each day of the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui. People often meet to prepare themselves for the day ahead and to pray and seek God’s guidance, wisdom and blessing on those who speak and deliberate.

When you get to the venue you will need to sign the daily roll book. This is usually on a table by the secretaries. You will be seated at a table with other members of your Diocese or Hui Amorangi.

In recent years each day has begun with opening prayer and a short-shared Bible study or devotion before everyone gets down to the work of the day. Once this is completed the President will ‘assume the chair’. The Presidents are rotated each session and are usually the Primates although some senior lay persons may be invited to Preside over certain sessions.

Order of Business

There is an Order Paper Committee who has the job of trying to fit in all the business of the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui and to ensure that all business is done in a proper and timely way. This may change according to the priorities of business and depending on what issues assume the greatest importance. The general order of business is prayers, questions, petitions (if someone is asking for something), notices of questions to be raised or motions, reports and orders of the day.


It can be nerve wracking when you first stand to speak. Just remember the general courtesy rules of being in a Committee and ask the other representatives with you if you uncertain what to do. Don’t talk when people are speaking. If you do want to speak, stand and go to the microphone and wait to be acknowledged. Speak to the President and ensure your microphone is on and you can be heard. Stick to the point and don’t get into personal reflections or accuse anyone else of improper motives. Also don’t speak for too long as there may be many people who are waiting to be heard on the issue.

Tikanga Reports

The Senior Bishops usually present a report of activity within their Tikanga. These reports are followed by a report from each of the houses or orders and other reports may also be presented.


Motions form a large part of the work of the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui. They are called for prior to the proceedings and are circulated with the pre-synod/ hīnota papers. Motions cover a wide range of issues, and are used to note actions that have taken place, to promote change, to show solidarity with wider Church initiatives, to deal with reports and make recommendations, to set up working parties, to appoint Commissioners and so on. Motions enable debate and amendments so that a consensus can be reached. The mover of the motion has the first right to speak, the seconder the second right and others follow. People should only speak once on any issue. If the debate goes on too long, anyone can move a motion ‘that the motion be now put.' This basically means that it is time to put the matter to a vote and move on, although the original mover of the motion may seek a right of reply. Then if a motion is lost, it is said to have lapsed and the issue is dropped from the work of the Synod / te Hīnota. If it is passed then it is adopted. Motions occur right through the week


On the first evening you will have heard a motion that the ‘Bills' be taken to have been read a first time and that a second readings for each Bill be set down as ‘an order of the day’. In other words that time is to set aside for the Bill to be read and debated. The procedure for getting a “Bill” passed into church law is very similar to that of Parliament. Each Bill is drafted or written up by the person proposing it and checked by the Statutes and Canons Committee. This is done some time before the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui. The Bill might be to amend the Church calendar or to have a meeting of the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui every three years instead of every two years, to authorise the use of a new type of service or to enact the Finance Statute and so on.

Bills go through three readings. The first is on the first night of the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui where they are taken as read. The second is a clause-by-clause reading where the wording can be changed, clarified, amended or deleted altogether. The third reading is the final reading and is generally carried out on the last day. After the Bill is passed it can be signed by the Primate and it becomes a binding Church law or Canon.

“Going into Committee or Conference”

During the second reading of a Bill, you will notice that the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui does something which is called ‘going into committee’ or ‘going into conference’. This process can seem strange to first time members and you may not even pick up initially that a change has taken place. This is what happens. A motion is usually moved to read a bill a second time and a further motion proposes that Synod / Hīnota ‘moves into committee’ so that there can be a full debate on the Bill. The Bill can then be considered as a whole or clause by clause.

The Committee stage allows a freer debate on the bill and enables amendments to be made. As a sign that this is happening the Cross, which stands behind the President, is usually laid down and another person becomes the chair of the Committee stage. After consideration of the Bill is completed the Committee moves back into General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui. The Chair usually reports back to the President and to the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui what has just occurred during the Committee stage; for example that the Bill has been passed with amendments. A time will then be set for the third reading and the next Bill is introduced.

The General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui may also ‘go into Committee’ to receive a motion, particularly where the motion might engender considerable debate, or following a report where recommendations have been made that need further action by the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui.

This can all seem a little strange as you sit in the same seats and the same people are involved and so it seems like nothing changes and Synod / Hīnota appears to report back to itself. Just remember that the Committee Stage of the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui is a mechanism to allow a full, frank debate and that even if it seems a bit contrived, it has a legitimate purpose.


Much of the work of the Church is carried out by representative committees and tribunals. Membership of these bodies are drawn from all three Tikanga and the elections are frequently held during the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui. Examples are Judicial Committee, The NZ Anglican Pension Board, Te Kotahitanga; the Anglican Missions Board; the Youth Commission; the Tribunal on Doctrine; and the Standing Committee of General Synod / Te Hīnota Whānui and the Anglican Insurance Board.

Notice of elections are given and nominations are called for at the beginning of the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui to fill the various vacancies. If there are more nominations than are needed, then scrutineers will be appointed and an election will take place. The Electoral process is set out in the Standing Resolutions. At the end of the election the scrutineers will report back to the President who will announce the successful candidates.

Other Work

Over the week of the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui presentations and reports of Boards, Schools, Committees and Commissions, will be given. Tabled reports and accounts will be received and adopted. Motions will be debated and amended; Committees and working parties will be established; and special acknowledgements may be made to those who have contributed to the life of the Church.

Closing Matters

Prior to the conclusion of the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui, there is usually an offer by a Diocese or Hui Amorangi to host the next gathering. This is a large undertaking and the offer is gratefully received.

The proceedings usually conclude with motions of thanks to the hosts and to the General Secretary and the staff General Synod / Te Hīnota Whānui. This is often followed by prayers and a blessing by the Primate for all who have taken part.


When you go home after the General Synod/ Te Hīnota Whānui you will have learned so much and have a greater appreciation of all that the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesian is achieving. You will know about the work of Committees and Boards that you previously had not heard about. You will have a set of memories and new friends that will travel with you in the years ahead. If you listen carefully and if you have done your work well you will also hear a small quiet voice commending you for taking up the challenge of this good work.

May God Bless you as a member of the General Synod / Te Hīnota Whānui.

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