The 2022 Archdiocesan Synod Assembly is expected to shape the immediate future of the local Catholic Church, but not all participants are Catholic.
A Lutheran and a Methodist participate as outside observers. Both were in procession during the synod’s opening mass on June 3 and a Eucharistic procession from Holy Spirit Church in St. Paul to nearby Cretin-Derham Hall High School, where most of the activities of the the Synod Assembly.
The observers are the Rev. Ann Svennungsen, bishop of the Minneapolis-area synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Rev. Jared Morey, director of strategic relations for the Minnesota Council of Churches and pastor of Northfield United Methodist Church in Northfield.
Bishop Bernard Hebda, who initiated the Archdiocesan Synod process in 2019, invited them.
“I thought it was important that we invite representatives of our brothers and sisters separated from our other Christian communities here in the Twin Cities, to ask for their prayers for this effort and also to update them on what is happening. going on in our archdiocese, but also to be able to hear their perspective on the issues they face in their policies,” he said.
Bishop Hebda gave the example of a lunch break discussion on Saturday when people were talking about outreach to youth and young adults.
“A lot of those discussions would be the same in the Lutheran community or the Methodist community as they are for us as Roman Catholics,” the archbishop said. “So being able to hear that is helpful in trying to figure out what the causes are, and also, how can we respond.”
In the Mass readings for the days preceding Pentecost, celebrated this year on June 5, “we heard in the Gospel of Saint John the prayer of Jesus that ‘we may all be one,’” Bishop Hebda said.
“There is always this desire that Jesus has, that all of his followers be united,” he said. “And so, even though it is an imperfect unity right now, to be able to engage our Christian brothers and sisters in this effort – and really, Bishop Svennungsen and Rev. Morey are representatives of these communities much more broadly – is a way for us to be truly aware of the gifts they bring to the wider Church of those who follow Christ in our archdiocese as well.
Except for the vote, the Protestant observers will participate in every way like the other 500 delegates to the synod, said Father Joseph Bambenek, deputy director of the synod. They contribute along with other Synod members to the discussions throughout the assembly, Fr. Bambeneck said.
Canon law allows non-Catholic observers at Church synods and councils, and 200 non-Catholic observers attended the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.
The Vatican’s “Instruction on Diocesan Synods” includes the following: “If the Diocesan Bishop deems it expedient, ministers or members of other Christian Churches or ecclesial communities who are not in full communion with the Church Catholics may be invited to attend the Synod as observers. The presence of such observers can, among other things, enrich synodal discussions by helping to give “a greater place to ecumenical concerns in normal pastoral work, thus increasing mutual knowledge, reciprocal charity and, if possible, fraternal cooperation”. .
Archbishop Hebda asked the Minneapolis-based Minnesota Council of Churches to appoint an observer, and council CEO Rev. Curtiss DeYoung submitted Rev. Morey’s name. Reverend Morey said his new role this year in strategic relations made him a good fit.
Reverend Morey sees his role as synod observer as bringing a ministry of presence, describing him as being present at the work of the Holy Spirit in the Synod Assembly, being “a present representative” of another part of the body of Christ and encouraging the discernment of the disciples “at all the tables assigned to me”.
Reverend Morey said that in his own tradition, those who lead annual assemblies or judicial offices often invite ecumenical observers to attend or make remarks, which he said is quite common in the Christian world in the sense wide. Within the Minnesota Council of Churches, a member of the board or staff often represents the larger unity of the body of Christ in Minnesota and around the world, he said.
Acknowledging that the Archdiocese has had a long period of discernment ahead of the June 3-5 Synod Assembly, Reverend Morey said he expects the weekend to be “an exciting time where certain priorities will be fixed”.
Regarding the small group discussions, Reverend Morey said he looks forward “to each time you are with a group of Christians trying to discern God’s will for them and their bodies and imagining what what does it mean to love God above all else, and love your neighbor as yourself going forward.
“These are always such Spirit-filled conversations that I look forward to hearing and better understanding our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Archdiocese through the way people talk about them and through what people understand what the priorities will be,” he said.
Ahead of the Synod Assembly, Reverend Morey said he believed the gathering could foster a greater sense of community and connection, and he applauds all the work that the Archdiocese and all of its clergy and laity did to get there.
“Particularly as an ecumenical observer, that is one of the things that being present at a table or different tables brings to the Synod, and the reason why the Synod invites people to be ecumenical observers is even to expand that sense of what the whole is,” he said. said. “I think these are marvelous results that emerge whenever followers of Christ come together to try to figure out what’s next for anything,” Reverend Morey said. “The more voices you have and the more lore you have, the more you remember how far you are able to zoom out.”
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