A diocese is led by a bishop, but governed by a democratic body called the ‘diocesan synod’. Synods were introduced by the Church of England in 1970 to increase the participation of lay people (non-clergy) in decision-making. The national body is called the general synod, and there are also synods at diocesan and deanery level.
Our diocesan synod consists of 60 clergy and 60 lay members who are elected every three years from deaneries, plus those who are ex-officio or bishop's nominees. Our diocese has seven deaneries - Portsmouth, Havant, Bishop’s Waltham, Fareham, Gosport, Petersfield, and the Isle of Wight - and the number of members elected from each deanery reflects electoral roll numbers.
The diocesan synod includes three parts - the House of Bishops (which only has one member in our diocese), House of Clergy and House of Laity. They normally meet and vote together, but can do so separately. The bishop is president and synod is also chaired by clergy and lay chairs. Its secretary is our diocesan secretary.
Our diocesan synod meets twice a year (normally November and June), but can also meet in February if required. It hears from national speakers, diocesan officers and deanery representatives, and votes on issues such as diocesan policies and the annual budget. Individual members or deanery synods can also put forward motions to be discussed. Meetings are held in public, so anyone can attend.