rebecca swyer

Deacon Rebecca Swyer

Elections are to happen shortly for the next quinquennium of the General Synod of the Church of England. I’m not standing again, having served for the last 11 years, the majority of which I’ve been the only distinctive deacon in the House of Clergy.

The whole point of the three houses of Bishops, Clergy and Laity is that the voice of laity and each order of ministry are heard. It’s therefore really important that the distinctive diaconate is represented in General Synod.

As the Church of England grapples with issues of injustice, bias and exclusion, deacons have something important to contribute as those who go out into the ‘forgotten corners of the world’ (CW Ordinal). The next Synod will prayerfully grapple with the next steps of Living in Love and Faith and with what good disagreement and mutual flourishing really look like. Surely this links strongly to our role of go-between and agents of compassion and love?

We’re all aware of current challenges in mission and evangelism facing the Church of England. As agents of mission deacons ‘accompany those searching for faith’ and have a particular ministry of nurturing and equipping other Christians to live out their baptismal calling. It is essential that the work of General Synod is grounded in God’s mission and not mere governance or guarding of financial reserves.

In non-pandemic times there are two sittings of General Synods (February and July) each year, with the occasional addition of a November Synod. Alongside the debates, there are normally small group discussions and fringe meetings.  Each day at Synod includes worship, led usually by members of Synod. Members are also sometimes asked to be part of working groups or to represent the Church of England in ecumenical discussions. These invitations depend on skills and experience. There are several ways and places where a deacon can be both seen and heard.

There’s an expectation of bringing back and reporting on what has happened at each General Synod to your Diocesan Synod. Sometimes, a motion that started in a parish moves up through a Deanery and Diocesan Synod and is then taken back at debated at General Synod. These tend to be some of the best Synod debates and often focus on issues of justice and the voiceless in our society.

I can’t pretend that it is a minimal commitment and there’s a lot of reading and listening when Synod meets. The thought of speaking in the General Synod chamber in a debate might seem very daunting, but deacons are ministers of the Gospel in word and deed. The chamber is a place where we can bring to the Church ‘the needs and hopes of all the people’, ‘expectant and watchful for the signs of God’s presence, as he reveals his kingdom among us’ (CW Ordinal).

Last, but not least, as servants of God, through his Church, deacons must surely seek to be part of General Synod?

Please prayerfully consider whether you or another deacon you know might stand as a candidate in the upcoming elections.

For more information on General Synod and the elections, please go to:

Deacon Rebecca Swyer

More about Deacon Rebecca:

Image of Rebecca from All Saints Twickenham

Image of Synod from Church of England website


  1. As the Executive Director of the Association for Episcopal Deacons (from USA and worldwide where TEC has churches), I would commend the advantages of attending and participating in these national events. They are quite expensive and time-consuming, as noted in the post. It has been hard in the past to get people to serve. But over the last 20 years, (distinctive, to use your terminology) deacons in TEC have grown their participation in our General Convention (akin to your Synod) from zero to 50-60 deacons participating each year. As they have become aware of our presence, we have assumed more and more participatory roles. Many dioceses today consider their deputation incomplete without a deacon on it, and the numbers continue to grow. We are considered essential for the liturgies, since we provide a deacon “captain” to manage each of 8-12 communion stations at these events. They are careful to reserve the main “platform deacon” at each service for one of us, a deacon always reads the gospel, and one deacon always preaches. We host a booth in the exhibit hall, staffed by deacons with promotional materials, who chat with many who have never met a deacon (other than transitionals). We carefully evaluate proposed resolutions and testify in many of the forums for evaluation of them. Many times our statements have been influential in the passage of one resolution or another, and our alliance is often sought by those proposing legislation. We proposed canonical changes concerning deacon formation in 2003-2006 which were adopted, and which highlight the distinctive needs deacons have which differ from priests. So I would say that the effort to participate is worth it, and we plan on it every session, these days. Good luck on increasing your participation. Hope to see some of you at the World Diakonia Conference in times to come.

    Liked by 1 person

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