The Synodal Experience of the Protestant Church at Work

Sète (Hérault)

From our regional correspondent

To provoke debate and reach consensus. The objective of the National Synod of the United Protestant Church of France (EPUdF), devoted to ecology, and whose second part took place on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 October, has been achieved. In the great hall of Lazaret in Sète (Hérault), the 230 participants, with equal parity between pastors and lay people, debated, voted on decisions for the life of the Church, amended constitutive texts by redrafting them unceremoniously. With or without the right to vote, everyone was able to express themselves, as much on general considerations as on details experienced in the parishes.

“I am amazed by the debate, openness and transparency shown by the Synod and by the sometimes daring, very free speeches”, says Laura Morosini, Catholic invited to speak about the Green Church label on the occasion of this National Synod dedicated to ecology.

As the diocesan phase of the Synod on Synodality in the Catholic Church began, the EPUdF, for this ninth edition since the union of the Reformed Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church, once again experienced a decision-making process built on debate and the search for collective expression.

To nourish the reflections of the National Synod, the 480 local parishes made their contributions very early on, relayed by the regional rapporteurs to the regional synods, then by the national rapporteurs to the national Synod. “The goal is not to advance the word of one’s own parish, but rather to listen to what others say, then to find a consensus, warns Isabelle Fouchier, president of the priestly council of the Pays d’Aix, newly elected to the national coordination of evangelization and formation. It is never individualities that impose themselves. “

Of the 230 participants, around 100 delegates with voting rights come from the nine regions that make up the EPUdF. About 80 people were present in an advisory capacity and about 50 were invited. “We are not in a logic of obedience, nor in a pyramidal approach”, explains Jean-Pierre Julian, president of the Cévennes-Languedoc-Roussillon regional council, whose words were illustrated during lively debates. “The synod is a place of very democratic expression where all the members of the Church are associated, from the local to the national”, confirms Guillaume de Clermont, former president of the West regional council.

Other side of the coin: the process is long and cumbersome. A synod theme is developed for at least 18 months. The next theme, dedicated to the mission and to the ministries, will even take place during three successive annual synods and will monopolize the reflections for three years, at the national synod and in the regional synods.

The Synod on Synodality, the diocesan phase of which opened on October 10, among Catholics, is viewed with questioning among Protestants. “A Catholic synod remains artificial since the decision-making mechanism remains fixed”, thus estimates Denis Richard, former treasurer of the National Council of the EPUdF. Jean-Pierre Jullian sees, between Catholics and Protestants, “Two cultures of the Church” different : “One is hierarchical, with a bishop who ordains the priests; the other gives great latitude to the local Church. “Protestantism has a great distrust of power”, he recalls.

In Sète, behind the pulpit, lay people and pastors have followed one another indifferently to make suggestions for modifications to the constitutive text, questioning the slightest choice of word: “I am disturbed by this sentence” ; “I propose to replace this word” ; “I would reverse these paragraphs”, etc. Until the adoption of the text, the debate predominates.

“A Protestant would never accept a vertical word”, warns Guillaume de Clermont. “The initiative of the Catholic Synod to involve as many people as possible in a reflection is a good idea which is in line with our mode of operation. Corn, he tempers, in ecumenical dialogue, the sticking point remains the sacrality of the priest. If the bishop has the last word, is there really a common word? “


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