- The term synod describes a wide variety of gatherings of church leaders for the purpose of developing policy on church life. As such, synods may be occasional and informal, or regularly held legislative bodies that create and maintain the legal structure of a church or denomination. The latter is usually the case among Protestant churches that have synods. In some churches, as with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the highest legislative body of the church is its synod. It exists as a creature of the member congregations and has charge over the church's various national boards and agencies. As such, it is analogous to, for example, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, or the General Council of the United Church of Canada, or the General Assembly of the Church of God of Prophecy.Within the Reformed tradition, the synod (or classis) is an intermediate structure between the presbytery, a set of congregations in close geographical proximity, and the national (or international) assembly. Typical of the Reformed tradition, the Presbyterian Church in Canada's many congregations were as of 2003 organized into 46 presbyteries, which in turn have constituted eight synods. The eight synods come together annually for the meeting of the general assembly.The Church of England describes itself as an episcopal body (with more than 108 bishops), but it is governed by its General synod, a delegated body that includes both laity and clergy from each diocese. The General synod meets semi-annually to legislate on matters before the church. other Anglican jurisdictions around the world have similar synodal structures.Further reading:■ Joan S. Gray, Presbyterian Polity for Church Officers (Louisville, Ky.: Geneva Press, 1999)■ Edward Le Roy Long, Jr., Patterns of Polity: Varieties of Church Governance (Cleveland, Tenn.: Pilgrim Press, 2001)■ A. D. Mattson, Polity of the Augustana Lutheran Church (Rock Island, Ill.: Augustana Book Concern, 1952)■ J. L. Schaver, The Polity of the Churches (Chicago: Church Polity Press, 1947).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.