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FutureChurch Welcomes Working Document as a Hopeful Foundation for Progress at October Assembly

For Immediate Release

Russ Petrus, Co-Director of FutureChurch,
Deborah Rose, Co-Director of FutureChurch, 1.513.673.1401,

FutureChurch is hopeful that the Instrumentum Laboris – or working document – which will guide conversations at the October 2023 Assembly of the Synod on Communion, Participation, and Mission lays a strong foundation for achieving real progress on much needed reforms in the Church.

Unlike working documents for previous synods, this new document signals a break from the old formula, where consultation with the People of God was overshadowed by hierarchical concerns, and instead poses three overarching questions to be discerned by assembly members – including lay women and men who will have full voting privileges for the first time:

  1. Communion: How can we be more fully a sign and instrument of union with God and of the unity of all humanity?
  2. Mission: How can we better share gifts and tasks in the service of the Gospel?
  3. Participation: What processes, structures and institutions in a missionary synodal church?

“Perhaps the most unique and inspired aspect of this working document is the format itself,” said Russ Petrus, Co-Director for FutureChurch. “By posing questions for synodal discernment, the document continues to invite the wisdom and insight of the People of God. And, as we have seen in previous phases of the synod, when the People of God are at the table, their Spirited calls for reform ring loud and clear.”

Each question is expanded upon by worksheets that will guide working groups in further reflection and consideration of concrete actions. Urgently needed conversations about women and the Church are woven throughout and the question of ordaining women deacons is explicitly raised. As is ordaining male priests who are married. FutureChurch has long advocated for both.

“It is a sign of hope that the Instrumentum Laboris reflects the wider call within the Church for women’s ordination to the diaconate and for the ordination of married men to the priesthood, but it is troubling to find that women’s ordination to the priesthood has not found a place in this working document,” said Deborah Rose, Co-Director for FutureChurch.  “The Continental Discernment Document specifically included it as an issue of concern for Catholics worldwide and, given the diversity of opinions on the topic and the fact that our discernment has historically been constrained by male clerics, it is just the kind of issue deserving of synodal conversation.”

Proper formation for synodality and reevaluating institutions and structures that overly privilege authority and hierarchy are also addressed in the worksheets on participation. “Clericalism and Canon Law are real barriers to true synodality,” said FutureChurch Board Chair, Todd Ray. “It gives us great hope that the working document recognizes this reality and seeks to correct it by asking for input on both seminary education and reform to Canon Law.”

FutureChurch has been working in solidarity with Catholics around the country and globe to ensure that the voices of those who have been ignored, scorned, and excluded are included in every phase of the synodal process: from our report, “In Our Own Words” to our most recent letters to bishops and other members of the synod committees urging them to include a diverse group of Catholics as members of the October 2023 Synod Assembly. We invite all to join us on Wednesdays, June 28th, July 5th, and July 12th at 7pm ET for “Synod Watch: Unpacking the Working Document” as guest experts and activists join FutureChurch to help us gain a better understanding of the working document. Visit to learn more about our Synod work and to sign up for these sessions.