Shortly after arriving in England from the Colonies I was listening to the radio whilst unpacking and discovered Radio 4. Not quite as good as the World Service I was used to, but it would have to do.

As a life-long fan of the Goons I was delighted on the first day to hear what I thought was an excerpt from one of their shows. But I was disappointed: it was not the Goons but a broadcast from Westminster, the Mother of all Parliaments. I could hardly believe that a group of supposedly intelligent individuals chosen for the leadership qualities could behave so childishly and in such an undisciplined manner.

Twelve years later I attended my first English Diocesan Synod, and I am pleased to be able to say that the atmosphere was nowhere near as aggressive or chaotic, and the behaviour of the members was more polite and more mature. On the surface, at least.

The presidential address was measured, controlled, and typically Anglican: taking orthodox words and concepts and redefining them in such a way that they became heterodox, and virtually unrecognizable.

After this came the typical, run-of-the-mill motions to receive the synod’s rubber stamp with the minimum of debate expected or needed – the usual time-wasters to keep up the pretence of democracy.

But then came matters raised by a couple of lay members who had helped trial the diocesan review group programme in their deanery. They had the courage (or the audacity, depending on whose side you were on) to wish to alter the guidelines of the president’s henchmen. If that wasn’t sin enough in the eyes of the hierarchy, they were suggesting that diocesan structures be examined with the same rigour during the review process as the parishes are expected to be.

The pretence of genial democracy evaporated immediately and was replaced by cold hostility, insinuation, frantic spin and a closing of ranks on the part of the hierarchy.

Which made me think of Robert Mugabe. He was considered to be a nice chap by everyone until he was elected to power and had to start to defend his inflated income and autocratic decisions to those under him.

John Ryder