Our man at Synod – day 4

Revd Andrew Yates reports from York

The main item of the morning was the Finances of the Central Church and a debate on the budget for the Archbishop’s Council. We had an upbeat introduction to the seven priorities of the Archbishop’s Council.

A younger church -doubling the number of children and young active disciples in the Church of England by 2030. We were shown a video of St Leonard’s Church in Loftus who in2011 had two children in the Sunday School. But with the introduction of a young people’s choir this had grown to 18 in 2023. Interesting to hear this as this is one idea we are exploring in the Cluster.

A more diverse church – A Church of England that fully represents the communities we serve in age and diversity, including race, disability and deprivation.

Parishes – a parish system revitalized for mission so churches can reach and serve everyone in their community.

New Christian Communities – Creating 10.000 new Christian communities across the four areas of home, work/education, social and digital.

Missionary disciples – All Anglicans envisioned to live out the five marks of mission.

Safety and Dignity – A church that affirms the dignity of all people by being a safe space for all, especially children and vulnerable adults.

Sustainability –A Church that cherishes God’s creation and leads by example in promoting sustainability.

But the background to this vision is a serious and challenging financial situation.

This is partly due to the pandemic. The 2020 total Church income was 14% less than in 2019 but expenditure was reduced by just 7%. There has been some recovery in 2021/22 but still notably below pre pandemic levels, especially in real (after inflation) terms.

In 2012 the number of regular givers across the Church of England was around 600.000 By 2021 this had reduced to just over 400,000.

Across the Dioceses there is a wide divergence in giving and generosity of congregations.

  • In one Diocese only 30% of church members give regularly but in another it is 64%.
  • Diocesan average weekly gift varies between £8.80 and £26.80.
  • Digital giving usage varies between 11% and 64% and the when it comes to the Parish Giving Scheme PGS some Dioceses have an almost 100% take up and some only 18%

The result of all this is that there are Dioceses running with increasing deficits and the total deficit predicted for this year across the Church of England is £40 million!

The budget was presented to General Synod by John Spence – for the last occasion before his retirement. John is incredible. He is blind but has a handle on the figures that is amazing. He has a clear Christian Faith and a genuine hope for the future of the Church.

The Archbishop’s Council has access to some funding to support those Dioceses who are impacted by the higher than anticipated rises in inflation but not for ever. The discrepancy between dioceses in endowed wealth is something that needs to be addressed going forward.

It was noted that there was a drop in the numbers of people coming forward for ordination. One possible explanation that the fragility of some diocese’s expenses meant people might be anxious about long term career certainty and so being deterred from coming forward.

In more positive frame John Spence was pleased that the investment in the Church’s digital services will be supported as he feels it is important to build relationship with young people and going digital is the way to do this.

In the debate that followed many of the speeches were about the clergy and their well- being.

  • The impact of the cost-of-living crisis on them and their partners and families. One in five of the total clergy work force are currently receiving a grant from the Clergy Support Trust.
  • And in real terms there had been a significant increase in rents in the CHARM – Housing scheme for retired clergy.
  • The demands and expectations of growth within church congregations are in some places adding additional pressures on clergy on top of feeling poor.

John Spence’s final message to the Synod was, “remember the finances are incidental. It is the Mission that matters most.”

Electronic Services Register

MCABMDIYLTSOT which stands for Making Church A Bit More Digital If You Like That Sort Of Thing.

We passed a motion that will now allow churches to keep their service registers in an electronic form. This will not be compulsory and parishes that still prefer dipping a feathered quill into a pot of ink can continue.

The system will be run through the A Church Near You and one great advantage of participating in the electronic register scheme is that the figures will automatically be populated on to the annual church returns which would make these returns so much simpler for churchwardens to complete. And for those who may be worried about Data regulations and whether information such as the names of wedding couples may or may not be included, then we are assured that guidance notes on legalities will be there on the web-site.

Workers of the world unite – and Code of Conduct

The lunch time fringe was organized by CEECA The Church of England Employees and Clergy Advocates – This is the branch of the UNITE Union for clergy and lay employees of the Church of England. CEECA and Code of Conduct.

The meeting was important to me as I have been asked to become the coordinator in Cornwall of members of CEECA. The fringe meeting was timely as the first debate after lunch was on what is called the Clergy Code of Conduct.

The issue is how the Church deals when there is a possible case of misconduct by a clergy person. At present a situation such as this is dealt with under what is called the Clergy Discipline Measure which was introduced in 2003.

However, as it is practised the CDM has turned out to be a very blunt instrument.

At a previous Synod we heard horror stories of how some clergy and their families have suffered through vexatious complaints.

The Clergy Code of Conduct proposals are to replace the CDM scheme. The main differences are that

1 Complaints would be assessed by an independent regional assessor with skills and experience.

The advantage of this is that there is an important element of independence and this approach also allows the bishop to offer pastoral support to those involved without being compromised.

2.There is a grading into three categories of grievance, misconduct and serious misconduct and a different response depending on the level of the accusation.

Synod agreed that these proposals should now be developed into a form that can be voted on to become legislation.

One hopes that one is never in a situation where the Clergy Code of Conduct has to be used. But if one does find oneself there I would feel much happier to be treated under the proposed Code of Conduct model than the previous Clergy Discipline Measure.

However, one clergyman told an interesting story… He and his wife put themselves forward to be considered as foster parents. One of the questions that the Social Worker asked them was if they had ever had a complaint made against them. He answered Yes. ’Good’ said the Social Worker. If you had not caused someone to complain about your ministry then I would have thought you had not been doing your job properly!

The Parish

There were two debates today that focussed on the parish.

In the afternoon there was a debate on Re-vitalising the Parish for Mission.

A thorough piece of research has been done entitled From Anecdote To Evidence This can be read at from_anecdote_to_evidence_-_the_report.pdf (churchofengland.org)

And on the basis of this evidence there are practical suggestions for church’s to explore.

From Evidence to Action

Eight key factors were identified, and these are represented by the symbols in the diagram below. I wonder what you think each of the symbols stands for ..??????

And in the evening we were presented with the findings of the review into the Mission and Pastoral Measure.

The Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011 (MPM) provides a regulatory framework which enables the Church of England to support the provision of local worship, mission and ministry across all of England, and to adapt that provision as circumstances change over time. The current framework was originally conceived in the 1968 Pastoral Measure, but since then the Church has undergone a significant period of change. Therefore, in 2020 the Archbishops’ Council asked the Church Commissioners to review the Measure, as part of a wider process of legal reform. This review aims to ensure the arrangements laid out in a revised Measure remain consistent with good legal and Church practice and continue to support the statutory purpose of the Measure, which is the furtherance of the mission of the Church and the ‘better provision of the cure of souls’

The overarching recommendation of the review is that the existing MPM should be replaced with a new suite of legislation; The review also found that two kinds of change were required: (1) an increased emphasis on a pastoral approach which builds trust and (2) a refreshed legal architecture which enables the Measure to be updated and modernised, and which also facilitates the pastoral approach advocated.

The full report with several examples can be read here gs-2315-mission-pastoral- measure-review_july2023-updated.pdf (churchofengland.org)

It was good to hear so many people in the debating chamber speaking about the parish as central to the mission of the church – and many speakers told positive stories of how the local church was reaching out in service and in growth in numbers and spirituality.

There was some anxiety on my part that such accounts might make it hard if amongst us there were some who had not seen such wonderful growth. I was reminded by the wise priest who once said to me that sometimes God put us in a place that was the rocky ground in the parable of the sower. The failure of the harvest was not the fault of the farmer but the condition of the ground where he was working.

But while everyone was saying how fundamental the parish is to the Church of England there was a sense in a large section of Synod members that there had been a break down in trust between parishes and diocese … especially in relation to pastoral re- organisation. The consultation had received 1600 letters – the highest ever received for such a process – and many expressed concerns about the lack of representation by parishes in discussions.

There was a commitment from both sides that trust needs to be built again. And a shared hope that the recognition that a renewed emphasis on pastoral care contained in the review would go a long way to re-build this trust.

Fringe meeting on Sanctuary, Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Joining this fringe led to a surprise sighting of a previous vicar of Paul…..

The meeting had a number of speakers including

Paul Butler, the Bishop of Durham, who talked about the moves in the House of the Lords to amend the Government’s Illegal Migration Bill.

Find Your Welcome – an online hub for refugees , people seeking asylum and migrants. The web site offers a guide to life in the Uk and helps connect people with a local church and is available in a several languages including Arabic, Farsi, Pashto and Ukrainian.

John Perumbalath, Bishop of Liverpool, who shared biblical insights to this issue. We believe that the image of God is in every single human being. This calls for respect and care for everyone.

Rose Hudkin- Wilson, Bishop of Dover reminded us that Churches offering Sanctuary has a long tradition.In 1590 Canterbury Cathedral offered a place of worship to Hugenots fleeing persecution in France and that chapel is still in use.

Community Sponsorship Schemes We heard about Churches involved in Community Sponsorship Schemes for refugees coming to the UK under the United Nations Resettlement Scheme. We were shown a video of a project in Guildford and there amongst those involved to my delight and surprise was Tim Heaney my predecessor as vicar of Paul !

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