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The Standing Committee of the General Synod and the Representative Body met in online formats on Tuesday, 9th March 2021.

Standing Committee

Ms Hazel Corrigan opened the meeting of the Standing Committee in prayer.

The Honorary Secretaries confirmed that the 2021 meeting of the General Synod will take place online, from Thursday, 30th September, to Saturday, 2nd October.  The final dates for the submission of bills will be 19th August (to be printed with the agenda) or 23rd September (for late bills); the final date for the submission of motions will be 2nd September.

The Standing Committee approved its report to General Synod 2021 and the reports of boards, committees, and working groups which report to Standing Committee, as appendices to the report.

The recommendations of the Priorities Fund Committee were approved.  Over the course of 2020, a total of 54 applications were received, requesting grants amounting to €991,649.  The committee recommended 36 grants, totalling €472,540.  Compared to 2019, the number of applications had decreased, as anticipated.  The diocesan targets for contributions to the Priorities Fund were reduced to 50% of previous target levels for 2020, and will be at 75% for 2021, to take account of the pressures arising from Covid–19.

A grant of €500 from the General Synod Royalties Fund was approved, to be made to Mr Colum O’Riordan, Director of the Irish Architectural Archive, for expert editorial work on the text of Dr Michael O’Neill’s proposed illustrated history of church buildings.

The Standing Committee approved the establishment of a Working Group concerning a co–ordinated response by the Church to historic institutional abuse, to report to both Standing Committee and the Representative Body at least quarterly.  The approval of the Representative Body was granted in its meeting later on the same day.

The Standing Committee considered a preliminary paper from the House of Bishops on marriages outside church buildings and supported a resolution to bring revised Marriage Regulations for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland back to Standing Committee for consideration, following further discussion by the House of Bishops.

Appointments

The Standing Committee approved the nomination of the Revd Colin Darling for nomination to Christian Aid for consideration for appointment as a Church of Ireland voluntary director of Christian Aid.

The co–option of Ms Jane Burns to the Church and Society Commission was approved.  The Standing Committee nominated the following members of the Secondary Education Committee (Republic of Ireland) to attend its AGM, with re–nomination (if appropriate) to take place in March 2022: Mr Wilfred Baker; Ms Hazel Corrigan; Mr Roy Crowe; Ms Elizabeth Hassell; the Revd Robert Jones; the Revd Ken Rue; Ms Joyce Ryder; and Ms Kara Turner.

The Revd Dr Stanley Gamble was appointed as the Church of Ireland observer on the Methodist Church’s Faith and Order Committee.  The following persons were appointed to attend at a virtual meeting of the Four Nations on 26th May 2021, comprising representatives from the four Anglican Churches in the UK and Ireland: the Archbishop of Dublin; the Bishop of Cashel; the Dean of Limerick; the Revd Canon Katharine Poulton; Ms Kate Turner; and Mr Glenn Moore.

The Standing Committee agreed that Church of Ireland representatives appointed in 2020 to annual meetings of other Churches should, if invitations are received, attend those meetings in 2021, and authorised the Honorary Secretaries to find replacement representatives if necessary.  The appointed representatives are as follows:

  • General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (1st–5th June in Belfast) – the Revd Alison Calvin and Ms Rhonda Willoughby;
  • Conference of the Methodist Church in Ireland (10th–14th June, in Lisburn) – Mr Ken Gibson and the Revd Canon Katharine Poulton;

  • Provincial Synod of the Moravian Church in Great Britain and Ireland (9th–13th July in Swanwick, Derbyshire) – the Rev Dr William Olhausen (additionally, the Rt Revd Michael Burrows to attend part of the Provincial Synod); and

  • the Very Revd John Bond to attend Society of Friends’ Ireland Yearly Meeting and Ms Gina Copty to attend as alternate.

The following Churches which were invited to send representatives to attend General Synod 2020 will be again be invited in the same manner to General Synod 2021: Presbyterian Church in Ireland; Methodist Church in Ireland; Roman Catholic Church; Irish Council of Churches; Moravian Church of Great Britain and Ireland; Church in Wales; Rock of Ages Cherubim and Seraphim; Salvation Army; and Romanian Orthodox Church in Ireland.

The meeting closed with the Grace.

Representative Body

The Archbishop of Armagh opened the meeting of the Representative Body in prayer.

The RB agreed to set diocesan levies in respect of the year 2022 as follows, with rates set as percentages of Minimum Approved Stipend in force at 1st January 2022 multiplied by the sum of the number of cures, including vacant cures, in each diocese at 30th June 2021:

  • the financing of the episcopacy – 6.0% (reduced from 6.3%);
  • Safeguarding – 0.9% (unchanged); and
  • the Clergy and Ministry Protection Fund – 0.5% (unchanged);

Canon Graham Richards warned the RB that while leaving the Safeguarding levy unchanged at 0.9% for 2022, it will have to increase this to a minimum of 1.2% for 2023 to cover expected increases in costs.

The RB adopted an amended Policy on Climate Change for 2021, as submitted by the Investment Committee and approved by the Executive Committee.  The revised Policy includes a commitment to implement additional restrictions for fossil fuel companies involved in the extraction of oil and gas, with a target to be fully divested from such stocks by 2022.

Mr David Ritchie reported on the Representative Church Body’s activities in 2020 which included the transition to remote working in line with public health guidance during the pandemic.  Mr Ritchie expressed his appreciation to members of the RB and staff for adapting to this new way of working.  Staff had supported the wider Church of Ireland through producing guidance on maintaining properties when not in use, online giving and online services, and the protocols on returning to in–church worship.

Some particular achievements included the launch of the new Safeguarding website (www.sg.ireland.anglican.org) and online Safeguarding training, and the launch of MindMattersCOI, a three–year mental health promotion project for the Church.

Mrs Kate Williams presented a review of the RB’s finances in 2020 and reported that General Funds invested assets had recovered and returned to growth in the course of the year.  World economies and markets were impacted by the emergence of Covid–19 in Q1 and into Q2, with Brexit and the US elections adding to a challenging environment.

General Funds returned a Total Return of 6.4% on invested assets; the funds reported, on a Total Return basis, a surplus of €245,000 for 2020.  The total for costs of operations and Allocations in 2020 was 3.35% against a targeted spend of 3.5%.  By December 2020, invested assets stood at €196 million, an increase of €6 million on the 2019 year–end valuation.

The reports of the Representative Body and the Church of Ireland Clergy Pensions Trustee DAC to the General Synod 2021, and the Financial Statements for 2020, were approved and adopted.  The reports of the Safeguarding Board and the Charities Registration Monitoring Working Group were approved in conjunction with the Standing Committee.

The RB approved the establishment of a working group concerning a co–ordinated response by the Church to historic institutional abuse.  Approval was also granted by the Standing Committee at its meeting earlier in the day.

Appointments

Mrs Rita Day was appointed as a member of the Property Committee.  Ms Julie Beck was appointed as a member of the Stipends Committee.  Mr Alan Hood was appointed as a Director of the Church of Ireland Clergy Pensions Trustee DAC.  The Very Revd Nigel Crossey was appointed as a member of the Commission on Ministry.  The Ven Stephen McBride was appointed to the Management Committee of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute.

The meeting closed with the Grace.

For further information please contact:

Church of Ireland Press Office 
Church of Ireland House 
61–67 Donegall Street 
Belfast, BT1 2QH 

Email: Press Office

Peter Cheney

+44 (0)7774 295 369

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