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Day 2

Work of Standing Committee Looks to the Future of the Church

Work of Standing Committee Looks to the Future of the Church

The wide–ranging work of Standing Committee over the last year is outlined in its report which was presented to General Synod in Wexford today (Saturday May 13).

The report turns a spotlight on the work of the Episcopal Electoral Process Review Group and (jointly with the RCB) the working groups on the future of curacies and third level chaplaincy. The Historical Centenaries Working Group has now reached the end of its term while the Consultative Group on Disability is seeking to raise its profile.

Following its launch service in February, the Pioneer Ministry Leadership Team is promoting their plans to develop a movement to reach those with little or no connection to the good news of Jesus Christ through projects in the variety of contexts in which we serve across the island.

Proposing the report, Lucy Michael noted that Standing Committee had come out of the Covid lockdown period with a very full agenda which was reflected in the number of new committees set up to undertake fresh projects to support different aspects of the life of the Church of Ireland. She said that there was a significant emphasis on looking to the future.

“There is no doubt that the General Synod needs to give some serious consideration to various ministries of the Church and how they are, indeed, to be financed and sustained, because we are facing a struggle at many different levels and our membership is ageing and our potential for raising income is, sadly, challenged just as we need to be dynamic and creative in structuring the Church for the upcoming generations,” she commented.

Ms Michael observed that tomorrow’s Church must be fully inclusive to people of every background and experience, including those who come to Ireland from other places and traditions as well as people of all abilities. “. It would be enormously helpful at every level of the church for us to be more imaginative about, and open to, using people’s talents in new and different ways, including in decision making. To this end, the Consultative Group on Disability is also reviewing its method of working to become more pro–active in supporting parishes and other bodies of the Church to incorporate provision for all in their thinking,” she said.

Highlighting the work of the Priorities Committee she said that this year the Priorities Fund had supported 33 projects to the value of €455,802 in four categories: outreach initiatives, Christian education, innovative ministry in a rural context and training for Lay and Ordained members of the Church.

The new phase in the relationship with the Moravian Church had begun, Ms Michael reported, with a focused conversation, led by Bishop Michael Burrows, leading towards establishing interchangeability of ministry between the Church of Ireland and the Moravian Church in Great Britain and Ireland.

On behalf of Standing Committee she thanked the members of the Historical Centenaries Working Group who are concluding their work after 10 years of recognition and reflection on the various historical centenaries.

She also commended the work of the Working Group Considering a Coordinated Response by the Church to Historic Institutional Abuse which is engaging with the State in each jurisdiction.

Those who had responded to the consultation conducted by another new working group which is reviewing the operation of the revised process for episcopal elections who will be reporting to General Synod next year.

Ms Michael concluded by expressing the thanks of Standing Committee to all the volunteers contributing so effectively and enthusiastically at all levels of church life. “We value your contribution and the many hours of work that you are giving to the Church – without you the Church of Ireland would not be the thriving and dynamic Church it is today,” she stated.

The report was seconded by the Revd Henry Blair who spoke of the development in voting that is proposed by Standing Committee which would facilitate voting in Standing Committee elections to take place via electronic communications technology as opposed to solely via postal ballot. He also spoke of the issue of clergy tenure and the forthcoming motion.

Mr Blair reported that Standing Committee had decided that a church–wide census would take place again in 2024 which would present an opportunity to assess the state of the Church in the post–pandemic world.

Another important issue that had been looked at in the past year was the review of the Dignity in Church Life Bullying and Harassment Policy, he said. He concluded by thanking all who volunteered their time and energy to participate in Standing Committee and all the committees and boards operating under General Synod.

Debate on the Report

Speaking on the report Roy Totten (Connor) thanked Dr Michael for her kind words about the Priorities Committee and Gordon Woods of the RCB for his work and all those who work for the fund. He thanked each parish for continuing to support the Priorities Fund.

Ethne McCourt (Clogher) noted that the co–opted members of Standing Committee were all clerical and said that the laity was a very reduced minority on a very important body.

The Revd Helene Steed (Down) said she was delighted that there was a solid policy for parental leave. But she was a bit surprised that her male colleagues get just two weeks of parental leave while my female colleagues get 26 weeks maternity leave. Meanwhile, she said male colleagues could get 26 weeks parental leave if they adopted a child.

June Butler (Down) spoke on the Church and Society Commission and drew Synod’s attention to the cost of living section. She commended Peter Cheney in the Press Office for his creation of a central hub of materials for dealing with the cost of living crisis. Speaking about domestic violence she encouraged parishes to engage with Mothers’ Union to highlight the issue.

Joan Bruton (Meath and Kildare) spoke on the Consultative Group on Disability and said that the group must go out and talk to people with disabilities and support them on a parish level. She said people would be quite surprised at what people with disabilities have to deal with in their every day lives. She asked every member of Synod to be champions for people with disabilities.

Desmond Thorp (Ferns Cashel and Ossory) talked about the importance of learning from history and spoke of the war in Ukraine. Referring to St Francis’ prayer ‘Make me a channel of your peace’. He said people felt helpless but their calling was to be a channel of peace. He said that we celebrated 25 years of the Good Friday Agreement which started from humble origins and noted that there was the issue of the high moral ground – is it the right of a country to defend itself against an unjustified aggressor or is the moral high ground to stop the killing. He said that Ireland and the Church of Ireland could be honest brokers for peace.

The Revd David Bowles (Cork Cloyne and Ross) said he had spent the past number of years in Moviddy Union and had been previously unaware of a lot of the history of what happened 100 years ago all over Ireland but particularly in Cork. He thanked the Bishop of Cork who worked so hard to educate people in the history of their areas. He commended the Bishop for the way in which it was handled.

Archdeacon Robert Miller (Derry and Raphoe) spoke about the Priorities Fund and its award for their Walled City Passion from Maundy Thursday to Saturday. It will run again next year and will include a fringe festival on trauma informed practice. He said that the Priorities Fund’s generosity meant that they could get further funding from other organisations. “The confidence and risk that Priorities are prepared to take allows small projects to flourish,” he said adding that it gives other funders confidence to invest. He encouraged other parishes who had an idea to contact the Priorities Fund.

Bishop Ian Ellis (Clogher) spoke of the Church of Ireland Safeguarding Board. He commended the work of the Safeguarding Officers, Gillian Taylor and Robert Dunne, who he said brought rigour and expertise to their work. He also thanked those who worked at diocesan and parish level. He spoke of areas of the board’s policy work. He said that child protection could not be taken for granted.

Bishop Ferran Glenfield (Kilmore Elphin and Ardagh) commended the report of the Bishops’ Appeal. He paid tribute to Lydia Monds who has retired as education officer after 12 years and thanked her for her service. Turning to the war in Ukraine, he said that over €600,000 was raised for the Ukrainian appeal from people in the Church of Ireland. He thanked parishes and people for their magnificent response. The money had been channelled through Christian Aid, Tearfund and Habitat for Humanity.

Bishop George Davison commended the work of the Church of Ireland Board for Ministry with Children and Families. He said that when a child was baptised the whole church made promises for them and that the recently established Board worked to support parishes in this work. He pointed to the many resources available on the website and on social media. There were also a wide range of training opportunities available to parishes in nurturing the life of children in the church. He said that children and families were a vital part of the Church here and now.

Bishop Pat Storey (Meath and Kildare) spoke on behalf of the Central Communications Board in paying tribute to the late Dean Alistair Grimason and conveyed the board’s sympathies with his family.

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