Representative Church Body Back to ‘Full Stretch’ General Synod Hears
Representative Church Body Back to ‘Full Stretch’ General Synod Hears
Having come out of the pandemic, the activity of the Representative Church Body is back to full stretch, the Church of Ireland General Synod heard at its online session this evening (Tuesday May 16).
Commending the report of the RCB to members of Synod, chairperson of the RB Executive Committee, Henry Algeo, outlined the financial position of the Church and the activities of the RCB over the past year.
He reported that the total income for 2022 was €7.55 million. The cost of operations and allocations came to €6.53 million and the amount applied to cost of living grants to retired clergy was €0.95 million. This resulted in a surplus for the year of €70,000.
Mr Algeo paid tribute to the Finance Department which he said had performed its work to a high professional standard producing accounts that earned the praise of the auditors PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
Across the RB there were a number of projects in 2022 which required input from Legal Department, Investment Department, Finance and Human Resources, which included the following: External Fund Manager onboarding, IORP II Directive Implementation, Clergy Pension Fund Solvency Reviews, New Payroll Software and Guidance for Parish Charities Financial Statements.
He said that this was the first year in which investments were managed by external fund managers which required significant change in the Investment Department. Pensions had been one of the most challenging areas of activity over the past year, he reported. The Pension Investment Group was established in 2021 to prepare for an exit from the pension funding agreement in December 2023. Assisted by the actuary the group had grappled with the issues of solvency, future pension awards, establishing a contingent asset of €20 million to facilitate future growth, adapting to changing Pension Authority regulation and also trustee training requirements. He said that it seemed that the 10–year funding plan agreed with the regulator would deliver its intended objective of meeting the existing liabilities of the clergy pension fund but it was less certain that this would permit for any future increases to be made to pensions in payment under the old scheme.
Mr Algeo outlined a number of developments including the launch of Pioneer Ministry and the establishment of the Pioneer Ministry Council. MindMattersCOI continued to fulfil expectations with the distribution of seed funding to 74 projects across the island, he said, expressing gratitude to Benefact Trust and Bishop Pat Storey and her team. He said that the RCB had introduced a flexible working scheme of which many staff had availed and the success of which was being evaluated. The Library and Archives Committee had had a busy year with additional activity following the discovery of mould in some of the oldest books which related to the lack of activity in the library during lockdown, he said. Property and Trusts continued to be busy also as it administered over 20,000 trusts and sales and purchases of church buildings were constant.
He concluded by thanking the staff of the RCB, led by the Chief Officer David Ritchie, for all that they do.
Seconding the report, the Revd Nicola Halford said she was reminded of the fourth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, verse 11 which states: Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelist, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” She wondered if Paul was writing to the Church of Ireland today if he would have expanded the roles to include property managers, lawyers, accountants and safeguarding advisors.
Highlighting the importance of Central Church’s support at parish level she said: “The context of the early church was much different to our present day, but there is also radical difference to the church that we were just 50 years ago. I know that the issues of compliance has been mentioned numerous times over our two, in–person days in Whites hotel but there really has been a tidal wave of office work connected to GDPR, Charities regulations, Heritage regulations, Safeguarding measures and so much more. This is where the work of the RCB can really assist us on a parochial level. While parish ministry, to a certain extent, is unique and self–contained, each parish is also part of a bigger whole, both diocesan and church wide, which raises two questions, firstly what services should be provided centrally, and secondly how connected should we be as an all–island church.
Ms Halford said that as all our churches were subject to similar charities regulation, safeguarding policies and data protection regulations, it was appropriate that resources be prepared centrally to facilitate a consistent standard and approach to dealing with parish compliance. She expressed gratitude to the RCB for the resources provided, much of which is available on the Parish Resources section of the Church of Ireland website.
Referring to the Lighten Our Darkness group from Mullingar who gave a presentation to Synod on Friday afternoon, Ms Halford reminded members that the young people urged Synod to be proactive about climate change. She welcomed the new RCB climate change policy in this year’s book of reports with its focus on energy usage, transport, waste and biodiversity.
Highlighting a number of other aspects of the report of the RCB, she welcomed the parish mission grants and funding for youth work and the Children’s and Families’ Worker. She also welcomed the work going on in cathedrals across the island. Looking to the future she saw an increased role for the RCB in its support for Pioneer Ministry, chaplaincy, clergy wellbeing and missional opportunities that would develop in the years ahead.
Discussion on the Report
Speaking to the report, Stephen Trew welcomed the introduction of the Properties, Energy and Efficiencies grant. “Last year I spoke at General Synod in Belfast and suggested an energy efficiency fund of this type. I am delighted that this fund has been produced this year. I would really encourage anyone to bring forward ideas that the whole church can take up and can help us all. I think it shows that over the last decade that the RCB has completely transformed to a leading organisation on the environment . It is up to each parish and each dioceoces to begin to be transformed so that we can lead change in our communities in the climate crisis,” he stated. He said parishes could take a lead to set an example by doing improvements in their own churches – this could be low energy lighting, improved insulation, more efficient heating. He suggested that parishes should complete a carbon audit at 360carbon.org.
Bishop Pat Storey spoke about MindMattersCOI which ends with a conference in October which she encouraged members to sign up for. She thanked the RCB team – Rebekah Fozzard, Robert Dunne, Eddie Hallissey and Christine Coady and said they hoped to continue a focus on mental health in the future.
The allocations were proposed by Lyndon McCann and agreed by Synod as follows:
|A Maintenance of the stipendiary ministry|
|• Episcopal costs||€958,637|
|• Chaplaincy costs||€299,157|
|B. Pension related costs||€99,136|
|C. Training of ordinands||€1,101,092|
|D. General Synod activities||€1,149,056|
|F. Pioneer Ministry||€190,25|