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RB & Standing Committee News

RB & Standing Committee News

The Church of Ireland’s Representative Body met in the former Church of Ireland College of Education Chapel, in Rathmines, on the morning of Tuesday, 19th September 2023; the Standing Committee of the General Synod met in the same venue in the afternoon.

Representative Body

The Archbishop of Armagh opened the Representative Body meeting in prayer and thanked two members who were approaching retirement: Archdeacon Roderic West (Down & Dromore) and Mr Kevin Bowers (Meath & Kildare).  The meeting noted the election of Mr Michael Johnston (Down & Dromore) and Mr Oswyn Paulin (Connor) to the Representative Body.

Presenting the Executive Committee report, Mr Henry Algeo thanked Mr Geoffrey Perrin and Mr Kevin Bowers on their retirement from the Executive, and for their contribution and long service to the Church.  Mr Algeo also highlighted the resounding success of the MindMatters COI mental health awareness initiative and noted the move of central church staff based in Belfast to new offices in the Cathedral Quarter, and the move for Down and Dromore and Connor diocesan staff to the Titanic Quarter.

The annual Environment, Social and Governance Investment Policy Statement for 2024 was approved, to include a full prohibition on investments in the production of controversial weapons (which comprise chemical, biological and incendiary weapons) or their key components.  This stands alongside restrictions on investments where more than 10% of revenue is generated from the production of conventional weapons (including key parts and services), the extraction of fossil fuels, and the manufacture of tobacco products.

Mr Leslie Ruttle was appointed as the new Chairperson of the Investment Committee, succeeding Mr Kevin Bowers on his retirement, to hold office for the rest of the current term until September 2025.

The meeting concluded with the Grace.

Standing Committee

Canon Gillian Wharton opened the Standing Committee meeting with a reading from Luke chapter 7 and in prayer, remembering the Season of Creation and the challenges ahead for communities in the transition away from fossil fuels, and seeking an end to the war in Ukraine, and all oppression and greed.

The Honorary Secretaries reported their proposal that the in–person meeting of the 2025 General Synod be held in Lawlor’s Hotel, Naas, Co. Kildare, on Friday, 9th May, and Saturday, 10th May, with the third day held via remote session on Tuesday, 13th May, and Thursday, 15th May (if required).

General Synod 2024 will take place in the Armagh City Hotel on Friday, 10th May, and Saturday, 11th May, with the third day taking place remotely on the evening of Tuesday, 14th May, and the evening of Thursday, 16th May (if required).

The Honorary Secretaries announced the appointment of the Very Revd Gregory Dunstan as deputy editor of the General Synod Journal to work alongside the editor, Canon Dr Kenneth Milne.

The Standing Committee approved an increase in Minimum Approved Stipend by 7.9% in Northern Ireland and 6.1% in the Republic of Ireland to take effect from 1st January 2024.  Minimum Approved Stipend will therefore be £36,578 and €44,657 respectively in 2024.  These increases, in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in each jurisdiction, reflect the approach taken by the Representative Body’s Stipends Committee for over a decade.  Recommendations regarding stipends and clergy pensions are made by the Representative Body for consideration by the Standing Committee.

The Standing Committee also approved a reduction in the levy to be paid by dioceses towards the solvency of the Clergy Pensions Fund – reduced from 13% to 3% of Minimum Approved Stipend – to also take effect from 1st January 2024.

The following appointments were made:

  • Canon Kevin O’Brien, Dr Bridget Nichols, Dr Ryan Hawk, and Mr Femi Atoyebi to the Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue;
  • Professor Noel Purdy to the Advisory Council to the Church of Ireland Centre at Dublin City University; and
  • Ms Faith Sithole to the Bishops’ Appeal Advisory Committee.

The Standing Committee agreed that the Honorary Secretaries and the Chair of the Church and Society Commission, Archbishop Michael Jackson, should initiate a process to seek expressions of interest to fill five current vacancies on the Commission.

The meeting concluded with the Grace.

Shared business

A working group set up by the Standing Committee, in January 2023, to look at curacies reported its findings to both meetings.  The working group consulted widely with curates and with training rectors.  The three areas that were highlighted in the report were: funding, housing and training.  There were a number of recommendations which will be actioned over the coming months and reported on to both the Representative Body and the Standing Committee.  

A Third Level Chaplaincy Review Group was also set up as a sub–committee of the Standing Committee in January 2023, to consider the provision of and support for chaplaincies at institutions of third level education, and it also reported on its work and findings to both meetings.  There is a multiplicity of approaches to chaplaincy across all universities and colleges in both jurisdictions, and a one–size–fits–all approach is not possible.  The review group’s recommendations included progressing the recognition and integration of chaplains and chaplaincy ministry within the structures of the Church; co–ordination of a national chaplaincy programme; a chaplaincy network for support; and a training programme for third level chaplains.

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