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March 2015 Standing Committee News

The Standing Committee of the General Synod met on Tuesday the 10th March 2015 in Church House, Dublin. The meeting was chaired by the Archbishop of Armagh and by the Archbishop of Dublin. Mrs Ethne Harkness led the meeting in a scripture reading and prayers before business commenced.

Priorities Fund Grants
The Chairman of the Priorities Fund Committee, Mr Roy Totten, presented its report and recommendations for 2015 grants from the 2014 fund to the Standing Committee for its consideration. Mr Totten outlined how the Fund recommended 54 grants totalling €566,202, having received 82 applications requesting grants of c. €1.9m, and he noted that grants towards four church plants were included – these commit to further resources from future years in order to encourage sustainability over 2–3 year periods.

After discussion, the report and recommendations were received and adopted. As recommended by the Priorities Fund Committee, and in order to try to keep level with inflation, it was agreed that the diocesan targets for contributions to the 2016 fund should be increased by 1%.

The Archbishop of Armagh expressed sincere thanks to Mr Totten, the members of the Priorities Fund Committee and to its Organiser, Mrs Sylvia Simpson.

Commission on Episcopal Ministry and Structures
Mrs Ethne Harkness provided a verbal update on the work of the Commission on Episcopal Ministry and Structures. The Commission intends to present information flowing from its work to date in the form of a report and a leaflet at General Synod in May.

Central Communications Board
The Most Revd Pat Storey, Bishop of Meath and Kildare, was elected to the Central Communications Board to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of the Rt Revd Trevor Williams last year.

‘Long Term Church’ and General Synod 2015 Bills
Mr Adrian Clements, Secretary General of the RCB, gave an update on two projects being undertaken under the heading ‘Long Term Church’: parish financial development and sustainability and human resources issues. Following this, the Standing Committee approved draft Bills on a Clergy and Ministry Protection Fund; a Bill on Permanent Incapacity of Clergy on Medical Grounds and a Bill on the Adoption of the Dignity in Church Life Charter and referred these to the Bills Committee for further consideration before they come before General Synod.

The Standing Committee also approved a draft Bill on Charitable Purposes and Objects and Statement of Public Benefit and referred it to the Bills Committee for further consideration. Under charities legislation in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, every organisation seeking charitable status must have charitable objects and purposes. Both jurisdictions also have public benefit requirements but in the Republic of Ireland’s charity act it is presumed, unless proved otherwise, that a gift for the advancement of religion is of public benefit. The Charities Registration Monitoring Group is, therefore, recommending the adoption of a statute to specify Charitable Purposes and Objects and (in Northern Ireland) a Statement of Public Benefit for Church of Ireland Select Vestries, Cathedral Boards and other equivalent bodies seeking to register as charities.

General Synod 2015 and New Arrangements for Day 1
It was resolved that the General Synod this year will start on Thursday 7 May 2015 with a service of Holy Communion at 10:30am in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh followed by the beginning of Synod business at 12 noon in Armagh City Hotel. The change to the time of the Synod service follows feedback about previous arrangements for the service falling after the first day’s business and reflects a desire to begin General Synod with an act of congregational worship.

The Standing Committee approved reports for the Synod Book of Reports, a draft rota for issuing invitations to other churches to send representatives to the General Synod and also requested the Honorary Secretaries to issue an invitation to the Religious Society of Friends to send a representative to the General Synod 2015.

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