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April 2016 Standing Committee News

The Standing Committee of the General Synod met on Tuesday 12th April 2016 in Church House, Dublin. The meeting was chaired by the Archbishop of Dublin. Mr Ken Gibson opened with a scripture reading and prayers, including prayers for the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council taking place in Lusaka, Zambia, and for the Archbishop of Armagh, Mr Wilfred Baker and Canon Maurice Elliott attending the ACC meeting.

A minute’s silence was held to remember the late Canon Edgar Turner and to pray for his family in their recent bereavement. Archbishop Michael Jackson recalled Canon Turner’s fair–mindedness and his exceptional commitment to the life of the Church of Ireland over so many years.

Archbishop Jackson welcomed the incoming Chief Officer and Secretary General, Mr David Ritchie, to his first meeting of the Standing Committee and Mr Ritchie thanked him for his kind welcome and the welcome he had received from the RCB staff over the previous week. He said he looked forward to working with people across the Church.

Honorary Secretaries’ Report
Mr Sam Harper provided a report from the Honorary Secretaries. He relayed that plans and arrangements for the General Synod in Dun Laoghaire are well underway.

Mr Harper reported that a list of c.800 charities associated with the Church of Ireland in the Republic of Ireland had been compiled and sent to the Charities Regulatory Authority (CRA) in advance of the 16 April deadline, as agreed and in compliance with CRA requirements.

On the recommendation of the Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue and the Honorary Secretaries and following the resolution passed at the March meeting of the Standing Committee, the following representatives of the Church of Ireland will be delegates at meetings of other Churches: Bishop Harold Miller and Mrs Helen McClenaghan will attend the Annual Methodist Conference in Portadown from 15th to 19th June, and Archdeacon George Davison and Mrs Hilary McClay will attend the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland to be held in Belfast from 6th to 10th June.

A brief report from the Select Committee on Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief provided by Archdeacon George Davison was received by members. The Select Committee has to date produced its Guide to the Conversation and a resource pack including study modules will be distributed to parishes in due course. It is hoped that the resource pack will be used by parishes during the autumn of 2016 and each diocese has appointed a representative to act as a point of contact.

A report from Mrs Daphne Townsend, liaison person with PACT, on her attendance at its AGM was also noted.

Long–term Church
Mr Adrian Clements provided a verbal update on a range of developments under the umbrella of the ‘Long–term Church’ initiative. It is envisaged that a person will be appointed shortly to help assist parishes in their future planning for long–term financial sustainability. Work is also ongoing in relation to providing a simple and easily accessed guide to the duties of Select Vestry members, drawing inspiration from the Parish Handbook.

The RCB is looking to progress a pilot project to work in partnership with parishes in regularising the work of local trustees, ensuring that security of title of parish assets and governance is complied with as trustees begin to register activities under the new charities legislation; this is a process which will inevitably take considerable time.

Mr Clements also reported that the RCB is keen to respond to the current consultative planning process in Northern Ireland on ecclesiastical exemption for listed church buildings and is taking appropriate advice; the maintenance of architectural heritage is important yet must be carefully balanced with the needs of churches to function as living places of worship.

Finally, Mr Clements relayed the RCB’s intention to lobby on VAT in the Republic of Ireland and the cost to charities in concert with other Churches in coming months.

Children’s Ministry
Mr Ken Gibson reported on the Honorary Secretaries’ recent encouraging meeting with a dynamic and enthusiastic group from the Children’s Ministry Network, Boards of Education, and Sunday School Society. He stressed how critical work with children is to the life of the Church. Standing Committee passed a resolution to support and encourage the ongoing discussions in making children’s ministry a central and integral part of the life of the Church of Ireland, and endorsed the projects that are currently working to develop children’s ministry.

Mr Sam Harper drew attention to the fact that two upcoming Bills at General Synod relating to episcopal ministry and structures would, if passed, require consequential future legislation. The considerable work of the Commission on Episcopal Ministry and Structures (CEMS) under its chairman, Mrs Ethne Harkness, was noted and thanks expressed.

The Bishop of Cork closed the meeting with prayer.

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