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March 2017 Standing Committee & Representative Body News

Members of the Facilitation Committee: Mr Ken Gibson, Mr Robert Neill and the Ven Robin Bantry White.
Members of the Facilitation Committee: Mr Ken Gibson, Mr Robert Neill and the Ven Robin Bantry White.

The Standing Committee of the General Synod met on Tuesday 14th March 2017 in Church House, Dublin. The meeting was opened in prayer by Mr Ken Gibson, who made reference to the forthcoming services for St Patrick’s Day and prayed for those affected by the loss of the Irish Coast Guard helicopter earlier that morning.

Mrs Hazel Corrigan was welcomed to her first Standing Committee meeting as an Honorary Secretary and the Revd Canon Gillian Wharton was congratulated on her appointment as a Canon of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. The meeting was also attended, in part, by Mrs Sylvia Simpson, Priorities Fund Organiser, for Priorities Fund business, and Ms Mary–Rose McLoughlin, the newly appointed Human Resources Manager with the Representative Church Body. Ms McLoughlin’s remit will initially focus on the work of the RCB; queries in relation to diocesan human resources matters should continue to be directed to diocesan secretaries. The Bishop of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory and the Revd Gillian Wharton reported on their statement and participation in a question and answer session on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland at the Citizens’ Assembly.

Bishop Sam Poyntz

The Archbishop of Armagh paid a warm tribute to the late Rt Revd Sam Poyntz, recalling his huge contribution to the Church over the course of more than 50 years, which included the establishment of the Bishops’ Appeal. Full of energy, idealism and ideas, he demonstrated fearlessness as Bishop of Connor during the later years of the Troubles. The Archbishop expressed Standing Committee’s sympathy to the Bishop’s family and members observed a moment of quiet in his memory as a mark of respect. 

Priorities Fund

Mr Roy Totten, Chairman of the Priorities Fund Committee, reported on the work of the Priorities Fund, which has recommended 56 grants for 2017 totalling €512,780. The average success rate for applications was 75 per cent. Potential applicants are encouraged to get in touch with Priorities Fund Committee members before submitting an application, as this can help to assess the best way forward. Standing Committee approved the Priorities Fund’s report and recommendations, and accounts for the year ended 31 December 2016. Mrs Hazel Corrigan was also appointed as a member of the committee.

Refugees

Members welcomed a report from the Refugee Working Groups and the planned publication of a resource on supporting asylum seekers and refugees. Concern was expressed at the closure of a UK Government scheme to accommodate unaccompanied children seeking asylum, under the ‘Dubs amendment’. Members also highlighted the work of Home for Good, a UK Christian charity seeking to foster unaccompanied children, and the Fáilte Isteach programme, which helps migrants in the Republic of Ireland to learn English. 

General Synod

The Honorary Secretaries undertook to consider a new procedure for bills following this year’s General Synod. Members of the General Synod were encouraged to attend the Synod Eucharist, to take place in St Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, at 10am on Thursday, 4th May. Standing Committee also approved a letter to clergy to assess the level of demand for an interim print run for the current edition of the Book of Common Prayer, prior to the printing of a new edition next year.

Appointments

Standing Committee appointed three members to the Facilitation Committee: Mr Ken Gibson, Mr Robert Neill, and the Ven Robin Bantry White. The committee will engage in discussion with each of the 12 dioceses about the issues raised by the work of the Commission on Episcopal Ministry and Structures. The Bishop of Clogher and Dr Elizabeth Leonard were appointed to attend the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, in Belfast (5th–9th June). Archdeacon Andrew Forster and Ms Georgina Copty were appointed to attend the Methodist Church’s annual conference, in Lisburn (14–18th June). Mr Adrian Clements was appointed as a member of the Association of Church of Ireland Press Ltd. The Archbishop of Armagh closed the meeting in prayer.

 

Representative Body News

The Representative Body of the Church of Ireland met on Tuesday, 14th March, at Church House, Dublin. The Archbishop of Armagh opened the meeting in prayer. Mr Henry Saville, Chairman of the Executive Committee, in reporting on the work of that committee since the last meeting of the Representative Body, outlined the ‘total return’ approach to accounting (adopted in 2012). Total return is a tool to determine the appropriate amount of income and capital appreciation that can be spent so as to preserve the capital base for the future.

Funds

The RCB managed funds have performed well in recent years but the expectation is that short–term investment returns will decline due to the low interest rate environment. There is a need to keep the approach under continual review, in order to ensure that there is no erosion of capital in the medium to long term. Mrs Kate Williams, Head of Finance, made a presentation on the financial statements for approval by the RB for the year ending 31 December 2016, and also summarised the performance of General Funds and Specific Trusts since 2012. It was acknowledged that the RCB should seek ways to increase income and to reduce costs through the use of technology.

General Funds total funds employed increased from €140.5 million in 2012 to €188.6 million at the end of 2016. General Funds had therefore increased by over €48 million in that period despite supporting withdrawals of over €50 million i.e. €14 million for the cost of operations, €20 million in allocations, €17 million to the Clergy Pension Fund and Staff Pension Fund.

The financial statements for 31 December 2016 were discussed and approved, with Canon Graham Richards appointed to propose the report to General Synod and the Bishop of Limerick to second the report. 

Withdrawals from General Funds (%) 2012-2016
Withdrawals from General Funds (%) 2012-2016

 

Levies

The RB resolved that the percentage rates for 2018 levies for the financing of the episcopacy, child protection officers, and the Clergy and Ministry Protection Fund, would remain unchanged. Approved levies are published each year in the Book of Reports.

Climate change policy

Mr Henry Saville reported that the environmental and social governance (ESG) policy had been approved in December 2016; the revised climate change policy was presented for approval as part of the Annual Report and was subsequently adopted.

Parish resources

Mr David Ritchie made a presentation on the new Parish Resources section on the Church of Ireland website (www.ireland.anglican.org/parish–resources). The section provides parish–relevant information covering select vestry roles, parish finances, people and community, and generous giving, and now includes resources on land and buildings; members were encouraged to make it more widely known within the Church. Parish Resources is an example of how the RCB is seeking to support parishes and dioceses with access to resources using cost–effective technology.

The Archbishop of Armagh closed the meeting in prayer.

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