Commission on Ministry Report and Motion Presented to Synod
The Commission on Ministry presented their report to General Synod this morning .The report was proposed by the Bishop of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory.
Bishop Michael Burrows thanked all who had contributed to the work of the commission. The commission has continued their alternating programme of retirement planning for clergy and the mid ministry vocation programme for clergy. He mentioned the feasibility into a retreat centre.
Looking at opportunities for the wider church members to experience for retreat, the commission is planning a retreat in Dromantine in the latter part of the year and the Bishop encouraged a hearty level of participation.
He said the commission was looking for a steer from synod in looking at how the clergy have tenure in this Church. He said it was needed to look at rights and security to parish tenure and ask if it should be guaranteed. He said the Church of Ireland had a Victorian concept of the role of the incumbent.
Speaking to the report:
- Caution and sensitivity in the area of Ordained Local Ministry was urged. Concern was expressed that the church would be creating another order.
- The importance of reorganising the parish structures was emphasised to make it easier to minister. The prayer book has been revised, there is a cross on the Communion Table, lighted candles, diocesan readers, is it time to revise the way parishes function.
- The need to identify with the people where they are was highlighted, by ecumenical visitor, Major Stuart Dicker of the Salvation Army. The plight of homeless people was raised and the need to reach out to them.
- There should be an opportunity for the whole church to look at the question of tenure.
- On the issue of tenure is time to learn from general society on the relationship between those who are given the task of leadership and those who serve. Bishops have no power to deal with things if problems arise.
- Clergy are not employees but are following a vocation. It is a way of life not a job. The only security clergy have is the tenure. The removal tenure will leave clergy vulnerable. Clergy have no protection and there is no way of coming back to defend themselves. Clergy can disagree with their bishops.
- The concept of Local Ordained Ministry was deemed exciting. Discussions need to be had around tenure.
- Ordained Local Ministry addresses a problem which has existed for a long time and the bishops were commended in trying to find a solution. Concern was expressed regarding centralisation of diocesan reader training.
- It is important for parish clergy to have tenure but tenure without appropriate accountability can present difficulties.
- One of the key planks in the new programme for training for ordination was that there would just be one track to ordination and ordained local ministry looked like creating a second track. There is an issue around tenure and accountability.
Responding to the debate the Bishop thanked all for their contributions and said the commission was aware of the delicacy and sensitivity and balance needed in these considerations.
A motion urging Synod to commend the Feasibility Study in regard to the potential development of a place of community prayer, retreat, hospitality and study for discussion and response in the wider Church and particularly requesting the RB to consider its findings in the context of their stewardship of the Church’s assets as the 150th anniversary of Disestablishment approaches.
Proposing the motion Bishop Burrows referred members to the feasibility study which makes it plain that there is a felt need for the development. He said they were grateful to the Priorities Fund for enabling it to be explored.
Seconding the motion, the Revd Ruth Noble spoke of the blessing of the cost of a proposed retreat venue. She said it was not an easy option or proposal. The cost is not just financial but also costly in commitment to form a community, not just a building for get togethers, meetings and nights away. If it does not have a beating heart of community it is nothing.
Speaking of the need and want for a retreat centre she said there was a need for Church of Ireland people to have a place of comfort to explore prayer and silence and retreat. Silence is missing from so many situations today and it is needed to open ourselves to silence and God and as a Church we need to experience God in this way. She said this would be a service to the wider Church. This would also provide structures to build up our prayer life.
Discussion on the motion included the following points:
- The stress of ministry was highlighted and a place is needed where clergy can go to revitalise themselves. Many areas of ministry could benefit from having a physical place where discussions and spiritual thoughts could happen.
- There were two Church of Ireland centres but they were let go because we couldn’t afford them. Where will the resources come from to do this. There are places there that we can use. Use what is there rather than commit ourselves to something which could become an albatross.
- The RB was asked to concert Clonfert for a retreat centre. The Church already owns land there. It is a holy place and could be for the Church of Ireland the equivalent of Iona for the Church of Scotland.
- The figures being quoted in the report are overly ambitious. We should be conscious of stewardship of the money we have.
- The costs are based on a volunteer programme and bed occupancy during the week may be a struggle. If the money was available all possibilities for spending it should be considered and ranked.
- Don’t build too quickly. Should we build a movement instead of a monument. Build a community first and then a building. We should seek to build a movement of prayer, community and welcome.
An amendment was proposed by Robert Neill to delete the words ‘as the 150th Anniversary of Disestablishment approaches’. He said the RCB was running at a deficit and could not expect to produce anything in that time. Bishop Burrows said the coming anniversary sparked the idea but it would still come whether or not it was publicised. He said it was an aspirational motion and may require the building of a community rather than a place. The motion is capable of a rich variety of interpretations. He said it catches a mood and it was important to meet the need for a reengagement with the concept of community.
The amended motion was passed.
A motion on the membership of the commission was passed.