Wide Range of Issues Raised Under Report of Standing Committee
The work of the Standing Committee over the past year was outlined at General Synod in Derry/Londonderry this afternoon.
Proposing the report, David Webb (Dublin) paid tribute to Bishop Ken Good for his work on Standing Committee and other committees of General Synod as part of his episcopal ministry from which he is soon to retire. He also acknowledged the work of the Honorary Secretaries and the volunteers who took on roles on behalf of the Church of Ireland.
The function of Standing Committee is to carry on the work of General Synod between sessions. Mr Webb outlined some of the significant matters dealt with since last May which included:
· Establishment of a Working Group on Synodical Representation (a topic of much debate at last year’s Synod) and a special all–day meeting of the Standing Committee in Taney Parish, Dublin to discuss its work;
· Establishment of a Consultative Group on Disability;
· Revision of the regulations of the Legal Advisory Committee;
· Approval of a Conflict of Interest policy for parishes and Church of Ireland bodies and committees.
“From this list, you will gauge something of the breadth of work undertaken by those you elected to the Standing Committee. We are blessed that among those elected, there is the energy, talent and dedication to address such a wide range of matters,” he said.
Standing Committee is delighted to see the formation of the Consultative Group on Disability, he said. This group takes up the reins of the Disability Working Group and has set fresh objectives to extend the culture of accessibility to all across the range of parish activities.
Another piece of work, Mr Webb said, emerged from one of the Bills presented at General Synod last year which set out to revise the structure of membership of General Synod. A working group consisting of representation from every diocese was established to consider the issue and develop a legislative proposal for Standing Committee to bring back to General Synod. (See separate discussion.) He asked members to examine the proposals carefully and contribute to the discussion.
“Driving home from Synod last year, I remember being slightly disheartened by the tenor of debate on the bill but certainly any concerns have been allayed over the last 12 months and I must commend the incredible efforts of the Working Group for the way it has conducted itself which has involved constructive and reasoned discussion among the representatives of each of the different dioceses. It has been enlightening to witness the fellowship amongst the members of the Working Group towards achieving what is hoped is a fair proposal towards modernisation of Synodical Representation,” he said.
Mr Webb also encouraged members to share their thoughts on the report of the Facilitation Committee which was formed to follow up on the work of the Commission on Episcopal Ministry and Structures. The committee will return to Synod next year with final recommendations.
The report on Ordained Local Ministry was another aspect of the Standing Committee’s work on which he invited members’ thoughts. He thanked the Liturgical Advisory Committee and the Working Group on the Book of Common Prayer for their efforts.
Seconding the report, the Revd Ruth West drew Synod’s attention to Bishops’ Appeal and the Priorities Fund. She said that the Bishops’ Appeal Committee was thankful for the gifts from individuals, parishes and dioceses with raised €245,472 and £123,920 in 2018 although she observed that it represented a reduction in donations. The Priorities Fund in contrast, saw a rise in contributions from €603,409 in 2017 to €728,968 in 2018, she reported adding that there was a consequent rise in allocations and grants to €586,536.
Ms West also highlighted the Church and Society Commission’s report and the issues they dealt with during the year which included sustainability and environmental stewardship, the Blasphemy law in Ireland, a submission on addressing the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland and a submission on the proposal to repeal Article 41.2.2 of the Irish Constitution on the role of women in the home.
She acknowledged the work of Dr Kenneth Milne as historiographer and the Historical Centenaries Working Group. The work of the Children’s Ministry Network and the Sunday School Society was commended. She thanked Dr Bev Botting and her team for their work on the statistical information gathered in 2016.
Discussion on the report included the following points:
· The lack of input from Protestantism/Church of Ireland in the secondary education teacher training course in history and RE in DCU was raised.
· The Pennies4Plastics Appeal was raised calling for the reduction in use and production of single use plastics. The difficulties in living plastic–free were highlighted. The recently launched ‘This is a Rubbish Campaign’ which encourages people to give up one type of single use plastic for 40 days was highlighted.
· Meath and Kildare’s diocesan initiative ‘Mind Yourself’, partnering with Bishops’ Appeal, Aware and the Churches Ministry of Healing, to focus on mental health issues in the community and in Direct Provision Centres and on prayer for healing was highlighted. Summer walks will be organised in August to promote mental health awareness and to encourage people to get help and support.
· Dioceses, parishes and individuals who continued to prioritise Bishops’ Appeal were thanked. All dioceses and parishes were urged to renew their commitment.
· The scoping study between the Bishops’ Appeal and Council for Mission showed that much was being done by people within the church to raise justice issues. Both organisations will continue to collaborate on the issues identified in the study.
· Tribute was paid to Albert Smallwood for his work for Bishops’ Appeal who retired after 40 years of service.
· The work of the Children’s Ministry Network was commended for the resources it offers through its website.
· Lydia Monds and her team were commended for their work on children’s ministry.
· The work of the Church and Society Commission on climate change and biodiversity was discussed and with Student Strikes and the Extinction Rebellion, it was declared that this is a defining moment in our world. The loss of biodiversity was also highlighted. Three steps that parishes can make include: making church grounds friendly to pollinators, recycle and use keep cups instead of plastic cups, look at energy use in your church.
· The government consultation addressing the legacy of the past was raised and ensuring we move forward from the legacy of the past should be a priority for the church. However, it was said that the consultation in addressing the legacy of the past did not hear the voices of the victims of the past. It was also claimed that the history of Northern Ireland was being rewritten.
· The Church and Society Commission’s work was spoken of and in particular submissions made by CASC. However, it was said that sometimes statements were not enough – for example you can no longer talk about climate change, you have to do something. Parishes were asked to act on climate change within the next few weeks.
· The definition of the word ‘victim’ in Northern Ireland was discussed. The role of the Republic of Ireland government in the current situation was questioned and the need for transparency and access to archival records was raised. The proposed oral history archive was described as rewriting history.
· Those who contributed to the consultation on addressing the legacy of the past were thanked.
· The term ‘the legacy of the past’ implies that the issue had gone away but it was said that it had not and no resolution was in sight.
· On the climate crisis, the possibility of replanting glebe land with deciduous forestry was raised. There are grants available for this and it shows that we must and can do something to reverse the climate crisis. The woodland can also be opened to the wider community to remind people of the part they might play in the reversal of climate change.
· GDPR and its outworking in the public context was discussed. The impact of GDPR on the work of hospital chaplains was highlighted where a number of hospitals are unwilling to provide Church of Ireland chaplains, recognised and accredited by them, with the names of Church of Ireland people in the hospitals. People who would wish to be visited by a chaplain are only visited by accident of rumour and chaplains who are recognised by the hospitals cannot do what they are meant to do. The chaplains wander the wards by rumour or telepathy trying to find members of the Church of Ireland who would like to be visited.
· The work of the Historical Centenaries Working Group in highlighting the history of 100 years ago and their new reading list which focuses on the upcoming centenaries. The reading list is online on the Church of Ireland website.
· 26 candidates who have embarked on Ordained Local Ministry training have finished their first year and some will be ordained in September. 17 to 20 new candidates from nine of the 12 dioceses are waiting for training. The students are students of the Open Learning Centre at Queen’s but the courses could not be delivered without the staff of Edgehill and CITI. 24 tutors have worked through the hubs around the country.
· Priorities Fund’s income increase was explained. Priorities News and the information within were highlighted. People were encouraged to use the new online application for the Priorities Fund. Priorities administrator, Claire McAneaney, was thanked.
· The Building to Grow initiative, which is supported by Priorities, was noted.
· Concerns with the management of Safeguarding were expressed in particular the issue of governance in which diocesan safeguarding panels were internal to the dioceses rather than being governed by an outside panel. The issue of indemnity insurance for churches was also outlined.
· The amount of work that has gone into the new Safeguarding Trust was commended. The lack of laity on the Safeguarding board was questioned. The importance of evaluation for the training offered was raised.
· The Secondary Education Committee administers the block grant from the Irish government amounts to €6.5 million to assist parents who would like to send their children to Church of Ireland schools. The report is no longer dealt with under the Board of Education report and there was a request that it be returned.
· The pioneer ministry working group is seeking good news stories from right across the Church of Ireland to produce a map for the Church of Ireland website so that these stories of fresh thinking can be shared.
· The working group on refugees was thanked for the encouraging and inspiring report.
· Black Santa and St Anne’s Cathedral was thanked for their donation to the No More Traffic campaign. Parishes were encouraged to take initiatives to reach out to people who are new to communities and to look out for people who might be held under modern day slavery.
Motion No 9 dealing with the terms of reference of the Central Communications Committee was discussed under the report. Proposing the motion, CCB chairperson, Bishop Pat Storey (Meath and Kildare) asked that the committee’s revised terms be approved. She said the changes, to allow the work of the broadcasting and internet committees to be absorbed into the general business of the meetings and to enable the committee to appoint sub committees, would allow for greater flexibility in the committee’s agenda. The committee is also seeking a representative of the Liturgical Advisory Committee to be appointed to CCB, she said.
[The motions of General Synod Representation are covered in a separate report.]