Diocesan Synod, June 2023
LIVING IN LOVE AND FAITH
This session of our Diocesan Synod included a chance to consider the national Church of England’s Living in Love and Faith (LLF) process and also the proposals from bishops to February’s General Synod regarding prayers of blessing for same-sex couples.
After the Eucharist in our cathedral, synod members heard from three individuals who gave us their response to the LLF process and the proposals passed by General Synod. The Rev Paul Chamberlain, vicar of St Faith’s, Lee-on-the-Solent; the Rev Susie Collingridge, area dean of Petersfield; and Debbie Sutton, lay chair of our Diocesan Synod, each shared their personal reflections.
Later in the day, Bishop Jonathan gave an update, which included sharing the full LLF motion, as amended on the floor of February’s General Synod. He repeated that there is a lot that holds us together in the Church of England, and that the doctrine of Holy Matrimony won’t be changed by the suite of prayers that can be used for those in same-sex relationships.
The bishop indicated that the three working groups created by General Synod to take this forward (looking at the draft Prayers of Love and Faith; the Pastoral Guidance; and Pastoral Assurance) would be making an update at the July General Synod. Our Diocesan Synod members were invited to split into small groups to consider what questions they’d like to ask each of the three groups. Other questions can be asked via LLF.email@example.com – an email address which will direct those questions to the bishop’s office.
Synod members had received a report about safeguarding in our diocese from Emily Hassan, our safeguarding manager, which can be read here. Members commented that they appreciated the response they received when contacting our safeguarding team.
ANNUAL REPORT AND ACCOUNTS
Elaine Aplin presented our annual report and diocesan accounts for 2022, which can be read here. Her Powerpoint presentation can be seen here. She explained that our 2022 accounts showed income of £6.7m, expenditure of £6.9m and a deficit of £144,000 to our unrestricted general fund. Parish share had been steady, with around £10,000 more collected than in 2021, which meant the collection rate had fallen as the 2022 ask was greater than 2021. Central staff and clergy had seen a two percent increase in salary and stipends. And in 2022, we’d started to pay interest on our Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan (CBIL).
Looking at all funds in 2022, there was a £350,000 operating surplus (before revaluation of property assets and investments), which included investment income and Energy and Hardship grants.. Our income included £490,000 from the national C of E in 2021 which had been used to repay some of our CBIL. We had spent less on clergy renumeration than expected because of a delay in recruitment.
Answering questions, Bishop Jonathan explained that between 15 and 18 posts had been filled over the past few months, and that he was keen to see further clergy properly and strategically appointed, especially on the Isle of Wight. In answer to a question about the parish share review, he spoke about our forthcoming focus on stewardship as part of Generosity Week at the end of September. This would become an annual focus.
General Synod member Rebecca Hunt gave members of our synod a preview of what General Synod would discuss at their July meeting. Among the items on the agenda are: a new Code of Practice for safeguarding reviews, the new clergy conduct measure to replace the Clergy Discipline Measure, work on climate change, revitalising parish ministry and a review of governance in the national C of E. There would also be a report back on the progress made by the three working groups set up as part of the LLF process.
The Archdeacon of the Isle of Wight Steve Daughtery updated synod members on our diocese’s involvement in projects funded by the national C of E’s Strategic Development Fund. It has granted a total of £5.2m to support church growth across our diocese in three bids:
- SDF1 (2016-2020) supported the initial set-up of Harbour Church and a series of pioneer activities.This bid was evaluated by the Church Army, and their report is here.
- SDF2 (2019-2024) supported further growth in Harbour Church, the church revitalisation of St Margaret’s, Southsea, and the Host and Bridgeway projects in St Luke’s, Southsea.
- SDF3 (2020-2025) supported growth in three new parishes created by pastoral re-organisation: Gosport South, Gosport North, and Newport & Carisbrooke.
Steve explained there had been shortcomings in the delivery and management of our strategic development programmes, and that we had not been meeting the reporting requirements of funders. This was now being remedied, with clear governance, clarity on the status of projects, and the appointment of a Strategic Programme Manager (a nationally-funded post). This will be Vanda Leary, who has already been working with our diocese on an interim basis.
Looking ahead, our diocese is working with the C of E’s national strategy and vision team to ensure ongoing funding of current projects and to shape new bids. We are developing a new bid for growth for Ryde in the Isle of Wight, which will have three elements: a Harbour Church plant, the incorporation of our existing pioneering work, and working alongside the faithful existing congregations in five parishes.
This will be a pathfinder project to help us understand the process of how to apply for new bids. We are looking to get agreement for this new bid by the Strategic Ministry and Mission Investment (SMMI) board, which replaces SDF, in October. And we have created the first draft of a visional framework for growth.
BISHOP’S COUNCIL/DIOCESAN STAFF UPDATE
Interim Diocesan Secretary Philip Poulter updated synod members on the work done recently by our Bishop’s Council. This included the sale of glebe land at Wickham, the proposed demolition of the church hall at Elson, terms of reference for the parish share review group, and SDF updates.
He also updated members about some changes to the central diocesan staff team. They included the appointment of Monisola Orafidiya as the new PA to the MDM team, the appointment of Vanda Leary, and some changes to working hours for other staff.
EDUCATION TEAM UPDATE
Interim Diocesan Secretary Philip Poulter updated synod members about the plans for our joint
education board to become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO). Problems with the workload at the Charity Commission meant we still have no charity registration for the new CIO. We do, however, have all the trustees to be appointed by Portsmouth diocese, and all bar one for the Winchester diocese.
Bishop Jonathan rounded off Diocesan Synod with three reflections:
- He urged synod members to be involved in the 75th anniversary celebrations for the arrival of West Indian immigrants in the Windrush in 1948, a symbolic moment in our history. He mentioned the national celebration in Southwark Cathedral on June 22, and the visit of the Bishop of Kingston, the Rt Rev Garth Minott, to our diocese over the weekend of June 17-18. Bishop Garth would preach in our cathedral on June 18 and meet members of the local Caribbean community at St Mary’s, Fratton, on June 17.
- He offered synod members copies of ‘To Proclaim Afresh’, a study of the declaration and oaths for C of E ministers which has been produced by the Faith and Order Commission. It offers historical background, commentary and analysis, and questions for discussion.
- He gave a reflection on the confirmation service he’d led at St Mary’s, Fratton, which was full of stories of those who were discovering Jesus. It led him to reflect that we are joined together by baptism with those with whom we might not agree. Those differences are conscientiously held, but we can respect each other’s integrity, which would model a different way of being to a world that cancels and that rejects others. He urged synod members to do everything in our power to seek the unity of the Church.