Diocesan Synod, November 2020
Diocesan Synod members met via Zoom, as the lockdown restrictions prevented members from meeting in person.
Bishop Christopher delivered his Presidential Address, which set the day’s discussion in the context of the ongoing Covid pandemic and the innovative way that parishes had responded to people’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs throughout. He outlined four essential things for our diocese: visionary leadership, being members of a team, being disciples of Jesus, and structures to enable growth. You can read the entire address here.
BISHOP’S COUNCIL UPDATE
Diocesan Secretary Victoria James presented an update from the Bishop’s Council. It has been examining financial management and planning, especially during the Covid pandemic; and examining issues of governance. You can read the full report here.
Diocesan Synod members approved the allocation of seats for deanery representatives on Diocesan Synod, and voting procedures for the 2021 Diocesan Synod elections.
GENERAL SYNOD REPORT
General Synod member Mark Emerton spoke about the work of General Synod, much of which had inevitably taken place online recently. He presented a report, which you can read here. He indicated that the next General Synod meeting, from November 23-25 would also take place digitally.
ANNUAL REPORT AND ACCOUNTS 2019
Synod members voted to accept the Annual Report and Accounts for 2019, which had previously been considered, but not finally presented, at the June 2020 meeting. You can read them here.
Director of Finance Lisa Streeter spoke to this report,
LIVE | PRAY | SERVE UPDATE
Peter Leonard and Victoria James presented the Live | Pray | Serve update. They presented this vision in the context of the mission priority to make disciples, the ongoing decline in church attendance, and the financial pressures imposed by the Covid pandemic.
They explained that senior staff had been encouraged to think about what a thriving diocese might look like five years’ time. It involved defining what the destination would be first, then working out where we are now, and then how to get from one to the other.
Our Bishop’s Council had committed itself to a long-term process of change, and recognised that parish structures may need to change. Transformation funding was available from the Strategic Development Unit of the Church of England to help us with that journey.
Members were told that each deanery was looking at deploying its resources more effectively, and that sessions would take place in November with area deans, lay chairs and Bishop’s Council members on what they thought a thriving diocese might look like in future.
Deanery teams are due to report in February/March 2021, presenting proposals to the bishop’s senior staff, which will then be refined before being presented to the Diocesan Mission and Pastoral Committee. Diocesan Synod members had a responsibility to lead as agents of change within the diocese, so were asked to reaffirm the Bishop’s Council decision.
The questions and comments members offered included:
Q: What models or structures are being considered for different deaneries?
A: No strict criteria, as the aim is for it to be mission-led.
Q: The process needs to work from the bottom-up, rather than the top-down.
A: It needs to be both bottom-up an top-down
Q: Are we in danger of being more thinly-spread and losing the C of E’s unique selling point?
A: The unique selling point of the C of E is that it’s here for everyone, but the structure of how this is achieved needs to change
Q: Would it be helpful to understand the diocese’s thoughts on what the end goals and financial goals are?
A: Yes, the finances, including parish share and new income streams for the diocese are all being looked at strategically over the coming months.
DIOCESAN BUDGET 2021
Finance director Lisa Streeter presented a paper about the Budget for 2021, which is here. She indicate that the framework had been challenging, with many moving parts and navigating the ever-changing circumstances we find ourselves in.
Decisions have already been made not to give a cost of living rise to clergy nor diocesan staff (other than curates). There are also a lot of changes to the structure of the diocesan central team being made, in order work more effectively and make financial savings. Many of the staff have also been furloughed over the past few months, or have been on a furlough rota.
Diocesan Synod members approved the budget submitted for 2021 and authorised that £4.97m should be raised in parish share for the year 2021.