Diocese of Portsmouth

DIOCESAN SYNOD, November 2019


Bishop Christopher delivered a presidential address that recalled the Berlin wall – which was torn down exactly 30 years previously – and the wall separating Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land as examples of divided societies. He also mentioned the hostility between Jews and Gentiles at the time that Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians and the divisions in contemporary society over Brexit. He said we needed to see beyond the rhetoric and speak with honesty, humility and care for others. To read the full address, click here.


A formal question was posted to synod officers: Will the diocese be advising our schools that ‘Mermaids’ would not be an appropriate organisation to use for training our teachers on gender identity issues?

Diocesan Secretary Victoria James answered by explaining that ‘Valuing All God’s Children’ is the C of E’s guidance for schools and education teams on challenging homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, which helps our education teams to discuss and handle gender issues. Schools are self-governing, and it is up to headteachers and governors to decide who to use to deliver staff training. Schools do consult our education team on significant issues such as these. The document has recently been updated and the list of organisations included in the online version of the document does not include Mermaids. So where offering guidance to schools on who might provide such training, our education team will not be recommending that organisation.


Synod members considered how parishes will elect deanery synod members in 2020. The rules have been changed to allow those who worship in mission initiatives to be taken into account when allocating seats in the House of Laity. The paper, as revised by synod members, can be downloaded here.


As part of an ongoing series of introductions to diocesan staff, synod members were introduced to four members of the central staff team. Download the presentation here.


Diocesan Secretary Victoria James gave an update on recent Bishop’s Council meetings, which included discussions about the Budget for 2020, the Resourcing Growth project which includes pastoral reorganisation and the governance of the Council for Social Responsibility. Her report can be downloaded here. There were questions about what the diocese had learnt from the process of pastoral reorganisation within the diocese. The bishop answered that conversations were happening both nationally and locally, as this process was significant for other parts of the C of E too.


Diocesan communications adviser Neil Pugmire gave a presentation about the development of digital communications in the Church of England over the past three years, on behalf of the national digital team. Those developments include a new C of E website; the Alexa smart speaker initiative; the development of the A Church Near You website (individual parishes can now use their entries on ACNY as a ‘website’, rather than having to develop their own separately); and the Church of England’s Digital Charter and social media guidelines. There was a chance to hear about the success of the C of E’s Christmas campaign in 2019 and plans for 2020 – which will repeat the #FollowTheStar theme.

Synod members also heard about developments in digital communications in our diocese, which include a recent survey to all postholders in the diocese about communications; a new diocesan website, which will be unveiled in the New Year; its support of 36 parish websites by providing Wordpress design templates and ongoing support; and the engagement with our social media platforms. He encouraged members to share items on social media using #PortsmouthSynod and #SundaySelfie hashtags.

Among the questions asked was whether parishes should use the diocesan Wordpress scheme to create their own websites, or their entries on ACNY. The answer was to go with whichever was more appropriate to their context.

The full presentation, including national and local elements, can be downloaded here.


Canon Bob White reported back from the July General Synod, explaining more about some of the topics covered, including knife crime and youth violence, clergy wellbeing and care, the forthcoming report Living in Love and Faith, and ministry for those living with dementia.


Canon Peter Leonard gave a presentation on Pastoral Principles for Living Well Together, which were originally drawn up as a way of talking about issues relating to sexuality, but can be applied to other issues too. They have now been issued as cards that can be used by Christian groups considering this and other issues, and focus attention on six areas: acknowledging prejudice, casting out fear, speaking into silence, admitting hypocrisy, addressing ignorance and paying attention to power.

You can download his presentation here.


Director of finance Lisa Streeter gave a presentation about the diocesan budget for 2020. The paper which introduces and comments on the budget is here, and her presentation is here. It was explained that personal circumstances had made it necessary to embrace a one-year financial plan for 2020, rather than the planned three-year plan, and Bishop’s Council had approved that way forward. Among the headlines was that the predicted overall budget deficit for 2020 would be £236,000 rather than the forecast £99,000 for reasons explained in the budget paper here.

Synod members asked questions about increases in parish share in specific parishes, whether there was any cap on an overall budget deficit, and whether SDF funding was separate from this budget.

The debate on the motion to approve the budget centred on concern that increases in both the budget itself and parish share were too high. The chair of our finance committee, John Gwynn, said there was a commitment to eliminating any budget deficit over the next three year-cycle, and that the consultation process for next year would be more in-depth. Lisa Streeter said that a restructuring of the finance team meant that there were now nine officers working together, offering an integrated approach to diocesan finances across Portsmouth and Winchester dioceses. Synod members voted in favour of the budget for 2020, with one vote against and two abstentions.


Diocesan Synod will meet again during 2020 on February 29, June 13 and November 7.