The Lincoln Diocesan Synod met on Saturday 8 May via Zoom. This was our second formal meeting held virtually (following an informal meeting of members in July 2020). Members and Officers came together across several Zoom screens with technology on hand for electronic votes and online presentations. The meeting was successfully chaired by Canon Nigel Bacon (Chair of the House of Laity), who took us through a range of subject matters, where the style of presentation and discussion meant that there was opportunity for thoughtful consideration and debate prior to decisions.

Following the Easter season, it seemed appropriate that much of the agenda felt like coming out into the light from the darkness of the tomb. As a Synod, it was crucial to recognise the suffering and grief so many of us have gone through and the faithful, creative response of so many to the challenges of lockdown and Covid-19. The annual accounts and finance report gave a strong sense of the challenges we have been facing over the last year or so. The Resourcing Sustainable Church report offered, after huge amounts of detailed work, widespread consultation and subsequent rework, a practical map for how the Church of England in greater Lincolnshire can continue to proclaim the abundant life and unquenchable, redeeming hope the resurrection opens up.

Bishop’s Address

The Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt Revd Christopher Lowson, opened Synod and called for a pause, as a moment to acknowledge the ministry of Robert Hardy, who was the Bishop of Lincoln from 1987 – 2001 and had been one of Lincoln’s most distinguished bishops.

The Bishop then went on to describe the difficulty he will feel in relinquishing his duty and responsibility as Diocesan Bishop at the end of the year, as previously announced. He confirmed that ‘bishops come and bishops go’, as do our clergy, but the laypeople that together form the People of God, will always remain. As a synod and as a diocese, the Bishop asserted the need for us to come together as a primary assembly, to plan our future in a way that allows space for God to act in our lives, individually and as a community and lead us forward.

The Bishop confirmed that the Diocese of Lincoln, as it is currently organised, is no longer sustainable, and that doing nothing was simply not an option.

Promulgation of Amending Canons No. 40 and 41

Canon Nigel Bacon gave formal notice to Diocesan Synod that following the November sessions of General Synod, Amending Canons No. 40 and 41 be made, promulged and executed. It was confirmed that Amending Canon No. 40 made provision relating to religious communities and Amending Canon No. 41 made general miscellaneous amendments to the Canons.

Resourcing Sustainable Church: A Time to Change - Together

The Bishop of Grimsby, the Rt Revd Dr David Court, introduced the full working plan to Diocesan Synod members. The Bishop reminded members of the history of the project since July 2019, when the budget was presented to Synod and we recognised that we had an annual deficit which was simply unsustainable. Following this, the RSC lever groups were set up to cover the key areas of Deployment, Growth, Costs, Assets and Parish Share, with a Steering Group established to ensure everything came together. These groups included almost 60 people from across the diocese, and their initial thinking was presented to Synod in July of 2020. Synod almost unanimously supported this general direction of travel. A series of consultations was then held over Autumn where representatives of every benefice were invited to join in and over 500 people were involved. This led to a draft document which was then circulated in advance of a second round of consultations in the spring. Bishop David spoke of a moving concern felt by participants for the church in general as well as for their specific church, but there was also a recognition of the problem and the need for us to grapple these issues so we can become the type of church we need to be.

Synod then engaged in an open debate with contributions from various members who voiced support, raised questions and confirmed their worries. Members particularly noted the need to ensure appropriate administrative support for clergy and for lay people operating in these areas, concerns about timeframe in relation to making decisions during a pandemic and suggestions about regular updates at Diocesan Synod from the planned Implementation Group.

The leaders of the Steering Group responded to the points raised in turn, before a virtual ‘show of hands’ vote was taken. Diocesan Synod voted clearly in favour of receiving and welcoming the report and commended it to the diocese, accepted the report's recommendations 1-15 and directed the Bishop's Council of Diocesan Trustees and the Diocesan Secretary to proceed with their implementation, and finally endorsed the commitments set out in the report and requested all ministers and PCCs of the diocese to join with it in abiding by them.

You can listen to Bishop David discussing the decision of Synod with Radio Lincolnshire's William Wright on Sunday morning here.

Annual General Meeting- The Financial Statements and Annual Report

Canon Prof Muriel Robinson as Chair of the LDTBF and Ann Treacy as the Director of Finance took Synod through a presentation on the 2020 Accounts and Financial Statements as part of the Annual General Meeting. It was noted that the annual report had been approved by the Bishop’s Council of Diocesan Trustees and had been signed off by our audit partners Haysmacintyre LLP with no reservations. It was confirmed that the LDTBF ltd finished 2020 having spent £12,787,6785 which was around £747,675 less than had been budgeted for. This was more positive than it could have been, but there is still a substantial shortfall against our income which we need to work on under Resourcing Sustainable Church.

Ann thanked the Parishes for their contributions of Parish Share over 2020, which at 36% represents our main source of income. 25% of our income was derived from our investments.  This has to be balanced with the sale of assets to ensure that we don’t reduce but start to increase the return from these investments to start to bridge the gap between what comes in and what goes out. We continued to sell our assets to both fund the shortfall in cash and to ensure that we have enough cash in hand to cover 3 months of expenditure which equates to approximately £3m.   The profit on disposal of these assets accounted for 5% of our turnover. 

In terms of our expenditure, Ann explained that parochial ministry accounted for 52% of our total expenditure which including housing, was 74% in total amounting to £7,604m. This was an increase of £23k from 2019. We ended 2020 with a reduced number of stipended posts to 119 which is a reduction of 15 posts from 2019.

It was confirmed that due to restrictions within our Articles of Association, matters relating to the AGM (receiving the annual accounts, approving the record of the previous AGM and the reappointment of the auditors) would be approved by written resolution which was then circulated to all members of Monday 10 May.

Following the full presentation, Synod engaged in a lively discussion around our over reliance on investment income to fund the mission of the diocese, concerns around the general financial recovery following the pandemic and the impact this may have on parish share and our aims to reduce clergy numbers. Synod members also voiced their support and thanks for the work of Ann Treacy and the Finance Team in putting together clear and thorough summary documents and presentations.

Synod will vote on the AGM resolutions via email and post between now and Monday 7th June (the deadline for votes).

A copy of the presentation slides can be found here.

A video clip of the presentation can be found here.

Introduction to Living in Love and Faith

The Revd Jackie Johnson, Clergy Wellbeing and CMD Officer and Living in Love and Faith Advocate, introduced the LLF materials to Synod and played an introductory video from the National Church. These resources are designed to offer information and space in which everyone can engage with and learn more about identity, relationships, sexuality and marriage.

Jackie explained that the resources explore multi faceted themes about what in means to follow Christ in love and faith given the questions we still have about human identity and the variety of patterns of human relationships. It includes what history, theology and science has to say as well as including real human stories that are often very moving.

Jackie explained that as the LLF advocate for our diocese, she meets regularly with other diocesan advocates to discuss ways to best encourage church leaders and church communities towards learning that makes a difference. Jackie reasserted that she is an advocate for the process and is committed to participating in formal, formational learning.

Synod heard that there will be an LLF sample day on 25th of May via Zoom which would be led by Dr Eeva John, National LLF Enabling Officer, for all clergy and readers within the diocese.

Jackie summarised that we are all weary, both personally and vocationally, from the toll of the virus and that it may be hard for some to muster the energy to engage with these materials and the pastorally sensitive themes that are involved, but that the task of the Church is to shine a light in the darkness and we are called to honour the time and commitment of those who created these resources as well as those whose lives are still impacted by a church that is in constant debate about relationships and sex.

Information about the Living in Love and Faith resources can be found here.

If you have any questions about Living in Love and Faith, the resources or the impending sample day, please be in touch with [email protected]

The Diocesan Advisory Committee- Constitution and Annual Report

The Revd Elaine Turner as Chair of the DAC and Mrs Susan Leadbetter as Vice Chair presented the committee Annual Report to Synod and the revised constitution, which had not been considered by Synod members since the early 90’s. Synod then received an inspiring presentation about what has been achieved in the parishes over the past 18 months following consultation and advice given by the DAC, even during the difficulties of the last year and thorough out the pandemic. Synod was asked to consider the DAC as a helpful and expert group of volunteers, that are not there to prevent churches from making the changes necessary for their growth and mission, but as an enabling force that has a wealth of expert knowledge and if consulted properly, can assist parishes with reaching their goals.

Synod were shown pictures of exciting church projects such as a modern design memorial stained glass window, restored ‘angels’ care of the BBC’s Repair Shop, pews on wheels and a major development scheme at Winterton Church.

Following discussion from Synod members around workshops for deaneries to better understand the use of the Faculty system and process, and the improvements that have been made to the DAC pages on the diocesan website, Synod voted to receive the annual report and approvd and adopted the revised DAC constitution.

A video clip of the presentation can be found here.

A copy of the presentation slides can be found here.

Safeguarding Update

The Ven Gavin Kirk as Safeguarding Strategic Lead and Mr Jack Redeyoff as the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor updated Synod on safeguarding matters since our last meeting in November. Jack had been recruited and began his role in January and so was introduced to Synod having taken over from Penny Turner who had been the Acting DSA since early 2020. Tributes were given to Penny for able support and strength during the period of vacancy and in supporting Jack in his new role. Jack had come to the diocese from a career in the probation service and as the son of a parish priest was familiar with parish life and the work of the Church.

Synod were updated on the training programme including the new Leadership Pathway being rolled out by the National Church. 30 diocesan courses from now until the end of July had been booked up and 7 people had now gone through the ‘Train the Trainer programme’ which was enabling the safeguarding team to deal with the training backlog due to the pandemic. These new trainers included two of the Archdeacons, of whom some have started to lead training sessions themselves. Synod were also gently encouraged to review their local training coverage and ensure that all was up to date.

Synod asked questions about the Parish Safeguarding Dashboard and members were encouraged to use this resource and to be in touch with the team should any assistance be required.

General Synod reports

The Revd Canon Martin Taylor and Mr Carl Fender, General Synod representatives, presented the two reports which had been provided to Synod following the November and April sessions of General Synod. Synod heard that the Archbishop’s Commission is looking at whether property and land that is owned by the church can be stewarded for social benefit and not just generating financial profit. It is expected that this will come back to GS as a proposal in due course.

The most recent sessions of General Synod included the expectation of a new Safeguarding Code of practice as well as an amendment to the Clergy Discipline Measure wording changing it from having ‘due regard’ to the code to making compliance mandatory. Recommendations were also made regarding reform to the Crown Nominations, which would impact at Diocesan as well as a national level. The recommendations are intended to remove factionalism which is seen to exist within the process. Synod also heard about the reduction in lay numbers to General Synod from the diocese as the result of an administrative error in advance of the originally planned elections last year. Questions were asked about process and oversight of these figures both locally and nationally.

The Bishop of Lincoln closed Synod with prayer, before the House of Laity met separately for election hustings

Meeting of the House of Laity

The House of Laity then met for hustings for the position of Lincoln Lay representative to the Bishop’s Council of Diocesan Trustees. The candidates for the position were:

Mrs Susan Watt

Mrs Elaine Huckle

Candidates were given an opportunity to introduce themselves and members of the house were able to ask questions which were given to the candidates in turn. A postal and email ballot followed and on Friday 14th May it was announced that Mrs Susan Watt had been duly elected.

The House of Laity were unable to elect to the remaining position of Lay representative for Stow and Lindsey due to a lack of nominations. The election will be re-run when Synod next meet in July.

A printable version of the Synod Digest can be found here.

This item was published on Tuesday 11th May 2021 and republished on Monday 17th May 2021