Looking back at Diocesan Synod - Saturday, 20 November 2021

The Lincoln Diocesan Synod met in person for the November session at Bishop Grosseteste University, for what would be the final time led by the Rt Revd Christopher Lowson. All Covid restrictions and guidance were followed to allow this meeting to go ahead.

Opening Prayers were led by the Revd Matt Rodgers.

Bishop’s Address

The Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt Revd Christopher Lowson, addressed Synod for his final meeting prior to retirement in the end of December. The Bishop described his recent visits to almost 20 of the deaneries, to engage in Bible study, prayer and conversations as he said farewell to the people of the Diocese. He was accompanied by Fr Alan Moses who had made notes of these conversations on his behalf, which provided an invaluable picture of the current morale of the Diocese. The Bishop considered the fighting spirit of the English people during the 2nd World War and noted the energy and commitment that the people of Lincolnshire have at the moment for creating a sustainable and growing Church in this Diocese.

The Bishop believed we needed to be:

 A church founded on prayer and outward looking.

A church in which people can flourish in terms of mission and ministry

A church in which the people of Greater Lincolnshire can experience the love of God, respect and steward the beauty of God’s creation and enjoy the hospitality and kindness of God’s people in this place.

The Bishop also noted the announcement made the previous week concerning Bishop Stephen Conway and his appointment by the Archbishop as Acting Bishop of Lincoln for the next year or so. It was confirmed that whilst this announcement came as a surprise to himself and colleagues, it should be seen as a gift and another resource of someone who can hold the ring and offer wise oversight to the very capable senior team.


Statement from the Diocesan Secretary

The Revd Canon David Dadswell, Diocesan Secretary, addressed Synod to confirm the arrangements the Archbishop of Canterbury had put in place for the vacancy in the see of Lincoln after Bishop Christopher’s retirement at the end of December. It was noted that the Archbishop had made it clear that there was work to do in the diocese before the substantive new Bishop of Lincoln should be allowed to start, although he had talked with confidence about the quality of our safeguarding and recognised that Time to Change Together was a good, robust plan to deal with challenges we face.

The leadership of the diocese believed Bishop Stephen to be a wise, faithful, experienced Diocesan Bishop and that his presence as Acting Bishop of the Diocese should give us the opportunity to apply ourselves to the plans Synod have agreed to.


Time to Change Together progress update

The Rt Revd Dr David Court, Bishop of Grimsby, introduced the item by thanking the Bishop of Lincoln for his continued support of Time to Change Together. He noted that despite their different church traditions, they both shared the same heart for mission which was so important. Bishop David summarised that Synod had previously voted overwhelmingly in favour of Time to Change Together and that the team, who he thanked for their hard work, were on track in terms of the proposed timeline in the specific areas.

It was explained to Synod that the vocational conversations had begun and that good progress was being made. It was confirmed that further work was being done on the Covenant Pastors programme with emphasis being placed on the key principles agreed by Synod, of generosity and discipleship. There were 37 Covenant Pastors now working across the diocese and at the time of the meeting, 57% of all parish packs have been delivered with an aim of every parish meeting with a CP by June. This was beginning to have an impact on parish ‘pledges’, which were beginning to come in. In the area of church categorisation, it was confirmed that just a small percentage of churches had not yet self-described their parish type. There had been numerous webinars held to assist parishes in completing these work, and special thanks were given to the Revd Richard Crossland for his work and leadership in this area.


Particular areas of concern had been identified as individual workloads and capacity, such as the need for additional Covenant Pastors. The second concern was the formation of the College of St Hugh, which now had a Warden appointed who would begin work formally in January but who had already started on an informal basis. Positive areas identified included the further cost reductions made centrally, at an additional 19% since 2019 and the successful transfer of 5.4% of our asset base into investments which had a greater yield and therefore generate a more substantial income.


The DBE Measure- final approval

Mr Paul Thompson, the Diocesan Director of Education, presented the draft scheme to Synod which had previously been accepted in principle during the July meeting. It was confirmed that the DBE had been working closely with legal advisors and the National Church to ensure compliance. Section 12 of the document had been added since the July meeting, which related to the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults. Upon final approval of the scheme, it was anticipated that it would come into operation in March 2022. PT also confirmed to Synod that the proposed changes to the articles of association would be made after the scheme had been certified.


Following an opportunity for questions, the motion to approve the amended scheme was approved unanimously by Diocesan Synod with no abstentions.


Re-confirm the Secretary of Synod and Chair of the LDTBF

Bishop Christopher confirmed that in November 2020, Synod consented to the Bishop’s Appointment of Canon Professor Muriel Robinson as the Chair of the LDTBF ltd. Synod was then asked to re-consent to this appointment for the new triennium. It was also confirmed that the Standing Orders state that each Synod must appoint a Secretary who is responsible for the administrative arrangements of the Synod. The Secretary would then be supported by an Assistant Secretary appointed by Bishop’s Council of Diocesan Trustees. David Dadswell, as Diocesan Secretary, was recommended to be re-appointed as Secretary by this new Synod.

Synod voted in favour of both proposals.


COP26- Environmental update

Mrs Sarah Spencer, the Diocesan Environmental Officer, presented an environmental update to Synod noting the recent end of the COP26 conference. It was noted that one of the repeated phrases of COP26 was the aspiration to ‘keep 1.5 alive’. 1.5° C has been the agreed ‘maximum increase’ to global temperature which is the scientifically supported number essential to stay within for life on this planet. Negotiations, commitments agreements, policies, pledges are all driven to try and keep 1.5° a reachable goal, and they are not there yet. The result of COP26 is that the current trajectory, if everyone delivers what they say they are going to deliver, was an optimistic 2.4°C.

Mrs Spencer then asked Synod to consider and discuss in small groups ‘How does this synod, in faith and in hope and in love, envision enacting a year on year reduction in CO2 to deliver net zero reality by 2030?’. Feedback was then recorded on A5 discussion cards and handed back in at the end of the meeting.


From Lament to Action implementation of recommendations

The Revd Sonia Barron, the Diocesan Director of Ordinands, addressed Synod on the report published in April titled ‘From Lament to Action’. She had been involved in racial justice for some time and had more recently been appointed to the taskforce which published the report, of which she was co-chair.

It was briefly summarised that 14% of the UK population (as shown in the 2011 census) was UKME, and that this was likely to be much higher now. This should be viewed with the knowledge that 1 out of 42 Bishops is UKME. There was a similarly low level of other senior clergy such as Archdeacons and Deans and there are no UKME Diocesan Secretaries at all. It was noted that the changes that the report proposed represented a huge opportunity for cultural change in a similar manner to what had been achieved with Safeguarding. To conclude, Mrs Barron asked Synod to consider what one thing they might do that could make a difference. If not now, then when and if not us, then who?


The Rt Revd Dr Nicholas Chamberlain, Bishop of Grantham, thanked Mrs Barron for her presentation and concluded by stating his personal commitment to these issues was based on the gospel and confirmed that he was part of the global majority in terms of race and was not in terms of sexuality, but appreciated the privilege he is afforded as a male. It was also confirmed that there was a UKME group who meets regularly, reflects together and supports each other. This group is open to new members if any UKME lay person or member of clergy is interested.


Search and Nominations Committee- Diversity and Inclusion update

Canon Niccy Fisher, Chair of the Search and Nominations Committee, noted the powerful presentation delivered on the ‘From Lament to Action’ report. It was confirmed that diversity in all its forms had been part of the committee’s focus since it started in 2016, seeking to find out who is out there with what talent and experience, and how we can encourage more people to step forward.

Canon Fisher shared a presentation on the work the Search and Nominations committee had done to address diversity. A copy of the presentation can be found here


The Revd Cameron Watt, Vice Chair of the Search and Nominations Committee, then described to Synod the importance of reflecting all of the varied elements of the Diocese which the committee were keen to be reflected within the governance structure. Some of the ways the committee had sought to improve this has been in developing and maintaining the Diocesan Skills Survey and implementing a diversity monitoring form which Synod members were encouraged to return. Mr Watt summarised by asking Synod to pray for contested elections and to consider putting themselves forward (or encouraging others to) for the various positions which become available throughout the triennium.


Safeguarding update

Mr Jack Redeyoff, the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor, was introduced to Diocesan Synod for the first time in person, following 11 months in role. Synod members were reassured that whilst there were some vacancies within the Safeguarding Team, recruitment had begun to ensure that the team would be back up to full strength as soon as possible. Synod was informed that the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Panel had been looking for new membership, so if any members were safeguarding professionals or knew of someone else who may be suitable, they should be in touch.


General Synod verbal report

Canon Prof Muriel Robinson (MR), General Synod Rep, presented a written report from the inaugural meeting of General Synod which had occurred earlier that week. MR confirmed that the session began with an induction and then members where formally inaugurated by Prince Edward the following day. A strong statement was made against the recent law change in Ghana along with a silent demonstration by some of the LGBTI+ members who stood wearing signs saying ‘Soon to be imprisonable in Ghana’. Other issues raised here included the lack of a timetable with regard to changes to the Clergy Discipline Measure, problems with the company (Civica) who ran the recent election process, and about the CofE and its legal exemption from disability duties required of other organisations. A copy of the written General Synod Report which provides more detail, can be found here


Results of elections

Mr Ian Blaney, Diocesan Registrar, advised Synod that following the required nomination process and without the need for a ballot, the Revd Canon Alyson Buxton and Canon Nigel Bacon had been duly elected as Chairs of the Houses of Clergy and Laity respectively, for three-year terms. Mr Blaney also confirmed that no nominations for the Lincoln archdeaconry clergy position on BCDT had been received, so the position would remain in casual vacancy and would be reopened for nominations in the spring. Following a competitive hustings and ballot during the meeting of the House of Laity, Mrs Sue Slater and Mr Paul Davie were duly elected as lay representatives for the Boston archdeaconry on BCDT for a three-year term.

For the Diocesan Board of Education, Mr Blaney advised that the following candidates had been duly elected to serve as members of the Diocesan Board of Education: Mr Fred Mann, Mrs Julie Bacon, Mrs Cherry Edwards, Mrs Hillary Beverley, The Revd Sonia Barron, Mrs Alison Warrick, Mr David Clements and The Revd Canon Penny Green.


The meeting then closed with a blessing given by Bishop Christopher who also thanked Synod for a good meeting with strong engagement. The Bishop also thanked those responsible for facilitating the meeting and the elections. He summarised that the building blocks were in place for the Diocese to face the future together, and that we should be encouraged by the good people and expertise that we have in place.