Looking back at Diocesan Synod (Via Zoom) - November 2020

The Lincoln Diocesan Synod met on Saturday for the first time online. The last meeting in July could only be an informal meeting as the legal measures were not in place for a virtual meeting. This time members came together across several Zoom screens with technology on hand for electronic votes and online presentations. The range of subject matter and style of discussion and sufficient breaks meant that interest and participation kept up and important decisions were thoughtfully taken.


In this month of renewed lockdown, how we care for each other and those in our neighbourhoods is of paramount importance -whether that is because of illness, bereavement, isolation or loss of livelihood and prospects. It is understandable then how much of the agenda of Synod was about care - care that people are safe in our churches and their activities, care for our planet, and care for the wellbeing of those of us who are ordained in what can be a very stressful calling. Perhaps the biggest item on the agenda was how we care for the future and our ability to continue to proclaim the Gospel in Greater Lincolnshire in responding to the immediate and long-term challenge of our annual deficit. There is a complex mesh of care issues – how we care for so many volunteers who are getting on a bit and are becoming a bit tired, how we offer care to our communities more and more effectively, how we care for our rich, if burdensome heritage of church buildings, and how we care for our range of employees. Sunday’s Gospel reading for the feast of Christ the King clearly shows us that the power of Christ’s kingdom is in the quality of his followers’ care – for the hungry, the sick, those in prison, the outsider. Care is our calling – as Christ says, “as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me”.


Bishop’s Address


Bishop David opened Synod and spoke of the unusual circumstances of this year and how we have had to adapt as a Church to new ways of worshiping, caring and of serving our communities. Bishop David thanked Synod and all of those particularly in positions of leadership at various levels, as we have tried to tackle issues which have felt beyond us. The Bishop reflected on social injustices, on how we might seek to react to issues such as ‘Living in Love and Faith’, and what we consider the Diocese might look like in the future, focusing particularly on our need for growth.



Resources Sustainable Church


Bishop David gave a short update on progress with Resourcing Sustainable Church, the diocese's change programme to tackle the need to redesign our approaches to delivering mission and ministry, supporting church growth and getting a sustainable balance between income and expenditure. He reflected on the nine consultations that had been held across the diocese over the last two months. Mostly these have been very positive with a sense of relief that the ‘nettle was finally being grasped’. There were anxieties about the details of how the plans would impact locally and what the timeline was. Bishop David laid out the timeline particularly with regard to the intense work that would be happening between now and April in order to present a more detailed plan for the April meeting of Synod. The Synod was asked to support the general principles in the RSC documents before them. They were also asked to support and commit to the change form a formula-based parish share system to a covenant giving scheme based on mutual responsibility, with support for areas of highest deprivation and a team of convent pastor to support the scheme’s implementation. Third, they were asked to support the plan to offer Edward King House for sale.  All three received overwhelming support.


Budget 2021


In his final Synod as Chair of the Lincoln Diocesan Trust and Board of Finance, Chris Clarke introduced the 2021 budget. He described the careful scenario planning that had been undertaken to address the serious financial situation which has been exacerbated by the Covid crisis. The recommendation was to keep the number of stipendiary clergy at 100 and look to increase parish share receipts by 2025 to £4.5m. If we are unable to achieve the projections by 2023, he said we may have to look at lowering this to 80 stipendiary clergy, something which we do not want to do. To enable us to reach a balanced budget, the Bishop’s Council of Diocesan Trustees have agreed to release a further £9.6m from Total Return over the next 5 years. Serious decisions need to be taken to bring our finances into balance in the future, as continued drawdown from reserves is not sustainable. After a lively debate, a large majority of the Synod agreed to receive the budget and to authorise the Bishop’s Council of Diocesan Trustees to expend £11,922,039 and to raise £5,731,647 in parish share from the parishes, both for the year ending 2021.


The slides for this presentation may be found here.

Appointment of the new LDTBF Chair


Bishop David gave a warm vote of thanks to Chris Clarke for his years of service as Chair and in a variety of other roles in the diocese. He proceeded to ask Synod to consent to the appointment of Canon Professor Muriel Robinson as his successor, which Synod did.


Covenant of Clergy Wellbeing


It is of great concern across the diocese and in the church nationally that front line clergy are under considerable strain and stress. The national church has committed to a Covenant for Clergy Wellbeing and has offered frameworks for dioceses and local churches to help to ensure clergy are looked after and look after themselves in pursuing their ministries. Bishop Nicholas and Jackie Johnson, Wellbeing and CMD Officer, lead Synod in discussion through breakout rooms to consider What had struck them most about the C of E focus on Clergy Wellbeing, what barriers might exist in encouraging conversations on wellbeing within Chapters, Deaneries, and PCCs and finally given that Jesus modelled a ministry of service and retreat – taking time out and time alone, cultivating deep friendships, receiving the hospitality and the care of others,  how might we assist clergy, and others, in reclaiming that model.


Following feedback and discussion, Synod resolved to affirm and adopt the Covenant of Clergy Wellbeing and the embedding of wellbeing within our systems and processes.




Synod received an update from the Archdeacon of Lincoln and Penny Turner, Acting Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor, on the current work of the safeguarding team and how it has changed due to Covid. Updates were provided on Past Case Review 2 and how it has been progressing despite the pandemic, as well as confirmation that the recruitment process for a permanent Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor was underway. The ‘Chat’ function on Zoom was particularly alight with thanks and recognition for the hard work and dedication of Penny and the team during this particularly difficult time.


Diocesan Environmental Policy


It is over a year since the Synod approved the diocese’s Environmental policy in time for last year’s Moana conference. The Revd Annabel Barber of our Environmental Panel and Sarah Spencer our Environmental officer, provided a powerful and inspiring account of the progress made in the diocese since and showed the Synod the multitude of environmental projects happening in parishes, churches, towns and villages as a part of our witness to God’s care for creation. Synod had also been able to estimate the carbon saving that had been made by conducting the meeting online (with the use of a handy online form). We now know that for the entire Synod, we saved around 6487 miles which is the equivalent of travelling from Lincoln to the Iguazu Waterfalls on the border of Brazil and Argentina! This would also be a saving of around 1.82 tonnes of CO2e, which is equal to the carbon that 31 tree seedlings sequester over 10 years. Following discussion and positive comments, synod agreed to the new wording for the Lincoln Diocesan Environmental Policy, to reflect the Church of England’s General Synod motion to become carbon neutral by 2030.


The slides for this presentation in PDF may be found here due to file size, for the original PowerPoint version please be in touch with [email protected]


Diocesan and Deanery Synod representation figures


Synod was then required to approve the representation figures for each deanery, for the forthcoming election to Diocesan Synod in 2021. The formula for this is dictated by the representation rules,

 and Synod voted in favour of the figures. Due to a procedural requirement and the fact that Synod had not been able to meet formally and legally so far in 2020, a resolution was also passed to ratify the numbers previously set for Deanery Synod parochial representation, which were already in use.


Board of Education: Diversity and representation update


Jackie Water-Dewhurst provided Synod with an uplifting update on the great work of the DBE to promote and encourage diversity, including the work that has been done looking at curriculum development in our schools, the production of materials and advice to support schools to increase diversity across the curriculum and also looking at how to counter unconscious bias in the boards, committees and classrooms. Jackie particularly noted the biblical basis for these actions, and confirmed the DBE’s commitment to ‘making good trouble’, which Synod warmly received.


The slides for this presentation may be found here.




Various elections took place both during Synod as a whole and in the separate houses and the results so far are as follows:

Announced as duly elected as members of the Diocesan Board of Education

Julie Bacon

Nicola Snelling

Greg Marsden

Martin Kyle

Announced as duly elected as a Lay representative for Stow and Lindsey on the Bishop’s Council of Diocesan Trustees

Russ Coulter

There is now a casual vacancy for the second lay representative, which will be considered again at April Synod.


Elections for Clergy representatives on the Bishop’s Council of Diocesan Trustees for the archdeaconries of Boston and Stow and Lindsey

Following hustings which took place during Synod, the members of the House of Clergy completed an email ballot with the following results announced on Friday 27th November:


The Revd Georgina Machell                  

Stow and Lindsey

The Revd Nick Nawrokyi


A big thank you to all those who participated in the elections and hustings. 

A printable version of the digest is available here.