Looking back at Diocesan Synod - 24 July 2021

Lincoln Diocesan Synod met via Zoom on Saturday 24 July, for the final meeting of the triennium. We met on the eve of the feast of St James the Apostle. With his pilgrim’s staff and his cockle shell as the patron saint of pilgrimages what better model for the work we had to do and discuss? From Chaucer’s colourful Canterbury pilgrims to the motley groups of celebrities we see in television programmes following pilgrim routes, it is as much about the travelling together as the arriving. The agenda contained a fair mixture of the different elements we need to get right on our journey: budget and finance, our plans for doing things differently as a diocese, our continued work to improve our safeguarding performance, our work with children, young people and schools and our integration with the national church’s programme. It was important to do our journeying well in God’s compassion, truth and justice. Thus we will build the body and its Gospel ways of working together to help us become the sort of Church in Greater Lincolnshire which will grow in transforming lives.

Opening prayers

Dr Jenny Ballantyne led Synod in opening prayers with the poem ‘Let Your God Love You’ by Edwina Gateley followed by the Collect for the 7th Sunday after Trinity.

Bishop’s Address

The Rt Revd Christopher Lowson, Bishop of Lincoln, welcomed Synod. There were two key themes of the triennium that he wished Synod to reflect on in this final meeting of the triennium. The first was ‘thanks-giving’. We have a lot to be thankful for, in the sacrificial love given to us by God and that this liberating recognition should lead to a new direction in our lives, and a journey of exploration towards God. The Bishop thanked Synod members for their contributions over the three years and for being faithful, willing and flexible during particularly difficult times, both locally and nationally.

The Bishop also thanked the two Vice Presidents, colleagues on Bishop’s Staff, the two successive Chairs of the Board of Finance (Chris Clarke and Muriel Robinson), members of both the Bishop’s Council of Diocesan Trustees and the Diocesan Board of Education, and the employees at Edward King House and 103 Newport for all of their hard work. Particular thanks were given to Jackie Waters-Dewhurst and the Ven Mark Steadman at their final meeting of Synod, although both would be given a special send off in September. The Bishop also thanked Helen Doyle on behalf of Synod, for her work behind the scenes facilitating Synod meetings.

The second theme the Bishop reflected on was ‘preparation’. The last 3 years had been a time of preparation, in the most unusual circumstances, for the next 3 to 6 years in which the Diocese of Lincoln would move forward together, preparing the way for the Lord. We are praying for a bold and authentic future for the Church of God in this Diocese.

The Bishop was proud that we are further ahead in terms of RSC than other dioceses in moving forward together. This was because we have been addressing the issues for longer and were now beginning to make real progress.  Also we have been humbled as a diocese and humility and holiness must be the basis of all that we undertake together.

The Budget- 2022

Canon Prof Muriel Robinson, Chair of the Lincoln Diocesan Trust and Board of Finance, presented the 2022 Budget as recommended by the Bishop’s Council of Diocesan. A PowerPoint presentation (the slides can be found here) was shared which highlighted the key figures and themes of the budget document (a copy of which can be found here). The whole budget had been set within the context of Resourcing Sustainable Church, which will be the way we bring more people to Christ, taking our message out of the church buildings and into the wider community.

Muriel described the budget as being challenging but sensible and realistic. The wisdom and hard work of Ann Treacy, our Director of Finance, her team and the Budget Advisory Panel members had been invaluable and thanks were given accordingly.

Parish share income was estimated at around £200k more than what was collected in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic.  This was considered to be an achievable figure. As the Covenant Pastors were now beginning their work visiting parishes, it was hoped we will achieve even more in 2022, so helping us to hold to our plans for the number of stipendiary clergy identified in RSC.

Investment income would see an increase of around £679k. Moving the proceeds from the sale of surplus housing into investments which yield a better return and avoids the associated costs of managing and maintaining a large housing stock should enable this increase. A recognised risk was that any slippage on sales would result in less income. Income for 2022 overall was estimated to be £8,871,113, which was slightly better than the RSC forecast by £65k.

For expenditure, pay costs reflected the number of clergy and curates in line with RSC plans.  It was assumed we would meet the 110 post target by the end of 2022 as per the RSC five-year forecast, and on which the budget had been based. Curates for 2022 were assumed at an average of 19 which was slightly lower than the RSC forecast. 

In line with the Synod-approved RSC recommendations, the Support Team costs had been looked at very closely during the budget setting process with a total of £300k saved following voluntary redundancy, most of which had been factored into 2021. Over the five-year period of RSC there was an assumed reduction overall of c£600k for central services. The 2022 budget included an increase of £152k due to the cost of providing Deanery Partnership administrators.

Following questions and comments, Synod voted to approve the budget and authorised the Bishop’s Council of Diocesan Trustees to expend up to £10,744,472 for the year ending 31st December 2022. Synod also authorised the Bishop’s Council of Diocesan Trustees to raise at least £3,500,000 in parish share from the parishes for the year ending 31st December 2022.

General Synod: July sessions report and a look back at the 2015-2021 term

Canon Prof Muriel Robinson presented the written report on the July Synod sessions which had been prepared by Canon Nigel Bacon. Muriel noted the wisdom and perspective of the diocese’s General Synod members, and Muriel thanked them for their contributions over the past quinquennium.

Over 29 hours were spent on Zoom during the July sessions, from the Friday to the Monday. The Presidential Address was given by the Archbishop of York, who also later picked up on the “Simpler, Humbler, Bolder” vision and strategy for the future and that we should be a Church for the whole nation that is Christ centred and is shaped by the 5 Marks of Mission.

Question Time has not worked as well in a virtual format and only 48 of the 129 written questions were allowed supplementaries.  These included a question from the Revd Canon Martyn Taylor regarding support for parishes offering online worship. Two good questions submitted by Canon Nigel Bacon on the length of time required for Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) and the backlog of motions from Diocesan Synods, were amongst the many not considered.

Our Diocesan Director of Ordinands, the Revd Sonia Barron, who had led the Racial Justice Commission, voiced her disappointment that the Archbishop’s Council had announced that they would not fund the posts suggested by the report.

There were presentations on Climate Change, Safeguarding and Living in Love and Faith. One of the issues raised was an over-emphasis in the last few meetings on presentations with questions rather than debate. Approval was given, despite some opposition, for the creation of a new body to oversee the next stage of the Anglican-Methodist Covenant.

Following Synod’s previous meeting in April where corrected electoral roll data meant that Lincoln’s seat allocation in the forthcoming General Synod elections was cut from five to three for laity (with three clergy seats), Canon Nigel Bacon had discovered an error in how the seat allocations had been calculated which impacted several dioceses. In direct consequence of this Synod revised the seat allocations with the result that our diocese would now have four lay and four clergy seats, thus retaining the level of representation we had in this last quinquennium.

Muriel concluded by noting that the life of this Synod was brought to a close with various farewells and the reading and enactment of writs of dissolution from Her Majesty the Queen.

Synod was given an opportunity to ask questions and comment on the report.  

General Synod: A look back at the 2015-2021 term

The Ven Gavin Kirk, Archdeacon of Lincoln, presented a retrospective report on the previous term. He noted that General Synod is a composite body, which operates in many different ways. Synod is the only body other than Parliament that can pass primary legislation, which they do via canon or measure.

Synod is also deliberative and discusses things of national as well as church interest, such as Safeguarding and Human Sexuality. The comprehensive process around the shared conversations and the Living in Love and Faith programme had been one of the dominant themes of the last 6 years. Other topics covered had included Climate Change, Evangelism, Blood and Organ donation and Benefits and the Welfare State.

Over the last 6 years, 1240 written questions had been asked by members to the bodies of General Synod. To save time, the answers to questions had been published in advance with the submitter being able to ask a supplementary. This had not accelerated the process and often the really difficult questions did not get answered.

17 measures had been passed over the past 6 years, the most significant of which related to Safeguarding, a new Cathedrals Measure, updates to the DBE Measure and new Church Representation Rules. Over 45 pieces of secondary legislations had also been passed.

The key themes of this term were set to continue to inform the next quinquennium. This would include the debate about Human Sexuality, Racial Justice and Climate Change.

Canon Nigel Bacon then noted the arrangements for General Synod elections, with nominations opening 30th July.

Synod was given an opportunity to ask questions and comment on the report.

Resourcing Sustainable Church: A Time to Change Together

The Rt Revd Dr David Court, Bishop of Grimsby, explained that since Synod in May, where members approved the 15 recommendations outlined in the A Time to Change Together report, an implementation team had been formed and the decision of Synod communicated out to parishes. This had been followed up with another communication outlining the timetable and the next stages for parishes. Resources had been made available to parishes to assist with the conversations.  All of this material was now available on the website. An overview ‘pew sheet’ and a summary of church types which should assist with these conversations had been distributed. Along with the implementation team, a governance structure had been created that included different workstreams and an oversight group, which would be responsible for the work.

The Revd Canon Alyson Buxton, RSC Director, described her excitement in being seconded to this role and asserted that all the seconded and volunteer members of the team were motivated because they believed in the direction and were willing to serve the diocese together. Fr Richard Crossland was introduced to Synod as the Reimagining Church Lead (which includes Church Type discussions), Canon Nigel Bacon as Monitoring and Evaluation Lead, the Revd Simon Dean as Generous Living Lead (which includes oversight of the Covenant Scheme) and Nicola Snelling as the RSC Manager.

Synod was given an opportunity to ask questions and comment on the update. Details of A Time to Change Together can be found on the diocesan website.

Safeguarding

The Ven Gavin Kirk, Archdeacon of Lincoln, presented the written report and updated Synod members on what had been achieved subsequently. The Bishop’s Staff team had engaged with two high profile survivors who had waived their right to anonymity in order to help the church to understand the voice of survivors. Hearing what it had been like to try to get justice or even just be heard and taken seriously had been a very valuable experience for all on Bishop’s Staff.

New polices were coming downstream including updates to Safer Recruitment. Training sessions would be offered on this in due course. The new guidelines on Spiritual Abuse were due to be released soon. There was a need to protect our clergy and Covenant Pastors in their work.

Training was still being offered online and Parish Safeguarding Officers that do not have valid training were being encouraged to undertake this as soon as possible.

Synod was given an opportunity to ask questions and comment on the update.

The Diocesan Board of Education: Annual Report

The Rt Revd Dr Nicholas Chamberlain, Bishop of Grantham introduced the Annual Report and thanked Synod for the financial support to the Board of Education which was crucial to underpinning all that is done for our schools.

Ms Jackie Waters-Dewhurst took Synod through a PowerPoint presentation (a copy of the presentation slides can be found here) which detailed what had been achieved within the DBE over the last 9 years. There were now 10 Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs), 14 Single Academy Trusts and 41 academies in total within the DBE. The Lincoln Anglican Academy Trust had been launched which now contained 18 schools and would soon become 20. The DBE now also had a strategy for up to 6 Majority Church MATS, which would be enough to provide a home for all of our schools. 73 training events were held in 2020 despite lockdown and 2021’s training programme included 83 training events. Other improvements made over the period included enhancing relationships with the Local Authorities and the change to incorporated status.

Other key recent initiatives had included engaging with Racial Justice and rolling out REConnecting Lincolnshire to national acclaim. Jackie also noted the incredible stress schools had been under during the pandemic, including confusing guidance from the Department of Education, extraordinary expectations which were often conflicting and fundamental changes in delivering education.

Following an opportunity for questions and comments, Synod voted unanimously to receive the Annual Report and thanked Jackie for her hard work whilst in post, on this her final Synod.

Current Deputy, Paul Thompson, was introduced to Synod as the newly appointed Diocesan Director of Education who would begin his new role on 1st September.

The Diocesan Board of Education: DBE Measure

The Rt Revd Dr Nicholas Chamberlain and Jackie Waters-Dewhurst explained that the Diocesan Boards of Education Measure 2021 requires Diocesan Synod to designate a body as the Diocesan Board of Education. The current Lincoln Diocesan Board of Education is a company limited by guarantee and a registered charity, which is one of the permitted legal structures. Synod was provided with a draft scheme that would retain this legal structure and a briefing note and asked to give its support in advance of it being brought back to Synod at a later date, along with various changes that would need to be made to the Articles of Association.

Following an opportunity for questions or comments, Synod voted unanimously in favour of the proposals.  

The Strategic Development Fund Programme update

The Rt Revd Dr David Court introduced the SDF programme report, noting that it had been 3 years since implementation of the programme had begun.  When the programme board and BCDT had received the report all had been amazed at what had been achieved over this period.

Mrs Nicola Snelling, the SDF Programme Manager, took Synod members through a PowerPoint presentation (a copy of the presentation slides can be found here) of highlights from the written report. The programme had been created to grow the Church and invest in our urban centres which had historically received lower investment yet hold a large amount of untapped potential. The programme used a proven model for achieving growth, with three resource churches established in the diocese that would then plant into nine further churches. This was being achieved by combined funding from the National Church and the Diocese. 2019 was spent establishing the groundwork of the programme including recruitment into the resource churches, establishing goals for each church and beginning to monitor against those goals. A major building project was undertaken at the Salthouse at St Swithin’s, for which the first stage was completed in 2020. Consultation and relationships were established and a good governance structure was launched.

Two plants have been launched thus far, St Johns’s in Spalding and St Faith’s in Lincoln, with a third set to launch into St Mark’s in Grimsby in September. Since its launch in February, St John’s Spalding had run its first Alpha course in decades, had launched a Bible study group and were piloting a contemporary all-age worship service alongside the ongoing pattern of more traditional worship.  St Faith’s Lincoln was launched in March, and had already re-established a morning eucharist service whilst experimenting with various all-age, student and outdoor services. In September, St Mark’s Grimsby is set to be launched and over the past year a planting team had been recruited with many people moving into Grimsby in order to be involved. There would be a soft launch in Autumn and a formal launch at the beginning of Advent. 

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, all three resource churches had reached at least the target rate of average Sunday attendance due to the inclusion of online services. The timely recruitment of planting curates remained one of the biggest risks to the programme and would be closely monitored. The programme timeframe was due to be extended in response to the pandemic as well as to earlier delays in recruitment. This meant the timeframe would now run to the end of 2026 at which point all plants should be launched, with monitoring continuing for a further 5 years.

After questions and comments, Synod voted to receive the update report from the SDF Programme.

Close of the Synod and the prayers

Canon Nigel Bacon recognised this as the final meeting for some Diocesan Synod members before the new triennium and thanked them for their various terms of service.

The Diocesan Prayer and a blessing was said by the Bishop of Grimsby to close the meeting.

Meeting of the House of Laity

The scheduled meeting of the House of Laity was cancelled as no candidates had been nominated for the vacant position for a Stow and Lindsey Lay representative on the Bishop’s Council of Diocesan Trustees.