Report from Diocesan Synod held on 25 November 2017

27th November 2017

The latest Diocesan Synod was held at All Saints Ecclesall in Sheffield.  The meeting began at 9.00am with an Act of Worship led by the Revd Alistair Stevenson (Assistant Curate, Ecclesall All Saints).

Dr Jackie Butcher chaired the meeting, opening proceedings by welcoming new Diocesan Synod members (including Bishop Pete!) and confirming the minutes of the previous meeting held at St Mary’s, Wombwell on Thursday 6 July 2017.

Bishop Pete gave his first Presidential Address to Synod, thanking everyone for all their prayers over the previous months.  He started his address by saying that his installation as Bishop of Sheffield was now nine weeks ago, he said “a great deal has happened in that time for me, feeling like I have been living my life in a blur, a warm and encouraging blur but a blur nevertheless!”.  He continued “I want to begin just by thanking you for the way in which across the diocese I’ve been made to feel so very welcome over the course of the last couple of months”.

The full address from Bishop Pete is available to view on the link here.

Following Bishop Pete’s address, the Revd Canon Geoffrey Harbord gave an overview of the July meeting of General Synod.  Much of the comment on the General Election and Human Sexuality.  Revd Harbord noted that all sessions of General Synod are filmed and put on the CofE YouTube channel (on which he has a cameo appearance).

The next item on the agenda saw Diocesan Synod asked to endorse the composition of Synod for the next triennium, maintaining the current system of Deanery allocations.  The motion was largely carried.

Another technical bit came next on the agenda.  As this was the new Bishop of Sheffield's first Diocesan Synod, it had to be voted through that he can delegate some of his duties to the Suffragan and Assistant Bishops of the Diocese at his discretion. Of course this was approved and the agenda moved on.

The Archdeacon of Sheffield and Rotherham gave an update on Safeguarding (the Archdeacon of Doncaster has sent his apologies as he is absent with flu). It was noted that a new document ‘Key Roles and Responsibilities of Church Office Holders’ has been produced by the House of Bishops.  The Archdeacon commented that it is essential that it is read, digested and discussed in parishes.

The Safeguarding report also noted that the Training team has now delivered appropriate training to approximately 1,000 people across the diocese.  This means that the training plan in terms of Safeguarding is on course.  Malcolm said “it’s great that we have got to that point and met our target with training – please take our gratitude back to PCCs.  Safeguarding is fundamental to who we are and what we are about.”  He also asked people to share the monthly Safeguarding newsletter (to sign up email sue.lamprell@sheffield.anglican.org).

Accounts was next on the agenda as Mr Ian Walker, Chairman of the Diocesan Board of Finance, gave a brief update on the 2017 financial position. He made a couple of points; the diocese can only increase its clergy numbers if parish giving increased but we are seeing a reduction in this at the moment.  He also said that in the Sheffield Diocese giving has dropped by 3% in the last year.  This was set alongside the context that the amount of funding received centrally is falling over the next 10 years; though there is now the opportunity to apply for Development Funding for specific areas of work.

Following this Ian then presented the draft Budget for 2018.  The presentation slides can be downloaded here.

The Synod approved:

"THAT the draft Budget of the Diocesan Board of Finance for the twelve months ending 31 December 2018 be approved and that the Bishop’s Council (as the Finance Committee of the Board) work to a Budget of net (outgoing) resources, after transfers, of (£73,000) for 2018 in accordance with this Budget.”

Bishop Pete introduced the final major section of the Synod.  This was relating to the issues that had arisen in the church about events surrounding the nomination, and subsequent withdrawal, of Bishop Philip North as diocesan Bishop of Sheffield earlier this year.  Sir Philip Mawer was invited to address Diocesan Synod on the findings of his recent report [original story and report here].  He addressed Synod along with his colleague, Jonathan Neil-Smith.  Sir Philip ran through his findings and gave some insight into why he had done things in a certain way.  He said that the tone of the report was meant to be open and honest while trying to promote healing & reconciliation.  Sir Philip explained how large the task was, and how detailed he had been speaking to 75 individuals across 40 meetings, many of these in the Sheffield Diocese itself.

Following this, the floor was allowed 20 minutes to question Sir Philip on his report.  The emphasis was on ‘questions’ here and not merely statements or opinions. 

Recognising that there is still work to be done on these issues, Bishop Pete introduced the second half of this section.  He said there would be two tasks carried out in the diocese over the course of the next six months.  Two individuals have been approached to help lead this mediation and reconciliation work.  One is the Revd Canon Sarah Hills, Coventry Cathedral's Canon for Reconciliation, and the other is Steven Ruttle, a London-based solicitor and professional mediator.  The Bishop explained how they would help during two phases.  Phase 1 – in January 2018 a series of safe spaces will be created to enable anyone, lay or ordained, that may still be carrying negative feelings to express that.  There will be three to four gatherings carried out regionally.  Phase 2 – Easter 2018 (to summer) will look at how the experience of the diocese can contribute to make Mutual Flourishing more fully possible for the diocese and the wider CofE.  The outcomes of Phase 1 will feed this later phase.  

In order to give the facilitators some baseline planning material, the Synod was asked to spend 30 minutes around tables to make notes of two things:

  1. Reflect on the last 12 months is there anything that you want to celebrate?
  2. Reflect on the last 12 months and note if there is anything to lament. 

The final exercise asked people to roughly note what is there from what’s happened that contributes learning for the diocese and the wider CofE.  Also, what areas still cause pain and need to be mended?

The dates for the safe spaces under this first phase will be agreed and published before Christmas.

There was no AOB.  The meeting concluded with prayers led by the Revd Dan Christian, Associate Vicar of Ecclesall All Saints.  The next meeting of Diocesan Synod is on Saturday 3 March at Holy Trinity, Thorpe Hesley Church Hall.

(Please note this is meant as an observed overview of Diocesan Synod and is not intended to be a replacement for the minutes of the meeting).

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