Report from Diocesan Synod held on 26 November 2016

28th November 2016

The latest meeting of Diocesan Synod took place at Warmsworth St Peter on Saturday, 26 November at 9 AM.  The meeting began with an Act of Worship led by Dr Jackie Butcher.  The theme of this was explained in a paper that had been produced on Gender Based Violence.  Across the Anglican communion churches marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25 November (White Ribbon Day). This marked the start of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, which runs until 10 December (International Human Rights Day). As Diocesan Synod falls within the 16 days of activism the opening worship will be themed around Gender Based Violence (GBV) and all male members of Synod will be given a white ribbon as they arrive.  A blog on this topic has also been added to the website.

The Mothers Union were also in attendance at the meeting as part of its 140th birthday celebrations.  They had an information stand available throughout.

Dr Butcher then took the Chair for the meeting. 

After Apologies for Absence were noted, the minutes if the last meeting held on 16 July were received.

The Bishop’s Council report had been included in the papers for the Synod and was noted as received.  Following this Canon Liz Paver gave her report from General Synod, as this was cancelled in November, the report referred to the July Group of Sessions.  Further information on this can be found on the Church of England website.  

Dr Christine Gore, Principal of St Peter’s College, took the front next, first playing the St Peter’s introductory video. [Watch the video here.]  She then gave an update on St Peter’s following on from the launch at the Diocesan Development Day on 2 October.  Christine spoke about the importance of people signing up as St Peter’s members so that they can keep up-to-date with latest courses, events, resources and college developments.  See www.stpeterscollege.org.uk for information.

The Young Vocations Advisers spoke next about the work they have been doing.  The Revd Adam Priestley, Doncaster Minster Mission Priest, and Revd Duncan Bell, St Chad’s Woodseats, introduced themselves and handed out a paper.  As they took questions the DDO, the Revd Stephen Hunter, joined them.  Stephen then gave a full presentation update on Resourcing Ministerial Education.  This included a range of interesting stats relating to trends of those being put forward for ordination over previous years.

There are encouraging numbers of ordinands’ being produced by Sheffield diocese.  It also looks positive for the age of those being put forward, and the steady evening out of the gender balance.  It was acknowledged that the BME representation is still low, and that this is also a national issue.  The Archdeacon of Sheffield and Rotherham also asked about the numbers of those with disabilities being encouraged for ordination.  Revd Hunter said simply there was not enough representation but that moves had been made nationally to encourage candidates with disabilities.  He also said that if someone came to him with a disability he would take all the advice he could to make sure that person was supported appropriately.  Stephen Hunter's presentation.

At this point Synod broke for a refreshment break.

Starting back after the break, the Venerable Malcolm Chamberlain, Archdeacon of Sheffield and Rotherham, gave an update on Safeguarding matters following the Safeguarding Audit of the Diocese in October.  Part of this process asked parishes to return a safeguarding parish audit.  This is an essential part of ministry and it was noted that some parishes had still not returned, or had to be chased.

Some highlights from the report were noted as:

  • Appointment of skilled and experienced full time Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser.
  • Having a strong lay chair of the safeguarding group.
  • Casework is excellent.
  • Recording judged as good with the DSA working well with partners where necessary.
  • High commitment in senior clergy – bishop, dean and archdeacons in particular.

It was recognised that the DSA needs a team to support their role – this is already underway with appointments for a dedicated Safeguarding Administrator and a Safeguarding Trainer imminent.

Other things to note was that Sheffield is still a little behind the curve on its training implementation.  It was also commented that the Safeguarding needs embedding further in the culture of the diocese and needs to made a priority across the board.

Next steps will be to collate and provide feedback on parish audits and will remain on the agenda of the bishop’s staff team. 

Large thanks were given to the DSA Linda Langthorne for all the work she has been doing.

The final auditors report, when completed, will be available on the CofE website as well as the Diocesan website.  There is not a timescale yet as when this will be available.

Bishop Peter Burrows gave his Presidential Address to Synod.  He spoke about the recent Peer Review process that the Diocese has gone through.  As part of this speech he talked about the Strengths, Weaknessess, Opportunities and Threats that had been identified in the Diocese.  Bishop Peter also spoke about the Salt and Light strategy.

Concluding the address he said: “The church, during Advent, looks back upon Christ’s coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people.  And we’re called to continue his mission, his work, and his ministry in the in-between time and that includes a bias to the poor and marginalised in the very broadest sense, a reaching out in love and compassion to help their practical needs as an outward example and witness of God’s love and in drawing them ever closer to their Lord and Saviour.”

The full video of his address can be watched here.

The full text of his address can be read on the Bishop of Doncaster’s blog here.

Ian Walker, Chair of the DBF, presented the draft budget for 2017.  This included looking at the changes nationally to the funding structures between the Church Commissioners and diocese’.  He also gave an update on the financial position for 2016.  The budget was accepted by the Synod.  Ian Walker's presentation.

The only item under Any Other Business was to note that Mr Dave Howarth has been appointed as an adviser to the Finance and Property Committee.  He has recently retired from Kier and brings a wealth of experience in property-related matters.

The meeting concluded with prayers led by the Mother’s Union.

The next meeting will be held on 18 March 2017 at 9am.  The venue is still to be confirmed.

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