An overview of Diocesan Synod held on 18 March at St James Clifton

21st March 2017

[Please note this is an article produced to give some highlights from Diocesan Synod and is not a substitute for the minutes.]

Diocesan Synod took place at 9am on Saturday, 18 March 2017 at St James Clifton.  The meeting opened with prayers led by the Revd Abi Thompson:

"Christ is our peace, who has made us one, He has broken down the barriers which divided us"

The meeting was chaired by Canon Ian Smith, who began by giving a warm welcome to the new representatives on the Synod.

Apologies for absences were received, followed by the acceptance of the previous meeting’s minutes.

Canon Geoffrey Harbord kicked off on the main agenda with a report from General Synod’s February group of sessions.  He started his warm and witty started overview with comment about the technological issues that had made the meetings interesting at times!  All of the papers for these sessions can be found on the Church of England website.  Items on this update included discussions around Fixed Odds Betting Terminals and the report on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships after the Shared Conversations.

Huw Thomas, the Diocesan Director of Education spoke next to introduce Duncan Milwain.   Building on recent training for Bishop’s Council Trustees, Duncan is from Wrigleys Solicitors LLP and encouraged Synod to consider: What is good governance?  Drawing on the Charity Commission guidance on trustee duties: Charity finances: trustee essentials (CC25) Duncan reminded us all to:

  • Ensure the charity is carrying out its purposes for the public benefit
  • Comply with the charity's governing document and the law
  • Act in the charity's best interests
  • Manage the charity's resources responsibly
  • Act with reasonable care and skill and
  • Ensure the charity is accountable

Duncan also outlined the existing governance arrangements in the Diocese and the Diocesan Board of Education, explaining the different types of schools and Academy Trusts within our overall structure.

Are you interested to discuss governance at your next PCC meeting? Try this new Charity Commission tool, made available on 16 March 2017: Charity governance, finance and resilience: 15 questions trustees should ask .

Following this, Huw then gave an update on the latest work of the Diocesan Board of Education.  He spoke about the strategy document produced by the Church of England which outlines its vision for education.  The report, Deeply Christian, Serving the Common Good is available on the Diocesan website.  Huw was a member of the reference group that produced the report.  He said: “this is the spirit of our work in education”.

Bishop Peter gave his Presidential Address just before the coffee break.  He used this as an opportunity to address the recent developments with Bishop Philip North withdrawing from his role as the next Bishop of Sheffield, commenting:

"I do sincerely hope and pray that even with our differences we can find a way of living together in unity and respect.”

The full address is available on Bishop Peter’s website blog.

After the coffee break, Ian Walker gave an update on the Diocesan Finances.  This included a focus on 2016’s income and expenditure, as well as a breakdown of Common Fund income distribution.  The audit on 2016’s accounts begins in April and is expected to go to July’s Diocesan Synod for sign off.  Ian also confirmed that a Giving Officer will be starting shortly at Church House with a remit to work with parishes.

Linda Langthorne, the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser (DSA), gave an update on the work of the Safeguarding Team.  Linda commented that the pace of change within the Church of England on safeguarding has been greater than in any other organisation she has worked.  Linda continued to give an overview on the national picture from the Church of England.  The Diocese, along with others around the country is providing information to the Jay Inquiry.  New policies and guidelines have also been issued by the national team recently.  The report for the independent safeguarding audit that took place in November 2017 is in the final stages of being finalised.  Two new members of staff have now started: Chris Herbert as Safeguarding Training Officer; and Sue Lamprell as the Safeguarding Administrator.  The team aims to support everyone in implementing the policies and procedures in terms of training, support and advice.  Currently, 24 volunteers have been recruited to help deliver the foundation level training.  The aim is for two in each deanery.  This frees up the Safeguarding Team to train others at a higher level.

Bishop Peter thanked Linda on behalf of the Synod for overseeing the pace of change, as well as thanking the Archdeacon of Doncaster for his role overseeing the safeguarding functions.

The Diocesan Secretary, Heidi Adcock, presented the Annual Report of Boards, Committees and Departments for 2016.  A one-page overview of this report is also available.  This is the second year the report has been produced in an easier to digest format, and is inclusive of the work of all Church House’s departments.  The report was accepted by the Synod and will be available to view on the website shortly.  Heidi particularly wanted to pay tribute to the tremendous amount of work that took place in 2016.

In any other business, Colin Peskett, Hallam Deanery, was asked to speak about the Hollowford Trust to raise its profile.  The Trust gives away money to assist young people aged between 10 and 25 years who are resident in, or near the Diocese of Sheffield, to develop their physical, mental and spiritual capabilities, so that they may grow to full maturity as individuals and members of society and so that their conditions of life may be improved.

Canon Liz Paver interjected to thank Bishop Peter for all he has done in leading the diocese through recent weeks, this was met with applause from all in the room.

The next meeting will take place on Saturday 15 July 2017 at St Peter’s, Warmsworth at 9.00 am.

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