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Overview of Diocesan Synod March 2024

Bishop Sophie Jelley gives her Presidential Address to Diocesan Synod

[Please note, this article offers highlights and general commentary of the meeting, with useful links and downloads. It is not a replacement for the minutes.]

The meeting opened with Bishop Sophie welcoming people before handing over to the Revd Amanda Barraclough, Rector of St Mary’s Sprotbrough and Dean of Women’s Ministry, to lead the opening worship.

The Revd Canon Ian Smith Chaired the meeting. He started proceedings by welcoming people again before noting apologies for absence. The minutes from the previous meeting, held on Saturday 27 November 2023 at St John the Evangelist, Ranmoor, were accepted and signed.

First, the report from Bishop’s Council, circulated as a paper prior to the meeting, was accepted by the Synod.

Canon Ian Walker then took to the lectern for the finance report. Ian presented an overview of the 2023 year end as well as an update on the 2024 year to date. Katie Bell, Chief Executive of the SDBF, also gave an update on position of the Common Fund.

View all of the slides used for this agenda item from Ian and Katie.

Next, Bishop Sophie gave an update on the work of the Diversity in Participation group, including the recent Racial Justice bid. Her full update is available here.

View all of the slides used for this agenda item from Bishop Sophie.

The Revd Malcolm Liles presented a motion from Attercliffe Deanery:

In view of the problems being currently experienced by the Pension Board in providing sufficient housing for retiring clergy, their partners, dependents and/or widow/ers, within their current funding constraints. This Synod requests that:

a) The Church Commissioners invest in the provision of rented housing for retired clergy, widow/ers and others eligible, that is currently provided by the Pension Board under its CHARM/Church Living scheme.

b) That this investment should be sufficient to discharge the current debt held by the Pension Board in this respect and should also fully fund the future purchases of all retirement properties for the scheme

A governance item was next on the agenda. This related to the DAC Amended Scheme – each diocesan synod must establish a scheme for the inspection and subsequent report on the parish churches in the diocese. The DAC has refined the CBC’s sample scheme for use in our Diocese.

Right on time, Synod broke for a refreshment break.

The Archdeacon of Sheffield and Rotherham, Malcolm Chamberlain updated Synod on the strategy refresh work. You can watch his presentation below (and view his slides here).

Following the presentation, Malcolm asked people to spend 15 mins discussing at their tables what they felt encouraged by and what they were still concerned about. After 15 minutes, each table fed back a summary of their discussions. Some encouraging comments: great it is a refresh, and not something knew; importance placed on prayer; work with young people and children. Some challenges: ensuring smaller, rural populations don’t miss out; mental health support; hearing update to turning the map green.

Archdeacon Malcolm stayed at the front to introduce the Diocesan Safeguarding report. He drew attention to the news regarding Chris Brain and the Nine O’clock service and asked for prayers for survivors involved in this. Malcolm also flagged our interview process for the replacement of Chris Herbert, Safeguarding Trainer, as he moves into a new role in the Diocese. He also highlighted the releases of the recent reports relating to Safeguarding: the Jay report; and the Wilkinson report. The Archbishops’ Council has set up a group to consider how to respond and plan next steps.

The General Synod report was given by the Revd Canon Rick Stordy. General Synod met in London over five days earlier this month and discussed a range of topics. All papers are publicly available for this February Group of Sessions.

Rick took us through an overview of General Synod starting with the Presidential Address from the ABC and discussions on: parochial fees, Code of Conduct (dealing with bad behaviour in church!), safeguarding; plans to use our land and nature to support Net Zero goals; racial justice; Transatlantic slavery; future of work (in light of developments in AI); estates evangelism; clergy pay and pensions; Living in Love and Faith; the war in Ukraine; and the removal of divorce impediment. Rick ended his presentation with a call for us all to be gentle with one another.

Bishop Sophie delivered her Presidential Address. She started the address by saying:

I have frequently found through my years of prayer, spiritual direction and Bible study that the Lord has often given me a word for the season. That this season (since our last Synod) has been the word glory is a little surprising, in this time of lent.

Bishop Sophie Jelley

Bishop Sophie went on to talk about global events, safeguarding and Living in Love and Faith. You can watch her full address below. The text is also available at the bottom of this page.

Bishop Sophie Jelley delivers Presidential Address at Diocesan Synod

Ian then flagged the Diocesan Synod Elections are due this year. Paperwork has been distributed to Area Deans and he asked that people should be encouraged to stand from their areas. Those elected will last for three years.

The meeting concluded with prayers led by the Reverend Amanda Barraclough.

The date of the next meeting is Saturday 13 July 2024 at a venue to be confirmed.

Bishop Sophie’s Presidential Address in full

Ascribe to the Lord the glory and strength ascribe to the Lord the glory due to his name Psalm 96 verse 7- 8

I have frequently found through my years of prayer, spiritual direction and Bible study that the Lord has often given me a word for the season. That this season (since our last Synod) has been the word glory is a little surprising, in this time of lent. Those more formally liturgical churches will generally refrain from the ‘Gloria’ in this season. And Lent is usually kept as a more austere period. Practising forms of abstinence, adopting more penitential practice or perhaps taking on some particular good work or generosity towards others. But glory it has been. In New Testament Greek doxa and in Hebrew kavod, it has connotations of weightiness, importance, deference to the one who is sovereign, righteous, king of kings, Lord of Lords. A good translation might be ‘honour’. There’s a lovely book called ‘a culture of honour’ and there is something deeply attractive about the experience of honouring God in a way that leads to us honouring one another. So I want to reflect on some glimpses of glory over recent months, even in the context of our needy world, national uncertainties and local community struggles.

First, in relation to our world, the world God created for his delight and for the flourishing of all. The cathedral (and I know other churches in our diocese also) marked the second anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine and there are dear Ukrainian people continuing to live among us in the diocese, having been received so warmly by some of you and others in Sheffield, we grieve with them and do not underestimate the complexity of the diplomatic process seeking to address this conflict as it goes on. The unprecedented horror of the Middle East at this time has led to a humanitarian crisis of the most harrowing proportions. Heartened as I am, by the call for the cessation of violence, this disaster is not straightforward. As the daughter of a Jewish father whose family were migrants from an area of Russia now Ukraine, and who most likely would not be welcome here today, his brother (my uncle), a political professor with expertise in terrorism in the Middle East and among the first on the scene of the Lockerbie bombing, I took the opportunity to visit the Middle East on a CCJ (Council of Christians and Jews) tour in 1995 exploring the intersection between Christians Jews and Muslims. Our trip included generous hospitality in the homes of Palestinian Christians, a visit to students in Gaza university and the honour of sharing Shabbat with a reporter from the Washington Post and his family in Jerusalem, as well as visits to a mosque meeting with significant Muslim leaders. It was at that time, a season of hope, a glimpse of glory, demonstrating the possibility of a new future. Rightly we pray and give as we can at this time of great risk and tension.

The impact in the West has been shocking as the conflation of issues has resulted in a sharp rise in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia that means people are living their daily lives here in the UK, in fear for themselves and their families. Our call is to be peacemakers not simply peacekeepers. In every way we are to be those who contend for peace. We will view that endeavour differently but there have been demonstrable signs here in the Diocese of Sheffield that we understand how to do this. I know that there have been great developments in the relationships between different faith communities in Rotherham, with Rev Phil Batchford and colleagues playing a key role in relation to the Muslim faith leaders. I have, along with others attended a Holocaust Memorial event, I shall attend the Iftar in Sheffield with Dean Abi in a few weeks’ time, and as Ramadan begins tomorrow, we will continue to pray and serve our communities in all their diversity to the best of our ability, working closely with partner organisations, seeking people of peace to bring glory to Christ in our needy world.

Nationally, we await the election. We received the budget this week and we continue to work to focus on the needs of the communities we serve and for all those in our diocese who work at the frontline of health education business the charity sector, thank you for every way you bring God glory in your everyday places as lights for Christ in the world. Here in the diocese we’re looking ahead through our strategy refresh process towards a plan for up to 2032 it will enable us to reflect on the ways God has blessed this past season and draws in the priorities God has underlined in areas of social action and need racial justice disability and of course the environment there are global issues that are not simply ours to solve but they are our responsibility to attend to so far as it rests with us to ensure that we steward the resources God has entrusted to us and respond to his call on our lives. The timelines for this will be slightly later than planned as we have been invited to apply for significant partnership funding from the SMMIB in early 2025 rather than autumn this year but I hope you are reassured by what you have heard today, that we are working closely with national church to see how we may be supported to ensure that we bridge any gap as a result. We are blessed with supportive colleagues who know us well and are keen to help Sheffield Diocese flourish and grow.

We could, at this time, find ourselves consumed with the issues that have dominated General Synod this would be understandable but even in our response to this we must pay attention to how we will bring glory and I want to highlight two areas in particular the 1st is safeguarding and the 2nd is prayers of love and faith first safeguarding the Wilkinson and Jay report invite our reflections on the way we that is the Church of England keep ourselves and others especially vulnerable people safe I commend these reports to you they are important to read. At 185 pages, the Wilkinson report is an independent review following the decision by the Archbishops’ Council to terminate the contracts of the members of the Independent Safeguarding Board following a breakdown in relationships earlier this year. The Jay report on the future of church safeguarding at 55 pages focuses on independence and scrutiny and a group has been established to respond to these reports which will report back at the next synod. Here in Sheffield, we are greatly blessed by an exceptional team of colleagues I particularly want to give thanks to Chris Herbert our safeguarding trainer as he embarks on his new venture into stipendiary oversight ministry here in the diocese and I use this opportunity to remind you to get your name down for training if you haven’t already done so. We know that we can never be complacent about safeguarding but rather we should always be alert to this. I welcome the survivor focus to this work and encourage you all to do the same. I look forward to sharing in the PSO celebration on June 8th at Doncaster stadium. Please do make sure that your parish is represented there, it promises to be a great day. 

In relation to LLF I do not wish to add to what has already been said so ably by Rick, but I do want to remind you of two things the first is that our vision is to be a diverse diocese. Our vision states that we seek to grow Christlike, lively diverse Christian communities that are fruitful in making disciples and transforming Gods world, whatever your perspective, please can I assure you that you have a place here. Many feel vulnerable across the spectrum at this time please do not struggle alone but please also know that you are valued here. The second is that we have an LLF chaplaincy team, please do use them their details can be found on the diocesan website, and they would be glad to hear from you and to support you whatever need you bring.

Finally, glory in the ordinary I have been so encouraged by my Sunday visits recently going to ordinary congregations just going about their lives together offering all sorts of opportunities to know the love of Christ in their local places serving families and children offering hope to the poor setting captives free and bringing glory to Christ in all that they seek to do. I’m delighted that large numbers are preparing for confirmation at this time, not least on Holy Saturday at the cathedral. Clergy wellbeing is a particular and ongoing area for attention, as always, and we plan to put out a survey after Easter to hear directly from them to guide us in our response to their needs.

As I am sure you would expect, I am of course very pleased to be looking ahead to Bishop Pete’s  return as I’m sure you are too, he has been greatly missed over the past few months and we shall be delighted to welcome him back to preside at the chrism service on the Monday of Holy Week when we shall gather together to bless the oils that are used in ministry and to renew ministerial vows as lay and ordained colleagues together. All are warmly welcomed to this service, and we would be delighted to see you there. Holy Week reminds us that we are those who are led through betrayal to despair and on to glory. All this is so we may become an alleluia people recognising ourselves beloved by Christ,  forgiven renewed and transformed by His love, for he is the one in whom all our hopes are satisfied. So may you know His glory that we may all continue to offer life to others and hope in our communities, that we might continue to bring glory to God in the days to come.