INCREASING expectations of the deanery synod were debated on Sunday afternoon.
Introducing a motion from Coventry diocesan synod, the Revd Mark Beach (Coventry) acknowledged that, in the past, deanery synods had been defined as “a meeting waiting to go home” or a “talking shop”, which they were under their present constitution. He called for deaneries to be used to “release the missionary energies of the Church”.
He spoke of the difficulties of Southam deanery in Warwickshire in trying to support mission when it could not hold a bank account to pay its deanery missioner. Things had changed since the Bridge review of deaneries ten years ago. This motion was to work out how a deanery could fulfil its potential.
Canon Ruth Worsley (Southwell & Nottingham), Area Dean of Nottingham South, said that there, too, they had “sought to do deanery differently”. It was a question of extending mission. They had made creative lay appointments, such as that of an administrator with their neighbouring deanery, and had created a shared website to promote mission initiatives.
Canon Tony Walker (Southwell & Nottingham) said that in Retford they had made their deanery a team ministry, and had introduced two part-time schools workers. It had become problematic, though, as the diocesan board of finance would not agree to be their employers; so they had set up a charitable trust, which took up time and money.
The Archdeacon of Berkshire, the Ven. Norman Russell (Oxford), proposed an amendment, saying that deaneries could be as different as chalk and cheese. He called for more research before moving forward with primary legislation.
Gavin Oldham (Oxford), lay chairman of Wendover deanery, said that deaneries were the natural local hub for outreach. He highlighted their varying sizes: in London, the average population was 143,000; in Hereford, just 20,000.
John Wilson (Lichfield) said that his amendment gave a real focus to the place and roles of deaneries, which at the moment had “no teeth or no clout to be taken seriously”. He called for deaneries to be given the same status as parishes.
The Revd Alistair Cutting (Chichester) said that it would be more useful to have Readers and non-stipendiary clergy licensed to the deanery rather than the parish.
The Revd Dr Meg Gilley (Durham) said that Stockton deanery had drawn up a plan of a “single parish” of ordained and lay people, doing ministry in places such as schools and offices. But she had reservations about another layer of bureaucracy.
Michael Streeter (Chichester) said that, as a lay chairman, he had “serious reservations” about whether the deaneries were in direct contact with those who were achieving what the Church wanted to achieve.
Jim Cheeseman (Rochester), a deanery lay chairman, said that every deanery had a bank account, and standing orders required them to elect a treasurer and to provide annual audited accounts. “There are other ways of doing things, and we don’t have to go down this route of legislation.”
Dr John Shelley (Exeter), a deanery lay chairman, said that the deanery had a lay education officer. It wanted to continue with the post, but under the present arrangements it could not employ her itself. “We need something more robust, clear, and universal.”
Canon Simon Killwick (Manchester), an area dean, said that he did not want the deanery to become an employer. “What would happen if a deanery synod was taken to an employment tribunal?” It would be better for the diocesan board of finance to take on the responsibility.
Archdeacon Russell’s amendment was carried.
Adrian Greenwood (Southwark) said that few had responded to the consultation, because most were “bemused” by it. But he called on the Archbishops’ Council “to do an urgent job to ensure deaneries are fit for purpose”.
The motion as amended was carried. It read:
That this Synod
(a) welcome the wide measure of discretion that each diocese has to determine the extent of any delegation of functions to deaneries;
(b) note the increasing range of legal vehicles available to deaneries where it is agreed that a more executive role may help in promoting the mission of the Church; and
(c) invite the Archbishops’ Council, in consultation with the House of Bishops, to produce updated guidance on available options, with examples of how recent practice has been developing.