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Archbishops' council

13 July 2012

THE Synod had a presentation and a question-and-answer session on the annual report of the Archbishops' Council.

Canon Robert Cotton (Guildford) told the Synod that the Archbishops' Council and House of Bishops had established a "promisingly styled Simplification Working Group".

He said: "We are all too aware of the cautionary tale from Whitehall, where bonfires of government regulations and red tape are routinely promised by successive ministers at the same time as they bring ever more legislation and statutory instruments before Parliament. We must do better than that."

The group had already "formulated a range of proposals" on the Church Representation Rules, and was now, with the chair of the Church Buildings Council, "looking at ways of streamlining the operation of the faculty system".

He said that new working relationships between the Council, the Church Commissioners, and the House of Bishops had "developed stronger, clearer, and more productive partnerships".

"The Council continued to work", he said, "on your behalf and on behalf of the Church to support the national Church, the dioceses, deaneries, and parishes in their work to further the Kingdom."

Canon William Croft (Peterborough) noted the recent ecumenical audit of national church institutions, and asked whether, in future, the Synod could look forward to a "much more prominent dimension to the report", especially with regard to the Methodist Church of Great Britain.

Canon Giles Goddard (Southwark) asked about the Church Community Fund (CCF), for which he was "very grateful". He noted that the CCF had recently revised its criteria, and that it was "difficult" to get "pump-money funding" for new projects.

Adrian Vincent (Guildford) noted that the Government was introducing regulation that meant that any church that employed someone would have to provide a pension for them. Could the Council provide advice to parishes on this, and perhaps negotiate a suitable pension scheme that people could opt into?

Penelope Allen (Lichfield) noted the reference to ecumenical links in paragraph 40 of the report, and expressed a hope that this included recognition of ministry, both the priesthood and diaconate, in other denominations. One difficulty for those working on ecumenical projects was that the recognition of ministries "becomes an issue sometimes".

She raised a second point about lay ministry. Given that many ministers would be retiring in the next ten years, was an action plan in place yet? She suggested that the thinking seemed to be happening "late".

Linda Ali (York) spoke about the reference to "Afro-Caribbean" people. This was "incorrect", she said, "because we are Caribbean people of a huge number of ethnicities". Referring to "Afro-Caribbean" meant that a "host of people" were not being mentioned. Could the terminology be adjusted to "Caribbean and African origin"? "We are a melting pot of different things."

In response to a question from the Bishop of Ripon & Leeds, the Rt Revd John Packer, about how the Church collected figures for attendance at school services and eu- charists, and special events such as Remembrance services and carol services, Andrew Britton, who chairs the Finance Committee of the Archbishops' Council, said: "There is a lot of interest in the way we measure church attendance and growth. It's one of our priorities, and it is important when measur- ing priorities to know whether you're getting close or further away."

He confirmed that attendance at school services was not counted, and said that it was "very important" to look at that. "There's quite a bit of work to do."

Professor Anthony Berry (Chester) linked sections of the report dealing with equal opportunities in employment and reputational risks, and asked whether a failure to ensure compliance in the area of equal opportunities posed a risk of reputational damage to the Archbishops' Council.

Answering, Canon Cotton stated that the National Church Institutions "take their employment responsibilities seriously", but emphasised that clergy terms of service - if the question was related to the forthcoming debate on women bishops - were not a matter for the Archbishops' Council.

The Revd Hugh Lee (Oxford) asked when the Archbishops' Council had last talked about self-supporting ministers and ministers in secular employment; and what the Council's policy on them was.

Responding, the Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft, said that the Council had last discussed this type of ministry in response to the Morgan report; and that he expected the Re-imagining Ministry project to raise those issues again. 

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