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Archbishops' Council reports back

15 July 2016

A PRESENTATION about the work of the Archbishops’ Council, based on its annual report, was given on Saturday evening.

Introducing its work, and seeking to give a flavour of the Council’s composition and purpose, at the beginning of the quinquennium, Mary Chapman (Archbishops’ Council) said: “We want to create a bridge of work.”

The Council was unique in its strong representation at Synod and the presence of the First Church Estates Commissioner was a reflection of that relationship in bringing equality, resources, and the greatest possible diversity.

The Council was grateful to the Synod, she said, for its emphasis on serving the furtherance of mission, and for setting priorities to help the Council to focus its efforts. “Our role is to support those closest to front line — as set out in annual report,” she said.

Renewal and Reform has been a “Leitmotif” in the report in terms of communication and consultation widely across the Church, she said. The need for a shared vision and narrative was imperative in contributing to Renewal and Reform and to building the Kingdom of God.

Interwoven in this was a need to develop a culture and practice to ensure the safety and well-being of those involved, and the Council was at the pilot stage of its quality-assurance policy on recent inquiries into sexual abuse. It had also reviewed its relationships with several organisations, and must waste no opportunities in building new partnerships.

There were two main incomes: from the Church Commissioners, and the diocesan apportionment. Selecting and resourcing public ministry was also a large proportion of the annual report. New arrangements had opened up opportunities to support projects, but they needed to move faster; peer reviewers were being selected and trained to demonstrate the impact of the funding, and improve understanding.

Spending on the poorest communities and on development funding was split 50:50, and transitional funding over ten years was around £72.7 million from the Church Commissioners. The Council will implement the new arrangements immediately, in providing additional sums to those dioceses that would experience greatest change in this budget.

Philip Fletcher (Archbishops’ Council) expanded on the report, which, he said, was very much in partnership with others. The First World War Repair Fund was £40 million over four years 2014-18, he said. He then pointed the Synod to other initiatives, including Pilgrimage to Paris, established by the Synod and set off by Christian Aid.

He emphasised how vital that agreement was: “the faith element brought home to world leaders how important Climate Change is,” he said. He also pointed to the Churches’ Mutual Credit Union initiative — To Your Credit — which had been taken on by the Methodist and United Reformed Churched, and which would be used by the Roman Catholic Church in the autumn.

“We take the managing of money seriously,” he said. A large proportion of church growth happened through occasional offices: weddings, funerals and Christenings. Half a million contacts have been made here with the people of England aged 18-45.

One-off legacy money has been assigned to help incumbents provide these “first-class services to the people of England”, including three new websites on Christenings, weddings, and funerals, and sound research on these offices.

Communications had also been improved through new media and the development of the C of E website, which had led to five million hits, on the Lord’s Prayer campaign — though this might be down to cinema chains’ declining to show it, he said — and other things.

“Podcasts, blogs, videos, and there is lots more to come around ministry and vocation, including the C of E ministerial scheme giving young people a chance to experience what it is like to be a priest in Church, without commitment.”

Lay leadership and ministry was all part of this, he said. He also mentioned the Parish Buying Scheme, before concluding: “This is not the Archbishops’ Council working on its own, but working together with a host of partners — not limited to the Pensions Board, the National Society, and deanery synod. We hope the Archbishops’ Council can be a catalyst for Christian service by and for the C of E.”

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