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General Synod: Strategic funding reaches city centres and rural areas

12 July 2019

Madeleine Davies, Adam Becket, and Tim Wyatt report from the General Synod in York

The Revd Dr Ian Paul introduces the Archbishops’ Council’s annual report for 2018, with Mary Chapman

The Revd Dr Ian Paul introduces the Archbishops’ Council’s annual report for 2018, with Mary Chapman

THE Archbishops’ Council’s annual report for 2018 was introduced by the Revd Dr Ian Paul (Southwell & Nottingham). He briefly covered the priorities of the Council, noting how important safeguarding was, an issue that was on every agenda. The Council was closely following the IICSA hearings and also carefully considering whether it was allocating “appropriate resources to ensure we’re doing all we can to ensure the Church is a safe place for all people”.

On mission and evangelism, £64 million of Strategic Development Funding was given out to 23 dioceses last year, aiming to create new worshipping communities in areas where the Church had previously been weak in its presence. “We are ambitious in city centres, housing estates, coastal areas, market towns, and rural areas,” he said. A further £12 million had also been given to boost dioceses’ “strategic capacity”.

The digital-evangelism push continued to bear fruit: 7.4 million people had been reached by the Follow the Star Christmas campaign, a new app offered reflections, the Lent campaign had reached 3.4 million people, and 50 per cent more booklets had been sold in connection with digital campaigns (a total of 120,000).

Mary Chapman (Archbishops’ Council) outlined the Council’s work on vocations: 95 people had taken part in the Ministry Experience Scheme, and there had been a further eight-per-cent rise in the number of people beginning ordination training (a total of 587). This was a “welcome step” towards reaching the target of 50 per cent more candidates by next year. The new cohort was also younger and more diverse. The Council also supported bishops in their public engagement on issues ranging from gambling and child poverty to a net-zero carbon-emissions target by 2050. More than 2000 churches were now running green-energy tariffs, and 700 were registered as EcoChurches.

Dr Paul then spoke about the Council’s work supporting church schools and their leaders, besides giving opportunities through cashless payments for parishes. The digital team had now trained people from 1000 churches in how to use social media and the internet, besides tweaking the A Church Near You website; so parishes could easily set up their own mini-websites through it.

Ms Chapman concluded that the Council was helping to boost ethnic diversity in the Church. The proportion of new ordinands who were from ethnic-minority backgrounds had increased to 7.7 per cent. BAME stipendiary clergy numbers were now up to 3.8 per cent. Work was also under way, in partnership with the Archbishop of Canterbury, to increase the Church’s welcome to people with disabilities, and new funding was available for areas in which their experience of the Church had previously been one of neglect and withdrawal.

Michael Stallybrass (York) suggested that the number of people being trained to help in digital work needed to be “greatly expanded”. Had the Council considered “training the trainers”?

Dr Paul reported that the Council had increased funding for the digital team in the past year.

The Revd Dr Anderson Jeremiah (TEIs) asked: “How can we instill that the C of E is part of the global Church, not just the C of E?”

Mrs Chapman asked that they not “underestimate the power and network of the Anglican Communion”. There were many projects under way here: “It can only be limited by the amount of resource we can put against it.”

Gavin Oldham (Oxford) was “hugely encouraged” by the £36 million that had gone into socially deprived areas; but was it possible to explore a “new approach to mutual support, run on a voluntary basis, by twinning, so we actually share our resources much better”?

Dr Paul had observed “big regional differences” and suggested that the proposal was “very sensible”.

The Synod voted to approve the appointment of Maureen Cole as a member of the Archbishops’ Council. Mrs Cole was succeeding Mrs Chapman, who had been an “essential and remarkable” member, the Archbishop of Canterbury said.

The Revd Paul Benfield (Blackburn) asked why notice of the appointment had been provided only that morning, although interviews had been held in June. “There is a danger we are just being used as a rubber stamp, which is unfortunate.”

Canon Sue Booys (Oxford) apologised that it this was due to an oversight, which had been noticed at 8.15 that morning.

The Synod voted to approve the appointment.

Read full coverage of the General Synod here

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