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Scottish Episcopal Synod: news in brief

14 June 2019

Safeguarding, child allowances, communications, mission, buildings, budgets and quota

scottish episcopal church


THE Safeguarding Audit Report was presented to the Synod last Friday morning by Chris Townsend, the convener of the safeguarding committee.

He said that the Church’s Safeguarding Officer had received 43 calls about safeguarding, but few had required further inquiries. “However, we cannot afford to be complacent,” he said. The SEC needed to be proactive in its approach to safeguarding, Mr Townsend said. He explained that the audit demonstrated that most churches exhibited a low level of concern, and many showed a significant level of understanding of their safeguarding responsibilities. He said that it was clear that training needed to be revisited. A working group to establish recommendations from the audit was being established.

Dr Anthony Birch (St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane) commended the committee for its work. He said that there were various statistical oddities in the executive summary provided, and definitions were lacking. Had “red flags” had been decided on before the survey, or during it, he asked.

Chris Brown said that he had both experienced abuse and worked with victims of abuse, and had met the actors and the real-life reporters who were involved in the film Spotlight. Churches die of “terminal niceness”, he argued. Churches across the province needed to grasp safeguarding both as a theological and a pastoral issue. Theologians should look at this issue.

The Revd Denise Herbert (Brechin) said that she was the safeguarding officer for her diocese, and that training was absolutely vital. There was a strong case for online training across the Church, she said. She argued that a perpetrator’s family needed to be supported, as well as the victim’s.

The Revd Rosie Addis (Edinburgh) said that people got exercised over many issues, but not often over safeguarding. She explained that anyone could become a vulnerable adult at any point in his or her life. Ms Addis argued that this was a whole-church issue, in a similar way to the clergy well-being report shown on Thursday.

Professor Alan Werrity (St Andrews) asked a question about liabilities.

Alastair Dinnie (ACC) presented the ACC’s Safe Church guidelines.

The Revd Alexander Guiness (Argyll & The Isles) spoke about whether members of the clergy and parish workers should be issued with identity, to prove their identity to vulnerable people. Anyone could buy a clerical collar and pose as a priest, he said.

Responding, Mr Townsend welcomed the comments.


Child allowances.

A MOTION to pay child allowances annually to stipendiary clergy serving in the Scottish Episcopal Church was passed by the Synod at its meeting in Edinburgh on Thursday of last week.

Dr John Ferguson-Smith, the convener of the Administration Board, proposed the motion. He said that the changes would affect a small number of people, and that he had discussed it in the context of child benefit; he also said that it would be an ongoing discussion.

The Revd Peter Harris (Edinburgh) declared an interest as a father. He said that he had been supported by the Sons of the Clergy and the Child Allowance in caring for his son and daughter; he thanked the board for this. He said that the child allowance made him feel at least supported in kind.

The Revd Liz Baker (St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane) asked for clarification, because her daughter received child benefit up to the age of 21.

The Revd Professor David Jasper (Glasgow), the convener of the Doctrine Committee, then gave a brief update on the work of the committee. He told the Synod that Truth and the Church of the Secular Age would be published by SCM next month.

Dr John Davies, the convener of the Liturgy Committee, updated the Synod on his committee’s work. He said that a new edition of Scottish Liturgy 1982 was being prepared, and would be presented to the Faith and Order Board in August.

A motion was proposed by Jan Whiteside, the convener of the Personnel Committee, which would entitle stipendiary clergy to maternity, paternity, parental, and adoption leave.

The Revd Dr Jenny Wright (Edinburgh) said that it was good that this was finally happening. She asked whether fathers could share part of their maternity leave, and if the Church was considering this.

The Revd Jane Ross (Glasgow & Galloway) said that the motion was a good step forward, but that it did not sound right that the Church would allow for the lower rate to be paid.

Beth Routeledge (Glasgow & Galloway) asked why the Church was specifying “standard stipend” rather than average weekly pay.

The Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow, the Very Revd Kelvin Holdsworth (Glasgow & Galloway), asked what would happen to those who were members of the clergy but did not have a congregation.

The motion was carried overwhelmingly.


Communications Board.

A motion to dissolve the Church’s Information and Communication Board was proposed by the Revd Philip Blackledge, its acting convenor.

He alluded to Monty Python’s dead parrot: “It is a dead board, bereft of life.” He said that an editorial board for a magazine that did not exist did not need replacing, but that communications needed to be tightened up, with more partnerships within dioceses. “There is a hope and an idea that this would somehow be connected to the Mission Board,” he said. The board as it was “serves no purpose for our mission”, he said.

The Bishop of Brechin, the Rt Revd Andrew Swift, said that the board was not a suitable return on the time, money, and people being invested. Dissolving the board “did not mean that communications did not matter”.

Jim Gibson (Glasgow & Galloway) said that computers were now a fundamental part of every department, although there was still a need for specialists. He said that the board had not done a very good job in recent years, and there was no need for it.

Victoria Stock (Edinburgh) expressed concern that “we are moving from a problem to a solution very quickly”. She argued that the board might have a part to play in the future. She proposed that the board should have a more digital focus, and that it should draw on people who had experience in this area. “To remove this board would potentially weaken the communications work we do in this Church.”

The Revd Professor David Atkinson (Aberdeen & Orkney) opposed the change. He suggested that the idea of removing information and communication from the dioceses was alien to church culture. He said there were distinct dioceses in the Scottish Episcopal Church, and each was very different. He argued that this move was perilous for the Church.

The Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow, the Very Revd Kelvin Holdsworth said that he did not want the board to be dissolved. “It did far more than produce a magazine”, he said. He argued that it was always a bad idea to put more responsibility on the officers of the Church; instead, it should be on members of the Church. “It has never been more important,” he said.

The Revd Dr Sophia Marriage (Edinburgh) argued that things should not be put on to professionals, but, instead, the synodical governance structure of the Church.

Hugh Morrison (Moray, Ross & Caithness) said that if this board was not doing a reasonable job, then why keep it? The Church needed to be fast moving and flexible. He urged the Synod to support the motion. He asked whether there were sufficient resources to support press officers.

In response, Mr Blackledge said that the idea was not to centralise communications but to devolve them. He said that it was not agreed that the board had done good work in the past. “Keeping a board that doesn’t have any teeth, and doesn’t do anything, is a way of embedding conflict into our structures.” He said that he wanted communication to be good because it was so vital to mission.

In a vote by Houses, it was carried in all three.


Mission Board.

THE Revd Annie Naish, the Bishop’s Enabler of Mission for the diocese of Edinburgh, asked what members of the Synod were passionate about. She was passionate about scuba diving, but today would be talking about the shared passion for mission and discipleship.

Ms Naish said that congregations had declined by 29 per cent since 2002, and that the Church was at a time of crisis. She said that crisis presented a time of danger, but also a time of opportunity — one of which was through local mission-resourcing groups which had been set up. “There is an energy and a synergy around mission and discipleship,” she said: there was a real innovation and resourceful spirit in dioceses. The Church of Scotland’s General Assembly had said that it would create 100 churches over ten years; so how could the Scottish Episcopal Church help with this, and, also, how could it work with the Church Army?

Ms Naish summarised the highlights from the feedback report on the General Synod’s 2018 flipchart comments. She said that it was a challenge for people to be a disciple of Jesus. She asked: “Are we still confident of the difference Jesus can make today?” She wondered whether it was attractive for people to explore their faith together in the Church. It all takes “obedience and time”.

The Synod was shown a video about mission.

Ms Naish said that she hoped that it was inspiring to hear points of view from new believers.

The Synod then took a break for table discussion on mission.

Canon John Walker (Aberdeen & Orkney) said that it was energising to hear what Ms Naish had to say. Once human sexuality had been decided on, he said, it had been hoped that the Church would focus solely on mission. He said that Scotland was one of the most secular countries on earth, and this made the Church’s task very difficult. He said that provincial work energised dioceses. He also asked: “Was Jesus a leaver or a remainer?”

Victoria Stock (Edinburgh) said that the Church had to think carefully about what it meant to “grow new disciples”. Ms Stock said that, as a child, she had been a “God freak”, trying to recruit members of the church in the playground. She said that growing new disciples was done through relational perspective — who we are, and how that makes an impact on others.

The Revd Dr Jenny Wright (Edinburgh) commended the work of the ACC on intentional discipleship. She said that it offered fantastic resources to allow people to live as disciples, through the heart and the soul.

The Revd Paul Watson (Glasgow & Galloway) said that he had recently had a watershed moment, and he felt a bit like Lewis and Clark, in finding the source of the Mississippi, but unexpectedly also finding the Rockies. He explained the core values of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and the things that they were good at. “Now we are off the map,” Mr Watson said, just like Lewis and Clark, but “we are not lost. Do we realise what we don’t know we don’t know?”

The Revd Mary Jepp (Glasgow & Galloway) said that she had only recently come to Scotland, and was in Kilmarnock, “an area of great need”. She was concerned when the Church got into a “bums-on-seats mentality”; instead, the priority should be reaching people in communities “in very real ways”.

Euan Grant (St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane) said that talking abut relationships was all very well; it was not guaranteed that the Church’s friendliness would outdo the friendliness of alternatives to Church. It was important to speak about concrete proposals, such as daily prayer, or saying grace before meals. He said it had been an engine of growth in St Andrews.

The Revd Rosemary Bungard (Argyll & The Isles) said that it was very important for young people to know something about Christianity. She urged that a Facebook page or website should be set up for all those who lead assemblies at school to share resources.

The Revd Dr James Currall (Moray, Ross & Caithness) said that, when he was training for ministry, he spent some time in Prestwick. He said that what people needed to realise was that Jesus was already there among the people, and what we needed to do was to recognise what he was doing, and be there.


Church buildings.

THE Synod voted in favour of a motion, on Thursday of last week, that would compel vestries to consult congregations about changes to church buildings, before seeking formal permission from the bishop and diocesan buildings committee.

Rebecca Cadie, the convener of the Buildings Committee, set out Canon 35, which applied to any changes to structure, furniture, or ornaments etc., as well as redecoration or alteration to heating and lighting in churches. There was discussion over what merited decorative glass, and the terminology of curtilage.

The Revd Peter Harris (Edinburgh) welcomed both what the committee was doing and the introduction of electric charging-points to the curtilage. He said that he had a confession to make: he had used his church building for uses other than worship, which contravened section 4 of canon 35.

The Bishop of Edinburgh, Dr John Armes, said that there had been special permissions for that to happen at Mr Harris’s church.

The Synod voted on the motion, which proposed deleting the first paragraph of Resolution 3 under Canon 35 and replacing it with the requirement that congregations be informed about changes to buildings and invited to make written representations on the proposals.

The motion was carried in all three Houses.



ROBERT GORDON, the convener of the Standing Committee, ran through the Church’s accounts, on Thursday of last week. He presented a series of slides on the Church’s income and expenditure, and the quota and grants.

Motion 4, which asked the Synod to accept the annual report and accounts, was carried unanimously.

Mr Gordon spoke of strategic aspirations such as formation, mission, governance, support, relationships, and communications. He said that it was very important to sustain ministry, and that the Mission Board was looking at providing financial support for new initiatives.

“Where are we adding value to support the core work of the SEC throughout the country?” he asked. It had been suggested, he said, that more work needed to be done on helping buildings provincially.

The Standing Committee was pleased that the “metro political” College of Bishops was planning ahead for the 2020s. Mr Gordon said that there was now a permanent director of ordinands, which was costing more.

The Church was now budgeting for deficits in 2019, 2020, and 2021, so that the Church might be closer to meeting them. It had struggled before to break even. Furthermore, the Church had not budgeted in the quotas for the two large congregations who had indicated that they would leave the Church.

Mr Gordon then moved Motion 5, which dealt with the event that Synod did not agree with the quotas to be collected from dioceses in a particular year. The motion was carried overwhelmingly.



THE chair of the Standing Committee, Robert Gordon, took the Synod through the quota which needed to be approved, a total of £741,527. Mr Gordon said that the disinvestment motion would not immediately change the budget, but that this could change in the medium to long term.

Dr Jaap Jacobs (Brechin) thanked the Standing Committee for clarification on the relationship between the different levels of the Church. “Our Standing Committee is not just listening, but acting on what it has heard [from the Synod],” he said. Dr Jacobs asked whether changes to the system, rather than the numbers, was needed.

Jim Gibson (Glasgow & Galloway) said that it was the third year in a row that the quota had been frozen. Bearing in mind the changes that were possible in investment income, he said that the Synod must not forget that the priority was stewardship of the SEC’s congregations.

Hugh Morrison (Moray, Ross & Caithness) said that the budgets had been discussed before the Information and Communications Board was dissolved, and asked whether this needed to be taken into account.

Responding, Mr Gordon took all of these points on board.

The motion to agree the budget and quota was carried unanimously.

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