THE report of the Standing Committee of the Church of Ireland, which urged parishes and congregations to make a recommitment to fund-raising for the Bishops’ Appeal, the Church’s development and aid programme, was received by the General Synod.
It was introduced by the new clerical Honorary Secretary for the Province of Armagh, the Revd Malcolm Kingston, who noted how the Church and Society Commission had especially focused on climate change, gender justice, homelessness, housing insecurity, and the impact of social media. It had also campaigned for those who had received contaminated blood in Northern Ireland, and responded to various government consultations on behalf of the Church.
The Church’s Priorities Fund had continued to support projects across Ireland which had been “blessing local communities”, he reported. He urged members to read the report in detail for encouraging news about the work by parishes.
Earlier this year, the Standing Committee had agreed to distribute €675,000 from the fund, because fewer applications had been made, owing to the pandemic, but dioceses would be asked to contribute half of their previous targets to the fund in 2020, and three-quarters next year. Safeguarding continued, he said, to be the highest priority, including the launch of a dedicated safeguarding website earlier this year, which included resources and guidelines.
Seconding, the lay Honorary Secretary, Hazel Corrigan, explained that some pieces of upcoming legislation had been postponed until future Synods, as it was felt the Zoom format would not give enough space for consideration.
First among these was a Bill on representation in the Synod, whose working group had agreed to push its introduction back to next year, given its importance. The start date of the reforms in the legislation had also been pushed backed to 2024 rather than the planned date of 2021.
Another reform pending concerned how Bills were carried through the Synod. Although the parliamentary model had served the Synod well for more than a century, Ms Corrigan said, some minor amendments to phraseology were being proposed to reduce complexity and encourage fuller participation by all members.
Geoffrey McMaster (Dublin & Glendalough) raised a concern about falling donations to the Bishops’ Appeal. It was good to read in the report about responses to emergencies such as the explosion in Beirut, but this had been possible only thanks to the generosity of the parishes, he said.
Some years ago, the amount raised had been as much as €1 million in income, but today it was less than half, and the world was in no less need, he said. “We need to reflect carefully on how we can support it.” Too many parishes had not even heard of the Bishops’ Appeal. “Why is this information not getting through?”
In reply, the Bishop of Tuam, Killala & Achonry, the Rt Revd Patrick Rooke, said that a review had been launched of the Bishops’ Appeal, which was going to examine why donations had fallen off so sharply.
Adrian Hilliard (Limerick, Killaloe & Ardfert) suggested that one reason that donations to the Bishops’ Appeal varied was because of the level of disaster, which might or might not prompt the clergy to highlight the fund to their congregations.
George Woodman (Connor) reminded the Synod that the UK Government had announced that it would reduce its aid spending, which meant that it was important to prioritise overseas spending to make up this fall. He also praised the changes made to the parliamentary procedure of the Synod.
The report was received by the Synod nem. con..