General Synod Saturday 13th June 2015

June 13, 2015

The Rt Rev Dr John Armes, Bishop of Edinburgh introduced the first of three Rule 10 Motions (a Motion that can be tabled at General Synod in addition to the Agenda, subject to the required number of signatories from General Synod members) being presented at this year’s General Synod : That this Synod note with concern the proposal of the UK Government to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998 and request the Church in Society Committee to work with ecumenical partners to make representations to the UK Government on the matter.

The Motion was carried.

The Very Rev Dr Emsley Nimmo, Dean of the Diocese of Aberdeen & Orkney, presented the Rule 10 Motion that The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church, aware of the current situation in Palestine and in the Middle East with its resulting loss of life, displacement of thousands from across the region and the destruction of its cultural and religious heritages, wishes to express its heartfelt appreciation of the Vatican’s de facto recognition of the State of Palestine and for the accord which is currently in final draft for signature by the Vatican and President Mahmoud Abbas. We encourage all people of good will and of all faiths to pray for reconciliation in the Holy Land and in the wider Middle East.

The Motion was carried.

Administration Board

Michael Lugton, Convener of the Administration Board, introduced this session by first of all thanking the Convener of the Investment Committee, Jeremy Burchill, who steps down as Convener at this year’s Synod.  Following a report on the investment performance of the Unit Trust Pool, on which the Province is heavily dependent for its income, Mr Lugton spoke of the now longstanding moratorium on the main Provincial building grant programme and explained that the scale of the projected deficits over the next three years could again be dealt with by continuing the moratorium.

Alex Stewart, Convener of the Buildings Committee, spoke of the changing demands from organisations offering building grants and the need for churches to be more aware of basic maintenance needs of their buildings and advised that a series of basic maintenance courses will be offered later this year – likely to be in Stirling and Aberdeen.

This session was concluded by Mr Lugton thanking retiring conveners, Alex Stewart (Buildings Committee) and John Ferguson-Smith (Finance Committee) for the work they have done over the past five years.

Scottish Episcopal Institute Council (SEI)

The Rt Rev Kevin Pearson, Bishop of Argyll & The Isles and Convener of SEI introduced this session by announcing that the amount raised to date from the Bishops’ Lent Appeal in support of the work of SEI is £28,000.  Bishop Kevin then introduced Jonathan Livingstone, a student of SEI, and engaged in a Question and Answer session with him in which Jonathan spoke about ‘formation’ in ministry not just being a buzz word but being a transformational part of his preparation and training for ministry. In answer to a question about the role of theological reflection in his training Jonathan replied that it was very much about looking at the world around us, being open to reflecting about all sorts of responses and reactions from others as well as oneself and how this impacts on one’s ministry.

Standing Committee – Mission and Ministry Support Grants

David Palmer, Convener of the Standing Committee, presented this session by reminding Synod that part of the Whole Church Mission and Ministry Policy over recent years has been the move towards recognition of the Dioceses as the focus for mission initiatives.  He introduced the paper on block grants which has been extensively discussed, particularly by the College of Bishops who are the leaders of mission in their dioceses.  This new grant scheme would replace the current Grants for Ministry which provides funds for stipend support, travel grants and related ministry costs; and would also include retreat grants and grants to support youth work in Dioceses. It will not include funding for curates, as that funding will be transferred to the Scottish Episcopal Institute Council.

There was a range of comments and some concern expressed from the floor of Synod about the allocation of the grants for each diocese, before Synod then voted on Motions 25 and 26 agreeing to the adoption of a block grant system of Mission and Ministry Support Grants and that the Digest of Resolutions be altered to reflect this. Both Motions were carried.

The third of the Rule 10 Motions was then presented by the Rev Canon Ian Paton that : ‘In the light of the discussion and decisions of this General Synod and the process of canonical change in which we are now engaged, the Synod asks the College of Bishops if it would agree to consider again, when it next meets, the prevention of those who are married in accordance with Scots Civil Law from being candidates for ministry, as expressed in the recent Guidelines to Clergy and Lay Readers.’  The Motion did not receive the required majority and therefore was not carried.

Standing Committee – Budgets and Quota

David Palmer, presented this session by reporting on the work carried out by Standing Committee in setting budgets and quota and advised that there are a number of specific recommendations being made to General Synod that will have an impact on budgets.  These include changes in pension contributions  and the introduction of block grants. He stressed to Synod that Standing Committee acknowledges the importance of ensuring that future patterns of expenditure are sustainable and that deficits are, as far as possible, avoided; and concluded this session by proposing Motion 27 that this Synod, having examined the proposed budgets for the General Synod for the year 2016, agree to a quota figure of £698,960 for that year. The Moti0n was carried.

General Synod 2015 was brought to a close by the Primus.