Added on 24/04/2013
The Standing Committee of the General Synod met on Tuesday 16 April 2013 in Church House, Dublin and was chaired by the Archbishop of Armagh and the Bishop of Down and Dromore. The meeting was opened with a scripture reading and prayer and closed with prayer, remembering especially those who had been affected by the bombs in Boston on the previous day.
The life of the late Dean of Armagh, the Very Revd Herbie Cassidy, who had also been a clerical Honorary Secretary of the General Synod from 1990 to 2004, was remembered in a period of silence and his contribution to the life of the Church of Ireland recalled with gratitude. The Archbishop of Armagh spoke of his great competency and efficiency as an Honorary Secretary but also of his lightness of touch, approachability and sense of humour, remembering him as ‘a model of a Christian disciple and a model of a Christian priest’, someone who was ‘loved and admired across the whole Church of Ireland who will be missed very much indeed’. Archbishop Clarke also commended Dean Cassidy’s work at Armagh Cathedral and Armagh Public Library and paid tribute to his wife Ann. Mr Sam Harper, Honorary Secretary, spoke of Dean Cassidy as a personal mentor over some ten years in his own role, and as someone who was calm and ‘who saw through the frivolous and unimportant to the real issues of life’.
The Archbishop of Armagh also asked members to hold the Venerable Philip Patterson, Archdeacon of Down, who is ill, in their prayers at this time.
Honorary Secretaries’ Report
The Honorary Secretaries informed members that there would be a bi–lateral meeting with the Irish Government and representatives of the Church of Ireland on Friday 19 April as an opportunity to make connections with parts of government and to discuss a range of matters including rural issues, suicide and Education.
It was reiterated that the General Synod meeting in Armagh City Hotel from Thursday 9 to Saturday 11 May 2013 will start each day at 10.00am. There are to be ten bills and presently 25 motions and paperwork is currently being issued to Synod members. On the second day of General Synod, in line with suggestions to allow for more informal discussion such as that which took place at the Cavan Conference last year, it is hoped to adopt a conference mode to consider issues around Episcopal ministry. The Archbishop of Armagh indicated that he intends to preside at the Synod but also to share the chairmanship of it.
Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief
The Standing Committee progressed further in agreeing the wording of a motion which will come before the General Synod in May on the appointment of members to a Select Committee on Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief, following the resolution on this subject adopted by the General Synod in 2012.
Total Returns budgeting and management
Mr Adrian Clements, Chief Officer and Secretary of the RCB, addressed members of the Standing Committee on the ‘total returns’ concept which values both capital and income together. The RCB has been cautiously moving towards using this budgeting and management tool since 2011 which is useful for long–term planning for the Church as it faces the need to provide required income in line with actual spending.
Disciplinary Review Scheme
The Honorary Secretaries in reviewing the Church’s complaints and disciplinary procedure had consulted with the Complaints Committee and Disciplinary Panel on the issues of: the length of time involved in processing a complaint; the costs involved; and on whom surety could be placed or otherwise. Standing Committee resolved that the Legal Department of the RCB and the Chairman of the Complaints Committee give consideration to developing ‘best practice’ guidelines regarding the timetabling of complaints. It also resolved that questions over the provision of surety by an unincorporated body – such as a Select Vestry or a Diocesan Council – rather than just an individual, and over whether a person resident in a diocese relating to a complaint should be excluded from membership of a Complaints Committee (or sub–committee) be referred to the Legal Advisory Committee of the General Synod. It was further resolved that the Honorary Secretaries conduct a further review of the complaints and disciplinary procedure in 2016 (when there may be more cases to work from and in light of progress on the formulation of guidelines and on costs and surety).
New Porvoo Contact Person
On the recommendation of the Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue, Standing Committee resolved to appoint the Revd Canon Helene Steed (Rector of Clones) as the Church of Ireland’s contact person with the Porvoo Communion, following the resignation of the Bishop of Clogher from this role. Canon Steed is originally from Uppsala, Sweden, and is, very usefully, fluent in Swedish as well as having become immersed in the life and ministry of the Church of Ireland since 2004, first in the Diocese of Cork, followed by the Diocese of Clogher. Bishop Harold Miller, in the chair, thanked Bishop John McDowell for his time as Porvoo Contact Person, a role in which he had served the Church well, not least through a series of enjoyable and informative reports printed in the Church of Ireland Gazette.
Pastoral Reconciliation and Mediation
An interim verbal report from the Pastoral Reconciliation and Mediation Sub–Committee was given by Ms Ruth Handy. Ms Handy outlined the need for early training for clergy on both assertiveness and the recognition and handling of conflict. Important issues being considered include developing a prototype for courteous behavioural standards at meetings; early recognition of a problem locally, perhaps by an Archdeacon; informal peer mentoring amongst clergy to avoid isolation; and propagation of the concept of a parish’s responsibility for their cleric and their ministry. Any process of mediation before reaching an arbitration stage should be properly sequenced from an informal starting point to a more formal one to a mediation stage, avoiding going straight to the bishop.
Both Ms Handy and her sub–committee colleague the Revd Gillian Wharton stressed that ‘prevention was better than cure’ and said that the Sub–Committee would welcome hearing further views. In the course of subsequent discussion, the Church of England’s annual ministerial review process and the benefits of formal and structured pastoral supervision as part of a clergy mentoring process were both raised.
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