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Home Who's who Bishops The Bishop of Salisbury Sermons, articles, and media Presidential Address - June Synod 2018

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Presidential Address - June Synod 2018

by Gerry Lynch last modified 25 Jun, 2018 05:15 PM

Bishop Nicholas gave the Presidential Address at a meeting of Diocesan Synod on 21 June 2018 at St Francis’ Church, Salisbury

There is a significant shift of gear in the business for tonight’s Synod as we come to the end of the three year cycle of business and the working life of this Synod.

When I visited each deanery it was made clear to me that the diocese has no appetite for managing decline and people had positive ideas about what might be done locally in the process of Renewing Hope – Pray, Serve, Grow.

A lot has happened for us as a diocese, some of which is documented in the Annual Review for 2017.  We can celebrate God’s small miracle of the Diocese of Salisbury in which there is a Christian presence CE in every community with an astonishing number of people committed or supportive of the local church.  Statistics sound more precise than they are.  In fact they are a snap shot and shift on an almost daily basis but we have something like 550 places of worship, 93 new worshiping communities, 195 schools and academies serving 43,000 children and young people as well as an innumerable number of local charities and groups working for the common good throughout the Diocese.  The Church is a voluntary organisation like no other.  In this Diocese we have 34,900 on Electoral Roles and although we have difficulty in some places in recruiting volunteer officers, there are a miraculous 763 Churchwardens, 582 Foundation Governors, 847 Lay Pastoral Assistants, 130 Licensed Lay Ministers, 193 Lay Worship Leaders, 409 Retired Clergy with PtO, 203 Stipendiary Clergy and 70 Self-Supporting Clergy.

We may not yet have turned the Fairer Share number around but there are increasing signs of growth and a lively spirit in each deanery and across the Diocese.  The number of confirmations rose by 15% to 643 with those under 18 growing by 20%.  Vocations for Lay and Ordained Ministry are increasing significantly.  In Ministry and Mission we have developed a mixed economy of inherited and new forms of church that looks convincing. We are engaging a wider variety of people within the life of the Church.  The glass in the Diocese of Salisbury is most definitely more than half full.

We have put a lot of effort in to building more of an overview as a Diocese - Ramsbury and Sherborne working together with diocesan priorities and policies.  The Diocesan Board of Education is seen nationally as one of the leaders in the Church of England and is breaking new ground in rapidly changing political circumstances.  It is well and strongly led by the Director and her Leadership Team and overseen by a Board which is smaller, skilled and effective.  Education is fully integrated within the life of the Diocese and a key part of the aim to have a flourishing Christian presence in every community.  Through the DBE we pray for our children and young people; serve the common good through our schools and parishes; and help people grow in the way of Jesus Christ in whom we see what it is to be fully human.

Our church buildings are a great resource.  They are usually at the centre of their community and an enduring asset in anchoring the Christian faith and gathering people at key moments in their lives or the life of the community.  The Church of England represents a massive part of the social capital of Wiltshire and Dorset.  There is vision and purpose aplenty as we seek to live out what it means to love God and love our neighbours as ourselves.

Tonight we will address what we need to do as a Diocese to support our local churches through releasing people for ministry and mission, and through equipping and resourcing Rural Hope.  We will celebrate some remarkable developments in our church buildings. We will do the financial stewardship that accounts and plans for the future, both next year’s budget and in the longer ten year view.  In this, Synod is being asked into the engine room of the Diocese. What is needed from you as Synod tonight is to keep the bigger picture of what the Church in the Diocese of Salisbury is about and to recognise that there is strong leadership, sound management and tight control of finance. 

The key financial challenge is for us to move from just about maintaining the status quo to recognising the opportunities for growth and agreeing to invest in them.  We are taking the long view and for the first time since 2006 we are considering fairer share increases above the rate of inflation from 2020. To do this, we will need to raise our sight, to see this is not our story but God’s story in us.  The Christian life is the most inspiring account of what it is to be human and it is ‘our duty and our joy’ to respond with thanksgiving.  There is nothing more important particularly in an age of such uncertainty.

As I said at the start of this address, when I visited every Deanery nobody wanted our story to be about managing decline. If we wish to be a growing Church, we need to provide the resources needed to enable and nurture growth.

We have been preparing the ground slowly and carefully and tonight is one more step in that process conscious we are building the platform for those who pick up the task in the next triennium of Diocesan Synod.

Thank you to those who have served on this Synod, particularly those of you who are not standing again.  Thank you to those who are continuing.  The elections have not produced a full membership for the new Synod in some deaneries.  I need you to work to get people with vision and commitment to a shared task to fill those vacancies so that we have the right balance of support and challenge for the opportunities that lie ahead.  It is from the members of the next Synod that we will be seeking volunteers to be part of our boards and councils.  They will be a key part of our development and oversight.

Whilst on elections, Fenella Cannings-Jurd, who was, I think, the youngest member of General Synod, has resigned because she is now working full-time in Durham.  I personally am sorry to lose her as she has made a marvellous contribution.  We need to elect a replacement and Lucinda, our Diocesan Secretary, at least for the next five months, will be in touch shortly with details of what the role entails and the election process.

We are in the middle of making significant staff changes in the Diocese; nothing you don’t know about but cumulatively this represents significant change.  Bishop Ed retired at the end of April and Archdeacon Paul Taylor at the end May.  I expect their successors to be in post by no later than the end of the year. Lucinda Herklots has given notice that she will finish as Diocesan Secretary at the end of November, seeing the new Synod through to its first meeting.  I think we all know how blessed we have been and what a major contribution she has made to the life of the Diocese.  We have begun the process that will lead to the recruitment of her successor who we hope will be in post around the time that Lucinda leaves.  Charlie Allen, who has been Coordinator of Initial Ministerial Education and Diocesan Director of Ordinands for 6 years, has been appointed Chancellor of Durham Cathedral and will be leaving at the end of July.  Grateful thanks to her and to Gerry Lynch our Director of Communication for whom this is his last Synod before leaving to begin training for ordination in September. Communications have been a key aspect of Renewing Hope in this Diocese.  Gerry has done a brilliant job at helping us share good news across.  I am sure that Synod will want to wish him well for the future and thank him warmly for the contribution he has made.

Last Friday, Lucinda and I went to a conference in London about the National Renewal and Reform agenda.  As in this Diocese, significant achievements were noted and I personally felt encouraged by the open and self-critical approach that suggested this movement is growing-up and becoming more useful to the whole Church.  There was much to celebrate and there were some uncomfortable moments of truth.  Bishop Humphrey Southern, for many years of this Diocese, made an observation that most of the written information about Renewal and Reform is the Church being concerned about itself rather than for others.  I thought he put down a marker about the nature of the Christian life. It was striking that both Renewal and Reform and its critics are working together much more collaboratively and the Church of England is the better for it. I hope we will keep that in mind as we discuss our business tonight.

Here is one thing to help. Two weeks ago I had the privilege of representing the Archbishop of Canterbury at an international conference on the environment hosted by HAH Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.  In the context of the impact of Climate Change, Blue Planet and migration, as well as the consistent message from other parts of the Anglican Communion in which the poorest are paying the greatest price of change, it is clear that the care of God’s earth is the top priority and the context in which Christians are / are not credible in proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.  Christiana Figueres, the senior UN diplomat who chaired the Paris Climate Change talks in 2015, paid a compliment to the Church of England for the way in which we are using our investments as responsible shareholders ensuring that companies align themselves with the Paris Agreement. 

In the UK 5,500 churches and 14 Anglican Cathedrals including our own, have now switched to using renewable energy as a way of exerting consumer pressure away from fossil fuels.  

Living Churchyards are one of my favourite projects undertaken with the County Wildlife Trusts in this Diocese and establishing a greater environmental diversity and teaching resource that proclaims the resurrection in our churchyards. 

We are making good progress with Eco Church – 46 churches in this Diocese have registered and 15 already have awards (1 gold, 3 silver and 11 bronze). 

When 4 more churches have registered for Eco Church and 10 more have awards we will qualify to be an Eco Diocese.  I would love it if we were the first.  That is down to you. 

There is a good opportunity to Renew Hope in this area by making use of the season of Creation-tide from 1st September and the World Day of Prayer called for by Pope Francis, Patriarch Bartholomew, The World Council of Churches and our Archbishop Justin through to St Francis Day on 4th October.  Most Harvest Festivals will fall within this period so it is a great opportunity to think and pray for the care of the earth. The care of creation is a priority of the Church throughout the world and that is bound to be reflected in every local church. 

We have serious business and we need to keep a vision of what we are about.  The worldwide church helps us to do this and so does our being rooted in the God who comes among us in Jesus Christ.

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