The Council of Assembly met in Auckland on 12 – 13 June.
The Rt Rev Andrew Norton presented his report to Council. He recently attended the Assembly of the Christian Council of Asia (CCA) and shared his report on this. The Council encouraged that this report be made available to a wider audience; it will be available via email once edited. Andrew also spoke about the high level of disunity and disconnectedness in the Church. Noting the voting currently underway under special legislation, he expressed concern about lobbying within the Church around this matter.
The Rev Dr Colin Marshall provided an overview of his work as convener. He emphasised core aspects of good governance as being important at all levels of our Church organisation. The faces of good governance were outlined as: (i) being clear on our purpose and the outcomes we expect from the utilisation of the resources we have available to us; (ii) ensuring that people function well (and are adequately supported) in the vital roles they are called to; (iii) ensuring that we are aware of and are managing risk in all its various forms; (iv) enhancing the capacity of our leadership; (v) making accountability real throughout the organisation and (vi) encouraging all to be actively involved – inspired even!
The Rev Wayne Matheson presented his report. He updated the Council on his various work streams including policy development, reviews of staff, and compliance matters. He is liaising with presbyteries and sees this as one of the ways the Church can ensure good working relationships and improved transparency. Wayne also raised in his report feedback and comments concerning the current complaints process. The Council agreed to set up a workgroup to undertake a comprehensive review of the current complaints process.
The Rev Diane Gilliam-Weeks presented her report. She noted coming changes at the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership. She also highlighted the need for equipping under-resourced leaders in congregations.
Convener, Anne Edgar presented her report. While commenting on the very high level of support for Assembly Assessment, she reported details of non-paying congregations. She noted the work of the Northern Presbytery and Pacific Islands Synod in working with congregations to address arrears, the impact of new Financial Reporting Standards and the assumption of responsibility for their own charities registration.
A report was received by this workgroup. Jenny Fleet reported on the high level of expertise within the group and on where the group had reached in its consideration of all matters it was asked to investigate. The Council affirmed the work of the group and it looks forward to further work being undertaken and reported in due course.
A preliminary report from the Very Rev Ray Coster was tabled. Council affirmed the assumptions of the report and it looks forward to a final report in due course. It was noted that in the light of this interim report, the terms of reference for Press Go will need to be reviewed. It asked the Press Go Board to self-review and submit these to the Council for consideration.
Council also affirmed that all property transactions, including those lodged with the Church Property Trustees and awaiting approval at the date of the 2014 Assembly, are subject to the decisions of General Assembly, and that no exemptions (other than those noted – the sale of manses or worship centres for the purpose of their replacement) will be considered.
Financial Services Manager, Brendan Sweeney presented the draft budget. He noted the decrease in projected investment income due to falling interest rates. Council agreed to a 2 per cent increase in Assembly Assessment. Some aspects of the draft require refinement by Council and a final budget will be in place by the end of the month.
Council asked the AES to investigate all existing relationships so it could consider a framework for key relationships that will inform strategy, implementation and accountability. This was reported. It was noted that the three global priority partnerships were: the World Council of Churches, the Council for World Mission, and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. Our key mission partners are: the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu, the Church of North India, and the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar. Council now has a clear policy on important ecumenical relationships and mission projects and forward planning and the budget reflect this appropriately. Establishing clear policy in this area has been important as our Church’s contribution internationally is valued and we too gain greatly from these relationships. There are also implications for the Moderator and AES in terms of what they are expected to oversee, contribute to, and attend. These goals are achieved more readily when adequately planned for in a timely manner. There is also an increased need for our Church to be able to respond and contribute rapidly and appropriately in disaster situations, as we have recently seen regionally in Vanuatu.
Council asked the AES to present a discussion paper on the role of the Moderator. This came out of our recent Moderators’ reporting on the role – highlights, expectations, frustrations, hopes and dreams, realties and an often overlooked element - the congregation from which a Moderator (who is a minister) comes from and all aspects of the process. Following discussion, further areas of work were identified and this will be investigated and reported back to Council before the AES begins the process of calling for nominations for the next Moderator-designate.
The Council’s next meeting will be 12-14 November, in Dunedin.
The Rev Dr Colin Marshall
Convener - Council of Assembly
Mrs Jenny Flett
Deputy Convener - Council of Assembly