The Council of Assembly met for regular business from 10-12 June 2016 at the Mary McKillop Centre, Mission Bay, Auckland.
This meeting was the Council’s last regularly scheduled full meeting prior to General Assembly 2016. The Council will meet by teleconference and/or one-day meetings at central venues in the lead-up to General Assembly as is necessary to process the various workflows.
Rev Wayne Te Kaawa presented a very positive and forward looking report from Te Aka Puaho. As his term as Moderator comes to an end, Wayne advised that the election of a new Moderator of Te Aka Puaho was well underway and he spoke of plans to revitalise the leadership within Te Aka Puaho.
He reported that the strategic plan to more fully utilise Ohope Marae (along commercial lines) was being implemented with some success. He also advised that a review of the covenant with Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership in relation to Amorangi ministry would shortly be under way. Wayne reported that disbursements of grants from trust funds had been made to tertiary students and Amorangi ministers.
Wayne expressed concern that the changed formula for representation at Assembly had greatly disadvantaged Te Aka Puaho. A further meeting will be held to consider the way forward with this unintended consequence of the changes introduced at the 2014 Assembly. The Church is committed to routinely consulting with Te Aka Puaho, before major decisions are made. Ways to improve how this is done will continue to be worked on.
The Right Rev Andrew Norton reported on observations from his attendance at the trans-Tasman moderators’ meeting and his hosting of a meeting of Pacific Island ministers in Auckland. From the trans-Tasman gathering, he noted a vulnerability in our lack of training for presbytery clerks.
Andrew tabled a briefing document for future moderators, based on the work he has done as Moderator. He voiced his ongoing concern over the nomination process for Assembly Moderator and difficulties for the elected minister’s congregation. There was discussion over the future possibility of assemblies being organised nationally utilising a professional event manager.
In the lead-up to General Assembly, Rev Richard Dawson (Moderator-elect) voiced his intention of building a closer relationship with Affirm and other Presbyterian groups that share differing views on sexuality and faith. Phrases such as “respect” and “walking in each other’s shoes” were used in the discussion about how to move forward. Te Aka Puaho Moderator, Rev Wayne Te Kaawa, offered the use of Ohope Marae as a venue for a peace-making hui for the parties.
Council members encouraged Andrew and Richard, in partnership with Te Aka Puaho, to facilitate a conciliatory meeting with parties who represent a range of views on sexuality and faith.
Andrew advised that the heads of churches Conversations with Government group, which he convenes, has presented a paper to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister on the issues of child poverty, housing and refugees. Andrew believes that the group is providing input that is making a meaningful difference to action in these areas.
Moderator-designate, the Rev Richard Dawson, gave an update on planning for the 2016 Assembly in Dunedin on 15-19 November. He indicated that the online registration process was almost ready to go live, and outlined some of the specific arrangements for Assembly, the theme of which is “Inspiring Hope”.
Presbyteries have been encouraged to give regular reports for Council of Assembly meetings outlining positive developments and issues of concern. The Council of Assembly is grateful to those presbyteries that have started doing this as it provides useful context to consider in making decisions.
Dr Colin Marshall clarified the Council’s role as focusing on implementing the policies determined by the General Assembly rather than to provide missional leadership of the Church, which the Book of Order identifies as a key role of presbyteries and parishes.
In order for an appropriate review of Global Mission policy a formal terms of reference and Review Workgroup are being put together. It was noted that Te Aka Puaho and the Pacific Islands Synod needed to be key members of the review. There was discussion about particular aspects of Global Mission, particularly the need to encourage international mission participation at parish level and provide support groups around specific international mission endeavours.
Colin indicated that the task of reviewing General Assembly and moderatorial terms was more complex than initially envisaged. Some of the issues were considered by the Council. Te Aka Puaho and Pacific Islands Synod representatives asked to be consulted during any review and offered to share their perspectives on the selection and role of the Moderator. There was discussion about how the Church's governing structures could be updated to be more responsive and make better use of the resources available to the Church. It was understood that the significant work of addressing framework issues could well take another two years. The offer of the Leadership Sub-committee to create a framework for the nature, scope and requirements of the Moderator’s role was gratefully accepted as a first step.
The AES, Rev Wayne Matheson, reported on a number of functional updates which were agreed by the Council:
That the supplementary provisions for the Nominating Committee, pursuant to Book of Order chapter 14.4(2) be amended by the insertion of a new clause 12, as follows, and renumber the following clauses accordingly:
“No member of the Nominating Committee may be nominated to serve on any other national committee, work group, or other Church bodies, or as a representative to other organisations.”
Other matters in progress, including the work of the Discipline Process Review Group and the appointing of the Cross-cultural Work Group were advancing positively.
Wayne reported that he had visited the congregation of St Margaret’s Church Bishopdale, Christchurch following the church being destroyed by arson. A person has been charged. He praised the Church’s insurers for being proactive in arranging business-in-interruption insurance for parishes.
The AES voiced his concern about poor employment practices within the wider church, such as inadequate employment contracts. He reported he was encouraging presbyteries to be proactive in vetting employment contracts for parishes.
Wayne referred to serious concerns that the partner churches had with Inter Church Hospital Chaplaincy (ICHC), particularly around the dis-establishment of local service provider committees and significant changes to chaplaincy staffing without consultation, and indicated that the Presbyterian, Anglican and Methodist Churches would act jointly to meet with the ICHC.
Wayne also advised that our communications team had undertaken a survey and that the job description for his 2IC still needed some HR input before he brings it to Council teleconference or day meeting for approval.
The Leadership Sub-committee report was one of the highlights of this Council meeting. Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership (KCML) principal, the Rev Dr Steve Taylor was welcomed to the meeting. Steve made a presentation on the KCML strategic plan. He outlined the key factors KCML believed it needed to concentrate on, and the consultation process engaged in so far. He noted that we live in a changing world, that the Church is changing and that KCML also needs to foster adaptability to change.
Steve explained the five core areas of KCML’s strategic focus, and elaborated on presbytery partnerships, new mission seedlings, a national learning diploma, post-graduate mission and ministry practice. He indicated that KCML aimed to provide Presbyterian-centred, life-long learning. It was recognised that the specific cultural contexts of Te Aka Puaho, Pacific Island and Asian congregations would be included within the strategic planning. The plan identified training for lay people as particularly important for the future of Presbyterianism. There was discussion about how the Council could best resource, within the Church’s strategic goals, support of KCML’s programmes. The Council enthusiastically endorsed the KCML strategic plan and agreed that KCML would work with the Leadership Sub-committee, Resource Sub-committee and others to investigate options for funding and implementing its strategic plan.
Council endorsed a proposal from Rev Diane Gilliam-Weeks, convener of the Leadership Sub-committee, that LSC, Press Go and KCML appoint a task group to work strategically together to develop and have oversight of local learning entities for innovative training outside traditional congregation contexts. This would provide the ability to oversee the range of partnerships and ensure the learnings/benefits from these local learning entities are effectively communicated to the rest of the Church for the benefit of God’s mission.
Council also approved the LSC’s recommendation to change a supplementary provision removing any sense of injustice that may arise in the National Assessment process from differences in timing of presbytery assessments.
That Council of Assembly adopts the following change to clause 3.2 of the supplementary provisions for Book of Order chapter 9:
"A candidate is required to have at least two years’ commitment to and involvement with a congregation of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (or a Co- operative Venture congregation in which Presbyterians are a partner) as at the time of their application to the Presbytery National Assessment Weekend."
Diane reported that the Local Ordained Ministry review task group had identified limitations to the opportunities for training as a local ordained minister (LOM), and suggested that provision be made for greater flexibility in opportunities to train LOMs for ordination to positions other than parish ministry e.g. chaplaincies, new mission initiatives. The following were agreed:
That the Council recommend to the 2016 Assembly that the opportunities to train for Local Ordained Ministry be expanded beyond the current limitation to congregations with a ministry settlement board.
That the Book of Order Advisory Committee be asked, in consultation with the Leadership Sub-committee, to draft amendments to Book of Order Chapter 9 to give effect to this change in policy direction.
KCSC board chair Mr David Richardson presented the board’s report. He noted Ms Lisa Well’s resignation from the board and paid tribute to her significant contributions during a difficult period. Mr A John Patrick was appointed to the board and Assoc Prof Jessica Palmer (Otago University Law Faculty) was endorsed as the new deputy chair. Mr Richardson commented on the positive atmosphere now evident in the two colleges, and on the capability of both heads of college. Council members noted their own experiences of recent positive feedback on the two colleges.
Ms Anne Edgar reported that the AES had been asked to urgently develop a standard remuneration strategy and employment policy for Church staff, with a focus on questions of legal liability for risk management in particular areas.
Ms Edgar asked Council to consider the possibility of key committee and subcommittee convenors being paid an honorarium as had been raised with Resource Sub-committee. This concept was discussed, and it was acknowledged that these positions required significant time commitment from convenors in particular, but some concerns were raised. It was clarified that it is already policy for the Council of Assembly and Press Go convenors (or their parishes) be given some financial compensation for their time, equivalent to 20 percent of stipend. It was also acknowledged that the skill level and time commitment required for such positions is now significantly greater than in the past. The AES was asked to research a possible policy revision to guide Council on this issue.
The Church’s finance manager Mr Brendan Sweeney presented the 2016-17 draft budget on behalf of the Resource Sub-committee. He outlined the increased level of scrutiny the budget had already been through. He advised that the budget would result in a $400,000 decrease in the Church’s cash reserves and noted that this would be unsustainable long term. Ms Edgar advised that the Resource Sub-committee was actively looking at investment options. The minimal level of increase in Assembly Assessment has been maintained at CPI levels. The budget was approved.
Council received an update report from the workgroup. The work on this complex project has progressed in a timely manner and communication with the wider church is expected to start in early August. Council intends to bring a series of recommendations to the 2016 General Assembly
Andrew presented the report of the Press Go Board, including a financial report (as of April 30), and highlighted aspects of its work. He felt that the greatest benefit of Press Go was in the work undertaken in congregations throughout the country by the Press Go Catalyst, rather than in the distribution of grants.
Additionally, following some ongoing work since General Assembly 2014, Jenny Flett proposed and it was agreed that:
That the Council recommend to General Assembly that the Presbyterian Foundation be incorporated into the work stream of the Press Go Board.
The Council was pleased to see the progress being made by Press Go in supporting the church’s mission and the number of parishes and presbyteries engaging so positively.
The Pacific Islands Synod report presented by the Rev Nathan Pedro dealt largely with the Pacific Islands Synod Task Group including proposed terms of reference (which were agreed by Council), and process for the task group. He commented positively on other aspects of the life of the Synod and noted that three Pasifika people will graduate shortly as ministers. He also referred to the issue of extensive ecumenical relationships and mission initiatives in the Pacific that do not currently come under the umbrella of the Church’s Global Mission programme, but which the Synod would like to see recognised.
There was a positive discussion of the letter from the trans-Tasman rural ministry consultation and Council agreed that the communiqué from the Rural Parishes Network be circulated to presbyteries and parishes, with Council of Assembly support in principle. There was also consideration of the fact that changes to representation to General Assembly had impacted rural ministry in a similar way to the impact on Te Aka Puaho. Council will consider this further.
The next meeting of the Council of Assembly will be as soon as planned phases of work towards GA 2016 are ready.
The Rev Dr Colin Marshall Mrs Jenny Flett
Convenor Deputy Convenor Council of Assembly Council of Assembly