The Council of Assembly met at Capital House in Wellington on 22 and 23 July.
The Council began its meeting with a report from the Rev Martin Stewart about the ways that Christchurch churches are supporting those most affected by the earthquakes. He reported the ongoing and generous support of the whole Church, and highlighted the work of the Rev Darryl Tempero in providing support for ministers and congregations. Martin spoke about the special challenges faced by parishes in the red zone and the care being provided to those people whose homes face an uncertain future. Martin also highlighted that the churches are united in their message to the government and CERA: the Church is playing a key role in the support and care of people and that it is committed to a long-term perspective.
A real concern is the wellbeing of those providing leadership and the need for the Church to continue to provide support and care for them.
Mitch Jaram reported on the work being done through Kids Friendly to welcome and support children in the Whakatane and Ohope communities. He also discussed progress with the upgrade work at our national marae. The Rev Wayne Te Kaawa provided an update to the Council on the challenges and successes experienced by Turakina Girl’s College.
The Rev Asora Amosa and the Rev Toko Ine spoke about the work of the Synod. They provided news on progress towards the establishment of a resource centre, as well as the support of the Pasifika Misionare, which is a mission support role that will be funded for the next two years by CWM resources.
There is real excitement about the impending appointment of an Asian Ministries Co-ordinator supported by the Presbyterian Church of Korea. It is likely that a person will be appointed into the role by the PCK and will come to New Zealand later this year.
The Council is keen to develop effective ways to support presbyteries, and to establish processes that allow for more direct reporting by the presbyteries to the General Assembly. The Council has agreed to provide financial support for presbyteries to enable them to complete the transition process mandated by the 2008 General Assembly. The Council Convenor, Emma Keown, will shortly be writing to presbyteries outlining the nature of this support and again affirming the Council’s encouragement for this transition.
The Very Rev Pamela Tankersley spoke about her role in leading our Church’s global mission commitment. She emphasised the importance of partnership and the need to view mission as transformative for the relationships of all involved. Pamela spoke about the new opportunities created through the development of our relationship with the Uniting Church of Australia’s Uniting World mission programme.
Angela Singer, our Communications Manager, spoke to the Council about the breadth of our church’s national communications work and outlined the need to develop new communications processes to keep up-to-date with mobile technology. She spoke about the need to develop our publications in e-book formats and to develop an application so that publications and the yearbook could be automatically downloaded and updated on computers, iPads and telephones. The Council discussed the challenges of ensuring that all people gain access to our church communications and the continuing need to provide information in both electronic and hard copy formats.
Dr Carlton Johnston spoke about the success of the national youth conference Connect and about the challenges of encouraging presbyteries and congregations to engage in effective ministry among young people. He also spoke about the need to include young people at all levels of church decision-making. He encouraged the Council and all church members to sign up to the PYM electronic newsletter.
The Moderator Peter Cheyne provided a summary of the range of activities with which he has been involved since the Council’s last meeting. Peter discussed our Church’s involvement with the New Zealand Christian Network.
Peter also spoke about the Church Life Survey, with the Council supporting the view that all parishes should be actively encouraged to participate. Because of the potential usefulness of the information gathered, the Council agreed to fund the cost of this participation.
Martin provided a summary of national church activities and initiatives. He reported on developments for CWM which will see the global office relocated to Singapore and a regional office established in New Zealand. He provided reports on the Prescare initiative with Presbyterian Support and on the recent meeting of PressGo.
The small Council team that brought a discussion paper to the last General Assembly regarding the development of a strategy to guide national church functions, reported to the Council. Their report will be used as the basis for further consultation with presbyteries.
Council Convenor, the Rev Emma Keown, led a discussion on a draft document updating the Council’s governance and operating policies and the relationship with the Assembly Executive Secretary. The Council have now agreed to adopt these updated policies. Emma also brought a recommendation supporting the need for regular self-reviews by the Council and the Resource and Leadership Subcommittees.
In consultation with the Kid’s Friendly Coach Jill Kayser, the Council has agreed on a structure that will allow Kids Friendly resources and training programmes to be shared with other churches here and overseas. This is an exciting time for Kids Friendly as the demand and interest for and in this important work continues to grow.
The Rev Helen Harray reported on the recent meeting of the Council’s Leadership sub committee. Helen reported on the establishment of several small workgroups relating to culture and language, the Ministry Development Programme and a review of the provision of Local Ministry Teams. Helen also reported on the need expressed by a number of ministers for the provision of opportunities to gather for the sharing of ideas and support.
Convenor Cunny Atchison spoke to a draft of the year-end financial statements and also spoke about a new agreement with the Pacific Island Synod to provide bulk funding for their operations.
Cunny devoted significant time in the meeting to leading a discussion about church insurance. He talked about the work of the Presbyterian Insurance Group, which has the role of placing insurance on behalf of the Presbyterian Church, schools and some Presbyterian support regions.
Of major concern to all on the Council was the increase in premiums that would be faced by all parishes and the downstream costs associated with the need to provide earthquake strengthening for many buildings.
The Council expressed its thanks and grateful appreciation to the Very Rev Bruce Hansen who will be stepping down from his role as Council representative on the Church Property Trustees upon completion of his term as the Trustee’s chair.
The next Council meeting will be held in Dunedin on 10-12 November.