The Council of Assembly met for regular business from 2-4 March 2017 at the Mary McKillop Centre, Mission Bay, Auckland.
This meeting was the Council’s first regularly scheduled full meeting since General Assembly 2016. The Council attended to a number of matters electronically.
The members of the Council are:
Members: Mrs Jenny Flett (Convener), Rev Richard McLean (Deputy convenor), Rev Pauline Stewart (Northern Presbytery), Rev Dr Jaco Reyneke (Kaimai Presbytery), Mr Mahaki Albert (Te Aka Puaho), Mr Wayne Ogden (Presbytery Central), Rev Hamish Galloway (Alpine Presbytery), Rev Dr Tokerau Joseph (Southern Presbytery), Mr Winston Timaloa (Pacific Islands Synod), Ms Anne Edgar (Resource Sub-committee), Dr Deborah Bower (Leadership Sub-committee), Ms Rhee Hee Sook Barry (Asian Ministries), Rt Rev Richard Dawson (Moderator).
Associate members: Rev Wayne Matheson (Assembly Executive Secretary - AES), Ms Marina Rakuraku (Moderator, Te Aka Puaho), Rev Karima Fai’ai (Moderator, Pacific Islands Synod), Very Rev Ray Coster (Church Property Trustees), Mr John Willis (Synod of Otago & Southland)
In the absence of the Convener, who was recovering from a minor surgical procedure, the Deputy convenor, the Rev Richard McLean, chaired the meeting. He welcomed new members, and following a time of introduction, Council were led in Worship and Holy Communion by the Rt Rev Richard Dawson.
The Council noted the recent health update from former Moderator and Moderator-elect Very Rev Andrew Norton. The Moderator led the Council in praying for Andrew, his wife Sue, and the family, together with the congregation of St Columba.
Council spent an extended period engaging in governance training and governance as it relates to the Council. This included an overview of the structure of the national Church, and the Council’s role within this. Council was reminded what ‘active governance’ means, including being aware of pending risks and asking questions for clarification. The governance and management structures of the Church were displayed in a series of organisational charts for clarification, and the details discussed. Council is updating the Council of Assembly Handbook.
It was signalled that a review of the Church’s ‘Strategic Direction’ documents that had been adopted by previous councils would be an agenda item for the next Council meeting. The background to these documents was briefly explained by the AES.
Council members then duly completed charitable entity officer detail forms to record their personal details that are in turn uploaded onto the Charities Services website
The Rt Rev Richard Dawson reflected on his experience of the 2016 Assembly. Among other things he voiced concern about the antagonistic atmosphere he thought had been prevalent at Assembly for many years, and felt that his focus on resourcing Commissioners had resulted in a more positive attitude in 2016. The Moderator made suggestions as to how assemblies, and the role of Moderator, might be focused in future.
Council will seek to encourage further improvement of the General Assembly meeting based on the priorities presented in the Moderator’s report, of creating a spiritual meeting designed to resource the whole Church.
The Moderator reported that he had received an open letter from a group of 13 retired ministers voicing concern about the large size of presbyteries. He advised that the letter would be forwarded to the presbyteries meeting in May 2017 for discussion.
The AES, Rev Wayne Matheson, reported on a number of functional updates which were for information only. These included the 2018 Assembly, Te Aka Puaho, PCANZ and Waitangi Day, liaising with Leadership and Resource Sub-committees, presbyteries; risk management and ethics workshops and compliance issues, Christian Savings, Interchurch Hospital Chaplaincy, PresCare and PCANZ on the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services.
For the benefit of new Council members, Wayne explained the background to several ongoing work streams – Beneficiary Fund Review Group, Disciplinary Procedures Review Group, and Pacific Islands Synod Review Group. He updated Council on disciplinary and judicial matters. He noted that the St John’s Church Rotorua buildings had recently been destroyed by fire. He reported that this unfortunate event and others such as the Kaikoura earthquake were likely to lead to an increase in insurance premiums. He advised that parishes should review their insurance cover levels annually.
Matters from Assembly:
The 2016 Assembly had asked the Council of Assembly to establish a work group to enable to Church’s social voice to be heard.
Council appointed a Social Voice Work Group with the following terms of reference:
(a) To identify and review how the PCANZ has in the past engaged in both assisting the mission of congregations communicating on social issues and supporting the Moderator on behalf of the PCANZ to speak on these matters.
(b) To discuss with the PCANZ representative on the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services and with Presbyterian Support NZ how material, research and findings can be shared across the whole Church to assist local congregations in making their social voice heard.
(c) To take any advice from the Communications team and the Book of Order Advisory Committee on any matters identified.
(d) To report to the Council of Assembly no later than the October 2017 Council meeting and bring any recommendations.
Council appointed Rev Richard McLean as group convener, members are Rev Pauline Stewart, Mr Wayne Ogden, Rev Jaco Reyneke, Mrs Rhee Barry, with power to co-opt others.
It was acknowledged the input of the Moderator and/or past Moderators would be sought by the work group.
Review of role of Moderator:
Following the request from Assembly in 2016, the Council established a Moderator’s Role Work Group with the following terms of reference:
Council appointed Rev Peter Dunn as convenor, members are Rev Richard Gray, Rev Andrew Harrex, Very Rev Pamela Tankersley, Ms Emma Gallagher, Rev Hamish Galloway. Corresponding members: Te Aka Puaho Moderator (or representative), Pacific Islands Synod Moderator (or representative)
Gender equality review:
Wayne reported that the 2016 Assembly had asked the Council of Assembly to review all current policies, regulations and decisions through a gender equality lens to ensure the needs, aspirations and welfare of women and girls are taken into account and to ensure the voices of women are encouraged and heard in all the courts of the Church and other decision-making bodies.
He advised that the Book of Order already included a generic principle that membership of church courts, committees and other bodies should reflect the age, gender and cultural groupings within the Church, and the Nominating Committee’s terms of reference were explicit about this. Wayne outlined a possible way to review all policies across the Church, and indicated that, prior to the next meeting, he would undertake a scoping exercise on how the Council might undertake this task.
Assembly had asked that the Council of Assembly, in conjunction with the Nominating Committee, to review Book of Order chapter 14.13 (Membership of Council of Assembly) to ensure consistency across the regulations. The Council Convenor and the AES will discuss with the Nominating Committee their concerns and gain an understanding, and then discuss this with the Book of Order Advisory Committee for any comment, and report back to Council by October 2017 with any recommendations or an update on progress.
The Council received and approved the nomination of George Paterson to the Church Architecture Reference Group in the Auckland region.
Assembly and social media:
A letter from the Book of Order Advisory Committee was received, giving the committee’s opinion on issues raised about social media, confidentiality and undue influence at Assembly. The committee advised that:
(a) Banning social media exchanges at Assembly would be impossible to police, and Commissioners are free to listen to viewpoints that are expressed (including through social media) and then to make their own decisions.
(b) There is insufficient reason to justify further action on the point of order raised by the Rev Andrew Howley as the committee is of the view that the nature of the use of social media during the 2016 Assembly does not meet the threshold of seriousness as to require a formal process.
Ecumenical relations policy:
The Council approved the amended policy on ecumenical relations, as presented, for a further 12 months.
International ecumenical relations:
The Council supported the proposed change to the constitution of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, and the application of Gereja Injili Do Indonesia (GIDI) and Persekutuan Gereja-Gereja Baptis Papua to the Pacific Conference of Churches.
Mr Mahaki Albert verbally reported, on behalf of the Te Aka Puaho Moderator, on the recent activities of Te Aka Puaho. He described it as a time of transition between the former Moderator, the Rev Wayne Te Kaawa, and the current Moderator Ms Marina Rakuraku.
Mahaki expressed appreciation of national Church representation at Ms Rakuraku’s induction. He explained a change in structure for Te Aka Puaho. A review of the Ahorangi position (the person fulfilling this role offers training for amorangi ministry) is being undertaken by the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership and Te Aka Puaho.
He expressed appreciation to the Council of Assembly for the annual gift in partnership to Te Aka Puaho.
Pacific Islands Synod Moderator the Rev Karima Fai’ai presented a verbal report on behalf of the Synod. He noted that the Synod had recognised that its processes needed to be streamlined, and restructuring was being undertaken. He voiced appreciation of the support of the national Church during the time the Synod was established. He explained the value of the fonos and the intention of the Synod to delegate some of its functions to the more local system.
Presbyteries have been encouraged to provide 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.
Mr John Willis reported on the role of the Synod of Otago & Southland. He noted that the income available to the Synod for distribution to the Church would be reduced this year, and he warned that this may impact on the level of support the Synod offers to national bodies such as the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership.
There was acknowledgement of the significant funds that the Synod grants to the PCANZ nationally, and of the Synod’s generous financial support of the 2016 General Assembly.
Convenor Dr Deborah Bower presented the report of the Sub-committee. She voiced the Sub-committee’s concern about the increasing workload of the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership (KCML) staff. She suggested that management and reporting structures for KCML might be simplified.
She updated the Council on Local Ordained Ministry policies, and other matters in the Sub-committee’s workstream.
Convener Mrs Anne Edgar presented the report of the Resource Sub-committee. The committee recommended to council a proposal to move to a balanced budget, meaning one where the expenses will not exceed the income. Council determined to adopt a balanced budget this coming financial year (1 July 2017 / 30 June 2018), to be implemented from 1 July 2017.
Council also agreed to adopt a minimum 3 year financial forecasting strategy with a view to expanding to 5 years, to be operational from 1 July 2018.
Anne outlined the background and concerns about how Assembly Assessment is calculated. The Resource Sub-committee proposed that a workgroup, comprised of Resource Sub-committee members be appointed to review Assembly Assessment. Council agreed and appointed Craig Donaldson (Southern), Eli Elikana (Pacific Islands Synod), Diana Baird (rural representation) - with power to co-opt - to this group. Council also appointed an Associate: Brendan Sweeney (Financial Services Manager).
The terms of reference for the Assembly Assessment Work Group are:
(a) To consider the theological integrity and operational effectiveness of the current Assembly Assessment model, and any corrections that may be necessary to account for any identified anomalies.
(b) To make recommendations on alternative options for funding national ministries and central support services, should it be recommended that the current Assembly Assessment model be discontinued.
(c) To consult with parishes and presbyteries on the above, in conjunction with the national office finance team.
(d) To report to Resource Sub-committee with any recommendations to be referred to Council of Assembly, for implementation by 1 July 2018.
A report from the Press Go Board was received. The Chair of the Resource Sub-Committee – Anne Edgar – an Associate on the Press Go Board, outlined for Council the criteria and priorities for funding projects, and the funds set aside for aroha grants. She noted that the Presbyterian Foundation would now be managed through the Press Go, though it had different grants criteria.
She also read out a late extra report from the Press Go Chair, and noted particular areas for Council of Assembly to be aware of, including new church planting and resourcing for innovation, and a lack of robustness in presbytery mission plans. Council was advised of a vacancy on the Press Go Board, and the appointment of a Deputy chair, Mr Simon Bilton.
There was a general discussion about capacity building and upskilling, and the need for clear strategies in addressing priorities, and ease of understanding across the breadth of the Church. It was noted that the Press Go Catalyst had good skills in helping congregations, and could also help presbyteries.
For the benefit of new Council members, the Very Rev Ray Coster gave an overview of the work of the Presbyterian Church Property Trustees. He noted that there was strong liaison between the Trustees and the Council of Assembly; Ray is the Trustees’ representative at Council meetings, and the Rev Richard McLean represents the Council at Trustee meetings. The Trustees approve the sale of church properties, oversee a number of trusts, holds investment funds, and is responsible for the Beneficiary Fund. The Trustees also administer two Church farms, a ministers’ loan fund, make grants to ministers in need and administers the insurance fund.
He explained how the Trustees were seeking to directly engage with presbyteries to facilitate congregations meeting their obligations to meet seismic standards. He also noted property relationship complexities with co-operative ventures which were seeking to dissolve their agreements. He noted that heritage buildings were also a difficulty for the Trustees, in their statutory duties.
Roger explained how funds were managed for both the Presbyterian Investment Fund and the Beneficiary Fund. The Trustees were considering changing the investment criteria to enable their fund managers to improve the investment return without loss of security.
The windup of the Defined Benefit section of the Beneficiary Fund was reported to be on track, with confirmation of personal details now being collated in preparation for lump sum payouts. The Trustees are also developing the new superannuation scheme, and are hopeful that many current Beneficiary Fund members will transfer their funds to the new scheme. Roger noted the significant compliance work needed to meet the Financial Markets Authority’s requirements. He explained that the Trustees are doing all they can to ensure that the Fund retains its charitable status.
Council members voiced appreciation of the Rev Richard McLean’s chairing of the meeting, as the new Deputy Convenor.
Mrs Jenny Flett
Council of Assembly
Rev Richard McLean
Council of Assembly