Council of Assembly met in Auckland from 3-4 August, which is the last scheduled face-to-face meeting before General Assembly 2018.
Strategic review of national church operations
Council set up a workgroup, which has undertaken a review of national church operations. Having met with staff twice, the group reported to Council on their follow-up of phase one of the organisational change process. Council members considered aspects of the report in workshop mode, which was followed by general feedback and discussion.
Council members were generally positive about the direction of the proposed changes. Council feedback informed the final draft of the operational change proposal that was shared with staff in mid-July.
General Assembly 2018
Council was updated on planning and preparations for the upcoming Assembly. Council acknowledged the work of the Assembly co-ordinators and the local arrangements committee.
Moderator-elect the Rev Fakaofo Kaio provided an update on his arrangements for Assembly, including guest speakers, those leading morning devotions and the out-working of his relationship theme.
Rt Rev Richard Dawson presented his final report to the Council of Assembly. He summarised highlights of his time as Moderator. He encouraged more effective communication with the Church’s young people and voiced concern for ministers in rural areas. Council paid tribute to his leadership as Moderator of the General Assembly, and thanked him for his contributions to the Council of Assembly.
Jenny Flett advised that this would be her last report to the Council of Assembly as its convenor. She expanded on her written report, which summarised the work done by the Council over the past two years, and outlined what the report to Assembly would include. Council expressed its thanks for her dedicated leadership over the past two years, which was endorsed with applause.
Pacific Islands Synod Task Group
Council set up this group in 2015 and Winston Timaloa shared the Task Group’s final report. It was agreed that Council would include the Synod’s report and recommendations in its report to General Assembly.
Council received a report and agreed to a number of recommendations, including that the Council of Assembly:
1. Affirm the work of the Church’s Global Mission Office and acknowledge the good work that this Office does.
2. Reaffirm that the understanding of Global Mission is “here” and “there” and always in partnership with.
3. Affirm that working within the ecumenical family is an important mission of the Church.
Sub-committee convener Anne Edgar presented a draft structure for a new audit and risk committee, which proposed including non-financial risks. It was noted that the Church Property Trustees are also considering a similar structure. While each will have its own work to attend to, there would be areas of common interest. Council concluded that it would be simpler to proceed as a committee of the Council initially, and liaise with the Trustees at a later date.
Council also received from the Resource Sub-committee an interim Statement of Investment Policy (SIPO) for the Presbyterian Church. The policy documents the investment objectives and policies to be followed for the management and investment of General Assembly funds. This draft will guide the Church in the interim and be finalised and in turn recommended to General Assembly in 2020.
Council also agreed to the amended Terms of Reference for the Sub-committee that included a change to allow the Convener to delegate various responsibilities to other Committee members.
Council was updated on a proposal from the Presbyterian Development Society (PDS) that – in brief – will gift the Church a shareholding of ordinary shares in Christian Savings Limited. Council received a full non-financial report on the benefits and risks of such a shareholding and agreed that the Church wishes to be an investor in Christian Savings Ltd, and would welcome the gift of Christian Savings ordinary shares.
Council recognised and acknowledged Anne Edgar’s work during her four-year term as Sub-committee convener. She was thanked on behalf of the whole Church for her contribution.
Church Property Trustees
Trustees’ chair Mr Roger Gyles was welcomed to the meeting. He noted that there are still a few wind-up issues relating to the defined benefit section of the Beneficiary Fund. He also highlighted increasing compliance work required by the Financial Markets Authority, and greater compliance required for the two farms held by the Trustees. He updated Council about the Trustees’ work around insurance renewals, and anticipated that parishes would not see a repetition this year of the difficulties communicating with the insurance broker.
The Trustees indicated that the Presbyterian Investment Fund long-term fund – a new fund established to cater specifically for long-term investments – was only a few weeks away from starting up.
Council noted the Trustee’s paper “Understanding the property portfolio held by the Presbyterian Church” as a resource to aid strategic thinking around the Church’s property assets. Council acknowledged its importance in informing conversations around property and the mission of the Church.
In response to a letter from Northern Presbytery, Council set up a small workgroup to consider and formulate proposals for ways forward nationally to support Asian congregations. The workgroup will report to the next Council meeting.
Council affirmed the Moderator’s letter to the Government welcoming the opportunity to be included in the scope of the Royal Commission into the treatment of children in state care.
Council concluded its meeting with communion led by the Moderator.