When people believe in a cause, and are excited about a cause, they enthusiastically invest themselves and promote this cause to people around them. Often this results in others joining their cause. On the other hand… nobody joins a cause with negative and unmotivated supporters.
Have we lost our enthusiasm and the excitement of being in a restored relationship with God? We have the amazing and exciting privilege to be part of God’s Church. This puts us in a position of power:
“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.” (Ephesians 1:19-23; NLT)
As God’s people we must resist getting caught up in pessimism and negativity. “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.” (1 Peter 3:15-16; NLT)
This enthusiasm and excitement starts with every member, and within every congregation, manifesting itself as we gather as presbyteries and as the General Assembly. God is with us. We are God’s people.
To fulfill the administrative responsibility the General Assembly delegated to Council of Assembly, Council met in person at Ohope Marae, and via zoom, in the first five months of the year. We share here a summary of our work.
Te Aka Puaho
It was a joy and delight to be welcomed to Te Maungarongo Ohope Marae for the March 2023 in-person meeting of the Council.
Council was able to personally congratulate the recently installed new Moderator of Te Aka Puaho – Rev Tamiana Thrupp, and to gather around and pray for him. Worshipping together was a highlight of our meeting.
Mihimihi – a time of getting to know each other individually - took place after karakia.
Council and Te Aka Puaho sat together and talked about a number of matters. Council heard of increased interest in Te Aka Puaho and a growth in numbers attending services. The new Moderator has already visited a number of congregations and more visits are planned. Tamiana shared of his dream and passion as he begins his role.
Council was reminded of the history of Te Aka Puaho; with invited guests our korerorero included the Te Reo commissioner - a conversation about perspectives on how Te Tiriti is worked out, including within the PCANZ.
We noted that despite a number of attempts (including how COVID impacted each of these planned events) a gathering at the marae to follow-on from the decision of the Assembly regarding a Te Reo commissioner was still a work in progress. Following our meeting, the AES has been in conversation with Te Aka Puaho; a new date has been set for the first of these gatherings and invitations sent to presbyteries. Council again expresses its thanks to Te Aka Puaho for hosting and running this event.
Council saw work at the marae to repair the retaining wall - what a tremendous improvement this will be.
The warmth of welcome, rich hospitality, deep fellowship, and the magnificent setting of the marae makes a council meeting at Te Maungarongo a high spot for those who serve on the Council.
Our Moderator Right Rev Hamish Galloway reported on his work and initiatives. We give thanks for his service and dedication and pray for him as he continues in this role over the next few months.
Convenor Craig Donaldson reported on nine-monthly financial reports and other matters.
While our current situation is better than budgeted due to delays in key appointments, Council has noted that our recent staffing levels and the services provided by the Assembly Office cannot be sustained using our current funding model.
Our Finance Manger Michaela Press presented the draft budget to our May zoom meeting. This followed a widely consultative process with staff and with the Resource Sub-committee. The proposed 7% increase in Assembly Assessment is a concern. Council noted that the decision of the 2022 Special Assembly to fully fund KCML internships added to an already very challenging budget. This cost is unsustainable, and Council will be bringing recommendations to Assembly concerning this.
There was general discussion about several aspects of the budget and what strategically should be prioritised. The Assembly decided that the discussion should continue to ‘reflect on the nature and role of our national structures in resourcing and empowering the presbyteries’. The Te Haere Tonu workgroup was established by the Council of Assembly with Terms of Reference to serve this continuing discernment. Their report is not due until Assembly in 2025.
Council appointed a small work group to assist Council in its short-term decision making on strategic directions that impact on the budget that the Council should prioritise.
Council voted to adopt the draft budget. Assembly Assessment for the 2023-24 financial year for each church has been calculated and this information sent out from the Assembly Office.
Convenor Rev Ryhan Prasad reported on the various work streams of the committee. Among other maters it reported was the work of the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership (KCML); progressing the new Certificate of Good Standing (CGS); and that the committee had spent time reviewing and updating the Terms of Reference for what had been the KCML Advisory Board. This will be renamed the KCML Advisory Group.
Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership
Council is delighted to report that the recruitment process for three roles at the Knox Centre saw recommendations come to Council to fill all of these. Announcements about two appointments – Rev Dr Andrew Nicol and Rev Ivan Martinez – were made earlier and the third announcement – Rev Seb Murrihy – was made last week.
Council records its thanks for the outstanding leadership of KCML Principal Rev Dr Geoff New, and thanks the Southern Presbytery for facilitating on behalf of the Assembly the induction service for Rev Dr New.
Doctrine Core Group
Council has approved new updated Terms of Reference for the Doctrine Core Group.
Assembly Executive Secretary
The Assembly Executive Secretary reported on a wide range of matters to Council; the AES ensures Council is fully aware of all matters that enable it to exercise its responsibilities.
During the period last year when the AES was on sick leave and study leave, Council noted the huge dependency it placed on the role and the institutional memory that the current AES holds. While Council has benefited greatly from this, Council noted the risks to itself and the wider Church should this become unavailable.
Council appointed a small work group – Deputy Convenor Kat Solomona, Rev Andrew Harrex, and the AES - to assess the risks and to consider succession planning.
Their report outlined the unprecedented challenges that had led to the workload of the AES being markedly increased. It highlighted the risk of Church operations being compromised when the AES’s extensive institutional knowledge is unavailable. As a result of greatly increased demands, and so unsustainable workload, the role became reactive rather than proactive. Council recognised that the Te Haere Tonu Work Group report is expected to offer long term solutions, but short-term steps are needed in the interim. Council agreed to a plan to provide support for the AES; clarifying some responsibilities for the Core Leadership Team and proposing minor reporting line changes for some national office staff in order to give better support to the AES. Council members voiced their appreciation of what they viewed as a clear and comprehensive analysis.
The role and responsibilities of the Nominating Committee play an important part in our life together. In more recent times, the Committee struggles to receive nominations for various roles in our national committee structure that require additional or replacement people between assemblies. With the upcoming Assembly, the committee will have a number of roles to fill. While these are not all finalized at this point – we know they will include: Leadership Sub-committee; Resource Sub-committee; National Assessment Work Group; Book of Order Advisory Committee; Personnel Work Group; Assembly Business Work Group; PressGo Board and Church Architecture Reference Group. Council encourages the nomination of suitably skilled people with the time commitment so our groups and committees can undertake the work we ask them to do.
Following on from the Presbyterian Church appearing before the Royal Commission in October, we have developed a process for people who want to advise us of historic abuse matters. The Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand has a duty of care that we take very seriously. The first point of contact remains our Complaints and Disputes Manager - Anne Edgar. Her email is: ComplaintsandDisputesManager@presbyterian.org.nz
Assembly will meet at Saint Kentigern College, Pakuranga, Auckland, from Wednesday 27 September to Sunday 1 October 2023. We invite the Church to prayerfully uphold Moderator Designate Rev Rose Luxford as she prepares for this role and for all those involved in the organization and running of the Assembly.
Council agreed to appoint Judith Forbes to the Board of Knox College and Salmond College Inc.
Upcoming Council meetings
Council will continue to meet electronically up to the General Assembly in September. Council and its sub committees had been proactive in meeting electronically for the majority of its business prior to the decision of Assembly to reduce our carbon emissions. We continue to model this in our work.
May our faith burn brightly as we (Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand members, parishes, presbyteries, and General Assembly) gratefully respond to God’s love and grace.
May God guide you and bless you in your ministry.
Rev Dr Jaco Reyneke Mrs Kat Solomona
Convener Deputy Convener
Council of Assembly Council of Assembly