The Council met at Te Maungarongo Marae in Ohope between 22-24 March. We very much appreciated the hospitality of Te Aka Puaho, as well as the chance to learn about the marae and its missional context. This is hospitality that Te Aka Puaho would like to extend to the wider Church.
The second meeting of this Council was characterised by a sense of excitement and determination to grow the Kingdom of God. There’s a groundswell of life and vitality coming from all sorts of different directions.
Freeing up resources to grow the Church
Several sections of the meeting focused on this dilemma, from different angles:
Assembly Executive Secretary Martin Baker spoke about the development of a new strategic document for the Church, which includes a series of mission-related goals, on which he will be seeking feedback.
A paper from the Presbyteries Task Group, which is convened by the Very Rev Garry Marquand, outlined the results of a survey on presbyteries’ effectiveness. The Task Group is consulting with people experienced in the structures of large organisations in order to explore different models that will enhance mission.
The Rev Peter Cheyne presented a paper on growing the Church, which continued the discussion begun during Mr Baker’s report. Council agreed that the 2007/08 budget should make provision for developing a growth-focused strategic plan that would be presented to General Assembly 2008. Council also approved Mr Cheyne’s recommendation that a work group of people interested in church planting and new mission initiatives be established.
The Church Property Trustees presented a paper on the use of capital assets that considered how the property assets of congregations can be used to further the mission of the Church. The paper was referred to the Presbyteries Task Group for comments and suggestions.
Council decided that the AES would write to presbyteries encouraging them to look at properties in a new way as part of his plan to seek feedback on the Church’s long-term strategy.
In addition, the Resource sub-committee will liaise with Auckland presbytery, which is developing an initiative on this issue.
The Right Rev Pamela Tankersley has visited the Wairarapa, Ashburton, and Bay of Plenty presbyteries, as well as Te Aka Puaho, whose synod meeting she attended. Mrs Tankersley also attended the recent Interfaith Conference in Hamilton, where the draft National Statement on Religious Diversity was discussed, and the 50th celebrations of the Christian Conference of Asia.
Te Aka Puaho
Moderator Millie Te Kaawa spoke of a resurgence in Amorangi training. Amorangi ministers work in Te Aka Puaho parishes (although they are not paid a stipend). At the moment Te Aka Puaho has 12 parishes, two national ordained ministers and 14 Amorangi. Seven new Amorangi ministers graduated in February and another six have been accepted for training.
Mrs Te Kaawa also noted that a Massey University historian is researching a book on the deaconesses in the Maori missions/synod.
Pacific Islanders’ Synod
Clerk Olinda Woodroffe reported that the Pacific Island Synod is refining its plan for a Reflection Centre so that it best meets the needs of the Pacific Presbyterian Church community. It is proposed that the Reflection Centre be a resource for the whole Church.
As the life of the Synod develops, there is a need to clarify issues where the Synod constitution is not specific or where the wording differs from the understanding of some members. These issues are being worked through as they arise.
Members from Synod working with Komiti Moana Nui plan to attend the Pacific Council of Churches meeting in September 2007.
Members of the Synod executive met with Council convenor Rhys Pearson and AES Martin Baker late last year in order to promote a good working relationship between the Synod and the wider Church.
Council of Asian Congregations
Council of Assembly recognised the growing importance of the increasing number of Asian congregations. Work is being done to develop culturally sensitve guidelines that will help the Asian Congregations find a home in the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand.
Council discussed the sub-committee’s recommendation to train teams to carry out congregational appraisals, and agreed that the Leadership sub-committee will continue to develop the concept and bring a proposal for funding to the next budget round.
The sub-committee’s suggestion that the “trial Service of Ordination”, which has been in existence for three years, should become the preferred Service of Ordination and Induction was also approved by Council.
General Assembly 2006 referred to Council a remit for an appeal from Resource Sub-committee decisions on parish Assembly Assessment contributions that had been defeated on the floor of GA06. The sub-committee considered the proposal and recommended to Council that an appeals process was not necessary and would be costly as well as likely to generate anomalies, which Council agreed.
Council agreed that the proceeds from the sale of Laughton House, $3.9 million, be held as a reserve with the interest available to General Assembly funds. In terms of the principal, Council agreed that use of all or part of the capital fund would be only for projects that met the wider Church’s purposes.
Church Property Trustees Secretary Doug Langford presented a paper on issues surrounding the beneficiary fund, including the removal of a retirement age for ministers, the calculation of retirement benefits and Kiwi Saver. The Council considered at length the complex issues involved and decided to formulate a list of questions to which the trustees will respond.
Council encouraged the Church Property Trustees to hold regional meetings for ministers approaching retirement that would explain their entitlements and other issues.
Assembly Executive Secretary report
The Rev Martin Baker reported on the formation of an Ecological Task Group, to be co-ordinated by the Rev John Howell from Taupo.
Mr Baker noted that parishes and presbyteries are encouraged to get in touch with him about any areas of difficulty they might be having with the new Book of Order. Work is underway at the moment to develop supplementary provisions, which will help parishes and presbyteries deal with issues relating to new requirements and regulations.
Council voiced its support for the provision of legal compliance material to parishes.
Federal Task Group report
The Rev Peter Dunn has been convening a group that is exploring the concept of a federal model for the Church. A federal model is one in which each component of an organisation functions autonomously within a wider vision. Council discussed the report and will send back a number of questions to the group.
Council has received petitions containing 1500 signatures of people expressing unhappiness with the General Assembly 2006 decision on sexuality and leadership. Council noted the hurt felt by some in the Church and asked the AES to respond to those who had written letters.
Council’s meetings next for the remainder of 2007 will be held on:
As always, we welcome your feedback or comments. Please contact the Council via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yours in Christ,