The Council of Assembly met at the Home of Compassion Conference Centre, Island Bay in Wellington, 16-17 November 2012.
The Deputy Convenor and acting Chair of the Council, the Rev Dr Colin Marshall, welcomed new members to their first meeting. The Rev Wayne Te Kaawa constituted the meeting with prayer.
Graeme Nahkies, Director of Board Works International, facilitated an induction programme for Council members. The programme focused on the governance role of the Council and referred to the policy documents which provide the basis for the Council’s activities.
Later during the programme, Council members who are continuing on from the previous Council, spoke about major work streams of the Council over the previous two years.
Te Aka Puaho
Te Aka Puaho moderator, the Rev Wayne Te Kaawa, introduced the work of Te Aka Puaho. Wayne provided an update of the challenges faced by Turakina Maori Girl’s College. Academically the school has had some significant successes but does need to increase roll numbers for next year. The Rev Mitch Jaram spoke about the timetable for development work at Ohope Marae.
Pacific Islands Synod
Synod moderator, the Rev Ere Talagi-Ikitoelangi, spoke about the work of the Synod and the excitement and challenges faced during the transition period of the Synod as it assumes the functions and responsibilities of a presbytery. The Council supported the Synod’s decision to invite the Very Rev Pamela Tankersley to assist in the Synod’s transition process.
The Rev James Lee from the Asian Council spoke about changing patterns in New Zealand’s demography; he emphasised that around 15 per cent of New Zealander’s will identify with an Asian ethnicity within the next 20 years. He spoke about the challenges faced by Asian congregations seeking to become members of the Presbyterian Church.
The Right Rev Ray Coster expressed his heartfelt thanks for the work of Te Aka Puaho and the team in Rotorua in their hosting of the General Assembly. Ray expressed his commitment to encouraging a unified commitment to the Church’s mission and overcoming divisions within the Church. Ray has already visited a number of presbyteries and spoke about his commitment to visit them all within the next few months and to support them in their mission planning and focus.
The Council supported Ray’s nomination to represent the Presbyterian Church on the World Council of Churches’ central committee.
Assembly Executive Secretary
The Rev Martin Baker reported to the Council. The Council approved the minutes of the final three sessions of the General Assembly meeting, and discussed the work it had been asked to undertake in relation to the unfinished business of the Assembly. The Council decided to defer further discussion on these matters till it had further background information for its meeting in March 2013.
The Council also: supported the nomination of Neil Walker as the Deputy Convenor of the Nominating Committee; agreed on the membership of a judicial commission which has been formed to hear an appeal; agreed to develop and circulate discussion documents which came before the General Assembly in relation to the role of the Moderator, and property and mission; established a work group to look at the challenges of being a cross-cultural Church within the context of a bicultural Church; and established another work group to engage with presbyteries and the Assembly Business Work Group in developing the agenda and content for the 2014 General Assembly.
Martin will be coordinating the annual meeting of representatives of the presbyteries, the Moderator, Assembly staff and others agreed to by the Assembly.
The Council agreed that the Assembly decision to look at issues around the possible return of Church-owned land to hapu or iwi be referred to the Church Property Trustees and the Synod of Otago and Southland for their advice.
Dr John Kernohan, the Convenor of the Knox College and Salmond College commission, reported to the meeting about the commission’s work. Significant building and upgrade work is being undertaken over the university holidays to ensure that that the Colleges meet current buildings safety standards.
The Council were delighted to confirm the appointment of the Rev Dr Selwyn Yeoman as the Master of Knox College.
The Council expressed its gratitude and thanks for the work of John and the commission.
Convenor, the Rev Diane Gilliam-Weeks presented her report regarding the committee’s recent meeting. The Council agreed that the provisions for lay supply appointments be amended to extend the maximum term from six to 12 months. The Leadership Sub-committee will also undertake a review of lay supply provisions.
Work continues on the 2010 Assembly decision regarding the exploration of a Church hub or centre in Auckland. Former Council member, the Rev Pauline Stewart and a small Auckland-based team have conducted further exploratory work which was described in Council documents. The Council agreed that a number of Council members meet with Pauline and her team in Auckland to discuss the project.
Convenor Jenny Flett presented the report of the Resource Committee. She highlighted the challenges facing congregations in terms of financial reporting and compliance with the Charities Commission expectations. Compliance issues for financial reporting, taxation and other matters are expected to place increasing demands on congregations. The Assembly Office’s Financial Services are developing a manual to assist congregations. The Resource Committee will meet with the Church Property Trustees to further discuss related issues.
During the Council meeting, the Deputy Convenor invited the Moderator and others to pray for those people and challenges represented in the various reports.
The Council of Assembly’s meeting concluded on Saturday afternoon 17 November. The Council will next meet 15-16 March 2013, in Auckland.
The Rev Dr Colin Marshall
Council of Assembly