God gave the PCANZ, together with the rest of the Body of Christ in Aotearoa New Zealand, the task of reconciling people to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-20) and to be an expression of God’s love in our communities (1 John 4:12). The question in front of every congregation, presbytery and the General Assembly is how do we do this effectively, and in step with God at work in our changing and fast-paced world?
In the wake of the extraordinary situation of having our first online General Assembly (29-30 September 2021) and a Special Assembly (27-30 April 2022) to deal with matters not attended to at the 2021 General Assembly, the Council of Assembly is working hard to fulfil its responsibilities as set out in 14.12 of the Book of Order.
Through this newsletter, the Council of Assembly like to share with you core aspects of the work we have been doing.
Since our last Council News in May, Council has meet twice via Zoom, and once in person – our first such meeting since March 2021 tended to, amongst other business, the following:
Acting Assembly Executive Secretary and Acting Clerk of Assembly
Council expressed thanks to Rev Phil King and Ms Heather McKenzie who filled these roles during the time the Assembly Executive Secretary was on sick leave and study leave earlier in the year.
Te Aka Puaho
Council was updated on the life and work of Te Aka Puaho, including their efforts to strengthen relationships with the wider Church and the development of a strategic plan and ‘road show’. Council also heard about land stabilisation repairs required at Te Maungarongo Marae. Council agreed to underwrite the costs of this work. Noting that this is our national marae – and much more, a taonga - the Moderator was invited to launch an appeal for these costs.
Council continues to be updated on the work of our Moderator Rt Rev Hamish Galloway, and we continue to commend him to your prayers as he serves us in this role.
Assembly Assessment is calculated by a combination of membership and assessable income. This means Assembly Assessment will be between 4-8% of a parish assessable income – no one pays less than 4% and no one pays more than 8%.
Council is very aware of the challenges facing many of our parishes in terms of financial sustainability. In recent years, increases in Assembly Assessment have been below the inflation level. This year we raised the levy – after much debate – by the rate of inflation to 7%.
Assembly Assessment is one of the income streams that provides funds to support the work of the national Church. The two main other forms are interest – mostly from interest on funds held in the Presbyterian Investment Fund and grants – such as those from the Synod of Otago and Southland and trust-held funds administered by the Church Property Trustees. These later two have decreased markedly in recent years due to low interest rates.
This means our income has decreased, yet our costs continue to rise. Costs, for example, relating to meeting our obligations in terms of Financial Consolidation – which will be an annual on-going project – are compliance costs which we did not have a few years ago. To remain a charity and to meet financial reporting requirements and file accounts with Charities Services is a huge undertaking and annual cost.
Council noted and reported in May 2022 that financial implications of some of the Special Assembly’s decisions, including the decision to adopt the principle that ministry internships be funded without the need for parish contributions, will have a substantial impact on future Assembly Assessments. Council advised the Special Assembly that if this was to be met by Assembly Assessment, the average increase to cover this cost alone would require an increase of over 20%. Council believes this is a matter that might need to be looked at again.
The increase required in Assembly Assessment this year has been kept to a minimum and reserves are being used to cover costs. This is not sustainable.
In the light of this – and the Assembly decision relating to reducing carbon emissions – Council will be providing clear guidelines in terms of travel budgets and expectations, especially for all committees to undertake their work electronically where meeting in person is not necessary. Council will be taking the lead in this and will meet electronically where meeting in person is not necessary.
In addition, Council agreed it would identify and review the current service provision and what the future looks like. Further, it has asked that the Resource Sub-committee review Assembly Assessment and its equity.
While Council will be investigating alternative funding and revenue earning, Council agreed over the next four years, on a progressive scale, to aim to return the Church to a balanced budget whereby expenses are equal to, or exceeded, by income on an operation level so that reserves are not being used to fund current activities.
The Presbyterian Church is required to comply with the requirements of the Financial Reporting Act and Charities Services requirements to ‘consolidate’ all presbyterian entities – including parishes, trusts etc over which it has financial control. This is an annual requirement and involves dedicated staff and additional audit requirements. Failure to meet these external compliance requirements would see us lose our charitable status and involve substantial costs.
While recognising the additional demands this places, particularly on treasurers, this external compliance requirement is something we must attend to each year.
The Leadership Sub-committee reported on its work, including that it is working its way through the Special Assembly decisions relating to the Knox Centre - they exercise responsibilities of governance for the Knox Centre.
Book of Order Advisory Committee
The Council of Assembly asked for advice regarding proposed exemptions to the Beneficiary Fund. Following consultation with the Church Property Trustees, the Book of Order Advisory Committee proposed amendments to the Conditions of Service Manual. Council accepted these proposals. As the Conditions of Service Manual is a Supplementary Provision, the Assembly Executive Secretary advised parish councils, presbyteries and ministers.
Knox and Salmond Board
Council approved the recommendation that Associate Professor Patrick Vakaoti be appointed to the Board of Knox and Salmond Colleges.
Memorandum of Understanding Update
The Presbyterian Church has a Memorandum with the Congregational Union of New Zealand and Ekalesia Niue. Although this contained a review requirement, none of the parties had undertaken this. The AES has been working on this matter pre-COVID, during the past two years, and since his return. It is very pleasing to report agreement on an updated MOU is now complete and Council approved the draft. Signing details are being worked on and the Moderator will sign this on behalf of the Presbyterian Church.
Memorandum of Understanding – with Presbyterian Church of Taiwan
Changes to immigration requirements have seen difficulties for some congregations in being able to fill ministerial vacancies. In particular, a minister from overseas (from denominations we do not have a mutuality of ministry agreement with) finds obstacles in meeting visa requirements and the local church and presbytery are unable to process a call.
Work has been undertaken by the AES with the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan. Council warmly endorsed a Memorandum of Understanding between us that will help with the above matter, plus make wider ministry and mission engagements and opportunities possible.
Synod of Otago and Southland dialogue with Council
As was reported in our May Council News that Council received an invitation from the Executive of the Synod of Otago and Southland to enter into a working dialogue. This has commenced and updates will be reported to Council each time it meets.
Church Property Trustees
Council was updated on a successful property gathering with presbyteries and Synod of Otago and Southland in June. This was driven by the Assembly decision inviting the Church Property Trustees to work with presbyteries to develop fit-for-purpose buildings.
The Trustees are also attending to maters raised at the Assembly relating to property sales; reviewing its earthquake policy and facilitating insurance renewals – and in this regard – the affordability of insurance remains a concerning issue.
The Trustees have adopted a mission statement: “Building up the Presbyterian Church for God’s Mission”.
Appointment of new Principal, Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership
Following advertising, short-listing, and interviewing, Council received a recommendation for the position of Principal of the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership and warmly confirmed the appointment of Rev Dr Geoff New to this role - effective immediately.
Other roles at the Knox Centre will be advertised in due course.
In Ephesians 3:10-11 we read: “God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (New Living Translation)
May we as the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, Christ’s ambassadors, continue to creatively find ways to display God’s wisdom in its rich variety so that the Kingdom may come in us and through us.
Rev Dr Jaco Reyneke Mrs Kat Solomona
Convener Deputy Convener
Council of Assembly Council of Assembly
We look forward to working together and serving the wider Church in these roles. Please feel free to contact us.