Council met last weekend for its final full meeting before General Assembly 2006. We spent most of the meeting reviewing and approving our work to be presented to GA06. There are proposals for significant changes to how we develop and support our mission, particularly in leadership training and ministry formation.
Council was conscious of the huge amounts of time and effort that have gone into the reports being presented to GA06, and expressed its thanks to conveners and task group members. Service team staff were also recognised for their contribution of time, commitment and skills during this Council’s two-year term. In addition, Council recorded its deep appreciation for the strengths and leadership provided by Kerry Enright, who finishes his term as Assembly Executive Secretary shortly after GA06.
We look forward to Assembly considering the proposals, which respond to the policy direction given by General Assembly 2004, and to GA06 determining our future direction.
Kerry Stotter and Helen Beaumont
Convener the Rev Martin Baker outlined the challenges faced by the Introduction Work Group of placing graduating students in parish positions. We have talented and able students who feel called to church planting and new mission opportunities but there are few opportunities or resources available for them. Unfortunately, only a handful of parishes submitted their profiles to the Introduction Work Group for this year’s eight graduating ordinands to consider.
Council discussed the ongoing challenge of producing mission-focused leaders and freeing up resources for new and innovative approaches.
Finance manager Brendan Sweeney presented an update on the provisional 2006 year-end accounts, which show the Church in an improved financial position that includes a net surplus. Reasons for this will be set out for GA06 after the audited figures, which are planned to be available in mid September, are produced.
As previously communicated, a balanced budget was drawn up and approved by Council for the 2006/2007 financial year, with more details available on the website.
Council approved the creation of a task group to engage with presbyteries and others in reviewing the focus, form and function of presbyteries and developing possible models for the future. This will build on previous work with presbyteries, the priorities identified through Focus on the Future and feedback to the papers of the Moderator and National Mission Enabler.
Council affirmed the gifts and expertise of the person nominated by the selection panel for recommending to GA06, and unanimously endorsed their selection.
Reports going to General Assembly 2006
Council spent most of its meeting refining and approving the reports that will be presented to GA06. Feedback has been received from the wider Church on the draft reports and incorporated in the final proposals, which have been endorsed by Council and recommended to General Assembly.
School of Ministry
Task group convenor the Rev Dr Murray Rae presented the proposal to establish a centre for Christian leadership that would offer training and refresher courses for all church leaders. Key changes include replacing the current two-year residential model of ministry training with block courses, distance education and an internship with a parish. In order to maintain momentum and provide clarity for staff, the position of director will be advertised prior to GA06 and be conditional on the proposal being accepted by Assembly.
Neil Sinclair, task group convenor, outlined the final version of the report on ministers’ remuneration. The report proposes increasing ministers’ stipends and linking future increases to the wage index rather than the consumer price index.
Focal Identity Statement
Council reviewed the subordinate statement that is proposed to replace the Westminster Confession.
General Assembly Meeting
The task group’s report proposes a number of recommendations that have been acted on for this year’s assembly. Other more significant proposals in the report to be considered by GA06 include having fewer commissioners at future assemblies.
Composition of Council
Council is recommending changes to the number and mix of councillors to reduce membership to 14 people, comprising 12 General Assembly appointees plus the Leadership and Resource subcommittee convenors. There would also be four associate members.
The task group’s final report has incorporated feedback received, which indicated strong support for continuing the existing model with some modifications. These include parishes paying the Seniority Allowance directly to ministers and alterations to the definition of assessable income.
Book of Order Rewrite
Council recognised the substantial work done by the Book of Order task group since 1997 on the document going to this year’s Assembly.
National Services Review
Helen Beaumont presented this review, which arose from General Assembly 2004 and the Focus on the Future gatherings. Each area of the Service Team has been assessed in terms of improving efficiency and effectiveness, with changes already implemented including some staff restructuring and outsourcing.
Council of Asian Congregations
This report recommends the establishment of an Asian Commission for a trial period of two years. The Commission will be involved in applications to join the Church from Asian ministers overseas and Asian congregations, as well as assessing new opportunities and facilitating the financial contribution of Asian congregation to the work of the wider Church.
Liaison with Presbyteries
Councillors reported on their relationships with their local presbyteries and on feedback received on the proposals heading for GA06.
Updates from service team leaders
Assembly Executive Secretary Kerry Enright reflected on his 10 years in the role and expressed appreciation for the Council conveners and members, Moderators and staff that he has worked with. He highlighted the recent Presbyterian youth leaders’ conference, Connect, and commended the depth of leadership emerging.
Human resources manager Marilla Hood discussed highlights during her first three months in the role, including providing support to Council for the AES recruitment process and the recruitment of a communications advisor for the fixed term of communications manager Jose Reader’s maternity leave. She has also been providing advice and assistance to parishes and the AES on employment terms and conditions.
National Mission Enabler John Daniel related his work building up a network of people focussed on mission and able to work with others in their regions. He has developed a detailed package of demographic information about each presbytery that can assist strategic mission planning.
Communications adviser Amanda Wells highlighted the running of 22 media workshops around New Zealand that attracted 150 participants, as well as ongoing work focused on GA06.