The July Council meeting was characterised by a focus on mission; we discussed at length the mission strategy under development by the Assembly Executive Secretary, we looked at a report on making Presbyteries more effective tools of mission and ministry, and we considered ways of including Korean congregations under our Church umbrella.
We look forward to receiving your feedback on some of these proposals under consideration and are confident that their mission-orientation will be welcomed by the wider Church.
During this meeting, the Council trialled the use of consensus decision making, in response to a request from the Moderator. This involves exploring all avenues of reaching a unanimous agreement on a decision before resorting to Westminister-style voting, which did not occur during the course of this meeting.
Strategy for mission
Assembly Executive Secretary the Rev Martin Baker presented the document he has been developing in consultation with key members of the Assembly staff and Council Members. This document considers how the Church can renew and enlarge its focus on mission.
Part of the strategy explores ways of freeing up resources so that the Church can engage more effectively in mission, and this approach is strongly supported by the Council.
Council discussed the strategy in detail, commended Martin for his work to date, and asked him to incorporate its feedback into a new draft before embarking on further consultation. A final draft of the document will be considered at the November Council meeting.
Presbyteries Task Group
The Very Rev Garry Marquand presented a consultation document from the group tasked with evaluating presbyteries and their functions. This task group was set up as a result of a resolution by General Assembly 2006.
Garry told the Council that while many Presbyteries are trying their best, their burden has become an “impossible ask”. One of the key suggestions in the task group’s document is that presbyteries’ function be focused on governance and a small number of administrative tasks, and that support for a parish’s mission and its leaders be the role of networks.
Council approved the distribution of the paper to presbyteries, and strongly encourages them to provide feedback to the task group.
Assembly Executive Secretary report
The Rev Martin Baker updated the Council on the progress of changes at the School of Ministry, and Council affirmed its new name: the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership. The Centre’s Establishment Board was asked to report back on the level of allowance that will be paid to ministry interns.
Council discussed the Church’s ecumenical relationships and agreed that membership levies would be paid to the World Council of Churches, the Pacific Conference of Churches, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the Christian Conference of Asia and the Council for World Mission.
Martin reported on the negotiations with the Methodist Church over stipends. Council agreed that Presbyterian ministers serving in Methodist appointments would receive the pre-2006 Seniority Allowance from Assembly Office until the conclusion of their current term.
Council reaffirmed its March decision to proceed with a different model of dealing with social issues in place of funding the Churches’ Agency on Social Issues, and asked Martin to respond to correspondence received on this topic.
There was a discussion of the Beneficiary Fund, its future and the non-eligibility of those in ministry roles who are not National Ordained Ministers. Council expressed concern for the well-being of those who serve as Local Ordained Ministers and in ministry teams. The issues they face are being explored.
Council endorsed the importance of Leadership’s recommendations that Kids Friendly, Presbyterian Youth Ministry and Student Ministries were key mission strategies of the Church, and that priority be given to their future sustainability.
Convenor John Trainor presented Resource’s work examining the proposal from General Assembly 2006 to limit Assembly Assessment to 10 percent of parish income. Council accepted the principle that Assembly expenditure should take into account the ability and willingness of parishes to fund its programmes and operations, and recognised parishes’ desire to fund local mission. It was therefore agreed that a cap on Assembly Assessment of 10 percent should be adopted as a target for the medium term, with Resource requested to explore how this might be achieved. Council also approved Resource’s recommendation that the AES seek to better inform parishes about national programmes and initiatives.
John noted that the General Assembly budget for 2007/2008, which Council had confirmed via teleconference, had been recently distributed.
He also noted that the Financial Services Department was working on resolving ambiguities in terms of ministers and Kiwi Saver contributions. The effect of Kiwi Saver on the Beneficiary Fund was discussed, and it was agreed that the Church Property Trustees needed more time to develop comprehensive answers to Resource’s questions. More information on Kiwi Saver is available here.
The Right Rev Pamela Tankersley spoke of her visit to Samoa for the funeral of the Head of State, Malietoa Tanumafili II.
She has also recently attended the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan, the Presbyterian Youth Ministry Connect conference, and will be present at the handover of land to the local hapu at Maungapohatu in early August.
Pamela informed Council that the Moderator of the Church of Scotland would be visiting New Zealand in early October.
Pacific Island Synod
There was discussion of the admittance of ministers to the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, and Council asked Assembly Office to communicate the availability of the procedures to the Pacific Island Synod in particular and all presbyteries in general.
The matter of property ownership was also raised in the report. A key issue was an understanding of the different issues surrounding local congregational ownership of a property and the role played by the Church Property Trustees.
There was a discussion of the relationship between the Synod and Presbyteries, and the AES was directed to further investigate the issue.
The Asian Council of Congregation presented a draft document outlining a process by which Asian congregations might join the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand.
Council asked the AES to develop procedures based on this draft document, which would allow congregations of the Asian Council of Congregations to trial a staged process of joining the Church, over a finite length of time. Council acknowledged that ministers of these churches will still need to go through the standard process of becoming a Presbyterian minister.
The Council recognised the significant place that Uniting congregations hold in the life of the Presbyterian Church and also expressed a hope that effective ways would be developed to reduce the administrative burdens carried by many of these congregations.
The Council’s final meeting for 2007 will be held from 15-17 November in Dunedin.
As always, we welcome your feedback or comments. Please contact the Council via email@example.com
Yours in Christ,