The Council of Assembly met at the Home of Compassion, Island Bay, Wellington on Thursday 14 and Friday 15 June. Of special importance at this meeting was the preparation and discussion of Council papers for the General Assembly.
Te Aka Puaho
Mitch Jaram and the Rev Wayne Te Kaawa spoke about the work of Te Aka Puaho and plans to expand their ministry to Maori communities in Brisbane through discussion with the Uniting Church of Australia. Te Aka Puaho is also developing significant relationships with the church in Tahiti, as well as stronger links with Presbyterian Support. The General Assembly will have an opportunity to acknowledge the many years of the work of Te Komiti Takawaenga, which is likely coming to an end. The work of the late Sir Rodney Gallen was acknowledged. The Te Whaiti Scholarships, which Sir Rodney was so active in supporting, will continue to be administered by a committee whose most recent member is former scholarship recipient, Taine Randall.
Pacific Island report
The clerk of the Pacific Island Synod, the Rev Asora Amosa spoke about the work of the task group bringing a report to the General Assembly regarding the Pacific Island Synod becoming a presbytery. Asora also spoke about his work in representing the Pacific Conference of Churches on matters of migration and climate change.
The Rev Hyeeun Kim spoke of the work being undertaken by the Rev Stuart Vogel and others from the Asian Council relating to the development of an understanding of being part of a cross cultural Church, and about the challenges of working together from our different cultural backgrounds and perspectives. (Some of these documents are now on the Church’s GA12 website page for further study.)
Peter spoke about his work and impressions as he travelled around the Church. While there were examples of great mission activity, he spoke about his particular concerns for some presbyteries and congregations. He spoke about the critical need for good leadership and asked the Council to look at ways that leadership can be developed at all levels of the Church’s life and work. He talked about the importance of the Council’s strategic directions. Peter was supported by the Council in affirming the statement of the Faith Communities Against Violence.
Council Convenor’s report
The Rev Emma Keown reported on her work and the correspondence she has had with presbyteries in relation to their progress with reform. The Council discussed issues around the fact that both the Convenor and deputy Convenor were stepping down from their roles as well as a number of Council members completing their term. The Council agreed to express to the Nominating Committee the importance of finding new Council members with the skills necessary to provide the kind of leadership that the Council needs.
The Rev Martin Stewart provided an update on how congregations and the presbytery were engaging with the challenges of rebuilding and developing a new understanding of their mission in the post earthquakes context. The Council were enormously appreciative of the work being undertaken to bring congregations together in discussions about their shared mission and in the resolution of insurance claims. Martin provided the Christchurch Presbytery’s draft strategic plan and a copy of Exploring the Theology of the Church. (Other presbyteries may well find these documents helpful.)
Leadership Sub Committee (LSC)
The Rev Helen Harray reported on the significant volume of work being undertaken by the LSC. Helen reported on the recent report completed by the Rev Reg Weeks on the development of the Local Ministry Team model of ministry. She reported on the progress of minister’s reviews and on new regulations regarding the licensing of ordinands. The Council supported new regulations concerning the pathway between Amorangi ministry and becoming a national ordained minister. Helen reported on the work of the reconstituted Introduction Work Group and that task groups have been established to look at issues of language and culture, and how we organise ourselves as a Church as well as a committee for reviewing the work of the LSC itself.
Resource Sub Committee
Convenor Cunny Atchison spoke about a range of resource and financial matters and introduced the PCANZ finance manager, Brendan Sweeney, to present the 2012-13 budget which was subsequently adopted by the Council. Cunny, in his role of chairing the Insurance Task Group, brought a report recommending changes to the process and structure of the way the Church negotiates and purchases insurance cover for congregations.
Martin Baker reported on a number of matters including issues to do with risk management, the PCANZ’s support of the Bicentenary of Christianity’s arrival in New Zealand, representation at the Presbyterian Church of Korea’s General Assembly, and work being undertaken to investigate the viability of an Auckland hub or centre for the Presbyterian Church’s work. He provided a draft of a number of papers for consideration by the General Assembly as well as supplementary regulations requiring the Council’s approval.
Moderator-designate the Rev Ray Coster reported on the work of Press Go. The Council agreed that the Rev Andrew Norton be the new Convenor and that Peter Winder and the Rev Mark Johnston be members of the Press Go Board.
Council reports to the General Assembly
The Council is going to bring a number of reports to the General Assembly which reflect implementation of a strategic directions paper which it developed in consultation with presbyteries and church groups to help direct and govern the national activities of the Church. The reports include a proposal to change the role of the Moderator which strengthens the position as the Church’s mission leader, and to make some changes to the frequency and form of the General Assembly.
Ethical responsibility and the safety of buildings
The Council of Assembly discussed at some length the impact on congregations around New Zealand whose buildings have been identified as being unsafe. The Council affirmed that buildings identified as being unsafe should not be used, and directed the AES to write to the Church Property Trustees to raise these matters and invite the trustees to provide direction for congregations regarding gaining an evaluation of the safety of their buildings.
The Council will meet again on 24 August in Auckland.