From 11 to 13 March 2021, the Council of Assembly met in-person for the first time in more than 12 months at the Blue Skies Centre, Kaiapoi (near Christchurch).
Council welcomed to their first full Council meeting Mr Craig Donaldson – Convenor of Resource Sub Committee; Rev Ryhan Prasad – the new Convenor of the Leadership Sub Committee (following Rev Darryl Tempero’s move to a KCML position); and Rev Mo Morgan – the new representative from Presbytery Central.
Council opened each day with a different member leading devotions. In addition, following the presentation of each report or piece of business, the Council paused to be led in prayer by a Council member or associate.
A key feature of the March meeting was team building, which included a few ‘getting-to-know-you’ activities and a lovely self-catered barbecue on the first evening.
Council heard from our Moderator, Right Rev Fakaofo Kaio, who shared his activities for the period November to March. These included writing to ministers who were ordained 50 or more years ago to congratulate them on the anniversaries of their ordination. He reflected on the changes forced on his provision of ministry over the past year by the Covid pandemic. He said he felt that the Presbyterian Church had ‘held its own’ during the pandemic, though it still faces challenges. Council members voiced their appreciation for his leadership, and also appreciation for the support of his wife Ruth.
Council of Assembly
Council had previously completed its self-review and spent time at the meeting discussing the collated results – focusing attention on the identity and function of the Council, and in that regard on how the Council was performing in thinking strategically and clarifying priorities. There was acknowledgement of the challenges Council and other committees in the Church face in identifying membership skills, qualities, experience and time availability/capacity to serve. Council reflected on ways it could address these matters at various levels.
Rev’s Simon McLeay and Erin Pendreigh joined the meeting by Zoom to present a Theological Education & Leadership Training (TELT) Task Group update. Council noted the range of details in the report, highlighting areas where, in response to feedback, the task group had modified its conclusions. It was recognised that the complexities of the issues had become more apparent.
Council members voiced appreciation for the way the TELT team had listened and responded to the feedback from the wider Church.
Council determined that the update should be shared with presbyteries, and that they be given further opportunity to comment on the matters raised in the update. A copy of the report can be read or downloaded here. The update has been sent to presbyteries and they are invited to respond by 5pm, 14 May 2021.
Resource Sub Committee
Resource Sub Committee Convenor Mr Craig Donaldson gave an overview of the Resource Sub Committee’s detailed financial reports. There was discussion about whether Covid would affect church attendance in the longer term, and the possible financial implications. He commented on the consolidation financial reporting process, and also discussed investment policy. He noted and paid tribute to Finance Manager Sandra Kennerley (Head of Finance and Operations). He considered the report to be encouraging.
Audit & Risk Committee
Audit & Risk Committee independent Chair Ian Lothian was welcomed to the meeting. He reported that good progress had been made on the consolidation project in the past year. Solutions had been found for complicated accounting issues. He noted that despite this, a huge amount of additional work will be needed to produce an audit-ready set of financial statements. Ian also tabled recommended changes to the Book of Order that will bring it into line with current financial reporting statutory requirements and will also address issues at parish level in relation to presentation of accounts. This was agreed to be sent to the Book of Order Advisory Committee for action so these matters can come to General Assembly.
Leadership Sub Committee
The Leadership Sub Committee report noted that the new ministry review process for ministers was ready to implement, and therefore the existing process should be formally disestablished – to which Council agreed.
Council took time to be updated on the work and life of the Pacific Presbytery. Presbytery Executive Officer Winston Timaloa explained how the Presbytery had proactively responded to the Covid pandemic in providing resources and support to parishes - to provide and coordinate connectivity, in particular. He also noted that the Covid situation had actually allowed the fast tracking of new projects. He expressed appreciation for PressGo funding, and for the support of the Assembly Office.
Assembly Executive Secretary
Assembly Executive Secretary Rev Wayne Matheson’s report was wide ranging and reflected on numerous matters to ensure Council is informed on these matters. In relation to the document “Bringing Clarity to our Mission”, Council agreed to a series of recommendations and these have been sent to parish councils and presbyteries (download the booklet).
The AES also drew attention to his request for advice from the Book of Order Advisory Committee concerning holding General Assembly online (if required) and Council discussed this and the response. It was decided that an Emergency Assembly should be called to consider amending the Book of Order to include a provision for Assembly to be held online. The AES was to request advice from the Book of Order Advisory Committee on the wording to summon the Emergency Assembly, and about the wording of the proposed regulation.
Council noted the extensive workload relating to our Complaint process and the various Discipline Commissions and Judicial Commissions that have been required in these matters. Council noted that the Book of Order Advisory Committee advised the last Assembly it would bring recommended changes to Book of Order Chapter 15 to the upcoming Assembly.
Council was updated on the response required to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care. Parish responses are being collated by our Legal and Compliance Director Matthew Hague and will be submitted early in April (after an extension was sought and received from the Commission). Council noted the additional workload and additional hours that have been committed by the Research Centre to assist in searching material held and assisting parishes to meet their obligations.
CoA & CPT Beneficiary Workgroup
Council received feedback relating to the work of the joint Council and Church Property Trustees Beneficiary Workgroup relating to possible suggestions and changes to both the Book of Order and the Trust Deed. The Book of Order Advisory Committee has been asked to provide advice on these suggestions.
In terms of other matters, Council approved the recommendations from the Personnel Work Group that the Rev’s Stephen Lindsay and Bruce Graham be restored to the Ministerial Roll.
Council approved the request from the Board of Knox College and Salmond College for an exemption to their Constitution in order to extend the appointment of the current Chair for a further year.
Council was updated on the work of the Church Property Trustees, and received a report regarding the 2018 General Assembly decision on caring for creation.
The Inter Church Bioethics Council submitted a report, and Council noted that they were preparing to release an information sheet on Covid vaccines.
Rev Richard McLean Mrs Anne Edgar
Convenor Deputy Convenor