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Report of meeting of Diocesan Synod, 15 October 2022

First published on: 19th October 2022

Environmental issues were to the fore at Diocesan Synod on Saturday. The opening worship had a creation theme and featured pupils from some of schools in the Rochdale deanery. In his opening address, Bishop Mark Ashcroft reflected on the climate emergency facing us. The Lambeth Conference over the summer had brought home the fact that those who are most affected – a fellow bishop from Melanesia, our partner diocese in Namibia and those suffering from the floods in Pakistan – are not the ones causing the catastrophe or with the power to fix it.  

Members from the diocese’s Environment Working Group updated Synod on the progress made towards achieving net zero carbon emissions, in line with the Church of England’s target of net zero by 2030. A priority over the past year has been to increase engagement with the Energy Footprint Tool, with the result that 168 of our churches (53%) had met the deadline of July 2022. The Diocesan Board of Education is supporting our schools with the net zero 2030 target, and energy efficiency issues are being taken into account with the management of our parsonages and the refurbishment of our new offices in Bury. As a separate agenda item, a motion was passed from Salford & Leigh deanery, proposing that the Board of Finance will not hold investments in fossil fuels. 

Synod had the opportunity to reflect on the latest proposals for focal ministry which were presented by Kim-Morgan Jones, Head of Lay Development, and Beverley Angier, Focal Ministry Officer. The model of ministry we have inherited of ‘one parish, one church, one vicar’ is no longer sustainable as most of our parishes move to sharing their incumbent. Focal ministry is a complementary pastoral ministry, rooted in a specific community and affirming the local and wider church. There will be wider communication on this over the coming months.

Synod agreed the budget for the Board of Finance for 2023. The aim over the medium-term is for the diocese to break-even on its core activities. However, given that Parish Share has fallen by over £1 million since the pandemic, Synod has agreed to an operating deficit of £974,000 in 2023, to be funded from reserves. This is considered necessary while we make the changes needed to grow our congregations and ensure the future missional and financial health of our churches. This means the diocese will be able to hold clergy numbers steady at 175 stipendiary posts. Given sourdeficit position, we must do all we can to build Parish Share back up, in spite of the current financial challenges facing churches. 

Synod also agreed some changes to the Parish Share system, following a recent review and consultation exercise with parishes. The principle of mutual support will be retained, with attendance and congregational income statistics as the basis for assessments. Synod agreed to minimum and maximum assessment being introduced from 2023, with these being set at £9,000 and £170,000 respectively, although no parish will experience a change of more than 10% in 2023. Synod also agreed to Discussion and Agreement meetings being held at Mission Community level from 2023.

James Wilson from Manchester South & Stretford Deanery gave an update on the proceedings of the July General Synod. In particular he asked for prayers for the College of Bishops as they consider the next steps on identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage over the autumn as part of the Living and Love and Faith process . 

Susie Mapledoram and Terry Hart presented the annual report on the work of the Diocesan Board of Education, supporting the 191 Church of England schools across Manchester Diocese.

There was an update on the energy crisis and the support that is available from national church to parishes . The Church of England has recently announced funding of £15 million that has been made available to support parishes with their energy costs, with £592,000 being made available to Manchester Diocese. Proposals for allocating this funding will be presented to Bishop’s Council in November, with a view to making payments to churches before Christmas.

Synod took the opportunity to thank Geoffrey Tattersall KC, who has recently retired as Diocesan Chancellor after many years of long service.  A warm welcome was extended to Gregory Jones KC, his successor.

Bishop Mark Ashcroft was also thanked for his dedicated service to the diocese – as curate, incumbent, Area Dean, Archdeacon and latterly Bishop of Bolton – at this his last Synod meeting before his retirement in February 2023.


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