The Diocesan Synod met on 24 September 2016 at Holy Trinity Bradley Stoke. The focus was on engaging younger generations and growing leaders.
In his address, the Bishop of Swindon, the Rt Revd Dr Lee Rayfield, spoke about the challenges and opportunities that the process of academisation in schools currently holds for the Diocese of Bristol, particularly in relation to our vision of Creating Connections. Since becoming involved in education in 1811, 20 percent of all schools and more than 850,000 children now attend schools with a Church of England foundation.
In his message, the Bishop focused members on three aspects of Church Schools: Foundation and Inheritance, Foundation versus Fortress, Foundation and Future. He spoke about how DBAT (Diocese of Bristol Academies Trust) was part of a national Foundation for Educational Leadership which supported and promoted excellence in what is, and will be, a continually evolving landscape.
Bishop Lee reminded members that the nation as well as the Church has been given a rich inheritance in our church schools which we have often taken for granted. He concluded: A challenge for us is that this inheritance requires renewed investment at a time when most dioceses are feeling quite stretched. This sounds like a recipe for potential disaster or the kind of combination which the Spirit of God prefers in order to do new things among his people.
You can watch Bishop Lee's address:
Parish Share implementation report
Mr Bruce Finnamore, a member of the Parish Share Review Group, Churchwarden, member of Bishops Council and of the Finance Committee, explained that much had been happening in regard to Parish Share since the last meeting of Diocesan Synod.
Information which had been sent to parishes had been well received with strong support being given the new approach and he thanked all the Diocesan staff involved for their work on this.
He told Synod that a series of five seminars, designed to help explain the new approach, had seen more than 200 people from over 100 parishes attend. A further seminar will take place on 11 October.
The Revd Simon Jones, Area Dean of Kingswood and South Gloucestershire, asked if resources would continue to be put into this in future years; Oliver Home said the appointment of a Mission Resources Advisor would help with this. The role is currently being readvertised with the hope to appoint in November.
Financial Plans 2017 onwards
Andrew Lucas, Chairman of the Bristol Diocesan Board of Finance, thanked the Finance Committee for their work and Matthew Hall, Head of Finance, for his expertise.
He explained the draft 2017 budget represented a balanced position.
Matthew Hall told Synod that, at this stage, the Diocese was looking at expenditure and an income of 8.7million.
Parish Share remained the largest portion of income, at 65%, with grants representing 18%. A total of 75% of expenditure was spent directly on parochial ministry. There was an increase in money spent on training curates and in housing maintenance.
Synod was told Parish Share requests were not due until the end of October. Matthew warned that, if there was no increase in Parish Share, there would be a deficit of 430,000.
One new aspect of funding is through the Strategic Development Funding Application, due in January 2017.
Growing Leaders vocations to ministry
The Revd Helen Collins, Adviser for Licensed Ministry (DDO), was invited to speak about helping people to discover God's calling.
She told members that the number of stipendary priests in the Church of England had fallen from 8,300 in 2012 to 7,990 in 2015. But she insisted that God was not winding down the Church, with 38 people currently exploring ordained vocation in the Diocese alone.
After talking about her experience of representing the Church at a job fair, she invited Simon Leighton, one of the Dioceses new ordinands, to talk to Synod about his own walk with God and how He called him to follow the path to ordination.
The Synod discussed opportunities and challenges in small groups which were reported back in plenary
Bishops Council & Board of Directors Report
The Revd Kat Campion-Spall referred members to the report of the committee and highlighted a number of aspects in it. She explained that the Council was developing a strategic plan at diocesan level to support the diocesan vision.
Six strategic initiatives had been agreed upon, designed to help parishes focus on diocesan priorities: ensuring DBAT has the capacity to grow; establishing mission areas to provide a replicable model for growth and ministerial development; resourcing a recruitment and development programme for new ministers; establishing an effective Parish Share approach; and redeploying surplus assets to invest in growth. A full report would come to the December Synod.
General Synod report
Emma Ineson, Mark Pilgrim and Ed Shaw were asked to reflect on the last meeting of the General Synod.
The main focus was on the Shared Conversations on human sexuality, with members spending time in small groups listening to stories and studying the Bible together.
While the three appreciated the time given to develop personal relationships, it was felt too little time was given to Biblical reflection.
The discussions will continue in private among the House of Bishops, before being brought back to General Synod in February 2017. Members were urged to pray for the Holy Spirit to anoint the Bishops.
Engaging Younger Generations - schools
Liz Townend looked at the success of DBATs 70 schools, revealing the Key Stage 2 performance was above the national average. She also highlighted courses and award schemes being run for schools.
Elisabeth Gilpin, Headteacher of St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School, then spoke about the role of church schools and how they were distinctive but inclusive, describing them as power houses for mission.
Group discussion and reflections followed.
Engaging Younger Generations children and young people
Dan Jones, Youth & Childrens Adviser, asked Synod members to consider the way changes in society since the 1960s had impacted the church's work with children and young people.
He explained about how there was now a generation of spiritual orphans who had never heard about the Bible or Jesus.
Dan urged churches to think about championing the voice of young people and involving them in the parishs decision making process.