Standing Committee progresses restructure plans
Synod Standing Committee, meeting at the Centre for Ministry, North Parramatta, August 3-4, heard some hard truths about the state of the church and began to implement a review of structures and processes “to promote and encourage the mission of the church”.
Standing Committee heard from Dr Ruth Powell, Director of NCLS Research, who gave an overview of results from the National Church Life Survey over 20 years, including the 2011 survey.
Dr Powell said while vital and nurturing worship, involvement in church-based justice and welfare activities and awareness of vision was growing, there was an overall decline in the size of the Synod, in the proportion of those aged under 60, in a sense of belonging, inspiring and empowering leadership, and new arrivals.
Involvement in community-based groups, growth in faith, innovation, inclusion and faith sharing remained stable, she said.
Even though most members greatly valued the church’s inclusiveness they created a barrier in their practices of inclusion, she said.
She said Standing Committee needed to consider how to balance investing in the church of today and investing in the church of the future. She encouraged a focus on vision, leadership and faith sharing.
Review of Synod structures
Synod General Secretary, the Rev. Dr Andrew Williams, introducing proposals to review the structures and processes of the Synod, said the status quo was not serving the mission of the church.
Changes to lines of accountability and responsibility and the streamlined coordination of resources sought by the 2011 Synod meeting involved a process of re-formation that would make the Synod more flexible and promote the mission of the church, he said.
The strategy he presented would see a growing, inclusive and generous church, he said, referring to the “five Ts” introduced at a previous Standing Committee meeting:
- Tell — proclaim the good news of the Kingdom, energise people’s passionate faith, expect a culture of faith sharing, grow Kingdom communities;
- Teach — teach and nurture believers, equip leaders for new forms of church, develop passionate disciples, encourage and equip young people;
- Tend — celebrate diversity, promote ways the church makes a difference in people’s lives;
- Transform — seek to transform the church and community, speak and act for justice, safeguard the integrity of creation, sustain and renew the life of the earth;
- Traction — create a unified missional approach through streamlined structures.
Standing Committee agreed that Uniting Resources and the Secretariat would combine as one unit, Uniting Resources Executive Director John Kitchener would continue to be in charge of shared corporate services, the Uniting Resources board would have a more advisory role and Uniting Financial Services would be renamed Treasury and Investment Services.
The Synod Audit and Risk Committee, to be renamed the Synod Risk Oversight Committee, would have a more significant role in the Synod structure and report directly to Standing Committee.
Proposals regarding the involvement of UnitingCare in the restructure were postponed until the October meeting of Standing Committee to allow more time for consultation.
That meeting will also address necessary amendments to by-laws regarding theological education following the August meeting’s approval of changes proposed by Uniting Mission and Education, including the dissolution of the Ministerial Education Board.
Standing Committee also approved Uniting Mission and Education’s plans for resourcing mission, with specific proposals to be brought to the October meeting.
Mr Kitchener foreshadowed that the next Standing Committee would need to make hard decisions about the Synod’s finances.