General Synod Sketchbook – news briefs 1

Standing Committee representation; Legal beaver bishop; Statistics and the church

Standing Committee representation

It fell to Archdeacon Robin Bantry-White, Clerical Hon Secretary, to read the names of those who were elected to Standing Committee. Small wonder the Archdeacon said half way through this unavoidably lengthy report, that he felt he was like a sports results reader.

The report included the size of the electorate for clergy representatives – over and under 45 years of age in each diocese. Two matters may be worthy of further enquiry for those who are concerned for the ownership of decisions made by the Church. There is an obvious disparity between large dioceses and smaller dioceses. The possible number of clergy votes can vary from 35 to 13. The second challenge is that of clergy indifference to the entire process For example, one third of the clergy in Down and Dromore did not vote for a representative to Standing Committee. That this was so was not the fault of the diocesan office which is efficient in circulating such votes.

The values and standards of the Church require ownership at parochial as well as diocesan and All-Ireland levels. If one third of the clergy in a diocese indicate by their actions that they are unconcerned (or have no preference) about who represents them in central decision making, is it fair to conjecture that this may contribute to difficulties in communicating the Church’s views to its membership and the ownership of its views by them?

Legal beaver bishop

The Archbishop of Armagh requested the Bishop of Cork, Rt Rev Paul Colton, to outline to Synod and especially for new members the process of motions and bills by which the Synod executes its business. Bishop Colton did so with economy and clarity.

In an earlier comment CNI suggested that there was a need for an online briefing on the process and asked who would pick up the mantle of JLB Deane who could have scripted same. We humbly suggest this could be another task for Bishop Paul.

Statistics and the church

The Bishop of Derry speaking on the need for more information on which to base the church’s mission and response, commented that the only common base currently available of statistics is the “Preachers’ Book” or registrar of Sunday services held by each parish. This source did not state some essential statistics – for  example, whether or not there was a Sunday School meeting on a particular Sunday and how that would affect the attendance figures. There was no way of age-profiling a parish from current records.

No doubt the Bill will be passed leading to a wider range of statistics being collated. But great care will need to be taken in producing a user-friendly method determining and returning the information required and the accuracy of the same. If size is related to parish contributions to diocese, that may be a litmus test of accuracy!  There may be lies, damning lies and statistics… and then there are church statistics. They can depend on whether or not a case for growth is being made or not. Ask any cleric or rural dean who has worked in areas where a case for new church plant was being made. Numbers inevitably showed growth. Whether this was sustained when the diocese came to collect the annual Dane-geld is quite another matter…