Presidential Address - July 2016
Presidential Address by The Bishop of Southwark,
The Rt Revd Christopher Chessun
Members of Synod, in looking back at 2015 we can see a year of great achievement, and of great change. This was the fruition of much hard work , driven and fully endorsed by the last Synod, and undertaken, throughout our Parishes and Deaneries and Diocesan structures, to work together in developing a vision for the Diocese which seeks to serve God faithfully, serve our fellow Christians joyfully, both ecumenically and across the globe, and serve our communities wholeheartedly and purposefully.
I am committed, together with my colleagues, to this Diocese becoming a centre of excellence. Indeed a great deal of work was undertaken to change our working cultures, focussing on our duty to ‘Lead, Enable and Serve’ our Parishes, Deaneries, Schools and Communities, working collaboratively and to best effect.
During the year the implementation of Strategy for Ministry continued and was coordinated by the Bishop of Croydon. During the last Synod much of the work had been led by the Archdeacon of Wandsworth, Stephen Roberts, who moved to become the Deputy Diocesan Secretary last year, further demonstrating our strong commitment to working collaboratively, clergy and lay brothers and sisters together.
The Fit for Purpose task group chaired by The Archdeacon of Southwark, Dr Jane Steen, completed its work reviewing Governance, Committee structures and the need to bring resources, finance and policy more closely together. In 2015 we launched the Parish Support Fund, through a project team chaired by the Archdeacon of Croydon Chris Skilton and coordinated by Jackie Pontin our Head of Strategic Projects. Many hundreds of parishioners and parish officers attended briefings across the Diocese to make their pledges for 2016. Innovative new material was developed by our communications team headed by Wendy Robins and we made the transition smoothly, with the new generosity based system resonating with the generous spirit abroad in the Diocese, thus achieving the pledges that we needed for this year’s budget. As you know the Parish Support Fund is applied almost entirely to supporting the living costs of our stipendiary clergy thus undergirding mission and ministry across the Diocese.
The new format of our Annual Report contains more detailed financial information and I put on record appreciation to John Kempsell who chaired the Diocesan Board of Finance through some of its most challenging years and who retired from the post in May this year.
Due to a great deal of hard work by many, we have at long last moved away from a financial deficit of several years standing to a modest but encouraging operating surplus which enables us to begin to invest more resources in a number of new initiatives. This also enabled us confidently to make a bid towards the end of last year for strategic development funding from the Church Commissioners for initiatives being led by Archdeacon Simon Gates in the Nine Elms area and our Canon Missioner, Dr Stephen Hance, for Fresh Expressions of Church in the very significant Battersea Nine Elms Regeneration and Development Zone and I am glad to inform you that we know this bid has been successful.
So as the first phase of Strategy for Ministry drew to a close last year , we embarked on phase two, with a new Synod and new governance, a new decision making structure covering the implementation of ministry initiatives and a renewed focus on our Deaneries. Particular thanks are due to Adrian Greenwood who has chaired and continues to chair our work in this area.
Empowering the Laity was and continues to be a major focus across all of the work streams of ‘Strategy for Ministry’. One expression of the planning which took place last year is the recently launched lay representation survey, seeking to enable us to have much stronger information about the many ways in which lay leadership is expressed through discipleship and service of our brothers and sisters across the Diocese. The call to discipleship is one that all Christians share. We have been implementing diligently and with care recommendations arising from our response to the report ‘A World in a Diocese’ and that continues to be a priority for us all, embracing diversity, and challenging us to overcome our unconscious bias as disciples of Christ.
Now, more than ever in this Diocese, we need to live the Christian story. The recent Referendum has brought into the open some ugly and angry attitudes. But that is not who we truly are. God became one of us and shared our humanity. What makes each of us truly who we are is something we all have in common: our likeness to God, made in His image and infinitely precious in His sight. It is up to the Church in this Diocese, my brothers and sisters, in other words you and me, founded on the rock that is Christ, to live God’s way, the way of unity and generosity and welcome, and to show the world how to live it.
Last year Synod once more approved grants for Welcare, which in partnership with the Diocese, reaches a significant number of the most needy and vulnerable families. One of the achievements late last year was to establish a Public Policy team, now the Department of Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation, focussing on the common good .
Synod also approved grants to the Board of Education, mindful that our 106 Church Schools are a wonderful testament to our mission priorities, Christian convictions and community engagement, providing high quality education for over 36,000 young people and equipping them for their future lives. You will hear in this meeting of Synod what we believe should be the next chapter of our work in our Schools which are the jewel in the Southwark crown.
I pray that we will be active in sharing our faith across the Diocese and beyond with much gladness and joy, the Lord being our helper.
My brothers and sisters, members of this Synod, I beg to move the motion to adopt the Annual Report.