Our Vision

Hearts on Fire with a Vision for growth

Presidential Address - March 2016

Bishop Christopher addresses Diocesan SynodPresidential Address by The Bishop of Southwark,
The Rt Revd Christopher Chessun

I welcome you to our Synod meeting this morning.

As many of you will have heard Bishop Michael has been nominated as the 99th Bishop of Lichfield. This was announced on 2nd March, when the Church remembers St Chad who was the first Bishop of Lichfield from 669. God willing Bishop Michael will be elected to the See on 14th April and legally become Bishop of Lichfield on 10th June at the Confirmation of his Election with an Installation in the Autumn. Today we give thanks for his ministry in this Diocese initially as Archdeacon of Southwark from 2004 and from 2012 as Bishop of Woolwich and there will be other opportunities to say farewell and express our heartfelt appreciation.

Many of you will also know that the Archdeacon of Reigate, The Venerable Danny Kajumba, retired towards the end of February and we celebrated his ministry this last Tuesday in a joyful service at St Matthew’s Redhill in the heart of the archdeaconry which was attended by well over 200 people. Danny was appointed in 2001 and many of us have good cause to pay tribute to the love, wisdom and grace with which he has served the Archdeaconry. In addition, his work in promoting Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns nationally has helped to lay the foundations for the current resolve to make significant progress across the Church of England on further senior BAME appointments. We give thanks for the good role model and source of encouragement Danny has been to so many. I commend both Bishop Michael and Archdeacon Danny together with their families to your prayers as they start the next stages of their lives in Christ.

As already announced, the current Chair of the Diocesan Board of Finance, John Kempsell, who cannot be with us today, is stepping down from his position as Chair of the DBF in May, having given considerable time and commitment as Chair since his appointment in February 2008. The Diocesan Council of Trustees has supported my nomination of Gerald Allison, already a member of this Synod and of the DCT, as the forthcoming Chair, with effect from May 11th. Ian Akhurst, the current Vice Chair of the DBF will also be stepping down from this role but he will continue to serve the Diocese through the Audit and Governance Committee. The DCT has also supported my nomination of Carl Hughes as Vice Chair of the Board of Finance. Carl is already a member of this Synod, the DCT, and also General Synod. As a result of these imminent appointments, there are vacancies on the DCT for those elected by the House of Laity. Details are contained in your papers and the election takes place at the end of our session today. 

In this exciting and vibrantly diverse diocese where there are great needs in each and every parish community we need constantly to be nourished in our life of faith and well equipped to be active in our service of others. We are committed to being Christ centred and outward focussed; so I am glad there will be a presentation on Public Policy by Canon Rosemarie Mallett and her colleagues who are doing much to take forward this good work with renewed energy and vision. You will also know that we continue to implement carefully the changes to our governance structures made alongside the changes in our administrative structures and of course the new funding of the Diocese through the generosity based parish Support Fund. These are not only structural changes, all of which have been overwhelmingly approved by this body, but also significant cultural changes as we adjust to new arrangements, new demands and new ways of working which require different behaviours. This is all work in progress and there is good cause for much encouragement, but we are still in transition and for all of us there is a learning curve as we journey on.

The launch of our new governance structure was for many of us here and across the Diocese the culmination of several years of challenging, constructive dialogue, and last year we thanked and said farewell to a number of colleagues who gave of their time unstintingly. Our aim is to ensure that we succeed in having really effective governance and management structures not as an end in itself but the gateway to bringing policy and resources together in order best to equip mission and ministry in our parishes and all our partnerships in the Gospel across the Diocese

To this end, it is right that we should give thanks for the hard work across the Diocese which has led to a real change for the better in our financial state of health. 2015 marked the first year in which we have achieved not only a balanced budget but a real financial surplus for 8 long years. Whilst the time for formal acknowledgement will be after the audit is completed, this really is a watershed for the Diocese. This could not be a better place from which to start our journey into the new triennium focussing on the next stage of Strategy for Ministry. I pay tribute to the Diocesan Secretary, Ruth Martin, for the energy she has brought to this task in building team working in partnership with our parishes which together has borne fruit in this way. It is not only an extraordinary achievement for the Diocese, but would be for any organisation having had several years of deficit, and it demonstrates the wisdom of Synod in being willing to mandate change in this way.

The roots for this turnaround lie not in the economic environment around us, but actually in the decisions taken, and risks embraced, to move the Diocese forward quite radically over the last triennium of Synod as part of the early work of Strategy for Ministry.

For example, the close working between Diocesan officers, Archdeacons and parishes in preparation for our launching the Parish Support Fund has helped us to achieve excellent results not only in the final year of Fairer Shares but the way parishes have rallied to the call in making their pledges for 2016, surpassing our target of £16.1m. This has been further evidence of common purpose and collaborative working which is emerging as a hallmark of our life together in the Diocese.

The several consecutive years of financial difficulty have meant there has been little investment in skills or our core systems and databases and these will be and are being addressed. It is likely there will be further restructuring of departments and the changes will take 2-3 years. The Diocesan Secretary is charged with the implementation of these changes and reports to me. The close working between Episcopal and Administrative leadership is critical as we seek to lead, enable and serve our parishes, deaneries and communities. I thank all of you who are advising and working with Ruth Martin and the other members of the Senior Management Team as they fully take up the responsibilities entrusted to them and as new lines of accountability are established to ensure that we stay on this good path. There are a number of parallels with changes underway in the National Church as the Reform and Renewal Programme is taken forward.

It is my vision for the Diocese and strong hope that everything we may by God’s grace be seeking to do, notwithstanding our human frailty and the humility which springs from this, will also be accompanied by the boldness of those whose hearts are on fire with the love of Christ. I conclude therefore by reading from the very first section of the vision statement for mission in the Diocese of Southwark which we will be discussing later on:

All worship, ministry, mission, discipleship, evangelism, loving service, justice, reconciliation and peace flow from a burning, total and all-consuming love of Christ. Jesus is the pattern of our living, the source of our life and the gift of salvation. In everything we seek to glorify him who has raised us to the promise of new life. He has opened our eyes and set our hearts on fire; with disciples through the ages and across the world, we know ourselves called to a life of loving God, walking with Jesus, being led by the Spirit.
(Hearts on Fire with the Love of Christ 1.1)

Stay with us Lord,
open our eyes and set our hearts on fire,
as you open your word,
as you break your bread,
as we live your life.
Enrich us with your grace,
empower us by your Spirit,
enfold us in your love,
as we walk the journey of faith with you.