Archdeaconry Synod Report 2019

Synod took place from 5th to 8th February in Torrevieja, attended by some 120 delegates and Diocesan staff.  The theme of Synod was ‘Building up the Body of Christ’.  A subsidiary theme, prominent in the worship and the Clergy Chapter day was ‘Healing’.  At the opening Eucharist, Bishop David preached on the impact of fear and uncertainty which can cause the closure of ranks and building of walls rather than seeking to welcome and understand those who are different and distant.  Both bible study sessions on the significance of the psalms were brilliantly led by Rev Dr Richard Briggs, Director of Biblical Studies at Cranmer Hall, Durham.

The key messages coming from Synod for delivery to the whole Archdeaconry were as follows:

Andrew Caspari, the new Diocesan Chief Operating officer:  Communication is the biggest issue in the Diocese; how, what and when to communicate, and how widely to do so.  Mission is reinforced and extended by cultivating a sense of belonging, and the inevitable modern day bureaucracy enables this to happen.  Stewardship is a matter of holding and releasing the potential of what we already have.  Financial objectives, dialogue and accessing financial resources are key.  In discharging the Ministry of Care towards the vulnerable, safeguarding – which is viewed by some as a form-filling exercise – enables that ministry to happen.

Bishop Robert Innes examined the role of the Diocese in building up the body of Christ, subject as it is to a) statutory measures, a constitution, and Canon law and, in the case of the Diocesan Board of Finance, to the Charities legislation and b) limited financial resources from investments, Church of England grants, and the Common Fund.

Key point:  the Diocese is changing in three principal ways:  Its Culture in terms of greater openness in communications, appointments, and teamwork, and as the European conscience of the Church of England.  Most chaplaincies in the Diocese are now international rather than expat oriented.   Its Strategic Vision, working with refugees and migrants in partnership with the mission agencies and other Churches.  Reconciliation is a priority.  Resolving conflict is the Gospel.  Its Increasing Professionalism.  Human relations procedures, particularly in the quality of appointments, governance, and financial capability have all been strengthened, as have safeguarding, concern for clergy well-being and the creation of a proper Diocesan Registry.

The gradual increase in Common Fund subscriptions was needed to cover safeguarding, stipendiary archdeacons, and other appointments.  These included a new safeguarding team, a Director of Communications, an appointments Secretary, a Chief Operating Officer, and a Director of Finance.  A new stipendiary Archdeacon, covering the archdeaconries of Gibraltar and Italy, would be appointed in November, followed by Area Deans for Portugal and Southern Spain.

Bishop Robert ended with a vision for safeguarding which would be a model of international leadership in compliance.  Sexual exploitation and human trafficking presented an horrendous scale of reputational risk among our chaplaincies in forty countries, subject to a multiplicity of legal jurisdictions. Recruitment, training and staffing were key in achieving the aims of a) acceptance by everyone of responsibility for safeguarding, b) assured protection of the vulnerable, c) preventing harm from occurring, and d) responding in the right way.  New and emerging standards were increasing the workload to more than 600 diocesan checks per annum.  Diocesan policy was currently being rewritten to ensure that safeguarding is an integral part of our culture.  2018 had been a year of decisions, leading the Diocese along a new path and inevitably to new strains.

Bishop David Hamid examined the proposition that our identity defines our discipleship.  He began by sketching the history of the development of the Diocese from the 13th century into today’s 300 congregations in 40 countries, representing a quarter of the Anglican Communion.  The Diocese currently has 165 licenced clergy, 500 Permissions to Officiate, and 150 readers.  All the chaplaincies are self-sufficient.  This English speaking diaspora is now changing as it becomes more international.

Bishop David then posed the question: why should the Church contribute to social development in Europe?    Jesus made it clear before Pilate that all secular authority comes from God.  Engagement in the world is part of Christian belief.  It is not a private matter.  Our objective is transformation of the world into the society of God.  What can we offer in this secular context?

  1. Hold to a vision of human community as God’s will in development.
  2. Commitment to being communities of welcome, inclusion, compassion, nurture and dialogue.
  3. As a global family, social justice is at the heart of our calling.
  4. Remembering and embracing our diaspora and migrant identity as gifts to our wider church.

Other Diocesan speakers at the Synod included the new Diocesan Registrar, Aidan Hargreaves Smith, responsible for all legal aspects of the Diocese, and Damian Thwaites, the new Director of Communications.  Aidan demonstrated the importance of trying to establish clarity and certainty from fifty different legal jurisdictions.  He cited the need to reconcile conflicting regimes, eg in bringing clergy licensing closer to common tenure, and in chaplaincy constitutions which need to relate both to the Diocesan constitution and local law.  The importance of following established procedures eg in APCMs, in renewal of electoral rolls, in PCC meetings, in safeguarding, was paramount.  Damian, who is also the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the European Institutions, gave us an update on Brexit negotiations and the potential impacts of different scenarios.

Synod concluded with a healing service, with anointing and the laying on of hands and, because the Archdeaconry of Gibraltar knows better than the six others how to enjoy itself, a barn Dance.