It is good to be gathered together again in Synod. Last year’s gathering at Waitangi, as part of our bicentenary celebrations, was a wonderful time. It seemed to help to solidify our experience of being the Diocese together. Part of that was the specialness of Oihi and the Bay of Islands area as the place of our beginnings in Aotearoa. Part of it also was the spirit in which we gathered and the focus which we kept on the mission to which God is calling us. Since then we have also joined in the Diocesan Indaba process which has deepened relationships between people and places. We will say more about that during our Charge.
We return to the Cathedral this year. Some of you may not have been here since the removal of the bridge. A year on, I am still overwhelmed by the dramatic sense of space every time I walk in here. Hidden behind the high altar wall is the Bishop Selwyn Chapel, the construction of which is well advanced. The Cathedral Team will update us on progress during Synod. But for now, we offer our thanks and congratulations to them for such a well-managed and successful project.
It was wonderful to have Archbishops Brown and Philip with us for tonight’s Eucharist, in order to honour Archbishop Emeritus John Paterson for his ministry. We believe this is a well-deserved recognition for all that Archbishop John gave to the Church and the Communion during his episcopate, and for all that he continues to offer to our life. As the tenth bishop of Auckland, he was sometimes known as Mitre 10. I guess now we should always refer to him as Mitre 10 Mega, or just Mega John.
We are grateful for the commitment Pihopa Kito made to join us on this opening night of Synod. His presence is a great encouragement to us and a symbol of the partnership we share between Auckland and Tai Tokerau. This Synod remains committed to this ongoing partnership which will be the subject of some of our discussions during this session of our Synod.
We also wish to acknowledge those who are new to membership of Synod this year. Clergy who have joined the Diocese, or are newly ordained, and lay people who come to this session through vacancies from resignations or leaves of absence. Please would you stand, so that we might offer you our welcome.
We gather with hope and seek the energising presence of God’s Spirit as we look once again to our future.
We are aware of only a few former members of the Synod who have died in the last year. We remember with gratitude the ministries of the following people.
The Reverend John Mynett died in May. John was ordained in the Church of England and shifted to Auckland in retirement. He has served in a non-stipendiary capacity at Church of the Saviour, Blockhouse Bay.
David Bedtterton died in June. David served as a representative for Waiheke Local Shared Ministry.
The Reverend David Guthrie died in June. David’s whole ministry was in Auckland, in both parish and hospital chaplaincy. David is best remembered for his significant ministry as Chaplain at Kingseat Hospital, and in recent years for his online prayer ministry.
Sir Ronald Davison died in July. He was Church Advocate from 1975 to 1980. In his professional life, Sir Ronald was Chief Justice of New Zealand, and presided over the Rainbow Warrior Case. He also led the Government’s Enquiry into overseas company taxation, known as the Winebox Enquiry. Sir Ronald was a Cathedral parishioner, very faithfully present at St Stephen’s Judge’s Bay each Sunday.
The Reverend Peter Rynd died in July. Peter had served here in the 1950s as a curate in Takapuna and then Pokeno before going overseas where he held various ministry roles.
We give thanks to God for the contributions of these faithful people and pause in silence to do so.
May they rest in peace - and rise in glory.
At Synod last year we invited triads of ministry units to take part in Indaba. It has been delightful how many units have taken up the challenge. The process of choosing the various partners was random, although there was an effort to get a rural/ centre, north / south and parish / local shared ministry mix. The process so far has achieved all that we might have hoped for as bishops. As bishops we see the diversity, the richness, the strengths and weaknesses in our Diocese because we are mostly in a different place every week. We also observe the way ministry units operate as silos, often unaware and sometimes deliberately uninterested in the life and witness of other parts of the Diocese. What Indaba built is at least the beginning of some understanding and relationships at a human level and in some cases it was well beyond that.
Some definite ‘themes’ or ‘threads’ emerged at the regional ‘wrap-up’ meetings. The first is the power and the joy of hospitality – given and received. As one person eloquently phrased it, “to be welcomed home even when away from home is an expression of good news.” Some have already made arrangements to visit their partners again, and enjoy further layers of hospitality and sharing. Another strong, related theme was that ‘guests’ recognise a ‘family resemblance’ even though we are quite different expressions of being Anglican in our churches. The number of ‘hosts’ who spoke positively about how affirming it was to have ‘guests’ say to them that what they were doing in ministry and outreach in their context was “neat” or “a great idea” or even “inspiring.” As one respondent said, “It is so great to have others, who are independent, tell us we are doing good things.” There was also a related theme of the felt connection in shared vulnerability and common future challenges.
The obvious question arising from the process is: where to from here? Well, we are delighted that some have decided to keep the relationships formed going in some way. There are number of obvious extensions that we can see – indaba with the neighbouring ministry units; the process might inform how we approach our Tikanga partners; there might be room for us to follow the lead of the Anglican Communion and do this on a global way – what about Bishop Selwyn’s ‘other’ dioceses, Melanesia and Lichfield? We are working on the next steps with a key aim to build relationships and collaboration within the Diocese, as it is through this that we will gather what we need to face the challenges of the next five and ten years.
Local Shared Ministry
One of the further themes that emerged from the Indaba meetings is how often it was reported that: “we had no idea how Local Shared Ministry worked.” The process of discovery was enlightening and encouraging for all.
In terms of the number of Ministry Units in the Diocese, LSM is one fifth of the whole. It is the predominant reality in our rural parts. It is no real stretch to say that, in global terms, the way in which the Diocese of Auckland has adapted and ‘incarnated’ LSM (or Total Ministry as it is called in other parts of the Communion) is probably the most successful anywhere. This is mostly due to the leadership of Barbara Wesseldine and some very fine Enablers alongside some tremendous ‘can do ministry’ attitude of Auckland Anglicans.
LSM is facing a number of challenges that are not unique to LSM; they are various edges of general decline. However, the vulnerability of some of the small rural units is unique and pressing. As a whole Diocese we have to consider if we are willing to let the Diocese shrink to the centre and for us to cease to have a place in the rural heartland, and what we might do about that.
A Personal Review and a Sabbatical
In April, I (Bishop Ross) marked the fifth anniversary of my ordination to the Episcopate and the beginning of my ministry as Bishop of Auckland. As I had indicated on assuming office I undertook a review of my ministry. I followed a 360 degree process similar to that which other clergy undertake on a five yearly basis. Forty four people took part in the review including members of the Episcopal team, other Diocesan staff, members of Diocesan Council, a number of Diocesan clergy, some other bishops, ecumenical partners and Chairs of some of the Boards on which I sit.
This has been a helpful process for me in reflecting on my ministry as a Bishop over the past five years. It will assist me greatly as I plan for the next period of my ministry and refocus on where I need to place my efforts and gain new skills.
The questionnaire focused on six areas. I received very pleasing feedback particularly in the areas of communication, relationship building, and governance and administration. There was strong affirmation of the level of visibility of both myself and the Episcopal Team as a whole within the Diocese. Also very pleasing was the affirmation of some of my personal characteristics and of levels of authenticity and integrity that are demonstrated through my ministry.
The two particular areas where I have the opportunity to do more are around leadership and personal effectiveness. There was affirmation of leadership qualities in me. However in the areas of vision, strategy and direction the feedback offered was that there is a lack of clarity about this within the Diocese. This was an area where I had noted a lack in my own self-assessment. So there is work there to be done over the next little while.
The feedback where improvement is needed around personal effectiveness relates to an observation of my levels of tiredness and distraction at times. I acknowledge that particularly over the last year also I have felt the accumulative impact of this first five years. My sabbatical leave has offered a chance to get refreshed and rested, and to rethink the ways in which I use my time well to avoid the over-work that so easily comes.
So the message to me overall has been ‘be clearer with us about where we are heading and how we are going to get there’, and ‘take a bit more time off and pay more attention to your own professional development’. I will do my best to listen to those messages and act accordingly.
I have begun work on the question of leadership in relation to vision and strategy. It is important for people to understand that I choose to take a collaborative approach to this. In other words it is not about me telling the Diocese what its vision is, and the related strategy I will implement to fulfil it. Rather I seek to discern that vision through the combined wisdom of the collegiality of Bishop Jim, along with that of the Episcopal Team, the Diocesan Council and the Mission and Ministry Oversight Group. These are the people who together are entrusted with that kind of leadership within our Diocese. However, I take responsibility for ensuring that there is clarity of purpose.
As Bishops together we will enunciate more clearly just where it is we are heading and the strategies that we believe are necessary and appropriate to help us get there. Suffice it to say for now, that a consistent message has been that mission and ministry take place within the context of our local communities of faith: our chaplaincies, parishes, local shared ministry units, and through our Diocesan Fieldworkers. It is there where we are seeking to focus our energy and attention to ensure that this work is given the resource and encouragement possible for mission and ministry to be effective.
We believe that one of the keys to a good future lies in our capacity to work collaboratively across the Diocese. The Indaba meetings and conversations offered us more than a glimpse of what that could be like and the energy that is gained through it. We hope that this reminds you of where our focus lies. Nevertheless I recognise through my review that a greater clarity is asked for and we are committed to developing and providing this.
My review was completed just prior to leaving on sabbatical. The main focus of this piece of leave was to attend a “Palestine of Jesus” course at St George’s College in Jerusalem. It was a wonderful experience to spend two weeks in the Holy Land and to visit many of the places that are of significance to the life and ministry of Jesus. I also took the opportunity to visit England and Ireland where I had a number of meetings in relation to Anglican/Methodist Dialogue work but it also gave me the chance to visit friends and to do a bit of sightseeing, especially in the south-west of Ireland where I had never previously been and which is one of the places of my ancestry.
I returned a few weeks ago, grateful for the chance to rest and have new experiences. I am really grateful to Bishop Jim and others in the Episcopal Team who shouldered additional responsibilities in my absence to allow me to have this break. I should flag to you that I have only used half of my sabbatical leave and intend to take the other portion of it in the second half of next year.
Clergy life and review of ministry
Clergy are often told they don’t live and work in the real world. It is one rhetorical way to dismiss or discount their lives. As bishops, what we know is that many clergy give their lives generously to their ministry. They labour long and hard, walking with families and individuals through dispute, disease, and dying. They study Scripture hard to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church they serve. They manage criticism and conflict and then are expected to be full of smiles and the joys of spring. It is all very real. Both Ross and I enjoyed parish ministry and believe it is hugely fulfilling but it would be more fulfilling if we could get in the habit of saying thank you. Today we want to say thank you to the clergy of the Diocese for ministry offered in Christ’s name and we want to encourage you in your calling wherever you currently find yourself.
For some time we have been working on reworking the Clergy Review. Three main drivers informed this work. The first is born of the fact that the reviews are some years old now and we need to revise some of the questions and processes. Secondly, from conversations with clergy and particularly from clergy retreats we know that there is a paucity of good quality and meaningful feedback in ministry. A shake of the hand at the church door and “nice sermon, Vicar” just doesn’t sustain, affirm or inform. We need a quality instrument to help clergy grow in their ministry. Lastly, we know there is little point in evaluating or reviewing a clergy person without evaluating the other half of the partnership – the parish or ministry unit. So we have been reworking the old “Parish Review Document.”
We have nearly completed developing a tool that has solid theological grounding and is our own refinement of a number of the leading tools in use around the globe. We are now working on an implementation process for this, and will work with some clergy and ministry units to trial and fine tune it.
Spaceship Earth and care of our common home
Earlier this year, at the time of the gathering G20 summit in Brisbane, Archbishop Winston Halapua preached the following words:
"Climate change is impacting on the sea level rising, and causing unpredictable storms, uncontrollable floods.
"For some of us from the Pacific Island states, the truth is as plain as writing on a wall; our land and livelihood are drowning while others refuse to see."
Pope Francis in his massive and important Encyclical Laudato Si said that “[Climate change] represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”
“[The Earth] now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted upon her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will.”
Again, Francis said, “Every effort to protect and improve our world entails profound changes in lifestyles, models of production and consumption, and the established structures of power which today govern societies.”
We have to address this issue as Christians. We have to stand with our Tikanga Polynesia partners who are struggling in life and death ways with this issue now.
Politics, Money, and Sex
We are delighted that two of our clergy have had the foresight to bring a motion regarding extending our nation’s refugee quota. This is an important discussion. We need to take this opportunity to say that in the midst of this current crisis we believe our government should have responded already. Hospitality and care of the stranger are values of all the Abrahamic faiths. Jesus was often welcomed into strangers’ homes. We believe New Zealanders naturally want to be generous and caring and we call on our government, as an immediate emergency measure, to welcome one refugee family for every member of our armed forces deployed in the Middle East. We would subsequently call on Anglicans of this Diocese to be generous and hospitable to those refugees when they arrive.
There are also important debates to be had about income inequality and housing. We also draw the Synod’s attention to the Bill on clergy housing. The group which has prepared that revised policy has worked and consulted carefully. We ask you to pay attention to the Property Manager’s report where he makes comment about vicarages. Auckland is in a general crisis about housing. We face our own edges of the issues. The care and retention of good clergy hinges on being able to house them and their families. It is increasingly obvious that this is hard to do if we do not own and maintain vicarages.
We know that there is an important discussion to be had about the Centralised Accounting Project. Diocesan Council has been faced this year with a significant challenge as a result of the new financial reporting requirements for charities. Diocesan Council has acted responsibly and with the courage of good leadership, as the governing body of the Diocese, to ensure that we can meet those requirements and thus preserve the charitable and tax-free status which the Diocese enjoys. If one ministry unit does not report, then none of us can report, and so all of us are at risk. More will be said about this in the Diocesan Council presentation tomorrow, along with the chance for discussion and questions. But as bishops we want to make one thing very clear: the Diocese is not taking anyone’s money from them, nor taking control of their money. Authority to spend will still rest with the governing body of each ministry unit, not with us nor with TIML. But monies held locally are ultimately the assets of the Church, however they might be locally managed, and the Government requires us to report on them in that way.
Motions 4 and 5 present the Synod with the conundrum of potentially voting “yes” to resolutions which said different things about the same issue. Furthermore, they relate to issues which the General Synod is in the middle of working on. There have been good discussions between the promoters of those motions, and with the bishops. Those involved wish to be able to have the debates, but are willing not to push the Synod to vote on them. We will therefore hold a conference session on Saturday morning to allow those debates to take place. At the end of the conference session, the mover of each motion will invite the synod to then proceed to the next business on the Order Paper. We look to the Synod to be cooperative with the spirit in which this agreement has been reached.
That’s more than enough from us. We look forward to fruitful discussions, enjoyment of one another’s company, and the celebration of our life as God’s people in this Diocese of Auckland.
Kia ora tatou katoa.
Bishop Ross Bay Bishop Jim White
Bishop of Auckland Assistant Bishop of Auckland
3rd September 2015