Regional councils to stay
A revamp of the work of regional councils in the Sydney Diocese is imminent after a review found they are still effective despite significant financial constraints.
The work of regional councils was hit hard by the funding downturn after the Global Financial Crisis. In 2015, Synod asked for a review of the purpose and effectiveness of the system.
The subsequent report, which includes the responses from a survey of councils, has just been received by Standing Committee, and found that although a complete funding cut has limited the effectiveness of regional councils in the area of ministry strategy, they are still an effective support for local bishops.
Before the GFC, councils had grant funding for local ministry initiatives. There is now no central funding available. Despite the suggestion that regional councils might simply be replaced by the Mission Area Leaders for each region, the responses given to the survey “highlighted the broader range of professional skills brought by the lay members and the contribution these bring to the effectiveness of the council”.
The review added, “The responses also proposed that having members elected by Synod [as opposed to simply being the rectors appointed as Mission Area Leaders in a region] resulted in a wider set of perspectives and skill areas, which are important to the functions of the council.”
It was agreed there should be an overhaul of the Regions Ordinance 1995, which decentralised the governance of the Diocese by establishing the five current regions as well as the regional councils. It noted there had been a number of significant changes in the years since the ordinance was passed, including the establishment of Mission Areas in 2009 and the decommissioning of area deaneries.
Standing Committee agreed the 1995 ordinance should be changed by inserting a clause that sets out the purpose of regional councils and requiring that they meet at least annually instead of the existing minimum of four meetings a year.
Regional bishops are in favour of retaining the councils. Bishop of the Western Region, Ivan Lee (above), believes they play a key role. “It’s been a great advantage for me to express my plans for the region, get feedback and bounce ideas around with my regional council,” he says.
“For me, while I have been sick too, it [the council] has been a great support. Strategically, we look at the region as a whole but the council is in a position to help individual churches when needed. There is also administration to be done – often delegated tasks from Standing Committee.
“As well, for historical reasons, three out of the five councils still have income. So distributing those funds remains a vital task. The fact that the councils bring together lay representatives from each mission area informs and enriches gospel work at a regional level.”