York-Simcoe Pre Synod meeting: report

Posted on November 8, 2013

The meeting was held at St. George, Allandale, in Barrie on Nov. 2. Bishop Peter Fenty, the area bishop, welcomed all to the meeting. The meeting opened with a prayer and a hymn.

Overview of Synod
Mr. Chris Ambidge gave a brief overview of Synod. He spoke about the theme of Synod, which is “Compassionate Service, Intelligent Faith, Godly Worship”. He said the agenda of Synod has been designed to be a time of worship, fellowship and continued growth in regards to our vision and mission for the Diocese. More information on the theme and agenda for Synod can be found on Page 18 of the Convening Circular. Mr. Ambidge also recommended that first-time Synod members read “Synod for Beginners – What to Expect at Synod.”

Report Card for 2011-2013
Mr. Ambidge described the work of the Diocese since the 2011 Synod. He said the Diocese has focused on four areas: strengthening local parishes, building the church for tomorrow, revitalizing our inheritance and giving to others beyond ourselves. For details of this work, see Pages 20-28 of Section B of the Convening Circular. Mr. Stuart Hutcheson, the interim director of Finance, gave the financial highlights of 2011 and 2012. He said the Diocese ended 2011 with a surplus of $1,374 and ended 2012 with a surplus of $5,183. For details of the financial highlights of 2011 and 2012, see Page 28 of Section B of the Convening Circular.

The following motion will be coming to Synod: “It will be moved and seconded that Synod receive the document entitled “The Anglican Diocese of Toronto: Priorities and Plans 2011-2013—Report Card as approved by Diocesan Council.”

Area Highlights
The Rev. Stephen Pessah, the Regional Dean for Nottawasaga, gave some highlights from York-Simcoe. These included the following:  The episcopal leadership of the area transitioned from Bishop George Elliott to Bishop Peter Fenty. In 2010, Area Council identified six priorities—being missional, supporting accessibility, encouraging collaborative ministry, developing a communication strategy, encouraging social justice and advocacy ministries, and honing the area’s governance and finances. The joint Anglican and Lutheran ministries at St. David , Orillia, and St. Mark ,Midland are encouraging. Anglican chaplains in the area serve in courts, hospitals, schools and the military base. The area’s ministry development grants help with a number of initiatives.

Audited Financial Statements
Mr. Stuart Hutcheson gave a report on the Audited Financial Statements for 2012. Section C of the Convening Circular includes a full report from the Treasurer on the Financial Statements for 2012. The Audited Financial Statements for the Incorporated Synod of the Diocese of Toronto, the Consolidated Trust Fund and the Cemetery Fund were approved by Diocesan Council in June 2013. The statements were posted on the Diocese’s website in early October.

The following motion will be coming to Synod: “It will be moved and seconded that Synod receive the Audited Financial Statements for the Incorporated Synod of the Diocese of Toronto, the Consolidated Trust Fund and the Cemetery Fund for the year ended Dec. 31, 2012, as recommended by the Diocesan Council.”

Financial Update for 2013

Mr. Hutcheson also gave a financial update for 2013. There were no questions.

Budget 2013-2015
Archdeacon Elizabeth Hardy and Major the Rev. David Warren presented the budget for 2013-2015. The presentation began with a video of Archbishop Colin Johnson speaking about his priorities over the next two years. (The document, Priorities and Plans 2013-2015, can be found in Section D of the Convening Circular.) Mr. Warren, who was a member of the Budget Working Group, also presented the proposed assessment rate for 2014 and 2015.

There will be two motions coming to Synod:

“It will be moved and seconded that the Parish Assessment Rate, as defined in Canon 4, section 2, be set at 25 % for 2014 and 24.85 % for 2015.”

“It will be moved and seconded that Synod receive the document entitled Priorities and Plans 2013-2015 and the Financial Budget 2014-2015 and approve the priorities and financial plans contained therein. It will be further moved that Diocesan Council implement and report back to Synod on this plan and take corrective measures from time to time as best serves the needs of this Diocese.”

 After table group discussions, the following questions were asked:

Question: How do we address the overall accessibility needs of our churches? Many of our buildings are quite old, and there are minimum standards in the building code for accessibility.  
Answer: (Archdeacon Hardy answered) There are grants available in the wider community, and you should also be thinking about applying to the Trillium Foundation. If you are applying to the Trillium Foundation, you have to be able to demonstrate that your church is not just doing something for itself but is using the funds to do something for the community. The Trillium Foundation will assess your grant application based on what community programs you are doing. Secondly, as parishes, we need to build into our capital budgets money for long-term projects. We need to make a commitment and say these are things that are important to us. We also need to do small things that are less expensive. We have to really be intentional and say to our folks, we need to give sacrificially if we believe that our mission is to reach out to more than just people who can climb up the stairs. Outside of building changes, churches should also ensure that they are in compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The government has brought together resources and information that can assist you. It can be found at http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/programs/accessibility/index.aspx.

Question: Youth has not shown up in these priorities. We brought to Diocesan Council and to our area bishop and to the Archbishop the cry that we keep hearing from parishes for more involvement and more investment in youth ministry, but the word “youth” shows up only once in this document, and that was under Area Grants. Did youth show up at all in these budget conversations and why is it not showing up as a priority now?
Answer: (Archdeacon Hardy answered) Youth ministry isn’t funded out of the Diocese’s operational budget. It’s funded through the Youth Apprenticeship program, which we continue to support out of the Ministry Allocation Fund, and through the area ministry grants. You don’t see youth ministry in this budget because it is funded out of grants as opposed to operationally. We used to support youth ministry centrally but the response we got from parishes and areas was that it was not helpful to them and didn’t provide support at a parochial level. Therefore the apprenticeship program was developed to help train people interested in youth ministry for deployment in parishes or clusters or deaneries where they could be more effective.

Question: Diocesan Council moved these Plans and Priorities and is recommending it for approval at Synod. Did the priority for youth ministry not show up then or during the Budget Working Group discussions as a question?
Answer: (Archdeacon Hardy answered) No, because the youth ministry apprenticeships are funded out of the Ministry Allocation Fund. This is an operational budget and it doesn’t fund many programs, therefore, what we don’t see in this budget is the thousands of dollars that grants are being used to support youth apprenticeships and training modules. In the past, we received feedback that funding youth ministry out of the operating budget was not helping parishes and leaders, so the decision was made to operate  the youth ministry apprenticeship programs leaving more money in parishes for these types of programs.   (Bishop Fenty said he would convey the speaker’s concerns about youth ministry to Archbishop Johnson.)

Question: What financial support from the Diocese is there for the Council of the North for 2014-15? Please break down the diocesan support for the wider church.
Answer: (Archdeacon Hardy answered) The Diocese of Toronto currently undertakes all the administrative tasks, such as payroll, for the Diocese of Moosonee. A gift of  $100,000 was made to the Diocese of the Arctic for the building of their new cathedral. One of the largest portions of funding coming out of Our Faith-Our Hope campaign, $5 million, is dedicated for the Council of the North and other national and international ministry support. $2.5 million is specifically for clergy stipend support in the Council of the North. We also pay our assessment to the national church, a portion of which goes to the Council of the North. (It was noted that the Diocese contributes the amount we have been asked to pay to the national church.)

Question: The departments in the Diocese were asked to reduce their expenditures by 10 per cent, and they did. Did they have a specific model or framework to arrive at these savings?
Answer: (Archdeacon Hardy answered) In the initial stages, each department was asked to submit their budgets, with savings of 10 per cent over the coming two years. How they did it was entirely up to them. The cuts came from programs that were coming to an end, and, in some departments, their staffing complement changed so that when someone in a senior position left and we hired someone to replace them, they came in at a different place on our salary grid.

Question: What are the new and older deductions to the assessment income base?
Answer: (Archdeacon Hardy answered) The assessment rate for this year, 2013, was 25%. That will remain the same for 2014. For 2015, it goes down to 24.85%. Total parish income is about $60 million. When parishes prepare their  parochial returns (CWPR) they are encouraged to carefully consider eligible deductions.  After eligible deductions, the assessment rate is applied to approximately $20 million and the rest of the money is kept in the parishes. Please refer to Canon 4 for a list of allowable deductions. 

Question: We’ve been legislated to have our books audited professionally. Is that an eligible deduction?
Answer: (Archdeacon Hardy answered) It is not a deduction. (Major The Rev. David Warren said): Your best solution  is to find a volunteer  who will conduct an audit as a donation to the church. Several churches in the Barrie area benefit from this practice.  Further, parishes are reminded of the ability to apply to the area bishop for a Review Engagement or Notice to Reader if their parish income is below $100,000. These cost considerably less.

Question: My churchwardens say they can’t have a parishioner donate an audit. Is that correct?
Answer: (Clarification was provided by a Synod member regarding the process:)  the auditor conducts  the audit, provides the church with an invoice, the church pays the bill, and then the auditor donates that amount back to the church. CAs who have retired can do this work for free provided they have maintained the relevant professional insurance.

Question: I read that we’re not supporting the national church as much as we should be according to their formula. Why aren’t we supporting them according to the formula?
Answer: (Archdeacon Hardy answered) The national church sends us a bill and we pay the bill. Whatever they assess us, we pay.

Question: If the diocese believes that multicultural and intercultural ministries are important, why did we drop funding to the Multi-Faith Council? We could have kept it going.
Answer: Based on the report to council of the Intercultural Committee, Bishop Fenty and Bishop Poole are working together on a new strategy for the Diocese. The funding for the Multi-Faith Council ended on the advice of our representative on the council who advised that the other faith groups and the government had withdrawn their funding.

Question: Is there a place in the diocesan budget that shows the amount the Diocese pays for police checks for volunteer screening?   
Answer: (The Rev. Richard Dentinger replied): There is not a diocesan budget line for this as the police record checks are paid for either by each individual or by the parish.  A number of years ago, we did a survey across the diocese and found that we had about 17 police departments we had to work with. The processes were all different, depending on the police department. For some, you didn’t pay, for others you do. One of the major issues was that we were doing a lot of work centrally and that would have increased the parish assessment because we would need to hire an additional staff person just to manage this What we did was work through an agency and negotiated a price — $22.60 for volunteers. This way is also faster and more efficient. Sometimes with police departments, it could take months.

Question: Many of the volunteers in the church are already volunteers elsewhere and already have police checks, so they have to pay twice.
Answer: (The Rev. Richard Dentinger replied): The reason is that every organization has its own process. We can’t use someone else’s process and they can’t use ours, either. For more information, please see the following web pages on the Diocese’s website:

  • Police Record Check FAQs: www.toronto.anglican.ca/police-record-check-faqs/ 
  • Understanding the PRC Process
  • Screening FAQs: www.toronto.anglican.ca/screening/faqs/

 

Area Election
The following individuals were elected to Diocesan Council from the area:

  • The Rev. Annette Gillies, Christ Church, Holland Landing
  • Ms. Susan Schuschu, St. John, East Orangeville
  • Ms. Peggy Hutchison, St. Paul, Singhampton

Constitution and Canon Changes
Archdeacon Hardy reported on revisions to the Constitution and Canon 29 (Designated Ministries) and Canon 36 (Audit Committee). These changes can be found in Section F of the Convening Circular.

The following motion will be coming to Synod: “It will be moved and seconded that Synod approve the changes to the Constitution and Canons as approved by Diocesan Council and presented in the Convening Circular.”

Our Faith-Our Hope: Re-Imagine Church
Mr. Brian Armstrong of the Our Faith-Our Hope Allocations Committee gave an update on the campaign. To date, the total amount pledged or received is $40,965,659. He encouraged parishes to apply for grants. The next deadline for applications is April 15, 2014.

Question: Regarding the Communicating in a Wireless World section, my parish asked for video equipment and for other equipment for webcasting, and our application was  denied. Is there an appeal process?

Answer: (Mr Armstrong replied) There is an opportunity for any parish whose application is not granted in whole or in part, to come back and talk to the Allocations Committee  about the reasons why the application was denied and to discuss how the funding request might be reshaped.

(Note for Clarification – the application mentioned above was a request to purchase a computer.  While the Committee recognizes that computers are a requirement for a parish office, it deems this to be a core budgetary expense and therefore does not meet the funding criteria.  Grants for this funding stream are for innovative programs and/or projects.)

Question: How much of the $2.5 million set aside for the Council of the North in the Our Faith-Our Hope Campaign has been paid?
Answer: (Archdeacon Hardy answered) The bishops of those diocese that make up the Council of the North (Arctic, Yukon, Northern and Central Interior British Columbia, Alberta, northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba, northern Ontario, northern Quebec and Labrador) make applications for funding directly to Archbishop Johnson.  The Archbishop  along with the College of Bishops, make decisions regarding funding. This funding stream is not within the purview of the Allocations Committee.

Question: Does the Council of the North make an application?
Answer: (Archdeacon Hardy answered) Yes, by way of General Synod.

Question: Does an application for leadership development come through the church or can a cleric make an application?
Answer: (Mr. Armstrong replied) Individual clerics may apply.

Question: For people whose applications have been approved, what is the format and deadlines for sending in reports?
Answer: (Archdeacon Hardy answered) Prior to the next funding tranche a letter from the parish should be sent directly to the Chief Administrative Officer.  The letter should indicate a request for release of funding and provide an overall project update showing how the parish has achieved its benchmarks

Evaluations
Those in attendance at the meeting filled in evaluation forms of the meeting.

The meeting ended with a hymn and a prayer.