Report from the 2019 Pre-Synod Meetings

Posted on November 4, 2019

The following is a report from the Pre-Synod meetings held in York-Credit Valley, York-Scarborough, York-Simcoe and Trent-Durham from Oct. 23 to Oct. 26, 2019.

At each meeting, the area bishop began with prayer, introductions and an overview of the agenda of the meeting.

Overview of Synod

Synod members were given an overview of Synod, which will be held Nov. 8-9 at the Sheraton Parkway Toronto North in Richmond Hill. The theme of Synod is “Created and Recreated in Christ.” This year’s guest speaker will be Dr. Sylvia Keesmaat, an adjunct professor at Trinity College and Wycliffe College. Dr. Keesmaat is the Biblical Scholar in Residence at St. James, Fenelon Falls, and as a theologian and activist speaks frequently on the intersection of biblical faith, justice and creation care.

Synod members were asked to familiarize themselves with the materials in the Convening Circular, which contains the Notice of Meeting, Agenda and other important information related to Synod. Synod will include the Missional and Outreach Moments and breakout sessions. The motions coming to Synod can be found on pages 18-20 of the Convening Circular. New Synod members are encouraged to read the document “What to Expect at Synod.” Synod’s sponsors were thanked. All the information about Synod is posted on the diocese’s website at www.toronto.anglican.ca/upcomingsynod.

Since Synod 2018

Synod members learned about Diocesan Council’s Report to Synod, which can be found in Section B of the Convening Circular. This report contains a list of Council members, a summary of all policy and major items discussed or approved by Council, and a summary of diocesan grants, loans and other funding. A highlight of the report is a section on Diocesan Grants, Loans and Other Funding, which starts on Page 10. A total of $6.8 million in grants and loans was awarded from 37 different funding and granting streams from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019.

Each bishop gave highlights from his or her episcopal area since Synod 2018. They are as follows.

York-Credit Valley

Bishop Jenny Andison spoke about the area’s focus on evangelism and children’s and youth ministry, and the work of the task forces that have been created for them. She talked about the North Peel Deanery Task Force and strengthening ministry in that part of the area. Other highlights of the past year were the one-on-one clergy coaching program and creating a culture of discipleship.

York-Scarborough

Bishop Kevin Robertson talked about the parishes, ministries and schools that comprise the area. He spoke of how churches in the York Mills deanery responded to last year’s van attack, how St. Barnabas responded to the mass shooting last year, and how St. Margaret’s Tamil Congregation responded to the attacks in Sri Lanka. He commended clergy and laity across the area for how they respond to the needs to the communities they serve. He encouraged people and parishes who are involved in Mission Action Planning to respond to mission needs in their contexts. More than 25 parishes have undertaken this work so far. He thanked several people, including the regional deans, the area liturgical officers, the youth coordinators and others. 

York-Simcoe

Bishop Peter Fenty spoke about a number of important events, including the area’s clergy conference, a youth event that included snow tubing, a Lenten series that was attended by 50 people, a seminar on medical assistance in dying, and the annual parish leadership workshop. He said Area Council had approved more than $60,000 in Ministry Development Grants. He thanked and welcomed a number of clergy who are serving in the area.

Trent-Durham

Bishop Riscylla Shaw thanked the clergy and laity, including area reps on Diocesan Council, chaplains to retired clergy and spouses, new Synod reps and area volunteers. She spoke about the loss of the building of St. James, Roseneath and how the congregation is alive and well and discerning its future. She spoke of ongoing conversations in the area between Congregational Development and parishes, looking for ways to be stronger together. She highlighted a few ministries and missional initiatives, including the Seasonal Migrant ministry, a community ministry in downtown Oshawa, refugees supported by parishes, thrift shops and deacon’s cupboards, gay-straight alliances, the raising up of new deacons and reconciliation working groups. She encouraged clergy to use professional development funds. She spoke of her own professional development over the past 13 months.

 

Synod will be asked to consider the following motion: “It will be moved and seconded that Synod receive the document entitled Diocesan Council’s Report to Synod.” Diocesan Council forwards this motion to Synod with the recommendation that it be adopted. There were no questions.  

Constitution and Canon Changes

Chancellor Clare Burns and Mark Hemingway presented the Constitution and Canon Changes, which can be found in Section F of the Convening Circular. Mr. Hemingway, a member of the Governance and Decision-Making Working Group, spoke about the proposed changes to the diocese’s governance structure. He talked about the diocese’s strategic plan, Growing in Christ, and how it called for the diocese to review and modernize its canons, policies and procedures to align with its mission. He outlined the work of the diocese’s Governance and Decision-Making Working Group, including its guiding principles, findings and recommendations, which are also found in the Convening Circular. The group’s recommendations would be implemented in a two-year Pilot Project beginning in 2020. Chancellor Burns explained that some of the diocese’s canons would have to be “lifted” (suspended) or amended to allow the recommendations to be implemented on a pilot basis. The canons that would be lifted or amended are also found in Section F of the Convening Circular. Chancellor Burns said the approval of the governance Pilot Project will be part of Revised Motion #7A, which includes the diocese’s Priorities and Plans 2019-2021, while the Financial Budget 2020-2021 will be in Revised Motion #7B.

The following are questions and answers from the meetings:

Q: We’ve been told that the new structure would make the mission plan of the diocese more do-able. But most of the strategic plan has nothing to do with audit, finance, HR, property or risk and governance. It’s all in programs. So how does that happen? Where’s the magic to make that happen? Also, lawyers aren’t necessarily the only governance expertise you need, and there are governance consultants and experts, and I didn’t hear about them. Also, how will we know whether this has succeeded or failed?
A: An example is that a lot of allocation of grant mechanisms were spread across several committees, and here we’ve tried to make sure they’re all in one committee, so there is one group that is looking across the diocese and making sure that each of the parishes is getting an appropriate share of the grants; that is where some of the magic can happen. Also, there were people with governance expertise on the Governance and Decision-Making Working Group. Measuring how it will succeed or fail is still something that we need to work out. I suspect Synod Council may put in measures, and they may well receive direction from Synod. But what we have to recognize is that what we have now isn’t working and what we’re trying to do is put into place something new and report back on the way people think it has worked and hasn’t worked.

Q: Are we giving up the idea and principle of Diocesan Council being a “Synod Between Synods”? Also, could all chairs of the committees and all members of the committees potentially be appointed by the bishop and not be members of Synod? Also, are the area members still going to be elected by the areas?
A: We’re not abandoning the idea or principle that Synod Council is the “Synod Between Synods.” It’s not correct that all the chairs would not be members of Synod. It’s important to know that currently not every member of a committee is a member of Synod. That was changed a few years ago. We need people with specific expertise; we sometimes can’t find Synod members who have the spare time and expertise to be on these committees. Also, area reps will continue to be elected.

Q: Are we supposed to elect one lay member tonight? How will committee chairs be chosen? For these changes to take effect, it would need 75% of Synod members voting in favour. Is that correct?
A: In order for this to take place immediately, 75% of Synod will have to vote in favour. The thought is that the Risk and Governance Committee will nominate the chairs of each committee.

Q: As I look at the program areas that are now subcommittees of the proposed program committee, they also have a lot of staff involved with them. Can you explain the accountability structure in that, and if in fact we’re adding more layers of accountability to our programming? Also, what, if any, changes happen with Area Councils?
A: No, I don’t think we’re adding layers. It won’t be everybody who’s involved in, for example, social justice; it will be a representative who will serve on the program committee, and that committee is directly accountable to Synod Council. There are no changes planned for Area Councils.

Q: I’m thinking about and encouraging Synodical representation on Synod Council. It feels a little top-down.
A: With a smaller Synod Council, there will be less representation at the Synod Council level, but there will be real delegated authority to the committees. For example, people on the program committee, who will be representing the corners of the diocese, will have decision-making authority. That’s part of the checks and balances that we’re looking at.

Q: One of the themes you identified was the separation of governance and management. Would the committees be characterized as governance committees? Also, is there a senior management lead for the diocese that would flow into these committees?
A: There will be director-level people from the diocesan staff on the respective committees.

Q: How do the Bishop’s Committees relate to the new structure?
A: We did not look at making any changes to the Bishop’s Committees. Those are in the purview of the bishop and will continue to be so.

Q: I’m concerned about the committees siloing. To what extent will there be overlap between what goes on in terms of education and what goes on in terms of program?
A: The chairs of each of the committees would serve on Synod Council and will report to Synod Council, so each will be able to understand what the other committees are doing. They will understand where there should be overlap and where they should be working together.

Q: How does one committee manage all the work that used to be done by five other committees, and not have task overload?
A: One of the purposes of the Pilot Project is to ask, who has task overload and how do we adjust to that? Also, some of the committees can form sub-committees if they choose.

Q: How many people will be on these six committees?
A: A nominating committee will be appointed and will consider who the chairs should be and the chairs will think about the structure.

Q: I am concerned about the term limits for Synod members.
A: We will take that into consideration.

Q: Will Synod Council and other committees be meeting in the summer so they can make approvals?
A: Yes, as needed.

Q: Why didn’t you draft the new canons or would that be going too far?
A: We did think about whether or not we should draft the canons for all of the committees right now. The concern that the Constitution and Canons Committee had was if we draft them with one vision in our heads, and if during the Pilot Project we learned that wasn’t a good idea, we wouldn’t be able to adjust what we are doing. We wanted creativity and learning over the next two years, and then assuming the governance Pilot Project was approved by this Synod, it would come back to Synod in two years with all the new canons that will line up with what we’ve learned over the previous two years, for approval.

Q: Bishop Asbil outlined four areas he was interested in for setting up committees and working groups. How does that fit into this new structure?
A: The areas can be assigned to one of the proposed committees. Also, the governance Pilot Project does not affect the Bishop’s Committees, and they will still continue to exist and are under the purview of the bishop.

Q: In the process leading up to this, there were consultations with clergy and that never got reported back. Why?
A: I can’t answer that specifically, but I can tell you the Governance Decision-Making Working Group consulted with the bishops, the archbishop, the chancellor and Diocesan Council on two or three occasions. We met with each Area Council twice. We met with as broad a group as we could think of. The working group’s report is on the website if you want to look at it.

Q: How serious are you looking at reducing the size of Synod?
A: The working group did not look at that issue. We have to do one thing at a time. If these changes work and people trust the process, maybe we can look at that issue.

Q: How do you know who is sitting in the back pew of a church who may have those skills you’re looking for? How will you find a way to reach those people?
A: The College of Bishops and the Diocesan Centre is looking at that issue – how to have a better record of who in the diocese we can call on to help with various things. One of the reasons for these Pre-Synod meetings is for Synod members to share what they’ve heard here with their parishes, which may reach those people you are talking about.

Q: How are we going to ensure that a smaller Synod Council does represent the variety that exists in places like this, which have distinct contextual needs?
A: There is still area representation on Synod Council. Each area will have one lay and one clerical member. Also, the diocesan bishop can appoint five members on Synod Council, which can address the issue of representation. For example, he would probably make sure that someone from a rural parish context was on Synod Council so that voice would be heard.

Q: Why aren’t youth represented in the proposed new structure and its committees?
A: Youth will continue to be represented in the Bishop’s appointments. Also, it will be up to the program committee to decide which areas it wants to focus on, and I too hope that will include youth.

Q: The Pilot Project is a two-year process, but it says it will be voted on at the next Synod. I thought Synods were annual.
A: Regular Sessions of Synods are held every two years, unless a special session of Synod is called by the Bishop.

Q: Have you considered ramifications for diocesan staffing in these proposed changes?
A: Yes. There will be staff support for the proposed new committees and others, as there is now.

Q: Can you speak to us about how you tried to structure the management, where there are safeguards in place so that we made representation on the proposed Synod Council fair and equitable?
A: We heard from Diocesan Council that there was too much emphasis on representation as opposed to gifts-based membership. We’ve tried to remedy that a little bit. There’s no doubt less representation, but there are six committees that will be composed of a number of individuals, many of which will come from many areas. We’re looking for people who can offer their skills and support in these committees, and I think that’s a great way of getting representation from across the diocese. Also, the chairs of the committees will be appointed, which can also ensure representation, and Synod Council is responsible to Synod, which is representative.

Q: I’m a little concerned that you’re going back to a model where one committee can approve projects in a parish but another committee such as Finance can disagree with that because the parish can’t afford it. I’m concerned about siloing.
A: The way we’ve addressed that is to have the chairs of the committees on Synod Council and all together so that there would be information crossover. We will have to work out how information-flow happens so that we don’t have that situation.

Q: How do financial and strategic priorities come together?
A: One thing that this structure will see, for example, is that all of the diocese’s 37 grant processes, with the exception of two because of statutes governing them, will all be under the control of the program committee, so they’ll report back to finance for the accountability so that finance knows who’s granting what, but there will be one body that will decide how those grants will be spent. The changes will also equalize things across the areas, because some areas are better at asking for money than others, so it will be good to have one set of people who are from all four areas to see where the dollars are going.

Q: Will there be some conversation around ensuring representation on the committees by people elected from Synod who clearly have the skills to offer, and whether there could be some process to ensure that there is a clear and obvious participation by Synod members?
A: While I hear the concern about representation, I think we have to live within the reality of where we all are with very busy lives with a lot of volunteer commitments and it’s not easy to get people who are members of Synod, who are usually already giving a great deal of time to their parishes, to take on this work as well.

Area Elections

The following were elected to Diocesan Council from the four areas. (Please note: If the proposed changes to the diocese’s governance structure are approved by Synod, one lay member from each area will serve on Synod Council; the decision will be left to the lay members to decide.)

York-Credit Valley

The Rev. Dr. Monique Taylor of St. James the Apostle, Brampton, Mr. Mario Bartolozzi of St. Matthias, Bellwoods, and Mr. John Spragge of St. John, West Toronto.

York-Scarborough

The Rev. Dr. Eric Beresford of St. Timothy, North Toronto, Ms. Catherine Bryant of St. John York Mills and Mr. Chris Ambidge, ODT, of Church of the Redeemer, Bloor St.

York-Simcoe

The Rev. Matthew McMillan of St. Mary, Richmond Hill, Laura Walton, ODT of Holy Trinity, Clearview and Sandy Richmond, ODT of St. George, Allandale.

Trent-Durham

The Rev. Brad Smith of St. John the Evangelist, Peterborough, Mr. Bill Bickle, ODT of St. John the Evangelist, Port Hope, and Ms. Leslie Hajdu, ODT, of St. George, Pickering Village.

Financial Overview

Ms. Lilian Qian, the diocese’s Treasurer and Director of Finance, presented the Financial Report for 2018, the Audited Financial Statements for the Incorporated Synod of the Diocese of Toronto, and the Audited Financial Statements for the Cemetery Fund of the Incorporated Synod of the Diocese of Toronto, all of which are found in Section C of the Convening Circular. Synod will be asked to consider the following motions. Diocesan Council forwards these motions to Synod with the recommendation that they be adopted:

  • “It will be moved and seconded that Synod receive the Financial Report for 2018 from the Treasurer and Director of Finance”; and
  • “It will be moved and seconded that Synod receive the Audited Financial Statements for the Incorporated Synod of the Diocese of Toronto and the Cemetery Fund for the year ended Dec. 31, 2018”; and
  • “It will be moved and seconded that the firm Grant Thornton LLP, Chartered Accountants, be appointed to conduct the audit of the Financial Statements of the Incorporated Synod of the Diocese of Toronto and the Cemetery Fund for the year ending Dec. 31, 2019, at a fee to be approved by the Audit Committee.”

The following are questions and answers from the meetings:

Q: How long has Grant Thornton been our auditors, and do we make a practice of issuing Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for our auditors every three years?
A: It was put out for RFP within the past five years, and it was decided that Grant Thornton was still the best option.

Priorities and Plans 2019-2021

Synod members watched a video of Bishop Andrew Asbil, the diocesan bishop, speaking about the diocese’s Priorities and Plans for the next two years. Mr. Rob Saffrey, the diocese’s Executive Director, and Ms. Lilian Qian, the diocese’s Treasurer and Director of Finance, presented the Priorities and Plans, which can be found in Section D of the Convening Circular. Mr. Saffrey said the budgets for 2020 and 2021 support the five priority areas that are set out in the diocese’s strategic plan, Growing in Christ: Leadership and Formation; Trust and Culture; Innovation Based on Evidence; Governance and Decision-Making; and Stewardship of Resources. He said the resources to support these priorities are spread throughout the six distinct program categories: Episcopal Care and Leadership; Church Growth and Development; Amalgamations, Closures and Property Support; Support for the Wider Church; Corporate Governance and Support Services; and Supporting Ordained Leaders. Ms. Qian walked Synod members through the budget details, including the revenue that supports this work. She said there will be no change to the Assessment Rate.

Synod will be asked to consider the following motions. Diocesan Council forwards the motions to Synod with the recommendation that they be adopted:

  • “It will be moved and seconded that Synod: receive and approve the document Priorities and Plans 2019-2021 inclusive of the Pilot Governance Project as set out in the PowerPoint slides entitled Pilot Governance Project as attached to this motion and as presented to Synod in November 2019; shall receive a receive a report about the Priorities and Plans other than the Pilot Governance Project at the next Regular Session of Synod; and shall receive a separate report about the outcome of the Pilot Governance Project at the next Regular Session of Synod.”
  • “It will be moved and seconded that Synod receive and approve the document Financial Budget 2020-2021 as set out in Section D of the Convening Circular.”
  • “It will be moved and seconded that the Parish Assessment Rate, as defined in Canon 4, Section 2, be set at 24.70% for 2020 and 24.70% for 2021.”

The following are questions and answers from the meetings:

Q: Did you consider changing the Assessment Rate?
A:  Yes, we did consider a change to the assessment rate. We were trying to strike a balance between the increasing needs of the parishes and the financial challenges that they have, so we tried very hard to keep the rate the same.

Q: Soon after the strategic plan was launched, we were all asked to fill out a survey. We’ve never been given results. Who will give the results? Clergy compensation will be a breakout session at Synod; could that actually be a report to Synod instead?
A: My recollection was that the survey results would not be shared. As for making clergy compensation a report to Synod instead of a breakout session, I’ll take that back to the agenda committee for consideration.

Q: I’m interested in the structure you’ve put in the budget and the proposed committee structure. Is that going to make it easier for the committees or more difficult?
A: It will be easier. With a simplified structure, it will reduce the administrative burden and enable us to better support the parishes.  

Q: To what extent will the new structure affect the cost of governance to us? Do you have a sense of that financially or not?
A: We have not done a fulsome estimate for that. We are looking at all the efficiencies we can achieve with the new structure.

Q: Our parish’s increase over the years has been 7%, but the increase in our assessment is 46%, and that can’t be sustained.
A: Without looking specifically at the calculation for your parish, the only thing I can say is that the calculation itself is based on a three-year average; income is one part of the calculation and there are other things that affect the calculation, such as expenditures on major capital projects, and quite often a parish can get large fluctuations from year to year.

Q: In the 2020 assessment calculation for our deanery, St. John the Evangelist is not included. Why?
A: It is because it was an amalgamated church and its allotment has just been approved by Diocesan Council on Oct 24. An updated allotment list will be provided to the deanery.

Q: What percentage of investment income are you assuming year by year?
A: 4.25% dividend rate for 2019. The investment committee reviews the investment performance on a quarterly basis and determines dividend rate at the end of the year for next year and recommends to Diocesan Council for final approval.

Notices of Motion from Members of Synod

Chancellor Clare Burns spoke about Notices of Motion coming from Synod members, which are found in Section A of the Convening Circular. They are as follows:

Single-Use Plastics – Motion #10

A Notice of Motion dated September 17, 2019 was received from the Rev. Canon David Harrison and the Rev. Dr. Stephen Drakeford.  Pursuant to Canon 1, the Notice of Motion was placed on the Agenda of the September 26, 2019 meeting of Diocesan Council. The Diocesan Council forwards the following Notice of Motion to Synod with the recommendation that it be adopted.

MOVED by the Rev. Canon David Harrison and SECONDED by the Rev. Dr. Stephen Drakeford that this diocesan Synod:

  1. Encourages parishes to curtail their purchase of single-use plastic products, with the intention of ending their use by 2023, taking into consideration the accessibility needs of their communities.
  2. Encourages individual Anglicans to reduce their reliance on single-use plastic products.
  3. Encourage the Bishop’s Committee on Creation Care to develop and promote resources aimed at supporting local efforts toward plastics reduction.

Affordable Housing Plan – Motion #14

A Notice of Motion dated October 16, 2019 was received from the Rev. Dr. Jason McKinney and the Rev. Canon David Harrison. Pursuant to Canon 1, the Notice of Motion was placed on the Agenda of the October 24, 2019 meeting of Diocesan Council. The Diocesan Council forwards the following Notice of Motion to Synod with the recommendation that it be adopted.

MOVED by the Rev. Dr. Jason McKinney and SECONDED by the Rev. Canon David Harrison that this Synod request Diocesan Council (or its successor) to respond to the affordable housing crisis across the diocese by developing an Affordable Housing Plan. This Plan will:

  1. determine the feasibility of building affordable housing on diocesan-owned lands;
  2. prioritize strategic partnerships with industry experts in the fields of planning, development, and affordable housing provision; 
  3. establish specific achievable targets (e.g. 250 units by 2024)

The Plan should be completed by November 30, 2020 at which time a report to Synod and to the diocese will be made.

Diocesan Environment Policy – Motion # 15

A Notice of Motion dated October 16, 2019 was received from the Rev. Canon David Harrison and the Rev. Dr. Stephen Drakeford. Pursuant to Canon 1, the Notice of Motion was placed on the Agenda of the October 24, 2019 meeting of Diocesan Council. The Diocesan Council forwards the following Notice of Motion to Synod with the recommendation that it be adopted.

MOVED by the Rev. Canon David Harrison and SECONDED by the Rev. Dr. Stephen Drakeford that Synod requests the Bishop’s Committee on Creation Care, working through a creation care lens and in the context of our developing relationship with Indigenous Peoples, to develop and propose environmental policies and resources for all diocesan operations that reflect the need to increase the use of renewable energy services and decrease our carbon footprint. In particular, Synod requests a review of and development of policies pertaining to:

  1. our spending practices;
  2. our travel policies;
  3. our land use and development;
  4. the creation of a fund to assist parishes to reduce their carbon footprint:
  5. the creation of a fund to assist clergy to purchase or lease zero emission vehicles;
  6. the curtailment of the purchase of single-use plastic products, with the intention of ending their use no later than the beginning of 2023, taking into consideration the accessibility needs of our communities;
  7. developing modules for clergy and lay formation on the connection between creation care and the Gospel; and
  8. promoting reduced consumption as part of a Christian Rule of Life.

Synod and the Diocese shall be provided with a report on the work of the Bishop’s Committee on Creation Care and the progress made on these issues by June 30, 2020 and every six months thereafter until the next Regular Session of Synod.

Pastoral Guidelines – Motion #16

A Notice of Motion dated October 17, 2019 was received from the Rev. Dr. Alison Kemper and the Rev. Donald Beyers. Pursuant to Canon 1, the Notice of Motion was placed on the Agenda of the October 24, 2019 meeting of Diocesan Council. Chancellor Burns informed Synod members that her advice to the Bishop is that the motion is out of order.   

MOVED by the Rev. Dr. Alison Kemper and SECONDED by the Rev. Donald Beyers that this Synod urges the Bishop of Toronto to remove the Pastoral Guidelines for Same-Sex Marriages in order to allow for the marriage of any couple who is duly qualified and has been prepared for marriage under the requirements of Canon XXI of the Anglican Church of Canada. 

The following are questions and answers from the meetings:

Q: Regarding Motion 10, are we talking about Styrofoam cups and things like that?
A: Motion 10 and Motion 15 both speak to the reduction in the use of single-use plastics.

Q: What’s happening with the Local Option?
A: The diocese’s guidelines and process as they currently exist will continue to exist for the time being.

Video about CLAY 2020

Some of the meetings learned about CLAY 2020, the national gathering of Lutheran and Anglican youth that is being held in Calgary. Parishes were encouraged to send youth to the event.

Wrap-Up & Closing Prayer

The bishops ended the meetings with thanks and prayers.