Bishop Justin delivered the first of two Bishop’s Charges to Synod on Saturday morning, and used the opportunity to celebrate a long list of achievements and successes in our diocese over the past few years. He started with Team Training Days, which recently attracted representation from 80% of mission units, and from all parts of the diocese. He mentioned how when he talks to other dioceses and other provinces, they are amazed at the level of buy-in we get from all parts of the whānau for diocesan events.
Leadership alignment is another success. Bishop Justin talked about the hard work of getting governance, management and leadership all aligned, so that we can all focus together on the mission of the church – and that work is progressing well. Furthermore, clusters are developing well with about 60 to 70 leaders currently going through the leadership development curriculum led by Bishop Justin, Bishop Eleanor and Archdeacon Gendy Thomson, and Bishop Justin believes these groups are bearing great fruit. “They’re building support, collegiality and development. We should be proud of this!” he said. He also noted just how heartening it is for Bishop Eleanor and himself to see the level of courage in leaders throughout the movement. “The parishes might be small, but the hearts of the leaders are huge!” he said.
He highlighted the discussion that centred around General Synod’s Motion 7, the motion on the blessing of same-sex relationships. This could have been a problematic time, he said, and for some, it may have resulted in pain. But, he told Synod: “We should recognise that God has done something in us in our ability to hear each other’s voices.”
Another sign of God’s moving amongst us is coming through the re-imagining of the Diaconate, Bishop Justin said. “If we are going to be successful for the Kingdom of God going forward, mission is important. And the Diaconate is important for mission,” he told Synod. He mentioned that even since the Deacons’ Ordination service in May of this year, more people had enquired about ordination as deacons.
Bishop Justin was also proud of our ongoing work in the area of housing and refugee resettlement. We have done some significant work advocating for good quality housing for those who don’t have access to it, and he believes there is more work to be done – but our coming together around this topic has been significant for our family, he told us. Similarly, with the recent announcement of the Government’s intention to lift the quota to 1,500, we can justifiably be proud of our advocacy work in this area. He told us this is all about partnering with God and with others.
We’re taking that partnership approach in other areas as well. We’re working with NZCMS on both the Better World Gap Year initiative with Guy and Summer Benton, and on intercultural communities ministry, through the work of Rev Ana Fletcher.
In many other areas, growth is being seen, Bishop Justin said. The Anglican Youth Movement is experiencing the joy of many young leaders stepping up and growing in their leadership skills, as well as the numerical growth starting to be evidenced in our parishes following our commitment at last year’s Synod to strive for 5% growth.
“We want to say really clearly that the nature of God is to flourish the people on Earth, to flourish his Kingdom, to call people to Him – so God actually wants our parishes to grow. By saying ‘hey let’s actually expect God to grow this, then what it means is if we’re not growing, what maybe is the invitation to change? Numerous parishes are starting to turn around, and I think we should celebrate that.”
All of these are signs of an embedded strategic culture around being family, being disciples, and caring for the last, the lost and the least. “They’re not just words anymore – they’re embedded, and it’s our frame of reference. We actually do what we say in this diocese!” This is evidenced in the “engine room” of discipleship, he said, with groups all over the movement engaging in discipleship through tools like Anglican Studies, 3DM and EFM. Vestries are also becoming role models of discipleship: “The amount of vestries that are eating together, praying together, reading God’s Word together – it’s changing!”
There is a long list of things to be proud of, Synod was told, and the sense of tangible momentum was echoed across the room. This is indeed an exciting time in our movement, but of course, the best is yet to come!
View a shortened version (4 mins) on You Tube here, suitable for showing in church.