I reckon we had a very good day in our Christchurch Synod yesterday. With a background of some feeling about how little we know in answer to many questions about the present and future of our rebuilding and reshaping, of buildings, of parish life, and of diocesan life, yesterday was a very good day for learning stuff. What follows is my anecdotal account of things I thought important, relying on my memory in some instances and on a few notes. That is, this is not an 'official' reporting of the day (and certainly not intended as a comprehensive report).
One swirling question has been the status of insurance payouts for damaged buildings. Do these payouts belong to the diocese (via the Church Property Trustees) or to the parishes (while being held in CPT accounts)?
From the notes I made when our Chancellor responded to a question about these things:
The legislation governing the Church Property Trustees is not clear (and does not seem to be clear for other diocesan trust boards).
A legal opinion has been sought, obtained and can be made available to the parishes. But further opinion is being sought, and the emerging opinions being sought by other dioceses shows some interesting diversity.
Payouts received are being held for the parishes, with each claim being numbered and the money paid out to CPT against that numbered claim being recorded.
Nevertheless the spending of funds remains a matter for approval by CPT and Standing Committee.
Further, in some cases the question of what belongs to the parish may be subject to historical investigation as to the history of endowment of the parish. (I am not quite sure what this aspect of the answer applies to ... could it be to the situation in which a parish ultimately is merged with another and the question arises how much of the insurance payout moves from one parish into the newly created parish?)
Another question has been about the reshaping of our mission via our parishes. What is going to happen? Who is going to be making decisions? How will we participate in the decision-making?
Here Bishop Victoria's presidential charge was outstanding, setting out the following process as we move forward from this Synod: a 'Structural Working Group' will be formed, via election at this synod, tasked with formulating a new plan for the parish map of the diocese, to be brought back to another synod in six months time, for synod to approve (or not). This is an outstanding proposal: offering a process, a timeline, and a participation by all parishes in the decision-making.
Incidentally, this will be part of a year of 'prayer and study' which Bishop Victoria has asked that we all engage in as we move forward.
I cannot recall for you all the language of the charge, but it was wonderful, visionary and inspiring. I imagine it will be available soon and I will link to it.
A third question, concerning insurance premiums (high cost thereof) received an interesting answer yesterday. Let me first explain that two searching questions have troubled parishes in recent months. One, the question of this years "530% increased" premiums. The answer to that will be discussed today. Two, the question of next year and the years beyond: will high premiums still be charged to the parishes, or will their be an option to not insure for quakes?
Well, I was amazed, and very pleased with what I heard. You see I have a motion today concerning the principle of not paying for quake insurance. I have received not one encouragement from CPT that this motion is along lines they support (or, for that matter, a sign that they do not support it). Yesterday in a great presentation re various financial matters concerning the post quake issues for buildings we were told that CPT is "going to the market" for insurance next year, seeking "affordable" insurance, with each parish having the option of not insuring for quakes. Excellent!
I think that yesterday both Bishop Victoria in her charge, and the synod as a whole 'nailed it' re a number of nagging questions which have troubled our minds.