Oversight of the District rests with the Synod which meets once a year in its Presbyteral session and every spring and autumn in its Representative session. The District Synods are chaired by the ‘Chair of District’ (hence the title!) who is Revd Canon Graham Thompson. The Secretary of the Representative Synod is Mr David Clitheroe, whilst Ms Jane Allin is Assistant Synod Secretary. The Revd Paul Smith is Secretary of the Presbyteral Synod.
Dates of future Synods:
Presbyteral Synod – Thursday, 26th March 2020 – Bude
Representative Synod – Saturday, 25th April 2020 – Shebbear College
Representative Synod – Saturday, 12th September 2020 – Tavistock Methodist Church
Copies of the minutes of the Representative Synod may be found below.
Minutes of the Spring Synod 2019
Held at Queen’s College, Taunton on Saturday, 6th April 2019
The District Chair, Revd. Graham Thompson, led Synod in worship. Graham invited Synod to reflect on how we make decisions in both a loving and effective way, informed by prayer and our discipleship.
Dr. Lorraine Earps, Headteacher, Queen’s College welcomed Synod to the school and spoke about the College’s involvement through the pupils initiatives and her own and the staff’s commitment to social action in the community. She stressed the needs of the young people growing up as members of the College.
The Chair welcomed members to Synod, especially those attending for the first time.
Revd. Chris Brown, Superintendent of the Taunton Deane & South Sedgmoor Circuit welcomed members to the Circuit and introduced ‘these far reaches’ of the District.
Dispensations were granted to 14 ministers. Apologies were received from 6 members of Synod. 7 Letters of Greeting were sent from the Synod.
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: The Revd. Paul Collings, who has over 30 years experience in special education, led Synod through a presentation, All are Welcome – but are some more welcome than others? which addressed putting theology into practice through the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) agenda.
Andy Jerrard, Rural Support Officer, addressed Synod about the impact of Bovine TB on the farming community of the District, stressing how frequently he found himself alongside farming families struggling with the impact of disease on their livelihoods.
Report from District Policy Committee: The Chair led the Synod through adoption of the Annual Finance Report [in the absence of the District Treasurer at Methodist Council]; the District Safeguarding Policy; the District Grant Making Policy; the District Staement Our Calling – Evangelism and the revised District Policy. Revd. Paul Booth proposd the adoption of these policies and statements, seconded by Revd. Liz Singleton and all were agreed nem con by Synod.
Annual Report of the Safeguarding Officer: Chrissie Slaney, District Safeguarding Officer, reported that there was no reduction in the pressures and volume of work and, as a consequence, it is important not to become complacent and to continue to give attention to the provision of safe space. She drew attention, in light of presentation about EDI, to the need to give particular attention to the voice of the victim in making sure that ‘All are welcome’.
Methodist Women in Britain: Di Smart reported on the work of MWiB over the year and the programme for the coming year.
Thy Kingdom Come: Revd. Dave Martin promoted this prayer initiative for the period between Ascention Day and Pentecost – 30th May to 9th June 2019. A pack had been made available for each church, with encouragement to find creative and different ways to engage people in prayer, especially where this can be done in ‘the public square’. Dave underlined that experience from previous years was that churches and groups that did something together ‘got somewhere’.
Marriage and Relationships: The core of the day’s business was to work in groups to share our understanding of the issues raised by the Conference reports on Marriage and Relationships in order that we are ready to engage in the consultation which will follow the Report to the 2019 Conference. Revd. Paul Smith, who has been engaged in these issues over a number of years as a member of groups convened by Conference and the Methodist Council, provided an introduction to the complexity of the issues and the key issues to be decided. [A separate note of Paul’s introduction and the Group responses is provided as an appendix to these minutes.]
Synod broke into Groups for discussion.
Synod received comment from each discussion group.
Notice of Motion: Synod was asked if it was prepared to debate the Notice of motion Marriage and Relationships Conversation as this had not been received two weeks before Synod. Synod agreed to debate.
The motion was proposed by Revd. Dave Martin and seconded by Revd. Andy Day and read:
The Methodist people have been wrestling with issues of human sexuality and relationships for some time. Recommendations on the church’s position on these issues are expected to come to Conference 2019 and be disseminated to the wider church for consultation.
For some a revision of our doctrines on marriage and relationships is long overdue. For others, holding onto a traditional understanding of marriage and relationships is deeply important. Whatever a person’s theological position, the subject of marriage and relationships is deeply significant and so requires careful reflection on how we respond with regard to our scriptural and theological understanding and our missional and pastoral practice.
The current timetable only allows for consultation and possible voting at the September (7th) session of Synod. Therefore it is proposed that an extraordinary session of Synod be called to discuss this issue later on in the autumn (but before Advent) to enable locally resourced conversations on marriage and relationships to take place before such a session of Synod.
After discussion the proposer of the motion accepted the deletion of the words ‘in the autumn (but before Advent)’ leaving paragraph three of the motion to read ‘…an extraordinary session of Synod be called to discuss this issue later on to enable locally resourced conversations…’
The motion was put and carried by an overwhelming majority.
Later in the afternoon’s agenda, Synod agreed to debate a further motion proposed by Revd. Alison Richardson and seconded by Mr. Keith Angilley asking Conference to extend the period of consultation until Conference 2021, in view of the fact that the Marriage and Relationships Group had needed further time and it was, therefore, unreasonable to expect Districts, Circuits and Churches to respond in a curtailed period of consultation.
In debate, the point was made that some members of congregations were coming to these issues for the first time but this was countered by reference to how long these issues had been before the church for both discussion and decision.
The motion was defeated by a substantial majority.
Outstanding Business: The Synod Secretary updated Synod on work to re-establish the District website following the need to close down the current site as a result of it becoming corrupted and being used maliciously. A specification for tender is being drawn up and, in the interim, a temporary website will be created.
Annual Reports: The Chair sought and obtained Synod’s adoption of the reports contained in the Annual Reports booklet. The Chair took the opportunity to thank all District Officers for their work and to ask them, in view of the imminent process for invitation/reinvitation for the Chair of District, to consider ensuring that their commitment would take them beyond the appointment of the Chair so that any successor should have an established team to work with.
Ecumenical Matters: The Chair sought and obtained Synod’s agreement to the amended Constitution for the LEP at Christ Church, Barnstaple.
Good News Stories: The Chair invited John Haines [Taunton Deane & South Sedgemoor Circuit] to give news of the Circuit’s invovlement in the establishment of a Chapter of Citizen’s UK in Somerset. Citizens Somerset is the first Chapter of Citizens UK to be established in a predominately rural area of the UK. Within Citizens Somerset, local alliances e.g. Taunton and West Somerset, were addressing key issues identified by local consultation and participatory democratic process. These included Housing and Homelessness; Community Safety; Public transport with particular reference to the costs of public transport for young people aged 16-19 attending further education. The Circuit, together with the Bath & Wells Diocese, the URC and other organisations saw this as an important demonstration of our commitment to social justice.
The Chair also invited Janet Sillet to tell Synod about the ecumenical engagement of Rowbarton, Methodist Church, Taunton with other churches in North Taunton in providing a dramatic re-enactment of the Easter story moving between church sites and giving 175 children from 6 schools a ‘bite sized’ experience of the Easter events.
Revd. Liz Singleton spoke of the renewal of Providence Chapel which, having determined to move towards closure, consulted the village about how to conduct the process only to find a response which heralded new interest and the establishment of a monthly afternoon service. Twelve months later this service is attended by up to 12 people with two people received into membership and two more on the way. The church is also engaged with the Dartmoor pilgrimage route and has gathered a substantial archive about the chaple’s contribution to the village over the years.
Revd. Mark Lawrence asked for help in getting access to a tank large enough to be used for full immersion baptism, planned for 4 or 5 new members. Ivybridge had received 10/12 people into full membership in the last year. Mark also said that the church at Bittaford had grown from 2 to 14 attendees in the last 18 months.
Farewells and Thanks:
24/1 Plymouth & Devonport Kate Konrad Yeovil
Andy Day Liskeard
24/3 Exeter Coast & Country Yangsun Yi The Wirral
24/22 South Molton & Ringsash Verity Phillips Totnes
24/28 Teignbridge Gordon Davis Mid-Lincs – Coningsby
No one is sitting down this year.
Carolyn Lawrence stood down as the District’s representative to the Methodist Council on her appointment to the Connexional World Church Team. Mark accepted thanks and a gift to mark Carolyn’s work.
Synod noted, with thanks for her very effective work, the resignation in October 2018 of the District Support Officer, Mary-Ann Martin.
Revd. Liz Singleton gave a vote of thanks to all those from the Taunton Deane & South Sedgemoor Cirucit who had worked hard to make the day possible. Members of the Circuit then led the closing devotions, concluding with the singing of ‘And can it be’.