NOTES ON ZOOM DISCUSSION WITH THE RT REV CHRIS GOLDSMITH, HEAD OF MINISTRY DIVISION
Bishop Chris was responding to our request for a discussion, following Bishop Martin Seeley’s comment at our April conference, that the diaconate needed a ‘simple link’ with the House of Bishops and the National Ministry Team.
He began by repeating what he has said before, that distinctive deacons are ‘pushing at an open door’. Which is very good to know!
He went on to explain, in some detail, the huge seismic shift in organisation which is going on at present in the CofE. +Martin is leading a reorganisation which is massively impacted by the pandemic, by the effect on finances, by local re-organisation with dioceses reducing diocesan teams, and by the need for some redundancies in the National Ministry Team (NMT).
They are supporting ministries of all kinds with lots of different teams: the HR team who specialise in HR for those who are ordained: the National Church Institutions (NCI) which comprise all those working at Church House and all those with anything to do with vocations and training. These include the Senior Leadership Development Programme (SLDP), the Development and Appointments Group (DAG), the Remuneration and Conditions of Service Group (RACS) and the Ministry Council headed by +Martin Seeley.
All these groups are to be reorganised under one umbrella, and this reorganisation is +Chris’s job. Not yet certain what it will be called, or the best way to organise it. The whole process may result in some job losses, and it is this which will be the overriding concern until the end of the year.
REPRESENTATION OF DDS AT NATIONAL LEVEL
DDs, pioneers and SSMs are all in the same boat, of lacking representation. +Chris was very honest and said that at this stage, he cannot say how DDs will be represented under the new system. But we are very much in mind. For example, there’s nobody in charge of deployment of deacons at present – this and other questions are part of the picture.
This is all included in Archbishop Stephen’s Vision and Strategy work, which includes trying to answer the question ‘what to do nationally?’ and ‘what to leave to the dioceses?’
I pointed out that one of our biggest challenges is the fact that the fate of the DD waxes and wanes according to the diocesan bishop of the time. This is not acceptable, given that the diaconate is the third order of ordained ministry and needs to be treated in the same way as priesthood. +Chris accepted this and said that the status of the diaconate included training, discernment and deployment. He does not know whether this will be done nationally, or will be left with diocesan bishops.
TRAINING FOR DDs
I then raised with him the challenge we have over training, and I represented to him strongly that all other ministries receive appropriate training (including Anna chaplains, a very recent ministry!) but we don’t. I filled him in on the work we were doing with Ian McIntosh before he left for York, and the proposal we put to him that there should be online training made available to DD ordinands so that they could access it from anywhere in the country, as a way of dealing with the current small numbers.
He was very positive about this. He said that there is a project for resourcing ministerial formation and working with Tis (Training Institutes) which had just reached an agreement that change will happen. There are still issues to be decided, eg the way TIs are financed. The hope is that reorganisation will mean that TIs can work more collaboratively, and share resources, and this would include online training. However, this is a decision that needs General Synod agreement.
OPEN CHANNEL OF COMMUNICATION
He is committed to progressing the diaconate and already works closely with Joy Gilliver (head of discernment) and Helen Fraser (head of vocations). He wants to future-proof how the NMT works with DDs.
- Meanwhile, he offered to keep an open channel with me and Deacon Liz Carrington (York)
- To listen to responses from DDs to this discussion (send to me at firstname.lastname@example.org)
- And if we wish, he would be happy to speak at a DD conference.
So plenty of green shoots and signs of hope for us. I found this explanation very helpful in making us aware of the larger context.
Liz and I will be zooming with him again on 14 December. Meanwhile, if you have thoughts and reflections, do send them to me at the above email address.
And let’s pray for Bishop Chris and his mammoth task!
Deacon Gill Kimber