Mission and evangelism, local and global, were core themes at the Down and Dromore Diocesan Synod in Dromore Cathedral on Thursday 15 June.
Synod met on this historic Christian site at the end of two weeks of diocese–wide mission in partnership with SOMA (Sharing of Ministries Abroad) and we were delighted to have some of the international team members with us for the day.
Synod also voted unanimously to recognise link partnerships with two new dioceses – the Diocese of Santiago, Chile and the Diocese of Multan, Pakistan.
Bishop David’s Presidential Address was wide–ranging. He revisited the 10–year goals he has set for the diocese and began with a challenge to our churches not to become relics of a bygone era but to serve the purpose for which we were intended – making disciples.
Acknowledging the impact of the pandemic and an increasingly secular society, he said that as bishop he was, “constantly looking at how the diocese and the diocesan team can resource each local church to reach their fullest capacity, to reboot, reenergise, renew and re–commission its people.”
The bishop highlighted just some of the many discipleship resources available to our parishes and church plants in the form of training, courses and literature. These discipleship tools include the Diocesan Bible Course, prayer ministry training, training for bible study group leaders, support with running Alpha Courses, the Generosity Initiative video course and a suite of publications outlining many ways to give to God’s work.
Addressing the priority of Leadership, Bishop David said that the Church “always needs more workers for the harvest field, and this is still true.” This challenge he said, “lands upon every parish, to disciple the next generation of children and teenagers and young adults in a manner that leads to some of them presenting themselves for ordained ministry and other ministries.”
This year four people from the diocese were selected for stipendiary ministry and at the end of the summer seven will be ordained for both parish and ordained local ministry.
Since our last Diocesan Synod, we have commissioned seven new diocesan lay readers bringing the total to over 60. The goal is to have a lay reader in every parish.
Fourteen diocesan evangelists are serving in the diocese and eight are in training.
Staying with the subject of evangelism, Bishop David thanked the 60 visitors from Anglican provinces overseas who have been serving in 30 of our parishes in the last two weeks.
“What an impact these SOMA teams have had across our diocese,” he said. “There are stories of people coming to faith, healings, the prayer lives of so many refreshed and renewed and churches experiencing a new freedom in and through Christ. We thank these men and women for coming to share in the work of mission.”
He continued: “Evangelism matters. Why? It’s how the church grows. That makes it important. But much more significantly, it’s what Jesus has commanded his church to do.” The bishop promised more evangelism initiatives, including the upcoming Bible Week and September outreach with evangelist and bible teacher, Greg Downes.
In the area of Youth and Children’s Ministry Bishop David said he was encouraged by those parishes who are employing youth and children’s workers, investing in training volunteers and setting up new Sunday schools and youth groups. He also highlighted the FORGE Ministry Apprenticeship Scheme for 18–25s and the recent appointment of Janine Armstrong as the FORGE Coordinator. The diocese is also in the process of appointing a part–time Safeguarding and Compliance Officer.
Another ten–year goal is to see 50 lay workers employed in parishes across the diocese in areas such as outreach and pastoral care. Bishop David encouraged churches to adopt a ‘can–do’ attitude and select vestries to seek out and release the resources needed for ministry.
The bishop acknowledged that the most stretching of our priorities over the next ten years is that of Apostleship – new churches, new ministries, new initiatives and new life in those churches in, or emerging from, decline.
Encouragements include the Diocesan Rejuvenation Fund which has made its first three grants of £5000 each to three churches; our nine church plants; the planned new outreach to asylum seekers (the Suitcase Project); and those churches who have chosen to support other parishes in the diocese that need people, time, gifts, and money to help them start their journey towards growth.
During his address the bishop also remarked upon the privilege of meeting some wonderful people from the worldwide church at both the Lambeth Conference of Bishops and the Global Anglican Future Conference in Kigali. He celebrated our link with the Diocese of Maridi in South Sudan and anticipated the blessing of new partnership links with the Diocese of Santiago, Chile, and the Diocese of Multan in Pakistan.
He said: “May all our life and witness as a diocese be such that we relate to and learn from others, especially the Anglican church in the Global South through our diocesan and parish links, and avail of their energy, passion, skill and empowering for mission and evangelism.”
In conclusion, there was much to celebrate but no room for complacency as Bishop David summed up our need as a diocese for yet more effective discipleship and evangelism, more Spirit–filled leaders and worship, structures that work in a post–modern world, love, unity and passionate obedience to God and his Word.
In his thanks to Synod, Bishop David made special mention of his retiring Archdeacons, Roderic West and Ken Higgins, and Dean Henry Hull who have served the diocese for 37, 30 and 22 years respectively.
Synod business and presentations
Following the readings and prayers the diocese said farewell and thank you to Sir Anthony Campbell who has served as our Diocesan Assessor for two terms. He took up the role in 1997 and retired in 2017 only to return in 2020 after the untimely death of the then Assessor, Sir Tony Harte in July 2019.
Bishop David expressed his gratitude for Sir Anthony’s wise counsel and help over the years and presented him with a gift on behalf of the diocese.
Bishop David welcomed to the Assessor’s chair, Mr Jonathan Dunlop, Barrister at Law, and our new Diocesan Chancellor. Jonathan was called to the Bar of Northern Ireland in 1996 and brings to the role his extensive legal expertise and a genuine deep faith in Christ and commitment to His Church.
The Synod also voted unanimously to recognise link partnerships with two new dioceses – the Diocese of Santiago, Chile and the Diocese of Multan, Pakistan. These are in addition to our existing link with the Diocese of Maridi in South Sudan and will be reviewed after five years.
Revd Stephen McElhinney (SAMS UK & Ireland) gave a presentation on the Diocese of Santiago which is led by Bishop Hector ‘Tito’ Zavala. Evangelism and Church Planting are among the Bishop’s priorities for the diocese.
The Diocese of Multan is led by Bishop Leo Paul who delivered a greeting to Synod via video. Bishop Leo’s diocese has a similar number of parishes (75) to Down and Dromore but he and his people minister in a majority Muslim country with all the danger that entails.
We are grateful to the Diocesan Ministry and Mission Committee (MMC) for their considerable work in researching and exploring the feasibility of these links which will be a source of mutual blessing.
Following the vote, the Very Revd Geoff Wilson who is the Maridi Partnership Link Coordinator for Maridi Diocese and recently spent five weeks there, outlined future opportunities for strengthening the partnership. He was joined by Fields of Life CEO Tony Gaston and Linda Abwa from CMSI.
Synod heard other presentations throughout the day, each of which spoke into the areas of Leadership, Discipleship and Apostleship. Revd Rob Jones presented on Pioneer Ministry in the Church of Ireland, and this was followed short interviews with a panel of our Church Plant leaders. Revd Emma Rutherford presented on behalf of the Church of Ireland Marriage Council, Eddie Hallissey updated Synod on MindMatters COI and new staff member, Janine Armstrong, spoke about the first year of the FORGE Ministry Apprenticeship Scheme.
Our thanks to Dean Geoff Wilson (who preached at the Synod Communion) and everyone at Dromore Cathedral for their service and warm hospitality to us today.