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The first meeting of Diocesan Council following Synod took place at Saint Augustine’s on Tuesday, 14 June: newly constituted, with some freshly elected representatives and a number of returning members of council.
The Bishop welcomed those present, and gave a brief summary of the roles and responsibilities of Diocesan Council, which is often referred to as "the synod between synods." The ten deaneries each elect two representatives, who, together with the Archdeacons, are the interfaces between the parishes of the diocese, in deaneries, and the council. The canons give the Bishop the authority to appoint a member of Council, and this year the Rev. Andrew Wilhelm-Boyles is the Bishop’s appointee.
In most respects, the responsibilities and powers of Diocesan Council are the same as those of Diocesan Synod, a matter which the Chancellor, George Cadman elaborated: "Diocesan Council acts as the agent of synod when synod is not in session, for policy matters, plans, budgets ... Diocesan Council shall recommend to Synod, when necessary, constitutional implementation issues ... Diocesan Council must meet 9 times or more per year ... The canons make provision for dissolution and reconstitution of standing committees (with the exception of Administration and Finance)."
The Bishop asked deanery representatives how they maintain liaison with those whom they represent. David Nash, of Burnaby, and Reinhard Rudersdorfer, along with others send e-mails to parish contacts, referring to the diocesan web site as a source of information. The Rev. Roger Cooper noted that the deliberations and actions of Council are often reported to clergy through deanery clericus gatherings.

The Revs. John Stephens and Patrick Blaney, as members of council, and Rev. Trevor Fisher, as a guest, gave Council an update on the proposal to create for a diocesan school, following Synod’s approval of a motion supporting the initiative. As both John and Trevor indicated, there is a lot of work to do. It is the intention of the organizers to keep Council informed of progress, as a part of the process of seeking input and opinions.
This is an opportunity not only for education, but also for connection with families, through education; there is a growing demand for private education. If a school is Anglican but not affiliated with the diocese, changes can be made by the local governance; but with diocesan affiliation, it's answerable to the Bishop, who consequently has authority over educational, ethical and theological standards. Ideally, the diocese will eventually have more than one school, and in different areas; the intent is to begin in one place and expand. The growth of a diocesan school program can possibly be seeded through association with pre-school programs that use church facilities. As yet, there has been no identification of prospective sites, and the organizers recognize that site selection is an important factor.
One of the concerns expressed at Synod was the possibility that a diocesan school, as a private, fee-paying institution, would become "elitist" in nature. To safeguard against this, Trevor indicated that the business plan would set aside a portion of fees for scholarship funds, to ensure that students from a wide variety of backgrounds could be educated. Dr. Richard Leggett reminded Council that those who have been scholarship students in private schools have experience of being adrift amongst more affluent peers; accommodation of a variety of students is a social matter that needs to consider more than simply the payment of fees.
Another concern expressed at Synod was the potential lack of acceptance of children with special needs. Rev. Roger Cooper was one of several who would like to make sure that special needs students would be given an adequate opportunity to be educated within any diocesan school system. John Stephens would like to see establishment of a board that can give advice. Special needs are now being addressed by most schools; this would not be any different.
Roger Farrier asked what the diocesan financial responsibility would be. John Stephens would like to see a separate society (as would George Cadman), closely affiliated with the diocese, and under episcopal authority. It is expected that the diocese would seek provincial funding. Nevertheless, if this is a ministry of the diocese, there may need to be some sort of financial support.
Carol Passmore advised the organizers to tread carefully around the spectre of the memory of residential schools and of the memories of those who have been harmed by church schools or government schools run by/with churches. Trevor Fisher noted that in New Zealand, church school trustees include aboriginal representation.
The next step is to prepare and present a business plan with the plan of action to Diocesan Council. This may incur some cost, so the organizers are looking for donations from individuals to enable this.
Following the approval of the minutes of May’s meeting, Council considered several items in camera.
The council then considered and approved a resolution that the Constitution and Canons Committee review and edit an interim policy on the rental of parish property. There was discussion about the nature of rentals, which should be consistent with and support parish ministry.
Saint Catherine's, North Vancouver, is seeking approval for a grant application to the Anglican Foundation to permit removal of two oil tanks in conjunction with the repaving of its parking lot. Council approved the recommendation that this should be funded by the Anglican Foundation.
Christ Church Cemetery, Surrey, will be revising its rates. Because it is a diocesan facility, Diocesan Council approval is required to put these changes into effect. The proposed rates were approved.
Council received and approved nominations for membership of the Constitution and Canons Committee under the chair of Jennifer Dezell.
"Cost-Benefit Analysis of a Suburban Church" is a document that has been prepared by Ian Robertson in the face of proposals for zoning changes by the City of Richmond that would adversely affect churches. Some Richmond councillors had expressed the opinion that churches have a "free ride." This document shows that the example of a specific Anglican church provides a net benefit to the City of about $139k - about three times the "lost" revenue from tax exemption. The Bishop recognized with appreciation Ian's role in dealing with this issue, noting especially that he was trusted as a representative of all of the churches in Richmond.
The meeting adjourned with the Grace at 9:50 pm.
Many thanks to the Reverend Paul Strudwick, who prepared these excellent highlight notes, covering for me while I was away. Thanks Paul!
Randy Murray, Communications Officer, Diocese of New Westminster.
Images: Top left, newly elected and returning members of DC participate in the first meeting of the new council. Middle right: John Stephens presents information about the proposed Anglican School project. Below, The 2011-2012 Diocesan Council
Diocesan Council is the decision making, governing body of the Diocese of New Westminster consisting of:
  • the Diocesan Officers (Bishop, Dean, Executive Archdeacon,Chancellor, Treasurer, Assistant Treasurer)
  • the Archdeacons of the five Archdeaconries
  • the Archdeacon who is the Director of Deacons
  • two additional Diocesan Legal Officers, (Registrar and Legal Assessor)
  • a Lay Secretary, a Clergy Secretary,
  • the chairs of the Diocesan Standing Committees
  • there are two Deanery reps either Ordained or Lay. Sometimes Deaneries have two lay reps and sometimes two clergy reps, sometimes one of each. A Deanery is a group of churches, geographically affiliated and the reps are elected at the Annual Synod Meeting.
  • Synod Staff also attend meetings but are not members of Diocesan Council. They include: Business Administrator, Director of Planned Giving, Comptroller, Youth Coordinator and Communications Officer (and other staff as required).
Diocesan Synod consists of all the active clergy in the Diocese of New Westminster and 2-6 lay people elected from each diocesan parish proportionate to the size of the parish community.
Diocesan Council functions as the Synod between Synods, it is a representation of the large group that meets annually.
Diocesan Council and Diocesan Synod are both chaired by the Bishop.
Diocesan Council meets monthly on the second Tuesday of the month usually at St. Augustine, Marpole at 7:30pm. Diocesan Council is adjourned for the months of July and August.