Diocesan Synod met via Zoom on a sunny Saturday morning as paving stones cracked outdoors.

Opening the Synod, Chair of the House of Laity Dr Nick Land spoke of his House of Clergy counterpart, the Revd Canon Tim Robinson, and of Diocesan Director of Training for Missional Ministry, the Revd Dr Gavin Wakefield, both of whom are retiring shortly but neither of whom was able to attend the Synod for personal reasons. Nick spoke of Tim’s clarity of vision and purpose, the dedication with which he had served as Vicar of Helmsley and as a reforming Area Dean of Northern Ryedale, and his commitment and service to the Diocesan Synod. Gavin’s twelve-year tenure, said Nick, would be remembered for its focus and the growth of the Diocesan Training Team to embrace a wide range of clergy and lay training, with highlights including the establishment of York School of Ministry, the launch of the Recognised Parish Assistant training course, and the roll-out in 2016 to 2017 of LYCiG to kickstart many parishes and their PCCs into a missional mindset. The Synod sent its thanks, prayers and good wishes to both gentlemen in their retirement; Tim in York and Gavin in Durham.

In his Presidential Address, Archbishop Stephen reflected on his morning prayers beside the River Ouse at Bishopthorpe, and what we might learn from the purposeful indirectness of a river:
“If we carry on holding onto only one model of what it is to be a church, then we might fail to see that if we just allowed the river of our life in Christ to meander off in this apparently counter intuitively strange direction – not going from A to B at all, but actually, for the moment, appearing to go backwards – we would find a way forwards.
“This way of being the church will be based on several vital principles.
“First, that ministry belongs to everyone, to the whole people of God because of our baptism. We are the Church: the people of God in all our communities of faith.
“Secondly, that the diocese is us, not someone else, not head office, wherever that is, not bishop or archdeacon, not even Incumbent. But us. And we have a commitment to each other and to every community, not just our own.
“Thirdly, we need the oversight of bishop and priest. And we need the resourcing for training and housing and safeguarding and communications that comes from the so called centre. But as I said to the General Synod last Monday, the centre is Christ, and our becoming like Christ is the centre of our vision to tell Christ’s story; and the primary task of those of us who are called to lead and oversee the Church is to encourage and facilitate the ministry of everyone.” (read in full)


Bishop of Whitby Paul Ferguson updated Synod on the different strands of activity flowing from our refreshed Diocesan Vision:

  • Consultation Process

Deanery Leadership Teams had been invited to contribute in the spring; currently PCCs are considering their responses to be collated across the Diocese in September. This is a process of “taking the temperature of the Diocese”, not a referendum, and much depends on the tone as well as the content of PCC responses, said Bishop Paul. The essence is to explore within what is practical and affordable, how can we in the Diocese of York share our resources to make Christ known from the Humber to the Tees?

  • Multiply; building new worshipping communities amongst those in their 20s, 30s and 40s

We are now seeing signs of the planned and prayed-for ‘ripple effect’ from the Multiply locations becoming established now developing into hubs of activity within a deanery or locality. The first additional Curate trained in ‘church planting’ as part of the Multiply project at St Michael-le-Belfrey in York is about to begin their new role, and plans are in place for the future. For latest news see www.multiplyreach.org.

  • Mustard Seed; growing disciples in places where life is tough

With the Mustard Seed team now complete, the focus has been on the ‘Stepping Up’ training programme to encourage and equip local people into leadership roles in their own community and fellowship, so far involving 30 people across five deaneries. The ‘Mustard Seed Ambassador’ programme is about to launch; people interested in becoming advocates for the Mustard Seed project in parishes across the Diocese are invited to contact Team Leader Heather Black. See www.mseed.org.

  • Generous Giving and Stewardship

Attendance at GGS online training events during the COVID pandemic, and ongoing requests for the team’s intervention, confirm that while Team Leader Jo Beacroft-Mitchell is moving on after three years, there is still a need for more than one GGS officer; we are currently seeking external funding to support a second post. www.dioceseofyork.org.uk/generosity

Bishop Paul mentioned our Gratitude to Jon Cook who retired at the end of June after nearly five years as Transformation & Strategy Programme Manager. Jon had helped put together our funding bids and was hugely appreciated for his ability to focus our thought. We are now thinking how best to replace him.


Bishop of Selby Dr John Thomson introduced Diocesan Green Ambassador the Revd Jan Nobel, who in turn introduced a motion inviting Synod to support the Church of England’s resolve to become carbon-neutral by 2030. The motion included a call upon all parts of the Diocese of York to measure carbon emissions, and urgently to examine what would be required to reach net zero emissions by 2030, in order that a plan of action can be drawn up to achieve that target. Further, it called on the Diocesan Environment Steering Committee (DESC) to provide practical guidance to churches on how to measure and reduce emissions, to prepare a draft Diocesan Environment Policy, and to report on diocesan carbon emission reductions every three years beginning in 2024.
Jan outlined the journey made by the Diocese with highlights including the appointment of deanery ‘Deans of Green’ in 2011 (some of whom have been active throughout while others have not been replaced), and the A Rocha ‘Eco Church’ awards held by 35 of our churches (and counting). The Diocese is registered with A Rocha to become an ‘Eco Diocese’, but as yet is far from earning its Bronze Award.
He showed Synod an inspirational video calling for environmental awareness and action, made by and featuring students at Archbishop Holgate’s Church of England School in York (bit.ly/ahsclimatevid2021), and described by the Dean of York as “inspiring and visionary leadership from young people”.
Following small group discussion on the challenges of implementing the motion, it was overwhelmingly supported by Synod with 91% in favour and 5% against (4% abstained).


Archdeacon of Cleveland Dr Amanda Bloor and Bishop of Selby Dr John Thomson introduced a report collating some of the PCC and Deanery responses to three questions put to them following the November 2020 Diocesan Synod:

  • How could your parish/benefice/deanery better support its
  • clergy? What do you suggest could be done at Diocesan level? In the light of your own local context,
  • can you identify factors that could negatively affect clergy well-being?

The key responses were grouped together under headings Communication, Encouragement and Practice, showing a high degree of engagement with the need to care for clergy and their families in order to affirm and support their ministries. The motion “This Synod notes the Covenant for Clergy Care and Wellbeing and commits to embedding its principles, actions and learning into our life together in the Diocese of York” was carried overwhelmingly.


Following Lectio Divina on Romans 12:1-18 led by Canon Linda Ali, she was invited by Dean of York Dr Jonathan Frost (both pictured above) to lead an initial presentation and discussion of the Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce report, ‘From Lament to Action’, which calls for urgent changes to the culture of the Church of England through 47 recommended actions.


Financial Director Kathryn Rose introduced the 2020 Report and Accounts, after an unprecedented year dominated by the church closures, lockdowns and other restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Headlines included the encouraging news that Free Will Offerings received for the Diocesan Common Fund (which is used entirely to pay the majority of parish ministry costs) were within 8% of the original, pre-COVID budget. It was nevertheless a serious matter that the total of £7.3m fell well short of the budget of £8m, although the pandemic had also resulted in some reduced expenditure where activities had been curbed, and the Diocese had made the greatest possible use of the Furlough scheme to support the salaries of staff prevented from carrying out some or all of their usual work by the restrictions. Synod voted unanimously to receive the 2020 Financial Report and Accounts, and to receive the report of the Audit Committee which scrutinises their compilation and ensures its compliance with all statutory requirements.


Archdeacon of Cleveland Dr Amanda Bloor presented the annual Safeguarding report to Synod in place of Archdeacon of the East Riding, Andy Broom, who was unable to attend. The report noted the huge shift of vital, diocese-wide safeguarding training from in-person to online, welcomed the appointment of Jenny Price (formerly Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser in Leeds) to lead the training programme and of Jane Tillett as much-needed team administrator, and thanked all concerned for the 100% response by parishes to the Church of England’s vital Safeguarding Past Cases Review process. The report was overwhelmingly received by vote of Synod.


A number of other bodies and functions of the Diocese are required to report annually to Diocesan Synod; the following reports were circulated to Synod members and duly received by vote of the Synod. Copies may be obtained on request for the groups concerned:

  • Property Sub-Committee
  • Mission and Pastoral Sub-Committee
  • Diocesan Board of Education
  • Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches

All were received overwhelmingly.


The Revd Stuart Grant reported on the April 2021 General Synod Sessions and Mike Stallybrass on the July 2021 Sessions, the last of the current Synod’s COVID-extended six-year lifespan. They described a busy Synod looking forward to the autumn 2021 elections, and urged church members to consider standing. Their reports may be downloaded here.