Following a swift survey of views given the recent national upswing in Covid cases, Diocesan Synod met via Zoom rather than in person as originally planned on a bright and breezy spring morning.

In his Presidential Address, Archbishop Stephen spoke of the gathering pace of our ‘Living Christ’s Story’ programme of renewal and transformation, particularly welcoming news of the £850,000 award of national church funding which will provide a number of key staff to oversee the coming changes.

The growing economic challenges around us increase the pressure on us, he said, and yet serve to clarify the call we share as the church. He welcomed today’s commissioning of the new Diocesan Racial Justice Group, and spoke of the ways we respond to the horrific violence of the war in Ukraine and the tide of need amongst its citizens, as examples of the purposes for which we are called to be church in the first place and to show “God’s passionate commitment to the world he loves”:

“We are doing this so that we are better able to live and share God’s peace in the world. That peace which flows from the broken heart of Jesus on the cross - this is what the Church is for. This is why we live Christ’s story.”


Archdeacon of York Sam Rushton, currently Interim Diocesan Director for Strategic Transformation, updated Synod on the progress to which Archbishop Stephen referred.

Early in 2022 the Church Commissioners awarded £850,000 of Strategic Capacity Funding to the Diocese of York to support the further development and implementation of forward planning through the ‘Living Christ’s Story’ process. While Deanery Leadership Teams are working on their plans and preparing to share them with Deanery Synods in May, we will prepare to recruit a specialist to help us use technology well across the diocese, to include exploring where we can use digital technology to communicate more effectively with each other and in reaching out to others, simplifying some of our processes, and supporting parishes in thinking about how to use technology well. They will reshape our website so that information is easily available for clergy, wardens and those involved in ministry and in running churches.

This will be followed by someone to take on the longer-term leadership of our transformation programme, a co-ordinator for the many separate projects needed to deliver Living Christ’s Story, and an additional role supporting the work of the Mission and Ministry team.

Discussion followed, acknowledging the need for theological underpinning for change (see Archbishop Stephen’s address launching Living Christ’s Story in 2020) to ensure our future is different to our recent past, and to ensure that this theology is rooted in people’s own living discipleship. Deaneries were affirmed as the appropriate locus to plan for change because they are close to the ground (as evinced in the Deanery Planning template), yet have the critical mass to ensure plans aren’t simply inward-looking, and that the plans are for the whole people of God and not only the clergy. Change should be embedded over the ten-year span of the plans, and value the experience of those whose long lives have already been dedicated to Christ as well as those offering fresh insights.


Archbishop Stephen welcomed the formation of the group, which stems from publication of the Church of England’s report ‘From Lament to Action’ by the Archbishops' Anti-Racism Taskforce a year ago.

He commissioned those members of the new Racial Justice group present at Synod, including Canon Linda Ali, the Revd Sue Binks, Gwen Emegbo, the Revd Dr Ian McIntosh, the Revd Gloria Naylor and co-chairs Yvonne Bowling and the Revd Rob Suekarran.


Diocesan Director of Finance Kathryn Rose gave an update on the financial outturn for 2021 and the current situation in 2022.

Due in part to exceptional funding from the national church in connection with the pandemic recovery process, and a transfer from the Pastoral Account, the net deficit in 2021 was £1 million rather than the £1.4 million in the budget.

There had been higher-than-expected net gains in the value of investments, but Kathryn warned that these were gains only on paper, and that the valuations are always subject to fluctuations.

Free Will Offer receipts to the diocesan Common Fund were close to the figure in the 2021 budget, which had assumed that parish pledges would remain at the 2020 levels in order not to increase stresses during the earlier stages of the Covid pandemic. Fresh pledges for 2022 appeared to be 9% lower than the 2020 baseline of £7.9 million, with many parishes citing continuing disruption and uncertainty due to the pandemic, but in some cases aspiring to make higher contributions if circumstances through the year allow.

A 2.5% increase in stipends and salaries from April 2022 agreed by the Diocesan Board of Finance would cost an additional £115,000; this however would be more than recouped this year due to a drop in payments required to correct the historic deficit in the Church of England’s pension funds.


Diocesan Director of Education Andrew Smith introduced a complex scheme to reform the structure of the York Diocesan Board of Education to enable it to continue to play its part in the life of our Church of England Schools and Academies, and to engage effectively with government and statutory bodies and with other educational organisations in a fast-changing environment.

The scheme has the effect of vesting the legal responsibilities of the York Diocesan Board of Education (YDBE) in The York Diocesan Board of Finance (YDBF), which is itself a statutory body as well as a limited company; the YDBE’s responsibilities will be delegated to a newly-constituted Diocesan Board of Education Statutory Committee.

Andrew spelled out the safeguards for both the future DBE Committee and the DBF; when invited to support the formal motion, moved by the Archbishop, Synod voted 99% in favour with 1% abstaining.


Green Ambassador for the Diocese of York the Revd Jan Nobel introduced a report on carbon emissions in the Diocese of York in 2020 (in the context of General Synod’s commitment to make the Church of England ‘Net Zero’ by 2030).

Mandated by a motion in the July 2021 York Diocesan Synod, the Diocesan Environmental Steering Committee (DESC) had compiled a report on estimated emissions from diocesan schools (using known 2020 energy consumption figures), housing (using existing Energy Performance Certificates for each house), and from churches (extrapolating from the 20% of churches who submitted ‘Energy Footprint Tool’ data with their 2020 parish returns).

The headline figure suggested that these elements of the Diocese of York, with added elements for York Minster, Wydale Hall, the Diocesan Office and for travel, produce approximately £10,000 tonnes of CO2 or its equivalent (‘CO2e’) in other ‘greenhouse gases’ per annum at present rates.

Jan offered observations including that 71% of this came from churches and houses; and that heating houses and churches accounts for over 60% of diocesan CO2e emissions. A small number of large churches—possibly those used more often as well as having a higher capacity—contribute a higher proportion of the total emissions that a large number of smaller (and possibly less-frequently used or heated) churches. The average carbon footprint of a UK citizen is 10 tonnes CO2e, so our annual diocesan emissions are equal to the annual emissions of 1,000 people. The average weekly attendance in the Diocese of York is approximately 23,000 worshippers, so our congregation’s carbon footprint is probably a huge 230,000 tonnesof CO2e.

“We have not choice about change, but we can choose to be agents or passengers of change,” said Jan.

He commended the ‘Eco Church’ and ‘Eco Diocese’ awards run by environmental charity A Rocha as a constructive route towards recognising the progress already made by many churches and by our own diocesan structures in taking better care of God’s earth.

Jan’s closing thoughts were that:

  • our Fossil Fuel heating systems are contributing to the Climate Emergency
  • more funds need to be released for Net Zero adaptations.
  • Small churches are generally not the problem!

we should encourage churches to complete their Energy Footprint Tool (EFT) as part of their annual parish returns, and to engage with Eco Church as a way of checking and celebrating their own achievements.

View Jan’s presentation slides at bit.ly/synodco2rpt220409.


General Synod member for the Diocese of York the Revd Liz Hassall reported on a varied three-day meeting of the Church of England’s national representative body in February.

She summarised the business of the sessions as:

  • a call for a strategic response at every level to the need for racial justice
  • a reminder of the need for good safeguarding
  • progress in moving towards net zero carbon
  • a call for the government to protect the victims of human trafficking
  • further moves towards simplifying national church structures

Liz’s full report may be downloaded from bit.ly/gensynfeb2022.


Before closing the Synod Archbishop Stephen expressed the prayers and good wishes of all for Education Director Andrew Smith and School Development Adviser Philippa Boulding, who marry on Easter Monday.


Saturday 2nd July 2022