Members of Diocesan Synod have voted in favour of implementing an Assets Strategy which will see £22 million taken from diocesan reserves over the next ten years to support parish and deanery plans.

Speaking after the meeting, the Rt Revd Hugh Nelson, Bishop of St Germans, said: “I am delighted that, for the first time, we are able to direct our resources towards our clear priorities; ministry in the local church, children and young people and serving communities living with poverty. I am deeply grateful for all the prayer and hard work, right across the diocese, that means we can invest in the life and mission of the church in Cornwall in this way.”

Michael Sturgess, Chair of the Truro Diocesan Board of Finance Ltd, presented the proposal to synod. He highlighted that the diocese had experienced a 21-year increase in assets, and that a decision to support the motion would not stop the diocese’s funds from continuing to grow.

The motion created a lively debate.

In response to a comment from Lay member Martin Saunders from Pydar deanery that the diocese should not be relying on the gifts given by its forebearers and instead should be handing those assets on to its future beneficiaries, Mr Sturgess pointed out that the money had in fact come from the careful investments made and that if this windfall in assets was not put to good use, ‘there may not be any beneficiaries in the future’.

This was supported by Lay member Jeremy Stuart from Pydar deanery who said: “The funds bequeathed to us, surely for the good of the church, should be spent. If we have the funds to do this, we should. I support it.”

Lay member Mary Wooding from Penwith deanery asked whether some of the plans needed to be revisited ‘not to redo them, but to make more of them’ given that some of the plans had been conservative as it was felt money was tight.

Lay member Michael Thomas from Kerrier deanery stated: “I understand Martin’s observation but clearly these funds could be seen as massive plate collections. And going to Mary’s point, I would love to see Kerrier deanery’s plan reviewed.”

Michael Rowe, Lay member from St Austell deanery, said: “We are constantly looking at our deanery plan and asking: ‘is it still right?’ and we have made changes. These plans need to be a constant thing.”

Replying, Mr Sturgess who also represents West Wivelshire as a Lay member, said: “I’m a fan of all plans being kept under review. In January we will be reviewing ours.”

Second vote after ineligible votes cast

A vote on the motion had to be taken twice after it was quickly identified that two people there as observers, and therefore not eligible to vote, had attempted to do so. A second vote then proceeded which returned a result of 35 in favour, one against and two abstentions.

The incident with voting, which is being investigated, will mean that in future observers may be prevented from joining online and will instead have to attend in person.

With the Assets Strategy approved, the synod went on to vote on approving the budget for 2024 which was passed with 35 in favour and one voting against it.

Read more about the Assets Strategy here