I was invited to write a blog on the final report from the Task Force Reviewing Structure and Culture that will be going to Synod 2015.
The fact that it was to be an objective look at what the Task Force was proposing seemed to rule me out since I have chaired the group since its inception in 2011. But I will try anyway, knowing that if it gets me in trouble, I will be retired (May 1) before the trouble can reach me.
The new (and maybe not all that new) rallying cry from the churches since the Task Force began its work has been “Listen to us!” In an effort to do just that the Task Force did listen, and listen, and listen. To staff. To congregations. To individuals. To groups. And one of the single biggest reasons for proposing a 60-member Council of Delegates was to keep listening. This will hopefully bring the collective and individual voices of the 48 classes to the Council as well as add the voices and advice of a significant number (12) of at-large members chosen to bring special expertise to the table as decisions are made.
The Task Force heard repeatedly that the current system includes far too many “hoops” and is needlessly complex. While the proposed redesign may look complicated, in reality it enables committee meetings to take place simultaneously, each composed of Council members and augmented by non-Council individuals who form the majority of each of the committees and who can make decisions which can be approved as necessary by the full Council before the Council adjourns.
Complaints have been registered for years about how long decisions take to be ratified and how many levels of permission are required to effect action of almost any kind. With this arrangement the committees can meet one day (and longer if convened earlier in the week) and present their reports to the full Council (thereby also enabling the whole church to know) the very next day. This also will fit much better with the current Board of Trustees’ decision to move toward the Carver model of governance and concentrate on policy and governance while the administration engages in management.
Someone is likely to say that the work of the Task Force, even if approved, leaves far too many questions unanswered and is essentially incomplete. The Task Force very deliberately left many of the details to be decided, realizing that other minds and voices should have a role to play in finalizing the details and also that it is best to achieve significant change over a period of time rather than in an instant.
The Task Force is convinced that even the questions that are known today are not the only questions there might be and that a period of up to three years under the guidance of a Transition Committee would bring fresh insight into what questions need yet to be asked and what the best answers might be.
It seems to the current Task Force that, to put the finishing touches on the Council design, it will also be necessary to take a long, hard look at the current design and function of both classis and synod itself. And so it asks Synod 2015 to appoint groups to simultaneously look at what might need adjustment or redesign in both of them as the Council of Delegates continues to be designed and begins to function
The work is by no means finished but the direction will be set this summer. And it is the hope and prayer of the Task Force that the results will be greater efficiency and much greater effectiveness.
To read the report of the Task Force on Structure and Culture, go to the Synod home page and click on the link to the Agenda for Synod 2015.