How big should the Executive Council be? How many Commissions, Committees, Agencies and Board do we need to effectively do the work of the church? The Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church attempted to answer these questions in its recent paper on governance and administration. I am generally supportive of the recommendations on reducing the number of CCABs, but unsure about what the church should do regarding the size and composition of Executive Council.
There are a number of Standing Commissions that have little legislation assigned to them by General Convention. These bodies frequently flounder. They search for something to do and end up infringing on the work of a different Standing Commission quite possibly involved in a similar kind of search. These commissions end up wasting their members’ time and small amounts of the church’s money. Let’s reduce the number of Standing commissions to those which we are relatively certain will have legislation referred to them down through the years. We can dicker about which ones make the lists, or which ones should be combined, but the principle is solid. (Honestly, I think you could put three people who are well versed in this stuff in the same row on a cross-country flight, and I think they’d have a workable solution before they landed.)
In place of some of these Standing Commissions, however, General Convention should have institute task forces with specific tasks, a membership selected for its abilities in advancing that task, and a limited duration. I think the work of the church can be done more competently and efficiently in this way.
TREC recommends reducing the size of the Executive Council from 40 to 21, a number that includes the Presiding Bishop, President of the House of Deputies and the chief operating officer (seat and voice, but no vote). I agree with the spirit of this recommendation, but worry that the cut might be too large. The council’s work is accomplished primarily by its standing committees, which do significant work in the months between meetings. I worry the cuts will put too great a burden on too few backs. A cut of 10 or 12 members might allow us to streamline operations without overwhelming the remaining members.
How we should choose these members if a difficult issue. Currently, General Convention elects 20 members and two members (one clergy and one lay person) are elected by each of the nine provinces of the church. It would seem that one either has to cut the number of council members elected by the convention, or else decide to rethink either the role of provincial representation, or the need to have both the clergy and lay orders represented in each provincial delegation. This is a conversation that would glaze the eyeballs of even the wonkiest wonks, so I’ll spare you. But one quick thought:
If we trusted General Convention to elect all members of Executive Council (which I would favor because I think a leaner council needs the most committed and capable members and that they should be elected from as large a pool as possible), we could reduce membership in the group to about 28, which would make it more likely that the council’s standing committee’s would have sufficient membership to get the work done. Or, if we gave each province only one representative (and mandated that the position rotate between clergy and laity), General Convention could continue to elect 20 members of council and the provinces 1 each, which would reduce the size of the council to 32, including the presiding officers and the chief operating officer.
On that stirring note, I’m out of here. I expect I’ll have one more short essay on some of the implications of TREC’s governance proposals. (It’s Lent now, so feel free to regard reading all this wonkery as your penance.)