Study paper on governance by Re-imagine TEC Task Force

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The Task Force to Re-imagine the Episcopal Church has released (TREC) its latest study paper. This one is on Reforms to Church Wide Governance and Administration and include


1) suggestions for General Convention: smaller deputations, less legislation, more conversations; 2) changes to the staff and Presiding Bishop’s office, and Executive Council; 3) Reforms of Committees, Commissions, Agencies and Boards. Download pdf here for details:

One TREC Sub-Committee has been focused on drafting concrete proposals for clarifying and reforming the current church wide structures of governance and administration. We offer the following study paper for conversation and feedback from the wider church.

From our first meeting, members of the Task Force for Re-imagining the Episcopal Church have been conscious of at least three often competing impulses inherent in our mandate. First, it has been clear for some time to many in the church that we need to undertake large-scale, adaptive changes in order to most faithfully and effectively proclaim the gospel of Christ and participate in God’s mission in our contemporary cultural context. Second, there are many redundant, inefficient, and simply unclear aspects of our current governance and administrative structures. Third, and perhaps most importantly, structural reform will not save the church or do the work of reaching out to the world in new ways with the transforming good news of the gospel. The church wide structures can, however, help to foster the kind of innovation and adaptation that many understand as critical to the future of The Episcopal Church, and which are already being explored and implemented in many places and at all levels of the church.

Some of these changes to our current structures might seem like an incremental rearranging of deck chairs. We believe, however, that making some of these smaller changes will be a key component to the development of structures at the church wide level that will create the space for the bold innovation and adaptive work that the current moment seems to demand This paper, therefore, offers some rough draft proposals for reforming, clarifying, focusing, and streamlining some of the extant structures. Specifically, we are suggesting technical and clarifying reforms to the General Convention, the Executive Council, the Church Center, and our current system of Commissions, Committees, Agencies, and Boards (CCABs). During the discussions, debates, and drafting of these proposals, we tried to be mindful of the principles that we articulated in our Initial Working Report on Identity and Vision, released last September.

What are your thoughts after reading the report?

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tobias haller
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tobias haller

I think there are some very good proposals here, including a few I've advanced myself over the last years, such as reducing the size of the HoB and the HoD. I also like the idea of reigning in the types of legislation addressed by GC.

Sadly, I don't think much of this is going to fly, as the final decisions to amend the Constitution and Canons rest with the very body that needs reformation. (e.g., I've seen the retired bishops issue bounce back and forth more times than I care to recount.)

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Eric Funston
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Not impressed. I've never been impressed with the "nimble" meme from last GC; furthermore, smaller doesn't necessarily mean more nimble. -- I'm of two minds about the reduction of General Convention by 25%; I can see financial merit in the proposal but I'm also aware that there are some touchy interpersonal dynamics that could come into play with 3-person delegations in each order (committees of 3 frequently don't work well). -- The proposal to limit the number of legislative committees may have some merit, but the combinations suggested don't make sense to me: how is "World Mission" a subset of "Evangelism"? and why combine "International Affairs" with "Urban Affairs"? -- Finally, I don't like any of the proposals regarding the Executive Council. Reducing its size feels like the creation of a curia (with a "hired pope" in one configuration).

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Paul Woodrum
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Paul Woodrum

Why doesn't the same ax fall on the House of Bishops as that proposed for the Deputies? Not many retired bishops attend so removing their vote is no big deal. Wouldn't reducing the number of active bishops by 25% be more equitable as well as reduce a tremendous amount of overhead throughout our shrinking church?

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Jim Hammond
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Jim Hammond

While our current system is large, it does permit more people to participate in defining and governing the Church. Reducing the size of General Convention by twenty five percent, and of Executive Council by half, if I have read correctly, would make for a more nimble organization to be sure, but it would necessarily make for a less representative Church. I think that would be quite sad.

The seemingly inexorable move toward a centralization of power vested in a few leaders is something I lament. I tend to favor the third option for the Office of Presiding Bishop wherein she/he can maintain his/her Diocesan role. I also must confess that my feelings would not be hurt if the the word "Primate" were struck from the Office of Presiding Bishop.

There are many other things about which I am uncertain in the proposals, but the two which are of most concern to me are 1) keeping participation in government of the Church as broad as possible, and 2) limiting the roles of the central leadership. The system is messy, but then all participatory forms of government are messy.

Jim Hammond

retired

Winchester, VA

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Jeffrey Cox
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Jeffrey Cox

No statement on ecumenical sharing.

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