Friday, May 22, 2015

Clarify Officers of The Episcopal Church Resolution

One of the resolutions drafted by those gathered in Columbus recently clarifies the roles of various officers in The Episcopal Church.  The entire resolution can be found here or as a PDF here.  This resolution picks up on the work that TREC began in its Study Paper on Churchwide Governance and Administration on February 25, 2014.  We, however, have made a number of different choices in what we are proposing than TREC proposed in their Final Report.

Two points are worth noting by way of introduction.  First, our resolution really is primarily about clarifying the roles of our officers.  The canons describing our leadership is an amalgamation of the positions necessary for running our General Convention, of the by-laws of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, and of the duties of Executive Council officers, with various means of linking them having grown up over time.  This resolution does its best to clarify and systematize these offices, while keeping them as consistent as possible in different parts of the canons.

Second, in clarifying the roles, we have focused on authority, responsibility and accountability.  Officers should be accountable to the people or bodies who created them, and the bodies creating them should also be the ones defining the scope of their responsibilities.  Since Executive Council is the body responsible for carrying out the work of General Convention between conventions, the Executive Council is the body to whom most, but not all, officers are responsible. 

This post will go through the various offices of the church that are clarified by this resolution.  I will do my best to describe what we propose its role and responsibilities to be, and what we recommend changing from current practice.  Where applicable, I will also mention what other choices we considered and what might be at stake in making other choices.

The Presiding Bishop
The Presiding Bishop retains essential responsibilities in this resolution.  Formally, the Presiding Bishop is the President of DFMS, the Chair and President of Executive Council, the Primate and Chief  Pastor of the Episcopal Church, the Presiding Officer of the House of Bishops, and is to make pastoral visits to every diocese, work with dioceses during Episcopal vacancies, take order of the consecration of bishops, and appoint others to various church roles.  Additionally and no less importantly, the Presiding Bishop is charged with responsibility for visionary leadership regarding the policies, strategies and programs of the church, to speak God's word to the church and to the world, and to represent The Episcopal Church in our work with our Anglican Communion and other Ecumenical partners.

Or, to put it another way, the Presiding Bishop has two primary responsibilities: first, visionary leadership of the church formally as Chair of Executive Council and morally/spiritually by virtue of the office of Presiding Bishop, using the opportunities given to that particular voice; and second, as chief pastor to the bishops of this church.  These responsibilities are given by the bishops who elect the Presiding Bishop (and who this resolution has confirmed by the House of Deputies according to current practice).  We believe that these two roles are of crucial importance to the future of our church at this time, and we structure this office to be able to live into those two primary roles.

The primary change in current practice is that we remove responsibility for direct staff oversight from the Presiding Bishop (except for the direct personal staff necessary for the above functions).  This resolution makes the Presiding Bishop President, but not CEO, of Executive Council for three reasons.  First, and perhaps most importantly, we want the Presiding Bishop focused on visionary leadership and pastoral care of bishops, not worried about staff supervision.  We don't want there to be any question about where the Presiding Bishop should be focused.

Second, the lines of accountability for the roles described above are appropriate for a Presiding Bishop elected by bishops for a nine-year term.  If the Presiding Bishop were also to have primary day-to-day responsibility (as opposed to leadership responsibility as the board chair) for staff who implement General Convention policies, then some mechanism would need to be in place to make the Presiding Bishop accountable to either General Convention or to the Executive Council.  While we considered a number of such mechanisms, such as requiring the Presiding Bishop to be elected at every General Convention by bishops, clergy and lay orders, we felt that those mechanisms would interfere with the other important responsibilities of the Presiding Bishop.  What does not work is to have a Presiding Bishop elected by one house at one General Convention responsible for carrying out the directives of three entire General Conventions with no ability to make a change if the will of Convention changes from one triennium to the next, but the gifts and inclinations of the Presiding Bishop do not also change.

Third, and equally importantly, very few of our bishops have had the opportunity to develop the skill set necessary to run an organization and staff the size of The Episcopal Church.  Most of our dioceses operate at a much smaller scale, and we need to be able to find people to oversee the staff with the experience of running large, complex organizations.  We would not want to eliminate visionary bishops from the office of Presiding Bishop because they lack the needed managerial experience, nor would we want the mechanisms for implementing a vision to stumble due to organization missteps.  Therefore, this resolution separates the leadership and pastoral office of Presiding Bishop from the organizational management office of Executive Director.

To reiterate: this resolution removes direct staff oversight from the Presiding Bishop because we believe that our church at this time needs a Presiding Bishop who is focusing on the big picture spiritual leadership and not over-encumbered by managerial responsibilities.  As travel requirements have increased in recent years, this focus becomes even more important.  A scriptural analogy would be Acts 6, when then Apostles appointed others to handle the details so they could focus on prayer and serving the word.  We want the Presiding Bishop to have adequate time for prayer and serving the word with his/her fellow bishops, so that word can be shared with the church and the world.

The President of the House of Deputies
This resolution makes very little change to the office of President of the House of Deputies.  The President of the House of Deputies remains Vice President of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and vice chair of Executive Council.  This office is elected by the House of Deputies according to current practice.  The President of the House of Deputies, in the role of vice chair of Executive Council, jointly nominates a number of other officers with the Presiding Bishop.

I would also note that another of our resolutions on the budget process provides a stipend to the President of the House of Deputies.  We believe that a stipend allows deputies from various walks of life to stand for election to this important office.  We have not proposed this change in this resolution on clarifying officers, but we hope that providing a stipend would be passed by Convention in some form.

The Executive Officer of General Convention
The Executive Officer of General Convention was one of the most difficult roles to clarify.  We might also have referred to the role as Secretary of The Episcopal Church, however, and probably would have if we were re-writing the canons from scratch.  Given the way the responsibilities for this office had previously been laid out by the canons, we decided to keep the current title of Executive Officer of General Convention, who also becomes the Secretary of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and Secretary of Executive Council.

The way secretarial responsibilities flow in the current canons is rather discombobulated.  The House of Deputies elects a Secretary of the House of Deputies.  The Secretary of the House of Deputies is then made Secretary of General Convention by joint action of both Houses.  The Secretary of General Convention is made the Registrar of General Convention by canon, and given responsibility for many things relating directly or indirectly to General Convention.  The Secretary of General Convention is then made Secretary of Executive Council and the Secretary of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society by canon.  So far so good, except for the oddity that the Secretary of the House of Deputies necessarily becomes the Secretary of (both houses of) General Convention.

Lines of accountability gets tangled, however, when the current canon creates an Executive Office of General Convention, directed by an Executive Officer who is appointed by the Presiding Officers.  The Secretary of General Convention is part of this office and is apparently supervised by the Executive Officer of General Convention.  However, the Secretary, not the Executive Officer, is given all of the responsibility directly by the General Convention and cannot be held accountable by the Executive Officer.  Additionally, the canons in a number of places give responsibility for various work directly to the Secretary of General Convention and in another place say, in effect, that all responsibilities of the Secretary of General Convention are given to the Executive Office, and, thereby, the Executive Officer.

To clarify these lines of accountability and responsibility, this resolution does two things.  First, the resolution allows the House of Deputies to elect a Secretary of the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops to elect a Secretary of the House of Bishops.  Second, the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies jointly nominate an Executive Officer of General Convention, who is then elected by Executive Council.  The Executive Officer of General Convention is responsible for all of the work that the canons previously delegated to the Secretary of General Convention.  This resolution would allow the Secretary of the House of Deputies to become the Executive Officer of General Convention, but that move is not assumed to be automatic, either.  The Executive Officer of General Convention becomes the Secretary of the Executive Council and the Secretary of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society as the Secretary of General Convention does under the current canons.  Additionally, the Executive Officer of General Convention can be fired by a two-thirds vote of Executive Council.

The election and accountability of a number of the officers in this resolution are handled in the same way as the Executive Officer of General Convention.  We have set the lines of accountability up this way because we believe that the officers directly responsible for staffing the implementation of the programs and policies of General Convention must be accountable to the Executive Council as the board of the church between General Conventions.  That accountability means that those filling these offices are elected by Executive Council and that Executive Council has the ability to fire them if they are not performing.  Allowing the chair and vice chair to jointly nominate and Executive Council to elect, with a clause for removal by a two-thirds vote by Executive Council, seems to us good governance practice in our structure.

The Treasurer of The Episcopal Church
Much like the Executive Officer of General Convention above, the office of Treasurer of The Episcopal Church is a clarification of a number of "Treasurer" offices in the current canons.  This resolution gives the Treasurer of the Episcopal Church responsibilities currently given by canon to the Treasurer of General Convention, the Treasurer of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, and the Chief Financial Officer of Executive Council.   The Treasurer of The Episcopal Church is nominated by the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies, elected by Executive Council and able to be fired by a two-thirds vote of Executive Council.

As we were sharing drafts of this resolution for feedback, one suggestion was made to keep the current process of having General Convention elect a Treasurer.  This idea has merit, particularly in keeping an additional check and balance over the church's finances by having a Treasurer independent of the chair, vice chair and Executive Council.  We decided to propose a Treasurer elected by Executive Council for two reasons which we felt together outweighed the value of an independently elected position.  First, we wanted a clear and easy way to hold the Treasurer accountable between conventions, and to replace the Treasurer if need be.  Second, we felt that a consistency with other officers was helpful as we try to simplify the canons. 

The Executive Director
I would guess that most Episcopalians do not know that the church currently has an Executive Director.  The canons currently specify that "the Presiding Bishop shall appoint, with the advice and consent of a majority of Executive Council, an Executive Director . . . who shall be the chief operating officer and who shall serve at the pleasure of the Presiding Bishop" (Canon I.4.3(d)).    This Executive Director, who is accountable only to the Presiding Bishop, also serves as one of the Vice-Presidents of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.

This resolution changes the nature of the Executive Director position.  First, and most importantly, we propose the nomination of the Executive Director by the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies, who is elected by Executive Council.  Executive Council also has the power to terminate the Executive Director by a two-thirds vote.  The Executive Director is responsible for supervision of all staff except those working specifically under the direction of the Presiding Bishop, the President of the House of Deputies, or the Executive Officer of General Convention.  This means that except for the personal staff of the presiding officers and the administrative functions of convention, the responsibility for carrying out the policies, programs and mission of General Convention and Executive Council falls upon the Executive Director.  The proper lines of accountability for the Executive Director, then, are to Executive Council and not to the Presiding Bishop.  Under this resolution, the Executive Director is no longer a Vice-President of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and has seat and voice (but no vote) on Executive Council.  We have also removed the titles of Chief Operating Officer or Chief Executive Officer from the resolution, although the Executive Director fulfills the functions of the CEO and would be responsible for the functions of a COO, although some of those duties could be delegated to staff the Executive Director supervises.

Having the Executive Director elected by Executive Council with out a term limit also means that a good Executive Director may remain in office even when the Presiding Bishop changes. 

The General Counsel of The Episcopal Church
Currently The Episcopal Church does not have a General Counsel.  The Presiding Bishop has chancellor (as does the President of the House of Deputies), and other lawyers may be hired for particular activities.  However, good organizational practice would dictate a General Counsel to represent the best interests of the overall church, which may be different than the interests of the Presiding Bishop, the President of the House of Deputies, a Diocese or any other particular person or entity within the church.  This resolution creates this position, to be nominated by the Presiding Officers, elected by Executive Council, and accountable to Executive Council.


A Note on Canon Paul Ambos's Resolution D006
In the process of working this resolution through the General Convention filing process, a resolution by Canon Paul Ambos, D006, appeared on the General Convention website.  His very good resolution makes some changes that are very similar to what we have proposed in this resolution.  While not changing the roles of Secretary to the General Convention (or Executive Officer of General Convention), Treasurer of the Episcopal Church, or General Council of the Episcopal Church, he address some of our key concerns about accountability between the Presiding Bishop and staff.

Specifically, his resolution follows some of TREC's language and creates a Church General Manager (instead of an Executive Director).  The Church General Manager is appointed by the Presiding Bishop with the advice and consent of a majority of Executive Council, and is President of Executive Council.  The Presiding Bishop is made chair of Executive Council.  The Church General Manager "shall serve at the pleasure of Executive Council and be accountable to Executive Council." The Church General Manager is chief executive officer and has oversight for implementing the work given to Executive Council by General Convention.  Much of D006 accomplishes what we would accomplish in the corresponding section of our resolution with slightly different language.  I am grateful to see Canon Ambos's helpful addition to our conversation on restructuring the church for mission.   

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Creating a Capacity to Plant Churches

Perhaps the most important resolution being submitted in support of the Memorial to the Episcopal Church is the one creating a capacity to plant churches.  (The text of this resolution can be found here or at the bottom of this blog post.)  I hope to use this blog to explain the details of this resolution.

The fundamental premise of this resolution is that the Episcopal Church needs to make a serious commitment to planting churches, both because Jesus gave us the Great Commission and because of all the recent statistics about declining membership.  Planting new churches is not the only way that to grow the church or make disciples of all nations, but it is one essential way and maybe the most effective way. (Another way is the revitalization of existing congregations, and we have also drafted a resolution addressing that important opportunity.)  New congregations tend to reach the unchurched and people from different cultural contexts more effectively than existing churches, and new plants offer opportunities for the renewal of other nearby parishes and missions.  I do not believe the Episcopal Church can hope to reverse the current trends of numerical decline without a serious church planting initiative.

In order to begin a church planting initiative, this resolution dedicates significant funding to create a capacity to plant churches.  Our goal is not merely to allocate money to plant new churches now, although we are funding some new plants.  Our hope is to make some of the cultural and organizational changes necessary to enable churches to be planted this triennium, while making it easier to plant additional churches in the future. 

As an Episcopal Church, we don't really have the structures in place for church planting.  Some of our Dioceses have those capacities, and a few plants have taken off in other places due to a leader's strong vision or the Holy Spirit bringing something about in spite of ourselves.  We don't have a clear path for people who want to plant churches, and we are not recruiting the people we need.  Church planting is not a focus (or even more than an occasional elective) at most seminaries.  We aren't networking successful Episcopal church planters across dioceses and using them as coaches and mentors, and we aren't raising the money for church planting that we could be.  To address these and similar issues, this resolution has a number of important interrelated components.

Seminary Faculty
First, we offer three-year grants for the creation of three seminary faculty positions.  A key component in long-term church planting is making it a central component of seminary education.  As long as our new clergy get, at most, one or two classes taught by an adjunct, we won't be able to train an entire cohort of church planters.  To have full-time faculty positions at three seminaries dedicated to church planting means that not only would seminarians that want to become church planters have church planting courses, but the future clergy of established parishes would have a better understanding of how to help church plants in their area.  These faculty positions would also be responsible for developing curriculum and methods for teaching church planting to non-residential students.  As seminaries increasingly enter strategic partnerships with diocesan and other training programs, these positions become important in keeping this evangelism work a central component of non-traditional formation programs where it is desperately needed.  While these positions will probably cost the seminaries more than $100,000 each year and we would want them to last beyond the initial grant period, we hope these grants would spark seminaries to hire new faculty and initiate these needed programs.

Recruit Church Planters
Once we have teachers, we need students.  Recruitment of potential church planters is essential.  Successful future planters may not be the folks most likely to come from an endowed parish to a Commission on Ministry weekend.  Creatively combing our networks for those with the gifts and inclination to plant a church is essential.

Create Curriculum and Provide Training
Right now, the Episcopal Church does not have a church planting curriculum.  What kinds of training, coaching, and preparation would be necessary for a successful planter in addition to or instead of some of the traditional seminary courses?  How can we ensure the successful appropriation of those skill sets?  Figuring out the right answers to these questions is necessary to move forward.

We know some of the needed skill sets to be learned for many potential church planters will include bi-lingual and bi-cultural training (or multi-lingual and multi-cultural training).  Many other future planters will benefit from internships in current church plants.  Funds for both of these programs, as well whatever other training is deemed necessary, is included.

Direct Support for New Church Plants
Direct support for church plants is also essential if we hope to foster them.  We estimate that in the first triennium, no more than 50 church plants could be started, given current capacity.  Hopefully in future years, with greater recruitment and more successful plants within the Episcopal Church, this number would increase.  Our ballpark number is to support these plants at $100,000 per year for up to three years, with the new church plant's diocese providing at least a matching grant of 20% of the overall church plant budget.  Admittedly, supporting fifty church plants costs a lot of money.  But this money is also the necessary investment in future churches that will not only allow us to live into the Great Commission, but will also birth new sources of diocesan and church-wide giving.   These are the seed funds we need to sow today if we hope to reap the resources we need for future mission.

Staffing Needs
In order to undertake these programs successfully, our resolution provides direction for three complimentary groups of people. 

First, a task force is to be formed of people with experience in church planting.  This entire process needs to be overseen by those who have been successful at working with Episcopal Church plants.  We have people with great wisdom and experience in church planting, and we want them to be front and center as we figure out how to move forward.

Second, we believe that church planting is the kind of exciting venture that interests donors.  In fact, we believe that a vibrant church planting network will bring forth faithful people who want to commit significant resources to fulfilling the Great Commission.  To that end, we have made church planting a priority for the Development Office.  Once we begin this initiative, we believe that the Development Office should be able to raise significant funds to underwrite future church planting costs.

Third, we instruct the Communications Office to tell the story.  Being able to explain our church planting work will energize the church, draw non-Episcopalians who are looking for new church plants, provide connections with new and existing donors, and help recruit future church planters.  Telling the story is an essential component to creating a continuing capacity for this work.

A funding allocation is included for staffing costs for this work, as well as for the costs of the Task Force.

Yes, it is a lot of money...
We know that allocating over $6 million dollars, and raising $2 million more, is a major commitment.  But a major commitment is exactly what we need.  At this point in the life of our church, we can decide either that we are going to do whatever we possibly can to make disciples and reach the unchurched people around us, or we can decide that we have other priorities.  The budget figures in this resolution are what we believe can be usefully spent this triennium in this area based on where we are.  We wish we could be asking for a larger allocation because we wish we could realistically plant more churches.  I hope and pray that General Convention will choose to make creating a capacity to plant churches our highest priority at this time.  I hope also that you will join me in praying for those who will come within the reach of Christ's saving embrace in the new Episcopal congregations we will be planting.

Creating a Capacity to Plant Churches

Resolved, the House of ________ concurring, that the 78th General Convention create a church-wide network for church planting that will include: establishing seminary faculty focusing on church planting, recruitment of up to 50 potential church planters this triennium; training of potential church planters including sending some planters to training conferences and providing church planting internships for some planters; providing grants to support up to fifty new church plants this triennium; and creating the capacity to continue to recruit and train fifty new church planters each triennium while supporting up to 50 new church plants each triennium, and be it further 

Resolved, that the budget for creating this church-planting network will be $8,433,800 to be allocated as follows:

$   900,000 for the creation of three seminary faculty positions ($300,000 per year);
$   100,000 for the development of a church planting training program;
$     90,000 for the recruitment of church planters ($30,000 per year);
$1,093,800 for training of potential of potential church planters;
$1,000,000 for the development and implementation of a program to train bilingual/bi-cultural lay and ordained leaders for Latino/Hispanic ministries;
$   750,000 for staff to support this program;
$4,500,000 for grants to support up to fifty new church plants, with the size of grant depending on the context and needs of the church plant;

and be it further

Resolved, that the Episcopal Church Development Office is directed to prioritize raising funds for church planting, with the expectation that $2 million will be raised this triennium to support church planting and a network of donors interested in church planting will be developed to raise up to $5 million each year in future trienniums; and be it further

Resolved, that Dioceses receiving new church plants under this program will contribute a minimum of 20% of the costs of any new plants in their Diocese; and be it further

Resolved, the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies appoint a task force of not more than twelve people, consisting of those with experience in church planting, diocesan oversight of church planting, and academics working with evangelism and mission, to carry out the provisions of this resolution, including developing criteria for receiving grants, providing a reporting process, making recommendations to Executive Council about grants to be awarded, helping to select potential church planters, and developing a network of coaches and internship sites, and that this task force shall include a number of people experienced in the ministry of planting churches; and be it further

Resolved, that the Communications Office be directed to make a priority of reporting on the stories of church plants on an ongoing basis, through news stories, video, and other means, and through developing a website that provides detailed information about the various church plant initiatives happening throughout the church; and be it further

Resolved, that the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance consider a budget allocation of $6,433,800 for the implementation of this resolution.

Friday, May 15, 2015

An Ascension Day Call to the Church

I spent most of yesterday on two items. First, I had the honor and privilege of preaching and presiding at two Eucharists celebrating the Feast of the Ascension. These services brought together people from a number of Episcopal and Lutheran congregations to mark an important event in the life of Jesus and the Church. Second, I am part of a group Episcopalians who published a Memorial to the church ("Memorial" being a fancy, official church word for an open letter) and nine accompanying resolutions in preparation for General Convention this summer at  The Memorial calls for the Episcopal Church to recommit itself to the spiritual disciplines at the core of our common life, to go into our neighborhoods boldly with church planters and church revitalizers, and to restructure our church for the mission God is laying before us today. Those of us involved sincerely hope for the renewal of our beloved church. 

There go Jesus' feet.
Ascension Day is an appropriate day to post this call to the church to refocus on evangelism and discipleship, to let go of structures that no longer serve it, and to be about the basic Christian disciplines of prayer and fasting and spreading the Good News wherever we go. The readings for Ascension Day talk about two temptations the disciples faced. The first was wanting to know when Jesus was restoring the kingdom to Israel. Today we also want to have some assurance of the Church looking like it did the good old days, whether those good old days were the 1950s, the 1850s, the 1550s, the the 050's, or even the 950s BC when King Solomon had everything in hand.  We'll be happy to have the old pews dusted on schedule if Jesus tells us when he will refill them.  The second temptation is to stand around looking at the sky where Jesus feet used to be, hoping and praying that he comes down quickly because we don't have a clue what else to do.

Of course, Jesus told the disciples not to worry about when the kingdom was being restored, and the angels told the disciples to go get to work. Jesus had already instructed them: you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  We as a church, and especially as the Episcopal Church, haven't always heeded these instructions of Jesus as well as we might.  Our Memorial is a call to recommit ourselves and our church to being Jesus' witnesses in our work at the upcoming General Convention and, more importantly, throughout the life of our Church.

I hope you will go to the website and read the Memorial. I hope you will join us and others throughout the church as we pray and fast for the restructuring and the health of the Episcopal Church and for the growth and spread of the Kingdom of God more generally. I hope that you will take up the gospel call to witness to Jesus' life, death and resurrection in whatever neighborhoods you walk into. We honestly believe that the church is at a crucial junction in its history that offers us a great opportunity to follow the Holy Spirit into new places that will bring new people into the church. I also hope that you will consider signing on to this memorial and adding your name to those re-imagining the church.

If you are interested in things like Church legislation in General Convention, please read our resolutionsSusan Brown SnookScott GunnTom FergusonFrank LogueBrendan O’Sullivan-Hale, Steve Pankey and I offer these as a gift to the church. We believe that these resolutions help structure our church in ways that will make it easier to live into the vision of the Memorial. Particularly important is a resolution that calls on the Episcopal Church to provide significant funding to develop a capacity to plant churches. Without planting new congregation we cannot continue to grow as a church or to do the work that Jesus has commissioned us to do it.

As we offer these resolutions, we also know that many people will disagree about various specific details we propose. We believe the conversations on these topics are important at this time, and hope between now and the end of General Convention others will add their wisdom and insight so that our church can go forward in the direction God is calling us.  In the coming days and weeks, we will be blogging about the specifics of our resolutions, and we invite others to do the same
I also want to thank those who gathered in Columbus and worked so hard to draft this Memorial and these resolutions. We had great debates along with times of prayer and fellowship and endless hours in front of computer screens writing and editing and wordsmithing. We were also blessed to be able to consult with a number of others in person and by phone who may not agree with everything we've come up with but who were willing to give us their time and honest feedback out of their love for our church. Their help made our work much better.

Jesus may have ascended, but he gave us some work to do.  Let's all do it.