12/06/2009

Regrouping at Church Center

In the midst of the storm occasioned by the perfectly awful bill being proposed in the Uganda legislature, the wringing of hands about who speaks for The Episcopal Church on such matters and how long it takes to get a statement out, and the election in Los Angeles of The Rev. Mary Glasspool to be bishop, a major regrouping of the Church Center staff is taking place with almost no notice at all.

The Episcopal News Service reported on December 1s
t that

"Seven current Episcopal Church Center employees have been named to lead program-based "mission teams" housed in a new Department of Mission.

An announcement from the Office of Public Affairs said that the new department and teams represent a staff reconfiguration necessitated after the General Convention approved a $141 million budget for 2010-2012 that was $23 million less than the current plan. Approximately 40 staff positions were either eliminated or reduced.

The teams and leaders are:

  • Diocesan and Congregational Ministries -- the Rev. Bob Honeychurch (currently program officer for congregational vitality)
  • Diversity, Social and Environmental Ministries -- Sarah Eagle Heart (currently program officer for Native American ministries)
  • Episcopal Migration Ministries -- Deborah Stein (currently Episcopal Migration Ministries director)
  • Federal Ministries -- Bishop George Packard (currently bishop suffragan for federal ministries)
  • Global Partnerships -- Canon Margaret Larom (currently interim director and program officer for international justice and peacemaking)
  • Government Advocacy for Peace and Justice -- Alex Baumgarten (currently interim director of the Office of Government Relations and international policy analyst)
  • Lifelong Christian Formation and Vocation -- Bronwyn Clark Skov (currently program officer for lifelong Christian formation and youth)

The public affairs announcement said the reconfiguration "continues to move into its new strategic model emphasizing project-based goal-oriented mission and ministry."

This is in line with the new configuration presented to The Executive Council in October by the Chief Operations Officer, Linda Watt. That new plan was reviewed by Ms. Watt at Executive Council, but at that time no persons were appointed as heads of those mission teams.

Regrouping of this sort is mostly done as a staffing matter requiring no action by Council. It is the staff response to the work given it by General Convention and the Executive Council within the parameters of budget constraints. It is dull stuff, except of course that it immediately effects the staff as they work together and anybody in the church who wishes to use the resources of the Church Center.

The promise of new possibilities following the 2006 Convention led to an expansion of effort in several new areas and a full blown revision of staff structure in 2007. That all fell apart as the financial shortfalls of 2008, 2009 and the projections into the new triennium became clear. Wonderfully talented people hired in more hopeful times were laid of. In several areas the people who knew the most about vital areas of the church's life were retired or reassigned. The end result was a gradual degrading of collective staff knowledge in several vital areas.

The simpler structure of these seven mission areas is commendable. At least now there is some sense that there are particular staff persons immediately accountable for specific areas of concern. It seems a more efficient way of organizing.

Still, in evaluating the role of the Executive Council in decision making regarding statements by the Church, I find it interesting that almost nothing is said about the role of Executive Council in the decisions that form the configuration of Church Center staff or lead to the employment of specific management officers for the teams or units of the Church Center.

Actually, I like what I think is the role Executive Council has, namely that Church Center staffing and configuration are internal matters of the organization and its chief officers make those decisions and are accountable to The Executive Council and General Convention. What I wish is that concerned Episcopalians might pay some attention to the staffing changes, what offices are being reconfigured, cut, etc, and how much time and energy goes into the remaking of Church Center staff. We need on the one hand to support the management group in managing and on the other hand we need to provide critical and useful assessment of what management does.

All of this is of course dull, dull, dull. But it too is part of the oversight of the work of The Episcopal Church and "all orders" and all sorts and conditions of Episcopal Church folk have input to how this is done. But it requires that people speak up and engage the concerns they have about how work gets done.

I was quoted in the ENS article on reconfiguring Executive Council, where I asked,"Is there some way in which we can recapture the sense of the engagement with God's mission in the world, and by implication in our mission as Episcopalians to that end?" "Can we put our regulatory responsibilities as a corporate body into the context of a council gathered to proclaim good news in the context of the Episcopal Church?" I stand by those questions.

These are questions not only regarding how and when The Episcopal Church speaks on issues in a timely way, they also concern how we organize as a church to do our work.

As an example of the problems now to be faced: The Evangelism Office has been disbanded and the work hopefully will be done by some sort of network of interested persons. Will there be anyone at the Church Center who will know about this network, or assist the network in getting started, or provide training in networking strategies?

In the midst of all the "hot" issues, let us not forget the day to day issues of changing from a program oriented Church Center to one that is enabling of program and mission in the wider church.

6 comments:

  1. As an example of the problems now to be faced: The Evangelism Office has been disbanded and the work hopefully will be done by some sort of network of interested persons. Will there be anyone at the Church Center who will know about this network, or assist the network in getting started, or provide training in networking strategies?¨ Fr. Harris

    I can´t believe you have to ask this question. FIRST, it ought to have been heavily considered before ANY CHANGES were made and people were released. I can now only imagine that you are also wishful about the rest of the operation with good reason...this seat of your pants attack on the Department of Evangelism is a ill-thought out fund saver indeed. It´s disturbing to think what else is going on...thank God you´re there to ask the questions and review actions that require both expertise and common sense.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Am I wrong in rethinking that we have been reading about a reorg of 815 almost annually for the last few years? Not possessing a black belt in churchese, I read about mission centers and so forth, and it all reads about the same.

    Seriously, can you help us understand how this reorg is different from others? Do we think the regular reorgs are sensible? On the face of it, I think that reorgs are happening more often than they do in most healthy organizations, but it's quite possible I'm missing something obvious.

    Thanks for writing about this.

    Pax,
    Scott+

    ReplyDelete
  3. Many of us are watching this. For example, specialized ministers (chaplaincies in their various institutions) that are not in Federal positions are waiting to see where their ministries and organizations will find listeners in the Episcopal Church Center.

    I think a lot can be done with networks. I think they need facilitation and information sharing from someone at the national level, and I think that's the kind of work that officers at the Episcopal Church Center might do. We don't need them to do the work. It is, however, a big help if they're helping us know what work is being done, and how we might learn about it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Good morning! Just reading your blog and am hoping you'll help us spread the word about an exciting "Faith On Campu" video contest we've launched at Patheos.com. here's the link with the info: http://www.patheos.com/contest/information/

    It's a great way for young people (ages 18 & up) from all faith traditions to share their faith with the world in a creative and fun way ... we've got a stellar panel of celebrity judges and a big cash prize for the winner. Perhaps some of the Why I Am An Episcopalian videos i've seen on youtube could be submitted to the contest. Hope you can help us share the news!
    Peace,
    Deborah Arca Mooney
    Portal Manager
    Patheos (www.patheos.com)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Mark: I think you summarized why people are not paying attention with the worlds: "dull, dull, dull..."!

    In my decade and a half of ordained ministry (admittedly less than some, including you, have) I cannot recall any time in which I have called, or even thought of calling Episcopal Church Center for anything related to my ministry. I've very occasionally downloaded resources from the TEC web site, but Episcopal Church Center and the (I'm sure) excellent work there at least seems irrelevant to day-to-day life and ministry at the parish level. Even the advertising efforts are dull and boring.

    As an Executive Council member, in the age of instant communication, I would strongly suggest that Executive Council figure out why Episcopal Church Center efforts and resources seem so irrelevant to parish life and ministry and figure out a way of at least explaining how those efforts and resources support both dioceses and congregations. Until then, it will continue to be a multimillion dollar dull, dull, dull thing.

    ReplyDelete
  6. textjunkie9/12/09 9:27 AM

    Hey Mark--off topic a bit, but did you see the response to the Manhattan Declaration?

    http://www.affirmationdeclaration.org/

    It's pretty nifty!! Spread the word. :)

    ReplyDelete

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