4/22/2018

The Proposal to salary the President of the House of Bishops


This is a small story about creeping realism, or alternately, creeping power play.  



Anyone who has seen recent Presidents of the House of Deputies (PoHD) in action knows full well that they are working pretty much full time for the church. I have known a number of PoHD’s and each has been devoted to the work of making The Episcopal Church a better instrument of the Gospel, as they are given vision to understand how it might do so. The results have been mixed.



The next General Convention will consider a resolution (A028) to pay the PoHD a salary. The proposed 2019-2021 budget, has the following note on line 298, "Staff Costs 1,232,565  Estimated compensation for PHOD still under review.  If voted, funding of up to $900K is available in line 298."  That means that up to $300,000 per year for total compensation for the PHoD is possible. This is of course dependent on the compensation proposal put together if Resolution A028. To give a sense of what other officers are paid, the Presiding Bishop receives about $280,000 a year.His salary will, I assume, rise in the next budget.

To be honest, I have considerable reservations with the proposition.  Not being a deputy to this convention I realize that my reservations may be of minimal consequence, but perhaps they are shared by others. In any event these reservations are in part due to my sense that this proposition is in part a matter of realism about the demands of the office, and in part a matter of power in a system with very little power to go around.



The primary power of the PoHD is that of appointment to various committees, commissions, boards and agencies of the church, and direction given to the House of Deputies while in session. It is a power parallel to that of the Presiding Bishop in the House of Bishops. But unlike the PB, who has other powers that derive from presidency as well as from pastoral roles in the church, the PoHD is limited to vice-presidential roles except in the House of Deputies. Beyond that, the PoHD extends influence as a matter of personal expansion of the role. That is, the PoHD has work to do beyond the limits of the canon as a matter of will, not right or duty. At least that is how I see it.



I am not sure in the final analysis that what is proposed is a matter of realism regarding the work of the office of PoHD or a support for the expansion of the work (read power and role) of the PoHD.



That is, it is unclear to me if the canonical responsibilities of the position warrant compensation (as a matter of justice) or alternately that the office has morphed, because of its political weight in the church system of governance, into something more than was intended by the framers of our governance scheme.


Here is the resolution as proposed by the Task Force, with the clauses I believe need to be revised or omitted highlighted in order to arrive at a reasonable resolution for consideration.



"RESOLUTION A028

SALARY FOR THE PRESIDENT OF THE HOUSE OF DEPUTIES



Resolved,

The House of _________ concurring, that this General Convention recognize that The

Episcopal Church’s governing documents require the President of the House of Deputies to perform numerous duties that are specified and those that are normally appropriate to the office; and be it further,

Resolved,

That this General Convention recognize the continuing evolution of The Episcopal Church and the increased demands on the time and energy of the President of the House of Deputies; and be it further,

Resolved,

That this General Convention recognize that there exists a great barrier in identifying and

recruiting qualified candidates for President of the House of Deputies because of the lack of compensation for this position, which forecloses other full-time employment; and be it further,

Resolved,

That this General Convention recognize that in Resolution D013 the 78th General Convention

of The Episcopal Church (2015) affirmed that “the House of Deputies considers it important that [it] be able to choose a President without regard to the financial circumstances of the candidates, [and that] the desirability of compensation for the President of the House of Deputies is a fairness issue,” and that “the House of Bishops understands and appreciates the cogency of, and fairness issues inherent in, the position of the House of Deputies”; and be it further,

Resolved,

That this General Convention recognize that to have a compensated President of the House of Deputies  shows The Episcopal Church’s recognition of the importance of the laity and the clergy in the governance of The Episcopal Church; and be it further,

Resolved,

That this General Convention recognize that the Canons of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church require that the President of the House of Deputies serves as the Vice-Chair of the Executive Council of the General Convention and as the Vice-President of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society[DFMS]; and be it further,
Resolved,

that whereas Canon I.4.5(c) provides:“Members of Executive Council shall be entitled to reimbursement for their reasonable expenses of attending meetings, in accordance with procedures established and approved by Executive Council. Except as determined by

Convention, the salaries of all officers of the Council and of all agents and employees of the Council and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society shall be fixed by the Council.”,

that this General Convention authorize and direct its Executive Council to fix a salary for the President of the House of Deputies as an officer and agent of the Council and as an agent of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society [DFMS]"


I suggest that the underlined sections be cut. Here are the reasons:



The phrase, “which forecloses other full-time employment,” presents a problem, since it is raised in the context of General Convention “identifying and recruiting qualified candidates.” If this resolve were included it could be used to disqualify candidates by saying they could not run or be considered because they were full time employed.  Further, General Convention (the living entity, not the leadership) does not identify and recruit. It invites and engages candidates, whose qualifications (beyond those required by canon) are subject to debate and exploration. To assume that full time employment makes a person unacceptable as a candidate is a bad stretch and unwarranted.



The phrase, “the House of Bishops understands and appreciates the cogency of, and fairness issues inherent in, the position of the House of Deputies” is lifted from the the 2015 Resolution D013. It is a strange sentence referring to something called “the position of the House of Deputies.” It is unclear whether this is “the position of the House of Deputies…” concerning the matter of salary, or “the position of the House of Deputies…” as a co-equal legislative branch to the House of Bishops, whose presiding officer is indeed paid.  It is unclear just what is being argued here. So drop it.



The next resolve, “That this General Convention recognize that to have a compensated President of the House of Deputies shows The Episcopal Church’s recognition of the importance of the laity and the clergy in the governance of The Episcopal Church” is just crazy. If paying laity and clergy in governance was proof of the recognition of their importance in the governance of The Episcopal Church we would be in a sorry state indeed. For if we have to “prove” value by paying people, then throughout the church the argument could be made that value was payment dependent. In which case service in the church is a monetized commodity. And it is not.  Service in the church is a matter of volition and call. One is willing to serve, and hopefully one feels called to serve. Payment for those services is an important issue, but not finally a proof of importance.



This resolve opens the door to making similar pleas for compensation to board members (members of Executive Council) for their service, and on other levels of governance in The Episcopal Church, say service on a Diocesan Standing Committee or Diocesan Council.  It opens the door to arguments that unless lay and clergy persons are paid, there is no “proof” of the recognition of their importance to governance. And payment is no proof at all.Drop it.


The reason to support this measure is really summed up in the final resolve, 


“Resolved,

that whereas Canon I.4.5(c) provides:

“Members of Executive Council shall be entitled to reimbursement for their reasonable expenses of attending meetings, in accordance with procedures established and approved by Executive Council. Except as determined by

Convention, the salaries of all officers of the Council and of all agents and employees of the Council and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society shall be fixed by the Council.”,

that this General Convention authorize and direct its Executive Council to fix a salary for the President of the House of Deputies as an officer and agent of the Council and as an agent of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society [DFMS]”


Here the matter is clear: The PoHD is an officer and agent of Council and the DFMS.  In THAT regard considering a salary is appropriate.



It should be noted that there are an increasing number of people who are paid officers of the Executive Council/ DFMS.  There are of course many other “staff” officers whose positions are derivative of the work of various paid officers.  The organizational structure of paid positions related to the work of The Episcopal Church is quite complex. 

It is here that the proposal to pay the PoHD is both worth consideration and runs into problems.  I note two:



(i)  There was a supposedly extensive effort to ‘re-image’ the structures of The Episcopal Church, with at least part of the hope being to reduce committee and staff costs. I am hard pressed to notice significant differences in the organizational structure or workings of The Episcopal Church as a result. Still, assuming such changes do exist, how does this fit into the mix?  

At the upper end of the corporate structure we have at least the following paid officers: The Presiding Bishop, The Secretary of General Convention, The Chief Financial Officer, and The Chief Operating Officer. With the exception of the Presiding Bishop, whose role is not only that essentially of CEO but which also includes speaking in a pastoral capacity to and for the whole church, all these other offices exist to do the work of General Convention, and both it’s houses, as well as the work of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and Executive Council. That is why they are there. There is a much larger staff, of course, to do specific tasks related to these offices. 

The duties that derive from all that effort related to the legislative roles of the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies are precisely meant to lift the load of work related to the chairs of both houses of General Convention.

       

The question is, does making the PoHD a paid position square with the desire to trim the costs and size of the structures of General Convention, The DFMS and Executive Council?


(ii) It is not clear that the expansion of the work of the PoHD is a product of increased organizational necessity as much as it is a product of assertion or acquisition of power on the part of the persons holding the office.  If it is a matter of necessity, then we need to face into that by either paying up or cutting back. If it is a matter of assertion or acquisition of power we have other problems to deal with.



Here the issues are more difficult. The Episcopal Church is a church of bishops and their dioceses united in a General Convention. The missionary “machine” of this union of diocese was the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and it became an agent of the General Convention. But because the DFMS determines the funding for all but the actual workings of General Convention, it, through the board of directors, namely Executive Council, has become the machine that seems to have taken over. There is the suspicion that the union is superseded in fact by the machine it invented.



The Episcopal Church is indeed hierarchical, in that the bishops, and their “house” are a different sort of thing than the deputies to General Convention, and their “house.” The question is, is the move to pay the PoHD an effort to change that? If so, that needs to be directly the question, and not the issue of pay as such.



I think this proposition opens up some questions that are not at all addressed in the resolution itself.


This needs more work.   


At the very least the resolution needs to be restructured to cut out the variety of opinions it now contains and go to the main point (the last resolve). There, at least, the possibility of a salaried position becomes an organizational decision.

At the most, if more is here than meets the eye, deputies ought to consider rejecting the resolution as a power play.





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