A group of 40 Canadian Anglicans, many under 35, have taken steps to review church structures through a consultation held in Mississauga, Jan. 8 to 10.
The consultation on church structures was mandated by Vision 2019, the Anglican Church of Canada’s visioning document, which was adopted in 2010.
Facilitated by Janet Marshall and Rhonda Waters, the consultation aimed to “help the church shape General Synod’s structures to achieve the ministry priorities of the General Synod to embody God’s call into mission.”
In a report back to General Synod staff, Archbishop Hiltz summarized these commitments from the meeting:
Within the next year, General Synod will
- Re-examine current governance through standing committees, which oversee departmental work, and move towards more task forces and commissions, which work with defined mandates and timelines.
- Overhaul the information technology infrastructure at Church House, including adding new technologies that enable long-distance meetings.
- Establish covenants with dioceses about financial commitments and pieces of program work.
- Increase partnerships with full communion partner the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada in the areas of communications, stewardship, theological education, worship, and youth ministry.
- Establish new trusts with new financial resources for emerging priorities, including, for example, the church’s partnership with the Episcopal Church of Cuba. The consultation noted that too much of the church’s ministry is done with “old money,” said the Primate.
In the next year or two, General Synod will
- Review how to communicate the stories of General Synod in order to generate revenue streams in new and creative ways. The Primate acknowledged that the Gifts for Mission gift guide is a step in this direction, but more improvement is needed.
By General Synod 2016, General Synod will
- Review the size and frequency of General Synod national meetings. The Primate noted that the church’s constitution says meetings could be spaced up to five years apart, at the discretion of the Council of General Synod (COGS).
- Consider more decentralized structures for program work, for example, having certain program offices based in other parts of the country.
At the report back to staff, the Primate said this process will eventually affect the staffing of General Synod, although it is too early to know specifics. He said that he and the General Secretary, the Ven. Dr. Michael Thompson, are committed to help all staff cope with this anxiety.
Declining finances are a major reason why General Synod is working to restructure. The fall meeting of the Council of General Synod approved a transitional budget of $12.82 million with a deficit of $513,000. Revenues in 2012 had dropped more quickly than expected, mainly because of a decline in diocesan contributions.
A working group has now been appointed to review material from the recent consultation and refine recommendations for the March, 2013, COGS meeting. Members are Monica Patten (Ottawa), Melissa Green (Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior), Bishop Colin Johnson (Toronto), Jane Osler (Diocese of New Westminster), Cynthia Haines-Turner (Western Newfoundland), and the Rev. David Giffen (Toronto). Their first meeting is in Toronto, Jan. 24.
Recommendations from the spring 2013 COGS meeting will inform decisions at General Synod/Joint Assembly 2013. After this, COGS will meet again in November 2013 and their decisions will inform the creation of the 2014 budget.
“I’m glad the call for the consultation has been honoured in a good way,” said Archbishop Hiltz.
“I’m very grateful for the participation of everyone who was there, very grateful for those that remembered us in their prayers, and grateful that we’re emerging from this consultation feeling hopeful for the next steps in the journey.”
The Primate noted that the consultation included “superb” liturgical highlights, including a Eucharist and silence for meditation, each day at noon.
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