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Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori presented her opening remarks to the Executive Council at its first meeting of the triennium.
The following is the text of the Presiding Bishop’s remarks:
October 15, 2012
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
I want to talk today both about our history and about where we’re going. I’ll begin by speaking about the Executive Council as a board. I sent each new member a copy of a book called Governance and Ministry by Dan Hotchkiss. It considers how a faith community makes decisions. I sent it to Executive Council at the beginning of the last triennium and I believe it helped in our work.
Executive Council is responsible for the oversight of policy and the oversight of management, but it is not a managing body, and that presents an eternal tension. This body exists to set policy, not to manage it.
This body considers a number of regularly scheduled items – such as budget work, audit review, task force reviews. It has oversight of the General Convention Office. Its most significant purpose may be the creative and faithful responsiveness to changing realities over the triennium.
General Convention has a particular responsibility for setting the direction of churchwide work, but it meets only every three years. Executive Council has a responsibility to make “thick” interpretation of General Convention decisions and directives. We can’t always take General Convention decisions literally – in the same way we read Scripture and don’t take it literally.
This body has particular legal responsibilities related to the church’s status as a non-profit organization, including audits and fiduciary duties.
The committees have responsibilities for oversight and policy in committee-specific areas. I hope you look at the three years as a package, and that you develop a calendar for the triennial review of those areas. Committees also have assignments emerging from the whole of Executive Council, such as the recent Convention’s adoption of initiatives related to the Five Marks of Mission.
The Executive Council also needs to attend to the functioning of the body by developing our skills and capacities, board development, and self-evaluation. As an example we will be doing diversity training tomorrow.
I went back and looked at where we were and how we started three years ago. I was pleasantly surprised. If you go back and look, you will see that we have grown and changed significantly. We re-organized our internal committee structure, and we have labored to raise our level of functioning. We haven’t done it perfectly. We experienced conflict as we began to wrestle with change and new processes. Yet conflict is necessary for growth. Growth doesn’t happen without labor pains.
I was particularly struck by the work of the Governance and Administration for Mission (GAM) and a growing clarity about policy, norms, and self-governance. It has brought us to a different place and better functioning.
I believe continued growth is possible. We can grow in relationships and trust within Executive Council, with best practices for non-profit boards, continued board orientation, development, increased clarity about relationship to staff, conflicts of interest, and committee work between meetings through the extranet, and the development of Executive Committee.
We have grown in our capacity to do committee work between meetings. We have learned to do that well and it has made us more productive.
We have some unresolved issues and questions about how this body works with PB&F through the triennium – and it is in some sense one of the elephants in the room. We have some structural questions about bodies that don’t report directly to this body – Daughters of the King, Episcopal Church Women (ECW) - and the relationship with CPG and other ancillary organizations. Clear answers to those questions will need time and attention.
We’re going to address current questions about our own norms and practices, such as where we will meet - in one or two or multiple places? We need to also consider how we are going to use emerging technology and new ways of communication.
Yet we’re not simply a board. We are a community of discernment. Each person here is called in some way to be a spiritual leader. We’re stewards of church resources – of its budget, reputation, its practices and policies.
This body has a rule of life. We live together in some kind of monastic rhythm. We have a “rule” – prayer, study, work, play/recreation. We worship together daily. We live as lightly as we can; we’re conscious about food, about travel, about how we use paper, and we consider the consequences for those far beyond us. We care for one another, here in this community and beyond.
Our part in God’s mission is to help the larger church be a more effective builder of God’s reign – in small ways, in large ways, in ways that we haven’t thought about before, and in ways that Christians have practiced for 2000 years.
I am grateful for your service and I am looking forward to working with you. I hope and pray that the church looks different in three years, thanks to the work of this body.
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