Service, collaboration central in reorganization set for Church Center

Presiding Bishop, colleagues outline recommendations; plan includes satellite offices
September 4, 2007

Editor's note: An abridged version of this story will be posted to Episcopal Life Online on September 6.

Raising levels of service to dioceses, congregations, and individuals -- "equipping people to use their gifts" -- is at the heart of recommendations to reorganize work based at the Episcopal Church Center, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in a September 5 presentation to staff.

The goal "is to use the gifts and skills of the staff for the good of the whole Church," she noted, inviting participants in the staff-wide assembly to contemplate in new ways what it means to take on the "role of servant leaders" for the Episcopal Church, formed of 110 dioceses configured in some 16 nations and territories.

"This is about being the body of Christ," Jefferts Schori added, underscoring that healthy bodies are capable of demonstrating flexibility, adaptability, and "building new connections." Every member of Christ's body is valued and essential, she said.

The Presiding Bishop said the reorganization would facilitate "excellence in management," encourage "churchwide thinking in all mission programs," and be "responsive and supportive of those who lead ministries." She emphasized that the reorganization "is not about budget cutting" but about establishing the best possible deployment of personnel; "it is about effectiveness and servant leadership."

The recommendations for reorganization -- shaped with input from bishops, General Convention deputies, Executive Council members, and staff through five months' work by two task forces -- are now ready for next steps of implementation, Jefferts Schori said.

Task force members joined the Presiding Bishop in briefing the staff on the reorganization, which recommends the creation of four new "Centers for Mission": Advocacy Center, Evangelism and Congregational Life Center, Mission Leadership Center, and Partnerships Center including a Diocesan Services unit. (See further details on each Center outlined below.)

Position descriptions for the directors of each of the four centers will be posted on the Episcopal Church web site, with October 3 set as the closing date for applications. Another round of new positions is set for posting on September 21.

Other highlights include steps to create "an inspired workforce," and satellite offices launched in several cities to operate in collaboration with the Church Center, located at 815 Second Avenue in New York City.

Jefferts Schori said the reorganization would also clarify that the direction of the work of both the Church Center and its wider corporate organization -- the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS) -- is drawn specifically from resolutions of the General Convention, the Episcopal Church's bicameral legislative structure.

She said the reorganization will "increase the depth of communication with Executive Council; committees, commissions, agencies and boards of General Convention; and other stakeholders."

The president of the House of Deputies, Bonnie Anderson, attended the Presiding Bishop's presentation to staff, together with two members of Executive Council, priests Gay Jennings of Ohio and Petero Sabune of New York, and former council member Diane Pollard of New York, who served on the reorganization's task force.

Anderson said the plan "outlines a responsive and creative design for delivering mission and ministry support services across the church."

New 'Centers for Mission'
The scope of the four new work centers was introduced to the staff by the Rev. Canon Robert Nelson, a former U.S. Energy Department executive who is now canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Nevada. He chaired the reorganization's "Working Group on Organizational Effectiveness."

The reorganization "calls for a greater emphasis on supporting the ministries of dioceses and congregations," said Nelson, who has collaborated closely with Jefferts Schori during both the beginning of her nine-year term as Presiding Bishop, and her earlier 2001-2006 tenure as bishop of the Diocese of Nevada.

Without proceeding to the level of detail of individual positions, Nelson cited ways in which the new Mission Centers coordinate with other "infrastructure" offices such as those of the General Convention, finance, communication, and introduces new units for administration and mission funding. The full reorganized structure, he said, aligns under the leadership of the Presiding Bishop's Office.

Nelson said the reorganization "clarifies decision-making authority, incorporates a mentoring and training mindset, it improves functional alignments, reinforces common strengths; brings about matrix-like interactions," and "focuses on results, with review and approval."

He said the Workplace Effectiveness Group has "recommended an organization that will be more responsive to the Church and its governing structures" and that "will communicate better internally and externally, will utilize and develop the strengths and gifts of the Church Center staff" and encourage collaboration and cohesiveness rather than isolation.

Most of the Episcopal Church Center staff members, Nelson said, "will find that their work continues, albeit in a different structure. In some cases, staff will be moved to other organizational elements and work will be of a different nature requiring some realignment of people and resources."

Nelson said the reorganization is rooted in a Mission Statement adopted for the Church Center "to further God's mission, interpreted by the General Convention" … joining "with our dioceses, congregations and organizations in the vision of a vital and hopeful church."

(The Mission Statement is available here. A detailed organizational chart is available here.)

Core values
Recommendations of the second task force, "the Working Group for an Inspired, Trained and Innovative Workforce" -- a group of co-workers who have identified ways to encourage professional excellence -- were presented by Bernice Lucas, a communication deputy at the Church Center who is also general manager of Episcopal Books and Resources.

Lucas, a Church Center employee for some 18 years, said the recommendations underscore areas including encouraging professional and personal growth and development; employee incentives, awards and rewards; and corporate growth and development, all grounded in stated core values.

The core values begin with the Prayer Book's call to "respect the dignity of every human being" and include "commitment to excellence as a team," striving "to be inventive, innovative, inspired and flexible," Lucas said.

"These core values serve as a framework to create and recreate at the DFMS God's vision of 'shalom' -- of homecoming and reconciliation -- for all persons in this place," she said.

"We brainstormed ideas for awards, rewards and professional development," she said. "An important part of our work included thinking about how to determine what kinds of performance should be rewarded and how to measure that."

Lucas outlined recommendations for an "enhanced performance management system," including retooling of longstanding procedures for each staff member's formal performance appraisals.

She pointed to the importance of recruiting and developing "managers with superior supervisory skills and performance management skills," enumerating related attributes including "clear roles, manageable expectations, and appropriate boundaries," as well as creating "work challenges that provide opportunity for meaningful results and satisfaction, reinforced by recognition.

Lucas listed among priorities for corporate growth and development the introduction of a staff "ombudsperson" to address concerns, as well as creating a formal internship and volunteer program. She underscored the importance of flexible scheduling.

Lucas called the recommendations "seeds, that when firmly planted…and harvested will speak only excellence."

Satellite offices, steps for implementation
The morning's fourth presenter was Linda Watt, the Episcopal Church's chief operating officer and a vice president of the DFMS called to serve in 2006 following her tenure as U.S. Ambassador to Panama.

Watt outlined the concept of satellite offices "extending beyond the several places in which DFMS employees currently work" including the Church Center and also the Office of Government Relations in Washington D.C.; the Episcopal Migration Ministries Office in Miami; the Episcopal Church Archives in Austin, Texas; and the Episcopal Life advertising and circulation office in Ambler, Pennsylvania.

Watt said satellite offices -- with staffs of about three persons each -- are planned for Los Angeles and Atlanta, with conversations continuing with regard to a Midwest location, and to explore opportunities in Seattle. The plan leaves room for consideration designation of other sites in the future.

The Los Angeles office will be strategic for media work, ethnic ministries and preparations for the 2009 General Convention meeting in nearby Anaheim, Watt said, noting that the Atlanta office is envisioned to specialize in evangelism and growth, as well as seminary partnerships. Congregational life, ecumenical partners, and philanthropy are focus areas for the Midwest location, while a Seattle site would afford connections with local environmental advocacy work and Pacific Rim relationships.

The satellite offices are to be "co-located" with diocesan or parish facilities, she said. The Los Angeles office, for example, is planned for the Cathedral Center of St. Paul, located in the Echo Park district with an on-site, 14-room retreat center to support overnight conferences. Location for the Atlanta site is yet to be confirmed.

Satellite office staff members are meant to be "out and about in the region," serving as "church diplomats," Watt said.

Addressing plans for the overall reorganization, Watt said the coming months of November through February are designated for implementation following the September 21 posting of other positions yet to be announced, and November selection of Mission Center directors.

Of importance within the transition timetable are also the fall meetings of the House of Bishops and Executive Council, Watt said.

In late September through October, consultations are planned for individuals and small groups to discuss opportunities and options available to current staff members.

Positions within each new Mission Center include those of director, senior program officers, associate program officers, program trainees, and technical support specialists, Watt said, outlining a one-year process by which program trainees are to be fully trained and prepared for wider work in their respective areas.

Watt said the offices of the treasurer and controller are coordinating work to facilitate the reorganization within existing budgets approved by the General Convention, and to implement a "detailed budget crosswalk" so the new systems will be in place with the January 2008 opening of the next fiscal year.

She said it will be necessary to operate with a "parallel system" approach in some areas until the reorganization is fully implemented.

A Transition Steering Committee has also been named, Watt said, to offer advice and recommendations on issues including satellite office options, the employee transition process, communication outreach, and budgetary changes -- and to serve as "a repository for feedback."

Steering Committee members include Gregory Straub, Bernice Lucas, John Colon, James Lemler, Neva Rae Fox, and Alpha Conteh, working together with Watt.

Mission Center activities, priorities
The reorganization reflects what the Presiding Bishop has described as "a hunger" across dioceses and congregations "to get about mission serving the gospel."

Theologian Frederick Buechner "has defined ministry as where one's own deep joy meets the deep hunger of the world," Jefferts Schori said.

"This reorganization is not about control from the top," she said. "It's about encouraging and allowing the creative spirit of God to speak through all of God's people. The role of servant leaders -- and we are all servant leaders -- is to facilitate and equip and encourage the expression of God's creative spirit and to do that in a body that has the ability to adapt to changing needs, those deep hungers of the world. The role that we all share is to let the deep joy all around us be expressed in meeting that deep hunger. That's why we're here and frankly that's the only reason why we're here."

As a Church Center staff working under the reorganization, we "are here to fulfill God's mission, and to do it in a more relational way," she added.

"Theologically," the reorganization "is about the body of Christ as an organic and living organism," Jefferts Schori said in her remarks to the staff. "Living things are flexible, they adapt, and they're capable of building new connections, and that's overwhelmingly what this new organization is talking about.

"All the parts of the body in the body of Christ are essential and none is more important than another. Each has its own gifts and that's why this is about mission and ministry. God's mission is a dream of a healed world and in order to carry that out we all engage in ministry."

The new work Centers support the Mission Priorities set by the General Convention in 2006 with top emphasis given to justice and peace work framed by the Millennium Development Goals, eight initiatives that have at their core the reduction of global poverty.

International and cross-cultural ministries continue as central in this work, aided by the proximity of the Church Center -- recently renovated for the first time since its construction in 1962 -- to the United Nations' headquarters, located two blocks away along the East River.

Domestic mission is also a strong priority under the recommendations for reorganization, the Presiding Bishop has emphasized.

The new Mission Centers, as Nelson outlined, include the following activities, reporting to a "Mission Coordinator":

Advocacy Center

  • Social and Economic Justice
  • Ethnic Ministry and Anti-Racism (advocacy component)
  • Migration (advocacy component)
  • International Affairs

Evangelism and Congregational Life Center

  • Christian Formation (all ages)
  • Congregational Research
  • Congregational Vitality
  • Ethnic Congregations
  • Evangelism and Church Planting
  • Migration: Resettlement
  • Stewardship
  • Worship and Spirituality

Mission Leadership Center

  • Ordained Ministry (including Transition)
  • Lay Ministry (including Ministry in Daily Life)
  • Young Adults (including Campus Ministry and PLSE)
  • Missionary Personnel
  • Chaplaincies (including Prison Ministries)
  • Theological Education

Partnerships Center

  • Anglican Communion
  • Diocesan Services
  • Ecumenical & Interfaith
  • Grants and Covenants
  • United Thank Offering

Concurrently, the General Convention Office will:

  • Coordinate Committees, Commissions, Agencies and Boards
  • Plan and execute General Convention and Executive Council
  • Publish General Convention and Executive Council documents
  • Provide support for the President of the House of Deputies

A new Administration unit, meanwhile, will coordinate:

  • Facilities Management
  • Human Resources
  • Legal
  • Technology
  • Translation Services
  • Travel and Meeting Arrangements

The Communication Office is reorganized into two units:

  • Episcopal Life Media
  • Public Affairs

The Finance Office will continue to include two units:

  • Treasurer's Office
  • Controller's Office

Another new addition is the creation of a Mission Funding portfolio including a Development Office.

Responses to the reorganization recommendations will continue into the coming weeks.

Anderson, as House of Deputies president, said the Executive Council -- "which has oversight regarding budget implications that may be a result of shaping the Episcopal Church Center staff" -- will consider those implications in October at the regularly scheduled Council meeting.

Anderson also pointed to the importance of supporting the staff through the transition period. "Understandably, there is anxiety among the staff regarding implementation of the plan," she said.

The Presiding Bishop also acknowledged that she is "aware of the anxiety" created by the reorganization plan, but encouraged staff members to "stay open" to the opportunities created by change. She also added her "abundant thanks" for each Church Center staff member and "all that each of you contribute."

Following the presentation, praise for the reorganization plan was voiced by several staff members, including Bowie Snodgrass, web content editor.

"As an Episcopalian and an employee of the Church Center, I think this re-org is needed and seems to be moving us in a direction to better resource the Church," she said. "The process and people involved gave me hope all along for the plan revealed today."

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