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ABRIDGED: Service, collaboration central in reorganization set for Church Center


Presiding Bishop, colleagues outline recommendations; plan includes satellite offices.

An extended version of this story is available here.

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 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. (Further details on each Center are outlined here.)

Position descriptions for the directors of each of the four centers are 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.

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.”

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.”

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.)

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.

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

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.
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.

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.

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.

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.”

Anderson 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.”

The reorganization reflects what the Presiding Bishop has described as “a hunger” across dioceses and congregations “to get about mission serving the gospel.”

“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.”


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