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Organizational effectiveness plan set for Episcopal Church Center


Diocesan services among new initiatives.

Strategic groupings of advocacy, evangelism, leadership development, and partnerships -- together with a configuration of regional satellite offices to support strategic mission -- are central to a new organizational effectiveness plan to reshape ministries based at the Episcopal Church Center.

A new “diocesan services” unit, offering a comprehensive approach to local mission needs, is a highlight of the new plan initiated by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and drafted after five months of consultative work by two task forces.

“The new configuration will raise our level of service to the church,” Jefferts Schori said July 26 while commending the plan’s outline to the Church Center management team. “There is remarkable synchronicity in the development of this plan, and great potential for creativity and capacity building.”

Four newly identified “work centers” -- Advocacy Center, Evangelism and Congregational Life Center, Mission Leadership Center, and Partnerships Center -- form the core of the new structure drafted by one of the task forces, the Working Group on Organizational Effectiveness.

The group’s chairperson, Nevada priest and former U.S. Energy Department executive Robert Nelson, said the drafting process was rooted in extensive consultation with current Church Center personnel, and with some 60 bishops and 23 members of Executive Council and General Convention deputies.

About 110 of the more than 200 employees at the Church Center -- located at 815 Second Avenue in New York City -- participated in interviews and dialogue, said Nelson, named to lead the process by Jefferts Schori, whom he assisted as canon to the ordinary while she was bishop of the Diocese of Nevada.

In a July 26 memorandum to Church Center staff, Nelson noted that the full plan will be outlined in detail in a plenary presentation September 5 during the regular “815” community gathering. He added that a transition plan will be finalized in August.

“We are very thankful for the many contributions and support for our work shown by the staff,” Nelson wrote. “We tried to address every comment that we received as we worked over these last several months.”

The new configuration “will be the way we carry out our Mission Statement (text below) that emphasizes our being a service organization to dioceses and congregations and to the whole Church,” Nelson wrote.

Calling the new work centers “interactive and flexible” with “authority to make decisions,” Nelson added that other areas of the organization’s infrastructure –- such as administration, finance, communication and the General Convention Office –- “will also see some realignment to improve their functionality.”

He underscored the new Diocesan Services portfolio -- positioned within the Partnership Center -- as “a whole new organizational element...that will enable dioceses to have a single point of contact to obtain information and support.”

Nelson predicted that, overall, the new organization “will be more effective because it de-centralizes decision making, provides for mentoring and training, improves functional alignments, reinforces common strengths, brings about matrix-like interactions, and focuses on results, with review and approval.”

Church Center Chief Operating Officer Linda Watt commended the plan as “mission driven” and distinctive in providing “servant leadership to the Church.”

Watt –- a former U.S. Ambassador to Panama called in 2006 to lead Church Center operations and to serve as vice president of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS)-- further underscored the recommendations of the second task force, the “Working Group for an Inspired, Trained and Innovative Workforce.”

Strengthened management skills, professional development, staff evaluation and performance incentives are among priorities affirmed by the group, Watt said. She added that the reorganization seeks to make optimal use of the budget and assets of the DFMS and ensure good stewardship of resources.

One such asset is the Church Center building itself, strategically located near the United Nations complex, and recently renovated to assist operations as a mission hub while also providing significant rental income from two and one-half of its 10 floors. The reorganization affirms ongoing ministries from the Church Center site.

Positioning certain functions and ministries in several satellite offices beyond metropolitan New York City will also help support the Episcopal Church as a whole, Watt said, noting that the naming of those sites is pending, and at least four potential locations are under consideration.

The satellite offices “will inform the work of the Church Center by providing more access to issues of regional importance, and guarantee a variety of points of view,” Watt said.

Watt praised the “dedicated and innovative work” of both task forces, composed primarily of Church Center personnel.

In addition to Nelson, the organizational effectiveness group members are Bishop Christopher Epting, deputy for ecumenical and interfaith relations; Vivian Harrison, human resources manager; Richard Lamb, consultant, communication and technology services; the Rev. Dr. James B. Lemler, director of mission; Diane Pollard, former member of Executive Council and retired corporate manager; and Alexander Webb, assistant to the General Convention’s deputy executive officer.

Lemler, who served as the working group’s vice-chair, said the reorganization “is both a new way of doing things, and a way to strengthen offerings, talents, and resources of the Church Center as it enters a new period.”

Members of the inspired workforce group -- led by the Church Center human resource management director John Colon as facilitator -- are Steven Bailey, assistant in the United Thank Offering office; the Rev. Gerald Blackburn, director of federal chaplaincies; Alpha Conteh, controller; Sheila Golden, assistant to the treasurer; Robert Goodfellow, former communication aide, Presiding Bishop’s Office; Bernice Lucas, deputy for communication and general manager of Episcopal Books and Resources; and Kim Robey, staff officer for program, Office of Women’s Ministries.

Adding her appreciation for the working groups’ accomplishments, the Presiding Bishop said one of the reorganization’s main benefits will be the ways in which it is meant to support each staff member in doing his or her “best work.”


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