Group eyes church priorities

Published February 1, 2007

A group analyzing how General Synod operates in a time of financial constraints discussed changes to a national financial-development program, potential fundraising scenarios and such efficiencies as cutting down on the number of face-to-face committee meetings.

The group, called the Prioritized Operational Plan (POP) committee, includes managers at the national office in Toronto and members of the Council of General Synod (CoGS), which governs the church between triennial General Synod conventions. It met in Toronto on Dec. 13 and will probably not meet again before CoGS’ May meeting, said Archdeacon Michael Pollesel, general secretary of General Synod and a POP committee member.

The planning group discussed whether the two-year-old financial-development program, called Letting Down The Nets, might benefit from a name change, said Vianney Carriere, director of communications and information resources at General Synod, and a member of POP. “It was suggested in focus groups that the name wasn’t the best. People don’t like it,” he said in an interview.

The group also discussed whether the program needs to explain itself better. “It’s hard to be a strong supporter of things you don’t understand. They have not raised money. It was supposed to be self-sustaining and it’s not,” he noted. Approved by the 2004 General Synod convention, Letting Down The Nets has been praised by some dioceses for its stewardship-education projects, but has had to borrow money from General Synod for its continuing operation.

The POP group also discussed scenarios should the national office run budget deficits in 2008 and 2009, said Archdeacon Pollesel. “Rather than approach it from what needs to be cut, think of it in terms of raising money and making things work. We talked of fundraising and came up with two or three different scenarios,” he said. He declined to give further details since the POP group is expected to report on its work to CoGS this spring. Currently, the church’s financial management and development office is projecting a balanced budget for 2007, but the national office has reported deficits for the past three years.

The planning group looked at a number of issues that would come under the heading of “governance,” said Mr. Pollesel. “One of the main things is to try to get different parts of the constituency in the room to talk to each other, to have representatives from the committees sit down and see how their work fits into the big picture. Are people duplicating things?” he said. For instance, members of the national planning and agenda team and members of a governance task force are discussing whether the national office should be moved from its current location in downtown Toronto, he said.

Another governance issue that could create efficiencies would be to cut down on the twice-yearly meeting of such national committees as CoGS, financial management and development, partnerships and communications and information resources. “Perhaps they don’t have to meet face-to-face twice a year. Perhaps the number of people on them could be pared down,” he said. The communications and information resources committee includes 14 members; most committees have about a dozen members. Mr. Carriere noted that committees could consider meeting three times within two years.

The Anglican Book Centre was also a topic of discussion. POP last year recommended closing the book centre’s storefront operation in Toronto, a move approved by CoGS last fall. Various scenarios are under consideration, including a merger with another denomination’s bookstore or a move to another location, but nothing is definite, said Mr. Pollesel.


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