Changes introduced after General Synod 2013 to streamline the structure and operations of the national church have met with mixed results, Archdeacon Michael Thompson said in his report to a March 12 meeting of Council of General Synod (CoGS).
“I think it has been a good three years,” said Thompson, noting that it has allowed the church to learn, reflect “and live into new ways of working.” But, he said, it has also become clear that some of the innovations need to be reconsidered.
In particular, Thompson noted that the decision to disband all of the standing committees, except for financial management and pensions, and devolve their responsibilities to co-ordinating committees managing working groups and task forces has led to some logistical and communications problems.
“In the absence of face-to-face meetings, there is a kind of oxygen that the co-ordinating committees don’t get—there is something that happens when people are in the same room together…that doesn’t happen when you only meet remotely,” he said.
While acknowledging that “there are real advantages to meeting remotely if the advantages are taken—shorter meetings with a particular focus can take place by teleconference or videoconference,” Thompson said the task forces and working groups had found that “the kind of long, expansive meeting about everything is harder to have in that way.”
Thompson recommended that co-ordinating committees hold two or three face-to-face meetings over the course of the next triennium—one of which would take place between the November 2018 and March 2019 CoGS meetings to facilitate planning for the 2019 General Synod.
The new ways of working came out of a gathering Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, convened at General Synod 2013 to consider the efficacy of Canadian church structures. This meeting produced Embodying God’s Call, a document that sought ways to make concrete changes in line with the broad strokes plan of Vision 2019, which was drafted at General Synod 2010 to guide the church’s evolution over the course of the decade.
Thompson noted that many of the suggested changes have been successful. He cited a partnership that has developed between Anglicans in Eastern Canada and Athabasca to minister to migrant oil workers and the joint meeting of CoGS and the Lutheran National Coordinating Committee in November 2015 as examples of the broad support that exists for building stronger connections between dioceses and fostering a closer working relationship between the Anglican Church of Canada and its full communion partner, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).
Thompson said the recommended change in the frequency of working group and task force meetings will be brought to the council’s planning and agenda committee for CoGS to consider in the next triennium.