On Jan. 20, Synod Council gathered for the first time under the new governance pilot project. The pilot project was approved during the 160th Regular Session of Synod, held online last year. It will run for two years and, in 2023, there will be a vote at Synod on whether the changes should be made permanent, or the old structure reverted to.
Under the pilot project, Diocesan Council and the Executive Board have been amalgamated into one body called Synod Council, which currently includes 25 members (and can include a maximum of 27) — almost half the size of Diocesan Council. Meanwhile, within Synod Council there will be five committees: Audit Committee, Finance Committee, Property Committee, Human Resources Committee, and Risk and Governance Committee. The committees will be responsible for decision making within a certain remit.
At the January Synod Council meeting, the focus of discussion was on what the committee model will look like and what their decision-making parameters will be.
The Constitution and Canonical changes required to carry out this pilot were first considered at Synod in 2019 and some amendments were subsequently made, discussed at diocesan “Town Halls” and then approved at Synod 2021. These included an amendment stipulating that elections to Synod Council will take place at Synod, rather than at area Pre-Synod meetings, to ensure a robust voting process. Another amendment stipulates that the nominating committee for Synod elections will consider the geographical, gender, age, theological, racial and ethnic diversity of the diocese in order to ensure a diverse slate of candidates and that Synod Council is representative of the diocese.
The goal of the new governance structure is to facilitate and streamline decision making and to allow for more thorough discussions. Canon Robert Saffrey, executive director, felt this was reflected in the January Synod Council meeting. “I think there was a depth to the discussion that we were able to have. There was greater participation. This new structure will also hopefully help parishes. The main question we get is: how do we move this forward? The governance pilot will make getting approval for a new building, for example, more streamlined, and it will make this question easier to answer.”
Synod Council will continue to meet monthly, with a break for summer, and an update on the pilot project will be delivered at Synod 2022.