Diocese considers changes to governance structure

Posted on October 22, 2019

By Stuart Mann

The diocese is considering changes to its governance structure so that it better serves the diocese’s mission.

The recommended changes are contained in a report by the diocese’s Governance and Decision-Making Working Group, which was appointed in 2016. The group was tasked with the following: to review and update the diocese’s canons, policies and procedures in collaboration with stakeholders; and to update the diocese’s governance structure to better align it with the diocese’s mission, which is to “build healthy, missional Anglican communities that engage faithfully with the world and share the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The diocese’s governance structure comprises many components, including Synod, Diocesan Council, the College of Bishops, Bishop’s Committees, Area Councils, Executive Board, Trusts Committee and various sub-committees.

The working group undertook extensive consultations with stakeholders, including bishops, the chancellor and Diocesan Council, and heard that the structure was “unwieldly, lacked coherence and had a decision-making structure that was opaque and unclear.”

In its report, the group said, “We also heard that the structures and related processes were inefficient, resulted in inconsistent decisions and allocation of resources, and were complex and difficult for parish leaders to navigate. Finally, stakeholders told us that approval criteria and processes were inconsistent from one approving body to another.”

The group heard that Diocesan Council was not fully exercising its canonical responsibilities to act as the “Synod between Synods,” focusing on strategic matters such as policy development, priority setting and oversight. There was a consensus that Diocesan Council, which has about 38 members, was too big to undertake that role.  

In addition to the feedback, the group was “strongly encouraged” to go beyond the diocese’s existing canons to create what it felt was the best governance and decision-making structure for the diocese – one that is “more nimble, flexible and takes better advantage of the time and talents of the individual members of the diocese.”

After considering the input, the group recommended that:

  • Diocesan Council and the Executive Board be amalgamated into one body that is called Synod Council.
  • The size of Synod Council be reduced so that there will be a maximum of 25 members: the Bishop of Toronto, the four suffragan bishops, one clerical and one lay member from each episcopal area, the chairs of the five newly established committees (excluding Audit Committee), two members at large elected at Synod, and up to five members appointed by the diocesan bishop. The appointments by the bishop may be used to ensure that specific skill sets are available to Synod Council or to ensure appropriate representation. The diocese’s Executive Director would serve as an ex-officio non-voting member.
  • Six committees be established: Audit, Finance, Property, Human Resources, Programs, and Risk and Governance. In most cases, these committees would be composed of members with expertise in the area under the committee’s jurisdiction. The Program Committee would be representative but would have certain members with expertise who would not necessarily represent an episcopal area or a constituency. The chairs of all committees, except Audit, would be members of Synod Council.
  • Existing committees be amalgamated so that their work fell under one or more of the proposed new committees.
  • Members of the committees would not necessarily be members of Synod; rather, some would be appointed solely because of their expertise in the work of the committee.
  • The committees will have decision-making authority delegated to them to make decisions within parameters established by Synod and Synod Council and will report back to Synod Council through their chairs and to Synod through Synod Council. The diocese’s Governance and Decision-Making Working Group will work with Synod Council and the committees to develop appropriate delegations of authority and reporting mechanisms both to Synod Council and Synod. The Synod Council will be accountable to Synod to monitor the development and implementation of each committee’s work plan. Synod Council will also be accountable to Synod to watch for gaps and overlaps, ensure cross-committee collaboration where appropriate and shall have oversight responsibility for the ongoing and effective implementation of the diocese’s strategy.

The working group said that canonical changes would be required to implement the recommendations. It proposed that the requisite canons be suspended or amended on an interim basis so that the recommendations can be implemented on a two-year pilot basis, with a full report on the successes and failures of the plan and a recommendation to make the changes permanent or not to go to Synod in 2021.

Diocesan Council received the group’s report in June and referred it to the Constitution and Canons Committee. At its meeting on Sept. 26, Diocesan Council received the Constitution and Canon Committee’s proposed revisions to the canons that would allow the recommendations to be enacted on a pilot basis. Diocesan Council received the revisions and is sending them to Synod in November for approval. If approved, the pilot phase would begin in January 2020.