Notes of the Unified Governance Working Group Meeting: December 3-5, 2009
Present: All working group members with the exception of two regrets, Phil Porter and Elizabeth Clement, were in attendance (see roster attached). In support attending also were Jacqueline McLemore, consultant, and Kimberly Whitney, national staff.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Building Relationships with Each Other and Our Work
1st Plenary: Building Our Relational Framework/Getting Better Acquainted
The meeting began with a gathering time with an opening worship service led by Marilyn Págan-Banks and welcoming dinner. The meeting opened formally as Executive Council Chair, Pierson Kemp, brought greetings to the working group that included an introduction of the work ahead and to the group's chair, Rev. Dr. Bernard Wilson.
Following Bernard's welcome, the General Minister and President, Geoffrey Black, gave a welcoming charge: We are moving to an important change in our leadership priorities: expanding from a focus on representation to include an emphasis on good governance, which is as important or more important. This is difficult because we have had some trouble trusting one another as well as our framework for understanding our leadership work.
A representational system of governance was good --for the time it was established. Needs changed in the church in the years following. The older system was good governance in its time, in other words. And - because good governance is always responsive to changing realities: we are now talking about good governance as an appropriate response to the changing missional realities of the church in a new moment, as the framework for addressing these changing realities. (Not as a response to finances or an interest to change for the sake of change). We are talking about good governance in the current historical moment to serve the mission of the church generatively.
Discussion continued on the good governance briefing paper contained in the Fall 2008 governance proposal (on the last page), and the importance of resource acquisition which is responsive to the church life and mission and the skills and gifts needed as well for the corporate governance work that is spiritually and theologically grounded. This involves crafting a hybrid reality in a way that is meaningful to the people of the church - which they will recognize as church. We need to create a healthy hybrid that will be good governance of and by church… with a call to be the servant people of God to sustain and perpetuate the ministry.
A time of introductions followed among the working group, after sharing regrets from Phil Porter and Elizabeth Clement.
Bernard gave an overview of the work of the weekend to create a reflection process to share with conferences and local churches, and across settings. The consultant who will support this work is Dr. Jacquie McLemore. Introductions followed.
Jacquie McLemore, Consultant, led a session on table reflections to share "who you are, gifts and skills you bring to the work, and I am here because…" Table discussion followed, on each of these questions in turn. Jacquie requested, in order to move toward the dialogue process work and need to bring information back – to focus on "what it takes for me to focus and really hear each other."
Some of the skills named at tables;
-Systems and process
-Love and Honesty
-History and Openness
-Good Governance leaders
-Detail people and big picture people
-New perspectives and seasoned perspectives
Bernard gave an overview of the agenda and importance of this work for God's church, here, now, each person called and the charter is laid out by the resolution.
Overall Meeting Objectives:
1. Build relationships with each other in the service of our work.
2. Create an effective working group with the capacity to meet all specifications outlined in the Substitute Resolution.
3. Design a governance dialogue process to be used throughout the denomination and constituency groups.
Friday, December 4, 2009 - Solidifying the Ways We Will Work Together
Plenary: Designing the Dialogue and Discernment Process
Following breakfast and morning worship with Bernard preaching, a plenary followed with Bernard reviewing the resolution; the plan of action timeline; and announcing upcoming meeting dates of July 15 (dinner) – July 17 (noon adjourn); and September 9 (dinner) – September 11 (noon adjourn).
Discussion followed about the UCC Constitution and Bylaw changes that will be affirmed by Executive Council; and any covenanted ministry changes internal to those ministries, by those covenanted ministry boards. The Executive Council has appointed a small task group to work on Constitution and Bylaw changes needed as an overall review that has not been done since before restructure. This is a parallel process and that committee will work with governance recommendations with this working group once the work group has moved forward in its tasks.
Working Norms & Covenant for this Work Group
Critical Framework that needs to be in place to do this work
Jacquie led a discussion on guidelines for the working group for the project ahead. Each table began in conversation around these:
-Attentiveness to self and others
-Respect for/interest in differences
-Faithfulness to our work, each other, our Church
-Offering reactions, ideas, questions and energy
Large Group Discussion of our Working Covenant: Additions and Highlights
Each table reported its sense for the key elements of the covenant, and in some cases additions:
-Faithfulness: to our church, each other, our work (an umbrella for the entire covenant framework)
-Representing the whole church
-Importance of openness
-Accountability: includes, trust, integrity, transparency, leadership and responsibility to share with constituencies not only decisions but the process that led to them, truth-telling
-Accountability with constituencies - able to speak minds and hearts and work with constituencies about areas of discernment
-Honesty, safe environment, willingness to risk
-Accuracy of information is important
-Importance of silence/listening space and prayerful space
-Respect for/interest in differences and respect for similarities
-Commitment to hearing each others stories
-Processes needed internally and externally (there is a public website for all members of the church: www.ucc.org/governance
A new working group covenant document was then generated and distributed during the course of the meeting, incorporating these points (attached to these notes, ‘Unified Governance Working Group Covenant'). Discussion continued about the nature of the governance work and misunderstandings about it that have created fear in parts of the church. Other challenges to the process were discussed. Opportunities for collaboration and new possibilities are going to be a focus of the work ahead to meet challenges together. We need to remember that discernment and dialogue has been underway in the church for a number of years, and we all need to support carrying back information together across the church. It will be important to try not to be a ‘doubting Thomas' and commit together to being believers in the strength of our work together.
Discussion followed about the importance of spiritual discernment, the tension of holding process and next steps, and the network of gifted people serving on this group. The task for the meeting was clarified –the reflection process that is being designed is not to sell anything; it is a process to make a reflection space. And the work of the group is to be owned by the group, not dis-owned -- this is our work being offered for reflection. A final check to see if any had final questions or concerns about our covenant followed. One question emerged: how do we understand confidentiality. Ideas in response included:
• It is important not to report details about names of churches, people, and things - to be able to try out ideas in a safe space
• It is also important to share as openly as we can be, holding confidences when appropriate, and sharing information and good background information, with summary overviews of what we are doing with the church that is waiting for our work.
Challenges to a Discernment Model
--Not likely to get many local church responses
--Some may absent from commenting on the concept without details that will follow
--People learn and discern when they want to do so
--Forming questions that are relevant and lead to possibilities
--Cultural differences across local church settings
--Information may not be well received for some in light of existing networks that already trust one another and have been impacted by negative opinions from members of those networks
--The very ‘siloing' of the church the Synod Resolution addresses, i.e., the fractions that are in place, may limit the capacity to respond to reflections about unifying!
--How to allow pp to have fears in a way that doesn't stop, but rather informs the dialogue
--Translation of the Synod Resolution into languages of new church communities (e.g. Marshallese & Chu'ukese) – as well as accessible, acronym free language for everyone to share a starting point generally speaking
--Is diversity a synonym for inclusion?
--Is inclusion a synonym for representation?
Best Practices for Dialogue & Discernment
--Self-definition, people need to speak for themselves
--Speak from the heart
--Identify communication networks that we can use: i.e. locating methods of distribution that reach deeply into conferences, associations, etc., through existing lines of communication
--Seeking consensus as a priority
--"Getting an understanding"
--Who facilitates matters (process, discernment experience, ground rules… and baseline starting place with background information)
--Good facilitation, and someone present to attend to the spirit of the process ("discernamentarian"), mercy seat praying presence
--Think about church wide reflection via scientifically selected local churches (random sample)
--Allow people to be who they are/where they are right now (i.e., allowing others, through discernment, to change their minds)
--Attentiveness and differentiation are at the heart of discernment & dialogue processes
--Use of accessible language in the reflection tool, particularly with youth & young adults, use definitions and full words (not acronyms)
Existing Opportunities to Broadly and Deeply Distribute this Information
Responses will be due by June 30
Events & Vehicles
--20/30 Clergy Network
--Council of Conference Ministers
--Conference Communication Vehicles
--Conference Boards of Directors
--Coalition database of coordinators
--Annual Conference meetings
--Keeping You E-Posted (KYEP mailing)
--Covenanted Ministry Sponsored Events, i.e. Web Universities & CYYAM
--Seminary Board Meetings
--Youth Events List (church camps, etc)
--Using all UCC national setting e-lists
--Association Networks list
--Historically Underrepresented Group Meetings
--History and Polity Teachers/classes
--All Church Mailing (UCC national setting)
--Council for Health and Human Service Ministries, United Church Foundation, Pension Boards,
--Christians for Justice Action
--The bodies who sent resolutions to General Synod about Governance
Discussion followed on what is missing from the preceding list. Moving forward, these listings of our networks will support future denominational work.
Several points of entry for responses will be important. The way the question is asked is important… what are your areas of passion in mission & how can the church respond to your mission interests.
Perhaps the reflection tool, with its baseline information, should include information about what happened at General Synod as a summary and the next steps moving forward. Following a lunch break, the working group divided into three "task teams" to look at the discernment and dialogue mechanism for specific groupings that were discerned to be the following, with attention to the HUGS in each of these:
1. Local Churches
3. Networks & Other Groupings
Discussion followed. The working group wanted to move to a reflection on the substance of the discernment and dialogue tool, before looking at how to deliver it.
A five minute reading period followed to refresh everyone on the principles and concepts in the GFT II proposal. Each table worked with a flip chart to identify core principles and values. A group report-out followed not of every concept – but of the KEY concepts in order to move forward to inform the dialogue and discernment process that will take place over the next 6 months.
Core Values and Principles
(what follows is not collated or edited, but rather a first draft recording from the group report-out, appearing below as each table "called out" with significant overlap)
--Moving to Unified Governance: One Board with 4 corporations (3 existing, the 4th is the new United Church Board)
--Collegium "model" continued
--The role of board is governance and vision
--Small Size allows for flexibility and nimbleness
The concept here is the initiation and implementation of the Stillspeaking Campaign taking a long time to put into place 2 ½ years to get through a cumbersome approval process through 5 boards rather than 1
--Good Governance and Generative Governance as a priority & core responsibility
(See Chait article on generativity… the work of the board to understand the questions it ought to be asking, to generate appropriate decisions for the life of the organization).
--eye for diversity that includes but is not limited to the HUGS
--expertise and skill sets needed for committee work (e.g. financial committee)
--God's mission is the focus… a church of mission (understood creatively & expansively)
--Expanded opportunities for engagement in mission outside of Board service (value here is a missional focus for the whole)
--Clarify & strengthen role of GMP
--Preserving original donor intent
--limits on draw rate changes
--preserving existing relationship with WCM Global Ministries and Disciples
--General Synod delegate increase (32 additional delegates)
--governance should be evolving over time
--accountability to Synod and between ministry teams (checks and balances section)
--M &M, Just peace, open & affirming…global mission… i.e. our impt ‘alphabet soup'
--autonomy and covenanted are cherished principles in a unified structure (lines 392-400)
--maintain historic mandates & commitments
--affirms role of General Synod and officers and staff as leaders
--Financial Oversight Committee
--3 ministry groupings
--majority of the board members elected by General Synod are persons of color and women
These Core Values were listed in a preliminary draft of the discernment process during the course of the meeting with a charge for the discernment tool team or subcommittee to edit, organize and arrange.
Group Report-Out Toward Core 2-3 Discernment/Dialogue Questions
The idea was posed that the question/s for discernment would be preceded by a brief executive summary of the Synod Resolution & context in terms of 2-3 sentences articulating our current structure. This would be background for a facilitated group process engaging people in the process in order to help lead to the presentation at General Synod. Guidelines for Facilitation will also be included and we will need to establish a process on orientation, facilitation, and support of discernment leaders and a data collating system prior to the July meeting through working teams to address these areas.
Breakout groups then discussed and created discernment questions, these were all listed as identified below. Then the working group voted on the sets of questions that seemed to best support the discernment process. The "top votes" appear below for the sake of identifying in the notes, in bold. Then, discussion continued to reflect together on shaping the questions. See below the ideas floated, again, with bold indicating ideas that received the most votes from the group (i.e., questions 3, 4 and 10):
1. What message would you like to give to those working on Unified Governance for the UCC?
2. How can the governance structure of the church support your passion around mission?
3. What is your vision for unified governance of the national setting?
4. (Chart comparing current & alternative models)
-Pros & Cons
[a. what do you feel/think?
b. what excites you?
c. what concerns you? ]
Alternative: how do you react to this… what is your response…. What message would you like to give to the working group about unified governance? (responses would require name and church membership – this goes on line as well as Conference, Local Church (through delegate list), Association & HUGS networks – with any additions such as seminary presidents and 20/30 Clergy network.
5. What do you think makes for good governance?
6. What promises & perils could the previous prop for unified governance create for min in your settings?
7. What about the prior proposal do you find helpful or of concern?
8. In what ways do you envision greater involvement in the mission of the wider church apart from board membership?
9. What do you perceive to be the function, responsibility & authority of the national setting in relation to other settings?
10. What do you believe God is calling the UCC to be now & into the future?
Following the reporting of these questions, as mentioned above, the voting or affirmation process the working group used was to place a star by each one's top two questions (with permission to put two on the same one if they wished). This was intended to help continue to "hone" questions, to narrow the discussion a bit to see what initially seemed most important. This narrowing achieved:
Discussion followed on the outcomes desired from the dialogue & discernment process. The constellation of these three questions seems overwhelming. Does the question on a sense of call now & in the future have direct bearing? Various views were expressed. If the "Chart question" (no 4) is used, it would stand alone. It is important to take a look at these questions from the lens of people receiving them. Do we want a more open ended question? There are going to be people who have a lot to say and people who have little interest.
Before questions are rolled out, the working group was in agreement that some basic information needs to be shared to inform the reflection question.
In other words, the discernment resource could be designed skillfully to give bullet points for those who want the skinny, and options for more information for those who wish. We need to trust the people in the pews. There is quite a bit of background resource material to draw on for the informational pieces. Perhaps this could be online with a comment space on our governance website. But how would these be worked with effectively… could these be worked with effectively?
One listening process model used in one of the conference settings of our denomination pulled input from 30 some listening sessions with recorders using flip charts and computers – as well as website input options for those who could not attend a session. The evaluation team worked with 1000 responses, and spent 20 minutes reading a certain set of answers, followed by an interesting unrelated conversation, then any insights from the questions were processed, and this was repeated. The data was sifted in 4 hours! This need not be repeated by our group, but it is do-able to examine the data thoughtfully and systematically for insights – and for settings to examine data first to pass on to us.
Perhaps we could use technology to help us sort the data we examine – using youtube video for young adult networking, for example, then a follow up "invite" to a roundtable or discernment session with facilitation.
Conversation continued. We may not need to reinvent the wheel to go past the networks to get information. The resolution asks the settings to engage in dialogue and report back. We may need to fulfill our mandate in a very structured way, reviewing the input that comes in from the outside and analyze this to feed back into the process. The analysis will precede a report to Executive Council. Again… there are methods for gathering very large sets of data in a meaningful and faithful way respectful of the people who shared and their insights. A subcommittee from the work group will need to be involved in this analytical work.
Our biggest challenge is getting to local church people. All of the General Synod delegates are familiar with this, they are local church members. One idea would be that delegates could be asked to gather data from their local churches. This, with the conference & association annual meetings utilized as well as HUGS meetings, would elicit a good sampling of church wide response.
The chair invited anyone interested in working on the first draft of the dialogue and discernment packet questions and framework to meet. This small group met before the dinner break and it included Marti Baumer, Beau Heyen, Lynda Bigler, Rich Pleva, Inez Reid, Jacquie McLemore, and Kimberly Whitney. The first draft of the discernment and dialogue packet was distributed on Saturday with a first pass at tightening the overlapping and un-systematic ordering of the Core Values.
Saturday, Dec 5 - Moving Forward
The day opened with breakfast and worship with Holy Communion. The plenary proceeded to focus on the Working Documents for Dialogue and Discernment.
Before beginning this work, Julie Estrella asked that it be reflected in the minutes that a five minute presentation was made by her on behalf of a group of PAAM Elders with a discernment document containing ideas about unified governance that it would like to be considered. The chair affirmed that it will be taken under discernment in the broader process when the time comes for review. Linda Jaramillo requested copies for the working group and these were distributed.
Consultation Teams met regarding the discernment process, networks, resources and needed resources. Report-outs followed and are gathered here:
What dialogues will you lead?
What support do you need in addition to the materials packet that is being prepared with a subcommittee that volunteered to review/finalize in collaboration?
Who/What are we missing?
A working, living summary of these follows as an attachment to this document that will continue to be updated and receive corrections as needed and the work is lived into in the life of the discernment and dialogue process. This is titled, "United Church of Christ Unified Governance Working Group Facilitation Timeline for the Dialogue and Discernment Process - Working Draft from the December 3-5, 2009 Meeting."
Discussion continued about the invitation for local churches to discern, there was agreement that a blanket invitation to all should be given and encouraged by the requests put out to the Council of Conference Ministers, possibly to General Synod delegates to involve their local churches, and perhaps a random sampling as well. There were a variety of views on the value of setting a target percentage of our churches that would be a good benchmark. The resolution did not set out such percentages, and broad invitation and encouragement is in order.
Materials needed for Discernment and Dialogue Packets:
--Letter of Introduction should be included
--Good graphic representation of what we are
-- explore teleconference, webinar, web based survey modes (Facebook etc)
--visuals: powerpoint• (UCC Single Governance video on Youtube is dated now with its pre-Synod lens)
--Add Working Group Roster
Deadline for Feedback: June 30th, encourage groups meeting later to use other modes to get feedback within the timeline and work with youth committees/clusters as much as possible to get the youth input
Discussion on the Charge & Responsibility of this Group
A review of the Resolution text and milestones followed. The Resolution tasks the Working Group with bringing a proposal forward for Unified Governance. This is to build on the earlier work of the GFT II (its principles and concepts) and the final form of the unified governance proposal will involve a discernment process. The process going forward has integrity and a clear framework. We will receive inputs, some of which are not consonant with the framework of our charge, and some will not be. We will work together with the Holy Spirit leading, collaboratively and creatively on the charge to bring a Unified Governance Proposal, for one board, forward to Executive Council in order to prepare for the General Synod. As we do this work we need to explain to the church that General Synod has charged we move forward with a one board, unified plan, and we are tasked to listen deeply to the church and discern how to bring this forward.
It is important to the spirit of this work and to the church, that we nurture this along in a different way in the life of the church, without maligning one another, or positions different than our own, or making caricatures of one another, or speaking to a position that is not held by an entire community as though the entire community holds it.
Further Discussion on the Working Documents for Discernment Packets
--add invitation letter and make edits to systematize the ordering of the Core Values
--add subcommittee work from Pierson, Bernard, Marilyn and Yvette on correction of misinformation
POST MEETING COMMUNICATIONS
--Edited Principles and Concepts (send to group first)
--Roster without email addresses – list bodies relating underneath – quote from Resolution
--UC News to contact Bernard for statement
FOLLOW-UP TASK LIST
Working Group Members Covenanted to:
• Read or re-read:
1. Plan of Action
3. GFT II Proposal Sept 2008 – thoroughly
4. Discernment Materials from Jim Antal
5. Chait article – optional
• Stay in touch: thoughts, ideas, feedback
• Follow-up tasks, assignments
--Networking & social media support
--Planning for the July Meeting
--Process/strategy for reviewing drafts
--Letter to the Council of Conference Ministers, Associations, HUGS, will need to follow this meeting to request agenda time at their meetings (or special meetings) for discernment sessions that in time for the June 30th reporting due date.
[Note: as a follow up to these in-process items and the tasks identified by the Working Group, the Chair tasked subcommittees or "task teams" immediately following the December 3-5 meeting]
CLOSING RITUAL – some of the words around leaving with/impacted by our work:
As a part of the closing prayers, words or phrases were shared to gather up the time of meeting and collaborating together. Some of the words shared included "hope, maybe, interesting, promise, fear, concern, moving forward, let's do it."
Elements of our Working Group Covenant
United Church of Christ
Unified Governance Working Group
Dec 3-5, 2009
• Faithfulness to our Church, each other, our work (an umbrella – detail follows:)
•trust, integrity, transparency
•leadership and responsibility to share with constituencies not only decisions but the process that led to them & the background on how discernments were made
•accuracy of information, good information
•truth-telling & willingness to risk
•representing the whole church – wide circle bigger than our own immediate circles & owning our work together for the whole church
•public website on our work is www.ucc.org/governance
• Attentiveness to self and others
• Prayerful Space that includes Silence/Listening in Prayer
• Respect for/interest in differences & similarities
• Offering reactions, ideas, questions and energy in an environment that is safe, honest
•Confidentiality around details about persons or churches
•Sharing the work, concepts, processes, complexity, outcomes
• Engaging each other's stories
• Spirit of openness to possibility & collaboration
United Church of Christ
Unified Governance Working Group
Facilitation Timeline -
Dialogue and Discernment Process
Working Draft from the December 3-5, 2009 Meeting
Ongoing updates or corrections welcome
Jan 22-23 Chairs and Vice Chairs Mtg with Collegium (using working discernment docs) –Anita/Edith/Steve
Jan Pension Boards – Mike
Feb 24-26 Annual Consultation – Steve/Edith/Susan Towner-Larsen
Feb Northern Calif/Nev Conf – Linda and Tanner
Feb Disabilities Min Board – Lynda
March 5 Polity Teachers – Anita and Marti
SPRING Council for Hispanic Ministries – Marilyn
SPRING Illinois Conference - Marilyn
SPRING United Theol Seminary Bd - Anita
April 15 OGM Board – Anita
April 15 JWM Board – Jeannie and James
May Minnesota Conference Annual Mtg– Anita
May 5-8 LINK Event for Youth Leaders – Steve/Jan/Kimberly
ONGOING Various Covenanted Ministry Gatherings – Geoffrey, Steve, and Don Hill
SPRING/ SUMMER CYYAM & Regional Youth Event meetings– Beau
TELECONFERENCE UBC, in advance of July Board meeting
Pacific Northwest Annual Conference Meeting – Bing
New England (CT, Vermont, NH, some NY) Annual Conf Mtgs – Deb
Clergy Clusters – Beau, Deb, working with conference ministers
Franklinton Center Board Meeting - Linda
PSR Board -Linda and Steve, Yvette and Sharon MacArthur
Hawaii Conf – Jeannie and Julia
Lancaster Board & MPC & Global Staff/Partners – Geoffrey
CAIM locations and local church - Juanita
2030 Clergy Network – James
Coalition – Phil and James
South Dakota and Nebraska Conferences – Juanita contacting Wade Schemmel to see if there is no one else
Christians for Justice Action – Marilyn
Chicago Metropolitan Association – Marilyn
LCM Board, Maine Conference, Bangor – Diane
NE Women's Meeting - Liz Miller & Diane
Andover Newton & Hartford Seminaries – Jim Antal
IA Conf & Council of Conference Ministers - Rich
PAAM & Joshua Generation- Julia
Chicago Theological Seminary – Marilyn
Eden Seminary in Jan/May –Mike, and Anita will support if needed
Southeast Networking – Anita will contact Elizabeth Clement
Unified Governance Working Group
Bernard Wilson, Working Group Chair
Composition charged by the General Synod Action, "Toward Unified Governance for the National Setting of the United Church of Christ," as named in lines (14-21) below:
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the General Synod requests that the Executive Council appoint a Working Group with representatives from the Collegium of Officers, members of the Executive Council, Covenanted Ministry Boards, Affiliated and Associated Ministry Boards, the Council of Conference Ministers, and the Historically Underrepresented Groups, to guide work toward Unified Governance in preparation for action by the Twenty-Eighth General Synod. In consultation with the Chair of the Executive Council, each of these bodies would identify their representative so that the diversity of the church would be well represented in the working Group.