The LCA’s General Convention of Synod has backed formal introduction of changes to church governance and national functions, which have been trialled over the past three years.
Proposed at the 2015 Synod by the General Church Council (GCC), the changes were designed to provide more effective leadership and mission-centric activity within the LCA, and to deliver resources more efficiently in the church.
LCA Pastor for New and Renewing and Churches Rev Dr Noel Due and the Victoria-Tasmania District’s Pastor for Congregational Support, Pastor Brett Kennett, spoke to the 2018 Synod in support of formalising the changes. They said that during the period of the trial restructure closer working relationships had been established between the districts and churchwide operations, and that it would be detrimental to the church’s core mission of sharing the gospel not to continue the new structure.
The original GCC governance proposal called for ‘in-principle support for competency-based, appropriately structured LCA councils, boards, committees and commissions’. It also authorised GCC to develop and trial the new rules and governance policy, as well as to prepare necessary changes to LCA By-laws, for approval by the 2018 General Synod.
The national functions changes aimed to provide ‘more effective leadership, governance and other resources that are churchwide, mission focused, service oriented, efficiently delivered and effective in enacting the decisions and directions of General Synod’.
In late 2017 GCC commissioned an independent review of the trial structure, which included consultation with individuals and groups directly impacted by the proposed changes, as well as those who were expected to benefit. The final consultant’s report was submitted to General Church Council (GCC) in June.
Independent consultant Wendy Taylor said the majority of committees, boards and individuals which participated in the review reported greater effectiveness in focusing on the church’s core mission, with many also citing improvements in governance and administrative efficiency.
Many congregations indicated their appreciation of support received in communications, human resource management, and financial and IT services. The risk profile of the church has also improved markedly because of the changes, as practices become more compliant with regulations pertaining to the church. Some congregations experienced service glitches, and areas for improvement or development have been identified.
GCC noted that positive findings of the review included: key leaders of the church had reported time efficiencies, enabling them to focus more on mission-related work; the profile of local mission departments had been raised within the church; changes to governing bodies had positively impacted the effectiveness of half the number of boards, committees and commissions; efficiencies had been made by those boards, committees and commissions that now received administration support and the increased participation of the executive officers; and administration in districts and congregations was being standardised and streamlined, creating efficiencies at district level.
Among the key features of the governance changes are that nominations to all boards, committees and commissions will be competency-based, that GCC is renamed as the General Church Board (GCB) to more accurately reflect its governance role, and that the membership of the Board is fully elected by the General Synod rather than a combination of election and appointment, and reduced from a maximum of 14 members to nine, comprised of three pastors and six lay members. Most other boards and councils will be limited to seven members, all appointed, plus consultants and advisors.