Diocesan Governance Change Slowly Matures

Over the past five years, the Diocese of California has been in the midst of transformational changes in governance.  Along with Bishop Swing’s retirement and the call of Bishop Marc we also upset the old order by changing the constitution and canons of the church to modernize its governance.  The two principal governing bodies of the Diocese are the Standing Committee and the Executive Council.

  • The Standing Committee, as we were reminded at convention by Paul Evans, the retiring president of the standing committee in his convention report, dates back to the beginning of the church in America when the first presiding bishop instituted the standing committee in a deliberate attempt to distinguish the new church in America as more democratic than the mother Church of England.  No doubt bishops, ever since, have sworn under their breaths many times at this rowdy colonist invention. The Standing Committee’s role is to be both a council of advice to the bishop and approves his compensation and confirms his decisions related to the ordained of the parish and other actions to live into the Constitution design to be more collaborative and democratic.  So as in all organizations there is sometimes tension.
  • The Executive Council is the result of a very deliberate decision to eliminate the absolute powers of the bishop by winding down the corporation sole.  Under the old rules, the bishop served as president and board of directors thus the name corporation sole and under it the Bishop could, literally, do much as he pleased with Diocesan assets, funds and business interests.  The new structure combined the Diocesan Board of Directors and the Diocesan Council into one new Executive Council to be the fiduciaries for the temporal or business sides of the work of the Diocese while the Standing Committee deals with the personnel-laden and spiritual business of supervising the bishop and clerics.  The Corporation Sole is being phased out.

Shelton Ensley was also present as a delegate from the contra Costa Deanery and in his role as Chair of the Executive Council making his final report as his term is ending. He told the convention that in the two years since its inception, the Executive Council has focused on creating greater transparency and accountability. This has met with unexpected challenges and opportunities to do the diocese’s business more efficiently and productively.  The necessary questions associated with this process have naturally met with some resistance, and put our heritage of “agreeing to disagree” to the test.

In this time of continued economic uncertainty, the Executive Council’s fiduciary responsibility is as important, and ministerial, as ever.  As Bishop Marc’s intentions regarding a “post-parish” diocese becomes clearer, the need for Executive Council’s oversight regarding budgeting and revenue sources will expand even further.


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