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DKS

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General Council Executive May 7-9 2011

The General Council Executive meets in Toronto, May 7-9 2011. The agenda and several reports are on the web here:

 

http://gc40.united-church.ca/en/gce/meetings2011

 

Some is the proposals coming forward are interesting: 

That the National office remain within a 40 km. radius of 3250 Bloor St.; that it be leased space on a subway corridor; that it be "green office space". (translation: stay in Toronto)

 That an administration fee, on a cost recovery basis, be charged to pastoral charges for pension and group insurance benefits. (in other words, join ADP!) 

 And the remaining Remits are proposed.

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RevJamesMurray's picture

RevJamesMurray

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That the Executive of the General Council authorize the introduction of a cost-recovery administration fee to those pastoral charges requiring an invoice for pension and group benefit remittances.

So we will now have to pay for the monthly documentation we all are required to have so we can have a paper trail for our auditors to follow when we have our books examined each year.  Talk about holding us all over a barrell.

RevJamesMurray's picture

RevJamesMurray

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That the General Council Office remain in the Greater Toronto Area, and that the office be within a 40 kilometre radius of 3250 Bloor Street.

This makes sense, since by their own figures, 90% of the staff were not willing to leave the GTA. The cost of the severence packages would have been astronomical, plus the loss of so many people would have devestated the ability of the GCO to do their job.

RevJamesMurray's picture

RevJamesMurray

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The 40th General Council (2009) adopted the policy that, in the area of doctrine, the United Church recognizes the primacy of scripture, with:
• sections 2.0 through 2.20 of the Basis of Union, constituting the doctrine section of the Basis of Union and including 20 articles;
• the 1940 statement of faith;
• “A New Creed”; and
• “A Song of Faith;”
each being recognized as a subordinate standard of the United Church as contemplated by subsection 3(b) of The United Church of Canada Act.

In the notes to the Song of Faith, it states

It is more descriptive than prescriptive, which is to say it does not claim to tell the church what it should believe so much as it attempts to put forward in an orderly and evocative way what the church seems to believe, based on its actions, its discourse, and its relationship to the Christian tradition in general and its own history in particular.
 
Are we asking the Song of Faith to become the very thing it did not want to be?

 

paradox3's picture

paradox3

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So, RJM, the song of faith does not tell the church what it should believe, but it attempts to put forward what the church seems to believe?

 

Am I the only one who finds this exceedingly confusing?

 

GordW's picture

GordW

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Arguably, any faith statment in a non-creedal church does not tell the church what it should beleive but can only describe how the church seems to express its faith in that generation.  Which stands fully in line with teh UCCan tradition that each generation has a duty to express the faith it their own idioms and understandings.

RevJamesMurray's picture

RevJamesMurray

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All of which makes enshrining The Song Of Faith as part of our doctrine a very odd move.

GordW's picture

GordW

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How so any more than the other statements James?

DKS's picture

DKS

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RevJamesMurray wrote:

That the Executive of the General Council authorize the introduction of a cost-recovery administration fee to those pastoral charges requiring an invoice for pension and group benefit remittances.

So we will now have to pay for the monthly documentation we all are required to have so we can have a paper trail for our auditors to follow when we have our books examined each year.  Talk about holding us all over a barrell.

 

I believe that this applies only to the congregations which refuse to use ADP for payroll. Given that it is costing the United Church $100,000/ year for the congregations who refuse to join ADP (now down to 10% of all congregation), some cost recovery is in order. Our conference and presbyteries are now refusing any calls and appointments to pastoral charges who refuse to join ADP.

DKS's picture

DKS

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RevJamesMurray wrote:

That the General Council Office remain in the Greater Toronto Area, and that the office be within a 40 kilometre radius of 3250 Bloor Street.

This makes sense, since by their own figures, 90% of the staff were not willing to leave the GTA. The cost of the severence packages would have been astronomical, plus the loss of so many people would have devestated the ability of the GCO to do their job.

 

Coupled with the availability of some very good real estate and/or buldings in churches in the Toronto area, just waiting for development.

 

Quote:

 

 

 

2. That the General Council Executive adopt the following parameters

a) pursue a lease arrangement rather than purchase property;

b) that this leased space be located on a subway corridor; and

c) that this lease arrangement work towards the standards of "sustainable green office space".

 

 

 

Any new location will be along the subway lines. It will be "new" or "repurposed" space. The United Church itself will not own it, but lease it, allowing the church to pick up its tent in a few years and move again.

Panentheism's picture

Panentheism

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Gord the point James is making is the song of faith is a snapeshot whereas the the move is to give it more than a snapshot,  Does the remit mean every so often we have to have another?  Everytime we do something like the song of faith.

 

Whlte there is some good stuff in it, the song of faith is something that I never read or use.  I don;t even use it for study groups... a lot of pretty words and some almost process ideas in it, but the question is the remit wrongheaded?

revjohn's picture

revjohn

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Hi Panentheism,

 

Panentheism wrote:

the question is the remit wrongheaded?

 

Maybe with respect to the Song of Faith it is.

 

The conversation around the remit from the floor was that it was a response to one of the traditional proposals which would render the Articles of Faith historic documents and, if I understand correctly, time bound (meaning that they no longer fulfill any contemporary function).

 

It was suggested that perhaps the direction to go was not to remove the Articles of Faith from the Basis of Union (what would that do for Essential Agreement?) but rather to enhance the Doctrinal Section of the Basis of Union by adding the various reworkings/articulations of our faith.

 

It rather broadens what we will be asking future candidates for ministry what they essential agree with.

 

Personally, I'm not sure it is the best idea General Council could have come up with.  I like it a lot better than getting rid of the doctrine section of the Basis of Union altogether.

 

Grace and Peace to you.

John

GordW's picture

GordW

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And my point is that all te statements are nothing more that a snapshot and so the question is either equally valid or invalid for all of them (out personal preferences aside).

paradox3's picture

paradox3

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GordW wrote:

Arguably, any faith statment in a non-creedal church does not tell the church what it should beleive but can only describe how the church seems to express its faith in that generation.  Which stands fully in line with teh UCCan tradition that each generation has a duty to express the faith it their own idioms and understandings.

 

Hi GordW,

 

Are you saying that the UCCan is a non-creedal church? I don't understand your statement, so I am hoping you will provide some clarification for me.

 

Thanks ... P3

DKS's picture

DKS

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paradox3 wrote:

GordW wrote:

Arguably, any faith statment in a non-creedal church does not tell the church what it should beleive but can only describe how the church seems to express its faith in that generation.  Which stands fully in line with teh UCCan tradition that each generation has a duty to express the faith it their own idioms and understandings.

 

Hi GordW,

 

Are you saying that the UCCan is a non-creedal church? I don't understand your statement, so I am hoping you will provide some clarification for me.

 

Thanks ... P3

 

The United Church is definately a non-creedal church. It's part of our Congregational heritage.

revjohn's picture

revjohn

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Hi GordW,

 

GordW wrote:

And my point is that all te statements are nothing more that a snapshot and so the question is either equally valid or invalid for all of them (out personal preferences aside).

 

Well yes and no.

 

Yes, The United Church of Canada is non-creedal, which is not the same as anti-creedal or adoctrinal.  The designation points to how The United Church of Canada employs both creed and doctrine.

 

No, The United Church of Canada is not non-creedal in that we currently make essential agreement the touchstone of acceptance for clergy serving the denomination.

 

Removing the Doctrine section of the Basis of Union would make essential agreement utterly useless.  How can one essentially agree with nothing?  Defending something as nebulous as essential agreement requires that there actually be something to agree with.

 

The preamble sets up the articles of faith as a springboard for doctrinal growth, our Reformed heritage of the Church reformed and always reforming requires that we start with something.  If we start with nothing there is no springboard to launch nor is there anything to reform.  It becomes an anything goes environment.

 

At present we begin with the articles of faith.

 

Whether or not all who must profess essential agreement actually start there and do the work of reforming on their own is up to those called.  Some, apparently can't for one reason or another, so we (with the remit) will now include articulations of faith that our clergy can more readily launch from.

 

Is it a good solution?

 

I'm on the fence, it is a far better solution as scrapping all doctrine and allowing any and all to construct personal theological systems.

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

 

 

RevJamesMurray's picture

RevJamesMurray

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That the Executive of the General Council authorize the introduction of a cost-recovery administration fee to those pastoral charges requiring an invoice for pension and group benefit remittances.

DKS wrote "I believe that this applies only to the congregations which refuse to use ADP for payroll. Given that it is costing the United Church $100,000/ year for the congregations who refuse to join ADP (now down to 10% of all congregation), some cost recovery is in order. Our conference and presbyteries are now refusing any calls and appointments to pastoral charges who refuse to join ADP.

While that may be the case, the GCE statement sounds more broadly based.

DKS's picture

DKS

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RevJamesMurray wrote:

That the Executive of the General Council authorize the introduction of a cost-recovery administration fee to those pastoral charges requiring an invoice for pension and group benefit remittances.

DKS wrote "I believe that this applies only to the congregations which refuse to use ADP for payroll. Given that it is costing the United Church $100,000/ year for the congregations who refuse to join ADP (now down to 10% of all congregation), some cost recovery is in order. Our conference and presbyteries are now refusing any calls and appointments to pastoral charges who refuse to join ADP.

 

Quote:

While that may be the case, the GCE statement sounds more broadly based.

 

Given that invoicing for pension is direct through ADP now, I don't think it is more broad. What the church is doing is closing off the option of opting out of ADP unless there are certain specifc circumstances. 

 

It may also be part of the conversion to AON Hewitt. There will be a number of expanded capacities which the new system will give the United Church.

RevJamesMurray's picture

RevJamesMurray

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revjohn wrote "It was suggested that perhaps the direction to go was not to remove the Articles of Faith from the Basis of Union (what would that do for Essential Agreement?) but rather to enhance the Doctrinal Section of the Basis of Union by adding the various reworkings/articulations of our faith."

So instead of downgrading the Articles of Faith, we are to elevate three other documents to equal doctrinal status, thereby watering down our doctrine?

 It rather broadens what we will be asking future candidates for ministry what they essential agree with.

John you are such a great politican and so polite! I'd say it makes the essential agreement question a meaningless one. The Song of faith is such a lyrical poetic work that no one can say what it really means.

The 1940 Statement of Faith has not been used in any tangible way in several decades- it truly is a historical document. Will this mean we will actually have to read it?

Like Pan, I only made use of the Song of Faith shortly after it first came out. I found it too long and rambling to be of any real use.

I guess the 20  Articles of Faith truly will be lost if they are lumped in with the other three documents.

Does this mean that if we want to amend A New Creed as we did in the 1990's when we added the line "to live with respect in creation', that we would have to submit any further changes to a remit? Does this mean we could submit remits to change the Song of Faith as well?  

revjohn's picture

revjohn

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Hi RevJamesMurray,

 

RevJamesMurray wrote:

So instead of downgrading the Articles of Faith, we are to elevate three other documents to equal doctrinal status, thereby watering down our doctrine?

 

Well, it would only be watering down if the three documents we were elevating were theological inventions rather than theological reformulations.  Maybe the result is more like crunchy peanut butter?

 

RevJamesMurray wrote:

John you are such a great politican and so polite!

 

There's no need to be hurtful.

 

RevJamesMurray wrote:

I'd say it makes the essential agreement question a meaningless one. The Song of faith is such a lyrical poetic work that no one can say what it really means.

 

I agree with you.  Lyrics by committee results in a song rarely sung.  I suggest it is an exercise in formulating essential agreement.  If it is an acceptable formulation then it fits on the trajectory begun with the Articles of faith.  If it isn't acceptable it should have gone back for further work or rejected altogether.

 

RevJamesMurray wrote:

The 1940 Statement of Faith has not been used in any tangible way in several decades- it truly is a historical document. Will this mean we will actually have to read it?

 

It is by far an easier read than either the Articles of Faith or the Song of Faith.  It is lighter on subject matter than the 20 as it only has 12 Articles.

 

RevJamesMurray wrote:

Like Pan, I only made use of the Song of Faith shortly after it first came out. I found it too long and rambling to be of any real use.

 

Well you are ahead of me.  I got half-way through the front page, decided it was unuseable and didn't use it.  I finished reading it, can remember none of it and I have never been moved to attempt to re-read it.

 

I'm trying to be polite.  I don't think I'm being politically wise in sharing that I found the song of faith to be theological and verbal diarrhea.

 

RevJamesMurray wrote:
 

I guess the 20  Articles of Faith truly will be lost if they are lumped in with the other three documents.

 

That is a real possibility and I wouldn't like that.  Have they been lost yet?  When we reformulate how much do we bring forward?  How much do we leave behind?  Do we even dare to compare?  

 

RevJamesMurray wrote:

Does this mean that if we want to amend A New Creed as we did in the 1990's when we added the line "to live with respect in creation', that we would have to submit any further changes to a remit? Does this mean we could submit remits to change the Song of Faith as well?  

 

It would mean that nothing changes without a remit.  As for the song of faith one has to wonder how many it would need to be useable.  How many remits will make it a rewrite?

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

 

paradox3's picture

paradox3

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DKS wrote:

The United Church is definately a non-creedal church. It's part of our Congregational heritage.

 

Hi DKS,

 

Could we have a definition of "non-creedal" please?

DKS's picture

DKS

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paradox3 wrote:

DKS wrote:

The United Church is definately a non-creedal church. It's part of our Congregational heritage.

 

Hi DKS,

 

Could we have a definition of "non-creedal" please?

 

No creedal affirmation or subscription is required for membership save that required by the New Testament. Thus:

 

 

Presider: NN, I ask you these questions that you may publicly profess the faith proclaimed in baptism.

Do you believe in one God:

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

Candidate: I do, by the grace of God.

Presider: Desiring the freedom of new life in Christ,

do you seek to resist evil, and to live in love and justice?

Candidate: I will, God being my helper.

Presider: Will you follow the way of Jesus Christ?

Candidate: I will, God being my helper.

Presider: Will you join with your brothers and sisters in this congregation

to share in the life, work, and ministry of Jesus Christ?

Candidate: I will, God being my helper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

is all which is required. This was a huge issue in the Union talks in 1925. The Presbyterians wanted creedal subscription, especially for ministers (Westminster Confession was preferred). The Congregationalists prevailed, along with the Methodists. Thus we only require "essential agreement" for ministers and no creedal subscription for anyone.

 

 

somegalfromcan's picture

somegalfromcan

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Does the word "Father" have to be used or could "Creator" be substituted in? When I took my memberships classes, that would not have mattered to me, but now it would make a difference.

GordW's picture

GordW

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In baptism the traditional language must be used (although it can be augmented by other formulations elsewhere in the service).  Not sure there has been a rulin about the language in confirmation/re-affirmation of Baptismal faith services.

revjohn's picture

revjohn

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Hi somegalfromcan,

 

somegalfromcan wrote:

Does the word "Father" have to be used or could "Creator" be substituted in? When I took my memberships classes, that would not have mattered to me, but now it would make a difference.

 

If one is going to substitute "Creator" for "Father" then I think it is necessary to change the language for the second and third persons of the Trinity.  Otherwise there is a confusion of the Trinitarian formula (One part economic and two parts ontologic).

 

Of course, an argument can be made that the economic Trinity (What God does) is not equivalent to the Ontological Trinity (Who God is) because all three persons of the Trinity work together. 

 

For example Positing God as "Creator" does not limit the work of Creation to one person of the Trinity as the narration of scripture places both the Son and the Holy Spirit into the role of Creator.

 

Mucking with the Ontological Trinity would be offensive to some of our Christian brothers and sisters.  Of course, so is baptizing infants and the question that one needs to ask themselves when considering a substitution is whether or not such a substitution is necessary and whether or not personal comfort is equal to necessity.

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

DKS's picture

DKS

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somegalfromcan wrote:

Does the word "Father" have to be used or could "Creator" be substituted in? When I took my memberships classes, that would not have mattered to me, but now it would make a difference.

 

There are a number of alternatives. P. 362ff in "Celebrate God's Presence" the United Church's worship resource, offers these:

 

A. Profession of Faith in the Triune God.

Do you believe in one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? 

 

I do, by the grace of God.

 

or

 

Do you believe in God, who has created and is creating, who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, to reconcile and make new, and who works in us and others by the Spirit?

I do, by the grace of God.

 

or

 

Do you believe in God, Source of love; in Jesus Christ, love incarnate; and in the Holy Spirit, love's power?

 

I do, by the grace of God.

 

So, no, you can't replace Father with Creator, but there are alternatives.

 

DKS's picture

DKS

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GordW wrote:

In baptism the traditional language must be used (although it can be augmented by other formulations elsewhere in the service).  Not sure there has been a rulin about the language in confirmation/re-affirmation of Baptismal faith services.

 

We are required to use the Trinitarian formula in baptism, but not for reaffirmation of baptism, as it is a rite and not a sacrament.

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somegalfromcan

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Thanks for answering my question folks!

 

DKS wrote:
 

There are a number of alternatives. P. 362ff in "Celebrate God's Presence" the United Church's worship resource, offers these:

 

A. Profession of Faith in the Triune God.

Do you believe in one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? 

 

I do, by the grace of God.

 

or

 

Do you believe in God, who has created and is creating, who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, to reconcile and make new, and who works in us and others by the Spirit?

I do, by the grace of God.

 

or

 

Do you believe in God, Source of love; in Jesus Christ, love incarnate; and in the Holy Spirit, love's power?

 

I do, by the grace of God.

 

So, no, you can't replace Father with Creator, but there are alternatives.

 

 

I like both the second and third options and would feel quite comfortable using either one of them. I'm not so concerned about offending people from other denominations by not doing things in the way that they would. I've already been told that I'm going to hell in a handbasket by simply being a member of the United Church.

 

By the way - my hand basket is decorated with pink ribbons and flowers.

DKS's picture

DKS

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somegalfromcan wrote:

I'm not so concerned about offending people from other denominations by not doing things in the way that they would. I've already been told that I'm going to hell in a handbasket by simply being a member of the United Church.

 

You may not be concerned about offending people, but there is a formal agreement in place called PLURA which requires ministry personnel who perform baptisms to use the Trinitarian formula and generous amounts of water. If we do not do that, the word of the United Church in such agreements is minimized and the United Church itself is disregarded. For those of us under the oversight and discipline of the presbytery, it becomes a serious matter.

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somegalfromcan

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I am curious as to why it matters so much?

RevJamesMurray's picture

RevJamesMurray

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So apparently the GCE rejected the idea of the offices staying in the GTA. They are asking for specific proposals from across the country. However, any proposal from outside the magical 40km limit will have to prove savings of $4.5m which would be the cost of paying severance to 90% of the staff. I sincerely doubt any organization could effectively survive losing that much of its staff. I also doubt any real estate project could save that much money over the life of the lease. As one of the potential locations, I will eagerly await their specific list of requirements before investing any time or money into a proposal.

DKS's picture

DKS

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RevJamesMurray wrote:

So apparently the GCE rejected the idea of the offices staying in the GTA. They are asking for specific proposals from across the country. However, any proposal from outside the magical 40km limit will have to prove savings of $4.5m which would be the cost of paying severance to 90% of the staff. I sincerely doubt any organization could effectively survive losing that much of its staff. I also doubt any real estate project could save that much money over the life of the lease. As one of the potential locations, I will eagerly await their specific list of requirements before investing any time or money into a proposal.

 

Interesting. So we spend more money to dismiss the recommendation of a church appointed (and presumably balanced) task group and prolong the decision time just to give the appearance of looking at all possibilities? Is that really good governance? If I were a member of the accomodation task group I'd be a little PO'd right about now.

 

I agree. Losing 90% of our staff would be a huge loss. So what is so wrong with locating the national office in Toronto? I shake my head.

DKS's picture

DKS

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somegalfromcan wrote:

I am curious as to why it matters so much?

 

It's called respect for other parts of the Body of Christ. If you sign an agreement saying you do one thing and then you go and do exactly the opposite, what does that tell the other parties about your willingness to keep your word? It means your word and your agreements are completely worthless and you have no respect for other parts of the Body of Christ.

revjohn's picture

revjohn

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Hi DKS,

 

DKS wrote:

It's called respect for other parts of the Body of Christ. If you sign an agreement saying you do one thing and then you go and do exactly the opposite, what does that tell the other parties about your willingness to keep your word? It means your word and your agreements are completely worthless and you have no respect for other parts of the Body of Christ.

 

Having no integrity also betrays a lack of respect for one's self.

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

Pinga's picture

Pinga

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, it is not unreasonable for parallel analysis to be going on while a task force is cut.  One of those will be an HR analysis of cost, impact.     You have a task force to ensure all ideas are reviewd.  If information comes along either through intentional parallel review or a miss prior to cutting the task force, so be it.  

 

It does not indicate a lack of respect, but just a process that needs to make it through to the end

DKS's picture

DKS

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Pinga wrote:

, it is not unreasonable for parallel analysis to be going on while a task force is cut.  One of those will be an HR analysis of cost, impact.     You have a task force to ensure all ideas are reviewd.  If information comes along either through intentional parallel review or a miss prior to cutting the task force, so be it.  

 

It does not indicate a lack of respect, but just a process that needs to make it through to the end

 

One of the principles of good governance is that one listens to the final reports of task groups and unless there is a compelling reason not to accept the recommendations, it is accepted if all aspects of the original proposal have been dealth with and questions answered. It is not the role of those in governance to increase cost or to change the rules of the original task group. This smacks of the latter. I believe the HR cost was part of the original mandate of the group, as well, not carried out in parallel.

Pinga's picture

Pinga

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 You live in a different world than anyone that I know does.  

 

A task force is simply a committee struck to address a problem.  They present a solution or solutions and analysis to the governing body.

 

The governing body is not required ot implement the task forces decision.  In fact, it is not unusual to strike  second task force to further refine, or to scope taking into account changes in the situation or further factors identified or gaps  since the first one was cut.

 

 

mwatt's picture

mwatt

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The task group has done a good job. The Executive is unwilling to annoy the portion of the church that will be angered by ANY decision. (They'll "think about it in the morning" as the saying goes.)

I won't move. Actually, I can't. My family have had this discussion (this has been dragging on for over 3 years) and they don't want to.

(btw:$4.5M in staffing costs, the number that the committee presented, was half the number cited by HR....reason: 'that can't be right'. It would be prudent to consider this the lowest possible amount, and add to that the same amount for 'constructive dismissal' payouts.)

The church has time NOW to walk the talk: build a green/wired/accessible building at on one of the many properties in the GTA and and look to the future. 

RevJamesMurray's picture

RevJamesMurray

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They rejected the proposal due to pressur from Winnepeg who are lobbying hard. We declined to put in a detailed bid since their needs were so vague.

DKS's picture

DKS

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Pinga wrote:

 You live in a different world than anyone that I know does.  

 

A task force is simply a committee struck to address a problem.  They present a solution or solutions and analysis to the governing body.

 

The governing body is not required ot implement the task forces decision.  In fact, it is not unusual to strike  second task force to further refine, or to scope taking into account changes in the situation or further factors identified or gaps  since the first one was cut.

 

 

 

I am living aand breathing policy governance, these days. What I said comes out of that context. If the recommendations meet the terms of reference, and there are no new factors, there is no reason not to adopt the recommendations. This is not a complex decision, other than for those who feel the national office should be located outside Toronto.

DKS's picture

DKS

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mwatt wrote:

The task group has done a good job. The Executive is unwilling to annoy the portion of the church that will be angered by ANY decision. (They'll "think about it in the morning" as the saying goes.)

I won't move. Actually, I can't. My family have had this discussion (this has been dragging on for over 3 years) and they don't want to.

(btw:$4.5M in staffing costs, the number that the committee presented, was half the number cited by HR....reason: 'that can't be right'. It would be prudent to consider this the lowest possible amount, and add to that the same amount for 'constructive dismissal' payouts.)

The church has time NOW to walk the talk: build a green/wired/accessible building at on one of the many properties in the GTA and and look to the future. 

 

Works for me, Martha. And given that the population centre of the United Church is still in the central conferences, it makes a lot of sense. It would be great to have a LEED - Gold building in Toronto as our national office. Makes a lot of sense. Our Health Unit has a LEED - Gold building and it is great.

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