+Bishop Jon V. Anderson
At our synod council meeting on November 10th, we completed our discernment regarding the proposal to change from a ten- to a six-conference synod model. We reached a decision. I feel very good about the work done to shape a plan and the discernment of the council. We appreciate the earlier input given by clear that there were many lingering questions and little excitement. The motion was withdrawn by its maker and the person who seconded it. The proposal to shift to six conferences did not move forward because… other governance committees.
We will not move forward the proposal to shift to six conferences at our coming Synod Assembly. A motion to make this shift was made and seconded, but we decided to recess and stew on it for a while longer during lunch and committee meetings. When we came back together and were ready to act on the pending motion, it was clear that there were many lingering questions and little excitement. The motion was withdrawn by its maker and the person who seconded it. The proposal to shift to six conferences did not move forward because…
- of concerns about driving distances involved, voiced by the conferences in the south and west, who would have been most directly impacted.
- of similar concerns shared by other synod groups about the distances.
- there were concerns we would not be able to sustain the fruitful work of our conferences in the new configuration so that, while we solved the governance problem of equity, we would actually sacrifice relationship and participation.
- the idea of having networks that mirrored our former conferences created the perception of confusing complexity.
- there was not sufficient excitement and energy about moving this proposal forward. We had also struggled to imagine the successful passing of the required constitutional changes.
In our deliberations, we talked about ways to address the imbalance of (average worship attendance) size in our conferences across the synod. The following ideas were discussed and will be worked on at next meeting:
- We will consider a proposal to revise the bishop election process in a way that makes it less dependent on conference decision-making as we attend to the inequities in current numbers of conference voting members.
- We will begin to appoint at-large members from our two largest conferences to give them greater voice on our synod boards as we attend to the significant inequities in numbers of worshiping members.
- Synod staff will shift our expectation of being present at regular conference meetings to an expectation of being present at a minimum of every third conference gathering.
- We will explore the use of Zoom conference calls and other ways of communicating at other meetings. We would hope to physically attend meetings more frequently, but will have this guiding expectation.
- Conferences will be encouraged to continue to collaborate with sister conferences to share resources. They will also be encouraged to explore hybrid models of presence and conference call presence to encourage participation.
Congregations that have requested in this process to move from one conference to another will be contacted to see what their conference preferences will be now that the conference structures will not change.
For those of you who have worked on developing this proposal, I want to express our gratitude.
Those of us who were in the room for the discernment and decision believe this is the right decision. We also believe the discussion has helped our synod governance system grow stronger.