General Council Executive of the United Church
Met November 19th and 20th
The following summaries of the General Council Executive meeting were published on the United Church Commons website in the summaries folder of the GC43 Executive (2018-2022) section.
Summary: General Council Executive, November 19, 2021
The General Council Executive (GCE) gathered on November 19 for the first day of meetings. Adapting a previous practice to the virtual environment, General Council 43 Commissioners were invited to register and observe the meeting. The Executive reflected on John 18: 33-37, particularly on the call to bear witness to truth. Prayers were offered for communities directly affected by the recent catastrophic flooding and for the whole inhabited earth groaning in climate injustice.
The General Council Executive received the report Ministry Leadership to Meet the Needs of the Church in the 2020s, offered by a task group. The task group was formed from appointments by the Theology Inter-church Inter-faith Committee and the Board of Vocation, working with regional and national staff. In the discussion of the report and related proposal, gratitude was expressed for committed and exceptional Designated Lay Ministers, many of whom are serving the church from a lifelong vocational call. Given a number of proposed changes to the proposal, this discussion (GS 128) will be revisited tomorrow.
Equity in Compensation
The Executive considered RC 01 Elimination of the General Council and Regional Council Salary Differential, originating from the Shining Waters Regional Council Executive. This proposal addressed a difference between lay and ordered personnel compensation in the General and Regional Council offices. Previously, ordered staff have been paid at a lower rate than lay employees, and lay pension accrual was based on the ordered personnel rate and not on their full salary.
The Executive of General Council decided to compensate lay and ordered (commissioned and ordained) staff equally for equal work with the General Council and Regional Council system, recognizing that the practice (of different levels of pay for lay and ordered staff) no longer achieves the objective for which it was originally introduced. Both ordered ministers and lay employees will start to accrue pension on their entire salary. Moving towards our new strategic plan that names Daring Justice as a pillar of our work, it was concluded that we cannot continue to pay ministry personnel less than a lay person doing a similar job. This change is one way of helping the church to more authentically live out our call to embrace justice and equity.
A financial plan to implement this change will be prepared no later than April 30, 2022, with changes to compensation retroactive to January 01, 2022. Approximately 50% of the staff positions affected are supported by assessment revenue and 50% are supported through Mission & Service.
In a related motion, the Executive directed the General Secretary to engage experts in analysis of compensation policies and practices paid to ministers of communities of faith and ministers in the General Council and Regional Council Offices. The intent is to examine the impact of these policies on ministers who are Indigenous, racialized, women, 2SLGBTQQIA+, and persons with disabilities.
Pension Plan Accountability Report
An accountability report was received from the Chair of the Pension Board. The plan is full funded with no major concerns. Mr. Marcus Robertson was heartily thanked for his long service in this role which he completes in 2022.
General Secretary Accountability Report
The General Secretary highlighted several items from his report including the United Church’s presence at the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP 26) in Glasgow, implementation of the strategic plan, progress on moving the General Council office to the Bloor Street United Church location by 2025, and efforts to strengthen communications regarding ongoing decision making.
The General Secretary and Moderator are committed to meeting with all Indigenous communities impacted by the residential schools run by The United Church of Canada that wish to do so. Where those meetings have been taking place, there is a focus on building relationships. Some communities are seeking information from the archives, and staff are responding to those requests.
A number of other proposals passed through the consent motion including a decision to focus any expansion of retiree benefits to the provision of a defined benefit pension plan and reaffirm the 2020 decision to a five-year plan to attain self-sustainability for the retiree group health plan. The Executive also agreed that a change to The Manual be proposed to the 44th General Council that a diaconal or ordained minister from another denomination may serve in an appointment, normally up to 2 years, without a requirement that they be in the admission process.
General Council Executive reconvenes Saturday, November 20 at 11:00am Eastern.
Summary: General Council Executive, November 20, 2021
Worship within Worship
During opening worship, the General Council Executive covenanted with Sarah Charters, the new Executive Officer of Philanthropy and President of The United Church of Canada Foundation, and with The Rev. Dr. Jennifer Janzen-Ball, the new Executive Minister of Theological Leadership. As well as welcoming these new Ministers, the General Secretary expressed deep thanks to Catherine Rodd for her outstanding service as Executive Officer, Communications, as she approaches retirement.
The gathered community, including observers, shared communion together, lifted up prayers from the life of the church, and honoured faithful servants in church and in partnership who have died over the last year.
The Executive received the report of the Just Peace Task Group with appreciation. The Task Group consisted of four people appointed in November 2018 to undertake a review of United Church of Canada policies on Israel and Palestine in light of the current reality and partner requests and provide advice and recommendations. Resourced by staff, the Just Peace Task Group consulted in person and online with global, ecumenical, and interfaith partners, and with people from across the United Church. The Executive has referred the report, and the proposal–that The United Church of Canada adopt a principles-based approach to its justice work concerning Israel and Palestine going forward–to the 44th General Council 2022 for decision. The Task Group will express its sincere gratitude in writing to all the individuals, groups and organizations who took the time to share their concerns and perspectives.
The General Council Executive will also recommend to the 44th General Council that the Theology and Interchurch Interfaith Committee develop a framework for a principle-based approach to all the justice work of The United Church of Canada and make recommendations to the 45th General Council. The General Secretary will be asked to potentially identify opportunities to reflect on, and explore this approach, in advance of that Council.
The General Council Executive also heard an accountability report from Aisha Francis, the Executive Director of KAIROS. KAIROS recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, and is continuing in strategic planning for 2023 to 2028. Key current priorities include the work of the KAIROS Blanket Exercise (including virtual exercises), support to those coming to Canada through the Temporary Foreign Workers program, and global partnerships addressing violence against women. The Executive encouraged KAIROS to offer basic resources in French.
A further report was offered by Tim Blair, the CEO of The United Property Resource Corporation (UPRC). UPRC is focused on implementing the key principles, values and commitments of the United Church to development across the portfolio of church properties. One huge opportunity the portfolio offers is that of repeatable innovation, taking knowledge and ideas and applying them across a diverse set of projects. UPRC are focused on people, building, and community metrics to assess the outcomes of property development on communities of faith and communities served. In the construction work, there will be a significant commitment to Indigenous procurement and hiring of Indigenous and racialized workers. There were reports of excitement both within and beyond the church of this important, emerging work.
In his report, the Moderator shared from his experience in the role, expressing gratitude for the extraordinary amount of work and the high number of meetings of the General Council Executive, with thanks also for the connected and related work of the General Secretary and staff in supporting governance. He noted a level of exhaustion in communities of faith, and particularly in ministry personnel, even as we begin to transition out of the pandemic, which in itself presents new challenges. Recent hard, difficult, and yet necessary decisions have caused stress. The Moderator is reflecting on the challenge and opportunity of an extended virtual General Council 44. This, as well as the work of “Bringing the Children Home,” and the implications of transition out of the pandemic are his key priorities. The church is encouraged to assist in facilitating nominations for the next Moderator. Nominations for the General Council Executive are also encouraged.
The General Council Executive returned to the topic of GS 128, related to Task Group report on Ministry Leadership to Meet the Needs of the Church in the 2020s. The Executive of the General Council took action to enable a review of the Statement on Ministry (2012), engage with the National Indigenous Council on designated lay ministry criteria, broader vocational ministry needs, and establishment of an Indigenous Testamur, explore bi-vocational and collaborative ministry, and convene a task group on lay leader accountability. It was also requested that the General Secretary develop proposals, for consideration of General Council, on related policy changes, and retooling of training.
There were several proposals regarding Designated Lay Ministers that will go to General Council including one proposing that the General Secretary, in consultation with Designated Lay Ministers, develop a process by which recognized Designated Lay Ministers may transition to the order of ministry and a way to recognize Designated Lay Ministers who are retired. Designated Lay Ministers will receive communication from the General Secretary in the week of November 22, 2021.
The Executive also proposed that the upcoming General Council address a set of issues related to better support of rural and smaller communities of faith.
This meeting included an Equity Support Team which helped enable the whole gathered community to stay focused on equity considerations in interactions and deliberations, including finding ways to discontinue the use of words that, because of our colonial legacy, cause hurt. The Team also affirmed the many ways the meeting process is intentionally affirming equity.
The meeting adjourned with recitation of the New Creed in French and English.