Synod sets out on path of structural change
The Uniting Church’s Synod of New South Wales and the ACT has decided to begin a process of structural reform.
Meeting in Newcastle on September 26, the Synod committed itself to flexibility, ensuring each presbytery is equipped with or has access to necessary human and financial resources, and exploring cooperative work with other councils of the church.
It will move to a structure of “Areas of Ministry and Mission” rather than the current divisions of Synod.
The change is a response to the perception that the church’s current structure places obstacles or barriers in the way of mission.
The purposes of the Synod — roles dealing with physical resources, general oversight, administration and coordination, ecumenical relationships, ministerial education and placements — will be newly understood as focusing on the “promotion and encouragement of the mission of the church”.
As the Synod gives consideration to the way in which it is structured, it will do so with a dedication to enabling, empowering and equipping ministry in local communities.
Synod heard that its current structure no longer best served the church for its mission and ministry. A change was required in light of the changed nature of local ministry, the complexity of compliance and regulatory demands and competing demands for limited resources.
The divisional structure, with nearly identical leadership models for each division, ran the risk of compartmentalising the church’s ministry. Greater flexibility and adaptability was required.
It was foreseen that not all elements of all divisions would change. For some, change would be significant while, for others, legislative and other reasons might mean little change is required.
There will be cooperative work across various elements of the Synod and with congregations, presbyteries and the Assembly as well as collaborative work across the former divisions.
The desire for a more flexible working structure meant there was no description of how it would look exactly.
There is an intention for a simpler, leaner accountability structure to reinforce the important role of the Synod and its Standing Committee to determine matters of direction and policy and to have them implemented in a coordinated, consistent manner.
Staffing arrangements and support structures that work against the capacity of the Synod to live out this unified ministry and which hinder the General Secretary in his/her ability to implement Synod policies will be under scrutiny.
Synod affirmed the role of the General Secretary as the Executive Officer of the Synod and determined that all Executive Directors and other similar leadership roles of Areas of Ministry and Mission should be accountable to the General Secretary.
The General Secretary is to consider implementing integrated support structures, such as accounting, IT, communications, human resources and legal support.
Standing Committee will appoint an Implementation Team to put into place the changes approved by the Synod.