[Holy Trinity Church, Inwood] Lay people in the Diocese of New York got an opportunity to learn about and respond to the strategic plan being developed for the diocese through a series of listening sessions on May 5-6.
The decisions being made by leadership will impact the diocese’s governance, finances, and mission, and may especially affect the diocese’s smaller, struggling, and poorer parishes.
Holy Trinity parishioner Cecilia Malm attended the May 5 session held at St. Bartholomew’s Church in Manhattan.
Last August, the Diocese of New York began a process of developing a new strategic plan, the first time it has undertaken such a review since 1974, Malm reports.
Malm says that according to the diocese, “the purpose of the strategic plan is to recommit ourselves to the mission given to us by God, to assess the work we do in the name of God, and to create good, sustainable structures to shape and support that mission. The work of the coming year will identify opportunities, strategies and vision for the mission we have been given that are sustainable, innovative and accessible.”
The first step taken by diocesan leadership was to establish dedicated Task Forces.
Task Force A, chaired by The Rev. Bradley Dyche, is charged with examining the governance and structure of the diocese.
Task Force B, chaired by The Rev. Claire Woodley is working to define a common understanding of the marks of a healthy congregation.
Task Force C is charged with examining the diocesan budget, including whether the budget reflects the stated mission of the diocese, and proposing a revised assessment formula.
The draft plan proposes reducing the number of people on the Diocesan Council from 40 to 20, which the group widely felt would be more effective. The council will also create a centralized calendar to better coordinate events and activities affecting all congregations.
A revamped Standing Committee of 8 individuals (elected, not appointed) will advise the bishop and will review all property transactions while the diocesan Trustees (20 individuals) will oversee the budget and be the principal fiduciary body. (At present this responsibility resides with the Council.)
The plan proposes that healthy congregations have these characteristics: all leadership positions are filled and have regular turnover; the congregation can meet its financial obligations; the buildings and grounds are well-maintained; and ecologically sound building methods are used whenever possible.
Healthy congregations should also have programs and procedures for invitation and welcoming, communication, Christian education, and fellowship.
Budget and finance
The Task Force is actively studying Canon 18 and the formula for determining annual congregational assessments. The goal is to be more equitable, with poorer parishes responsible for a smaller assessment based on a percentage of their normal operating income than parishes with higher operating incomes.
Congregational Support Plan
The Congregational Support Plan, which partially supports the operations of 22 parishes in the diocese including Holy Trinity, will officially terminate December 31, 2016.
Nonetheless, the presenters emphasized that the diocese is committed “to continuing to provide appropriate and needed support to small, struggling and poor congregations” and views “an effective church presence in poor communities” as a central aspect of its vision going forward.
Detailed financial reports for the diocese are available online at http://www.dioceseny.org/the-diocesan-budget/ and the presenters noted that there would be more efforts to create transparency and accessibility of financial records for the diocese as a whole.
Following each presentation, the participants were invited to write and submit their reactions. These comments will be reviewed by each task force and considered as they work toward final documents, which will be presented at the Annual Convention of the Diocese of New York in November 2016.
A recording of the session can be found at: http://www.dioceseny.org/spls/.