By Tiffany Vail
Associate Conference Minister for Communications
The Together, As One planning team – composed of members of the boards of directors and staff of the three southern New England conferences - met on Sept. 14 and dug deep to begin hashing out details related to the formation of a new, unified conference.
The team agreed on a Vision, Mission and Purpose statement with guiding principles for a new conference that is now being circulated to the full boards of the Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island conferences. Once the boards have given feedback, this document will be released publicly, along with a conversation guide to assist associations and congregations in becoming familiar with it.
The team felt strongly that articulating and defining a vision and purpose for the new Conference had to be the first priority. The task team's various subcommittees are already using that document to guide them in their work.
During the Sept. 14 meeting, the team also heard back from a governance subcommittee, which is working to determine what votes need to be taken at the three conference Annual Meetings in June, 2018, in order to form a new conference. They have reviewed the bylaws of the three conferences, and are working on a plan to make minor changes to those bylaws while also developing a new set of bylaws for a new conference. That would allow the three historic conferences to continue to exist while also joining together in a unified conference.
One big task for the team is determining the makeup of the new conference’s board of directors – the number of members, and criteria for the selection of those members. After much conversation on this topic, the team reached a general consensus on a proposal that they will bring to Jim Schnurbush, the consultant working with the team, and United Church of Christ General Counsel Heather Kimmel. They will then refine the proposal and bring it to the three boards.
Other subcommittees are also hard at work.
A finance subcommittee is pulling together data regarding the finances of three Conferences, including liabilities, assets, restrictions on the use of those assets, income sources and three years of operating budgets. The intention is to make this information publicly available.
A staffing subcommittee is working to pull together organizational charts from the three Conferences, to become familiar with current staff resources and how they are deployed. The Together As One team, however, has agreed that this group will not develop and present a new organizational chart for a new conference at the June, 2018 meeting. In all three conferences, it is the Conference Ministers and boards, rather than the Annual Meeting, who have the authority to determine staffing structures. Thus, it would fall to a new board of directors, with the Conference Ministers, to address staffing issues subsequent to June 2018.
Instead, the staffing subcommittee – with Schnurbush – will be thinking about what the new conference will be aiming to do given the overall vision, and will plan to present some possible staffing models to the new unified board.
The team meets again Oct. 24 in Woodstock, CT.
Updates from the team, and a list of members, can be found here.