Friday, May 19, 2006

The Consolidation That Isn't . . . Yet -- Valley Forge Still Needs a Fall Meeting Before Rolling Out the New Streamlined Model of a Less Costly GB

A prior blog reported that Valley Forge decided to reduce to one the number of meetings of the General Board for reasons of financial constraints. However, I was not clear in reporting that this change will not take place until next year. A member of the General Executive Council (GEC) offered the following explanation as to the reason for the delay in implementation.

Evidently, National Ministries decided that it needed to have a board meeting this fall and slated one in the Orlando area. International Ministries separately determined that it would need a fall meeting, possibly to act on a recommendation for a new Executive Director. And, the OGS realized that it was facing the requirement for a first reading on certain items, prior to next summer's GB meeting.

So, bottom line: there will be a meeting in Florida after all. In the report to members of the General Board from Dr. Lloyd Hamblin, Budget Review Officer for the denomination, he explains the reasons for the proposed change to one meeting annually in future years as follows:

The GBEC made this determination at the first meeting of the new biennium, held March 5-7, 2006, when the financial results for 2005 were available.

Why was the decision made to move to one General Board meeting per year?

• The funding available for the Representative Process will not support more than one meeting per year.
• In an era when United Mission has decreased markedly and the trends are still heading downward, the funding necessary for two meetings per year is highly unlikely.
• The renegotiated Common Budget Covenant, which was implemented in 2004, moved 10% of United Mission from national to regional organizations to better support local congregations.
• Although the General Board determined in 2005 to try to raise additional funding for the Representative Process through individual and church giving, this effort fell short and did not make up for the loss in income.
• The one-time grant of $50,000 provided by the Budget Review Committee for General Board expenses in 2005 will not be repeated in 2006 and beyond.
• The General Board has no reserve funds and must operate balanced.

One of the questions raised by the decision as well as the need to mount a fall meeting relates to questions of effectiveness and efficiency. Again, Lloyd Hamblin raises the point himself in his report:

Can a Board that meets only once a year be effective, or does this mean that staff will take on more responsibility?

Decisions that are reserved to the Board will still be made by the Board. In some instances, the Executive Committee will act on behalf of the Board, and thus preserve the appropriate boundaries between Board responsibilities and staff responsibilities.

Lloyd is a good and honorable man. But, his answer strays into the spin zone on this one. Obviously decisions requiring board approval will still be made by the board. However, it will be almost impossible (from an organizational management perspective) to avoid "delegating" to staff even more de facto powers and latitude for action.

Generally, the more frequently a board meets, the greater the tendency to micro-manage staff; the less frequently it meets, the greater the tendency to be a "staff run" operation. Since the left already "owns" the bureaucracy (or at least has a very long term lease on it), expect this to translate into a continuation of the left's dominance of ABC programs as well as a greater staff role in decision making. A further consequence will be a correspondingly reduced role for the board which will then tend to become more of a rubber stamp.

In light of the decision to meet less frequently, the GB would be well advised to move to more of a policy governance model (e.g., John Carver). This would allow the board to become the policy makers in fact while preserving the legitimate authority of the staff to act without undue delay. Several ABC affiliated organizations have found the Carver model to be an attractive way of dealing with balancing of authority and accountability between board and staff.

Realistically, Hamblin also addresses the possibility that revenues may continue their present downward trend.

What will happen if the General Board still cannot operate within the revenue available to it? What’s next?

Bylaws can be changed upon recommendation of the General Board to the Biennial, which determines Bylaw changes.

The value of representation is an extremely high value for the denomination. In fact, the General Board cannot have less than one meeting per year without changes to its Bylaws. Only the Biennial, upon recommendation by the General Board, can make such a change. There is no intent to reduce the General Board meetings beyond one per year.

Should any further reductions in spending be required, then the General Board will look at its options and make determinations.

"Should any further reductions in spending be required . . ."??? Until the ABCUSA comes to grip with its own sense of identity, its core values, and the nature of its non-negotiable beliefs, expect further reductions in spending to be the order of the day.

[His Barking Dog sniffs around the ABCUSA garbage cans for scraps of information but still claims no presence at the tables of any decision makers, powers, or entities within the area of Transformation Ministries (formerly ABCPSW).

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