Among the resolutions coming before the 2019 Annual Conference session is RS-19-209 Designation Of Number Of Districts
, which would reduce the number of districts in New England from 9 to 7 effective July 1, 2020. The text of the resolution can be found on page 82 of the Pre-Conference Materials
The Bishop, the New England Conference Cabinet (which includes the District Superintendents), and the Conference Council on Finance and Administration (CFA) have expressed their support for the plan.
The CFA has prepared the following FAQ regarding the proposal:
On what basis does GCFA recommend 7 districts?
The General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) conducted thorough demographic research, compared the data with other conferences, and made recommendations based on resources available vs. missional needs. Our mission share receipts will not sustain 9 district superintendents, office expenses, and support staff; at this time, we expect that 7 is a reasonable number for the New England Conference to support.
Why now? Shouldn’t we wait for the new bishop?
The process takes time, and with an unsustainable structure, we need to act now. First, the Annual Conference must vote and the reduction cannot take place for at least one year. Once approved, there will be a lengthy process of interviewing stakeholders, analyzing demographic data, determining where to draw boundaries, and shifting offices and personnel. The earliest the new boundaries will be in place is July 2020. The recommendation is that our current bishop, who understands the context better than a brand new bishop could, will be better suited to make boundary decisions and realign staff.
How much money will this save us and will those savings be reflected in mission shares to local churches?
In 2020, it is hard to say. We would only have six months with reduced number of superintendents, and we will have transition costs as we spend time in consultation with stakeholders, realign offices and personnel, so we may realize some savings in 2020, but more likely will not see major savings until 2021. At that point, we could reasonably expect to save a minimum of $200,000 in compensation as well as additional savings in administrative costs for 9 offices.
Will our District Superintendent remain in place?
Superintendents, like all clergy, are appointed on an annual basis; the bishop will be in discernment through this process to determine the best missional appointments for the superintendents under a new structure.
If the DSs will have additional churches under their guidance, is there a way for them to stay better connected with those churches?
There are many ways that our Cabinet is working to shift responsibilities to ministry teams, including asking for support from clergy to assist in building relationships and handling some of the connectional responsibilities.
How will this affect the workload of the current DSs?
The current superintendents are utilizing team ministries. Additionally, the 2020 budget (as proposed) includes provisions for a new staff position, Real Estate Manager, to assist the DSs, District Boards of Church Location and Building, and Conference Trustees to handle the real estate issues related to the parsonages of the bishop, superintendents, and others, as well as the Conference Center, Camp and Retreat properties, and closed churches. This will reduce the significant amount of time DSs spend on these matters.
How will this affect the current Administrative Staff?
We cannot say for sure at this time. Again, all this will be taken into account by the bishop and his team as they discern best practices and stewardship of our Conference resources.
How will the new boundaries be formed?
The bishop, working with GCFA, will utilize the best technology in demographic research along with personal consultations with stakeholders throughout the conference to determine the best missional alignment for our district boundaries. This will take at least a year, and will be done prayerfully, thoughtfully, and carefully.
What if Annual Conference does not approve the resolution?
Then we are faced with the reality that we cannot fully fund our mission and ministry with the current mission share receipts, and we will need to find other ways to reduce spending. If we don’t do it now, we will continue to face mounting pressure to do this the next year.
If this is approved, can this be done in stages and not all at once?
By Discipline, the process of realigning districts is set up to be done in stages. The Annual Conference approves the number of districts, the bishop creates the boundaries and appoints the superintendents, and the Cabinet, Trustees, Personnel Committee and CFA oversee the staffing and district office sites. Beyond that, because realignment is a time-consuming task and there are costs involved, we have determined that it is most efficient that this should be done all at once.