Gathering Anew Process for Fall 2022/Winter 2023

With the Request for Proposals process complete and a decision from Executive Committee to first focus on two areas for change, we are moving forward.  Area one is to re-create the Gathering for the 21st century—called “Gathering Anew.”  The second area is to improve our governance and increase our ability to attract, retain and inspire volunteer ministers.  As you hopefully know, “Gathering Anew” is being convened by Ruth Reber, a former Gathering Coordinator.  Efforts to improve the governance and ministry experiences will initially be convened by Marvin Barnes and Barry Crossno.

The process for these two efforts is called “Seasoning with the Whole.”  The idea is that as much information will be made available to all of Central Committee as possible.  As an example, the “Gathering Anew” effort will have its own publicly accessible webpage on the FGC main website.  Further, we will attempt to create multiple opportunities for Central Committee members and various stakeholders to contribute to and season the work through various focus groups.  This will hopefully give all of you direct input to the formulation of the solutions.  For both sets of work Central Committee will decide what program and governance changes will be made.  This will happen either through our annual Central Committee meeting (annual sessions) or via called virtual Central Committee sessions.  This means the working group for each area will bring recommendations directly to Central Committee ensuring that Central Committee will have the opportunity to discern regardless of outcome.  Zoom and everyone’s familiarity with it will allow us to work in this new way.

The above, of course, is different than normal.  Often, a program committee will form a working group.  A lot of effort is put into the membership of the working group—sometimes taking months to form.  The working group will talk with stakeholders, formulate a plan, and take this back to the program committee.  The program committee will then season the plan by making modifications and choosing whether to forward the work to Executive Committee, which has clerks of each program serving along with yearly meeting representatives and a few “at large” members.  Further, modifications might then be made before it is adopted or it goes to Central Committee.  Sometimes Executive Committee might recommend that the proposal is not ready for a decision and more work is to done by the working group or committee.

Our normal process has seemed too centralized and opaque to many of you on Central Committee.  By the time a proposal reached annual sessions, it had often been very well seasoned within the working group.  Yet, for some of you, annual sessions were the first time you saw the proposal or had an opportunity to comment on it.  Also, there have been times when a piece of work was deemed not ready for Central Committee, but it seemed like it disappeared with little indication of what happened to it. All of this has led to a deepening sense that the organization lacks transparency.  Therefore, we’re going to try something different, please assist us as we see if “seasoning with the whole” is more transparent, effective, and positive.  While all of us will hopefully have input into the proposals that come forward, the proposals themselves will likely reflect an aggregation of ideas and leadings that may or may not reflect the many different possibilities that will be raised.  The question for each proposal will be whether the proposals, as discerned by all of you collectively with Spirit’s guidance, reflect our mission, our priorities, our commitment to being an anti-racist organization, and lead us towards a Godly outcome.

Barry Crossno (He/Him)

General Secretary

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