Church begins work on next strategic plan

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Working group chair Judith Moses and member Ian Alexander speak to a need for broad input. Photos: Matthew Townsend; Contributed

Do you have views to share on what the Anglican Church of Canada’s priorities should be in the coming years? You’ll soon have a chance to shape those priorities, say some key people involved in the church’s strategic planning process.

In fact, the subject of strategic planning is poised to garner considerable attention in the coming months, as church leadership looks both forward to a new strategic plan and backward at the previous one, Vision 2019. At its meeting this March, Council of General Synod (CoGS) is expected to hear feedback from church leaders on Vision 2019, one of the first steps in the development of a new plan. (This feedback will be included in coverage of CoGS by the Anglican Journal and in CoGS highlights published on anglican.ca.)

Last fall, a working group of General Synod was formed to develop the national church’s new strategic plan, to be presented to General Synod when it next meets in the summer of 2022. The plan would succeed Vision 2019, the document that guided the church over three of its three-year cycles, or triennia, from 2010 to 2019.

A key goal of the strategic planning working group will be to seek out the views of Anglicans in the pews, says chair Judith Moses. To that end, the working group anticipates using a variety of methods that could include surveys and focused, guided conversations.

The importance of consulting Anglicans at the local level, say Moses and working group member Canon (lay) Ian Alexander, has partly to do with the structure of the Anglican Church of Canada itself. The national church was created by the dioceses and provinces (and is dependent on annual voluntary contributions from the dioceses for about 90% of its funding).

“The whole process of constructing a strategic plan has to be driven from the bottom up, from the communities and the parishes up through the dioceses to the national level—not the other way around,” Moses says. “It isn’t about coming up with a set of national priorities and then imposing them—they have to be connected to the realities that the communities and the parishes face.”

But allowing the members of any organization to have a say in that organization’s planning is always a good idea, they add, if the plan is to succeed.

“If you can help them to make a plan that actually allows them to achieve the things that they want to achieve…then people embrace it,” Alexander says. “If not, it sits on the shelf.”

Both Moses and Alexander—among other members of the working group— have considerable experience in strategic planning; Alexander served for a time as director of strategic projects with the CBC, and Moses had high-ranking positions in government, including senior assistant deputy minister in the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Moses has also served as a vice president of the Institute on Governance.

In the very near term, the working group has two key priorities: surveying and summarizing the various challenges that currently face the church at all its levels; and evaluating Vision 2019. The goal of the latter, Alexander says, is to put together a picture of “what actually happened, and—equally interestingly—what maybe didn’t happen…or was tried and didn’t work out,” in order to draw from these experiences any lessons that could guide the development of the next plan.

To do this, he says, the working group will interview some of the key architects of Vision 2019, and it will ask leaders at the national and diocesan levels to report on the progress that was made on the goals it outlined. The working group hopes, Alexander says, to have completed enough of its evaluation of Vision 2019 to allow it to present a report to CoGS when it meets March 13-15.

Vision 2019, adopted by General Synod in 2010 after a two-year process of development that involved the surveying of more than 1,000 Anglicans, articulated the church’s goals in terms of seven “priorities” and five “practices” intended to support those priorities.

The church’s next strategic plan, say Moses and Alexander, will have a shorter horizon than Vision 2019.

“We have decided that a decade is too long in this day and age for a strategic plan,” Moses says. “Because of the rapidly changing environment, we’ve talked about shortening the plan. We haven’t definitively decided, but five or six years struck us as a fairly reasonable time frame.”

For the same reason, they both want flexibility built into it; what’s needed is “a plan that can grow with the times,” Moses says.

“Our planning assumptions change because the environment is changing,” she adds. “We will be close enough to all of that [change] to be able to come back to the plan and make adjustments as it rolls out.”

Given the challenges in membership and finances now facing the church, it’s likely that the next strategic plan will assume a leaner organization, Alexander says.

Part of the challenge facing the working group, he adds, is that church structures could change in coming years as a result of a pair of resolutions passed by General Synod in July 2019. Resolution A102 calls for CoGS to re-examine the structures of the national church “in relation to the dioceses and provinces, including the self-determining Indigenous Church.” (This work is also to be done by the strategic planning group, in collaboration with General Synod’s governance working group.) Resolution C005, meanwhile, tasks CoGS “to review the composition of the membership and the rules of order and procedure of General Synod.” These processes, he says, will make the working group’s task “multi-dimensional.”

Moses says she also hopes the working group will develop a strategic plan that has accountability built into it, with clear goals and a mechanism for reporting back on the achievement of those goals to members of the church.

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Tali Folkins
Tali Folkins has worked as a staff reporter for the Law Times and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. His writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail and The United Church Observer.

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