After Gathering: time to hold the executive board accountable

After Gathering: time to hold the executive board accountable

Gathering 2008 was a time of celebration, fellowship, and encouragement. It was also a time to hear about the Canadian conference’s newest initiative, Regenerate 21-01.

Many delegates were excited about this new vision for growth, but others wondered about the process of how we went about adopting such a huge (and costly) undertaking.

David Wiebe, Canadian conference executive director, presented Regenerate 21-01 at Gathering and invited feedback from delegates. However, many delegates said it was the first time they had heard about the initiative, and found it difficult to provide a careful and informed response. They didn’t have a problem with the recommendation – they simply had questions about the input and decision-making processes. In the end, delegates passed the recommendation, but questions still lingered.

We’ve been asking process questions ever since restructuring in 2004. When we moved to our current governance structure – led by one executive board rather than several smaller independent boards – conference leadership assured members there would be “good grassroots involvement and a good connection to the churches” (MBH, Aug. 13, 2004). They assured us the executive board wouldn’t have too much unrestricted power. They promised regular national surveys and listening sessions. They described the governance model as “relationship-based, and good relationships begin with values, affirmation, involvement and servant leadership.”

So, this begs the question: In the past four years, has our relationship with the national conference become stronger or weaker? Do members feel involved? Are there adequate accountability structures?

According to our constitution, the executive board is free to move ahead with any initiative – including Regenerate 21-01– without approval of members. But that doesn’t mean members should sit idly by while millions of dollars are spent on national programs.

My sense is that, instead of greater accountability and involvement, members have slowly disconnected and stopped asking questions. Perhaps we feel our input isn’t really needed – or taken into consideration. That’s something the board must address.

But responsibility goes both ways. It’s also our job to hold the board accountable. Members must continue to ask questions, insist upon program reviews and assessments, write letters and emails, request advisory committees, attend conventions and meetings, and respond to surveys. In short, we need to stay involved.

If we want the governance model to succeed (as well as the programs created by the executive board, such as Regenerate 21-01), this type of input is essential. Let’s not abdicate our responsibility.

—Laura Kalmar

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