Diocese of Portsmouth

    How Kairos proposals will free time for mission and outreach

    16 Nov. 2005

    ONE of the three Kairos goals was to create a leaner Church, with slimmed-down structures to react more quickly to changing circumstances.

    And that’s been the key principle behind the work of the Kairos structures review group as it thought about re-shaping central diocesan structures. It wanted to come up with a leaner structure that could give a higher priority to mission and discipleship.

    Its initial findings, which were made public in September 2004, suggested that our central diocesan staff were already working flat-out.

    In comparison with other dioceses, staff were operating on a shoestring, were fully-stretched and had little spare capacity for taking on further responsibilities. Yet the research suggested that parishes appreciated the support they already received and wanted more, especially in implementing their newly-formulated Kairos plans.

    The idea that the central diocesan staff could support and advise parishes with the 277 five-year Kairos plans approved last summer without sacrificing some of their other work was, frankly, laughable. It would have stretched the existing staff to breaking point.  

    Something had to give, and the group was convinced that the complex structure of boards and committees was impeding the ability of central staff to help those on the frontline of mission.

    So much time was being taken up with writing agendas, reports and minutes for a seemingly endless cycle of meetings that was it was affecting the ability of the central staff team to advise and support parishes and deaneries.  

    So why not trust our diocesan staff and advisers simply to do their jobs without constantly having to report back to such meetings? Why not abolish whole boards and committees, and with them, hours of administration and paperwork?   

    Where one or more staff members or advisers had to work together on a joint project, working parties could be formed, and then dissolved as soon as the project was completed. And the diocesan secretary, as the ‘chief executive’ of the diocese, could be the person accountable to the rest of the diocese as the co-ordinator of the whole team.

    That’s why the Diocesan Structures Review Group has suggested wholesale cuts in the number of boards and committees. They said the Boards of Mission and Ministry could go, and some of their functions be taken on by the Bishop’s Council.

    It is proposing a joint Board of Education and Diocesan Advisory Committee with the Diocese of Winchester, and possibly joint arrangements with the Chichester and Guildford dioceses as well.

    The chairman of the group, Dr Clive Dilloway, said: “It became clear that if we wanted to have a central staff team whose prime role was about helping mission work in the frontline - in parishes, hospitals, prisons, schools, the university and so on - then something had to change.

    “You can imagine the scenario, when a diocesan adviser who is already overstretched is required to meet a deadline to get a routine report to some board or committee. That urgent work inevitably takes precedence over something that might ultimately be more important - formulating an overall strategy or finding resources that might help a parish. Abolishing the board or committee gives them extra time and space to do the things that might be considered more important.

    “The downside to all this, of course, is that these proposals reduce the direct accountability of our central diocesan staff to elected representatives from around the diocese.

    “Some may think this means sacrificing an element of democracy for greater efficiency. To a certain extent that’s true, but we have also recommended more effective ways in which synod, via a more representative Bishop’s Council, can hold the whole central structure accountable for its work.”

    Another principle that the group embraced was incorporating Kairos principles into the working of diocesan structures, rather than seeing Kairos as an extra burden on top of what already happens. That meant re-shaping along Kairos principles the way decisions were taken about both the stewardship of our resources and the development of mission.

    The group claimed that the existing budget cycle was already very strong in diocesan planning, and even that it had become too dominant in synod discussions. They said a clear mission development cycle doesn’t exist at the moment, perhaps because the various diocesan boards had been given leeway to pursue their own agendas. Their proposals suggest a greater integration of mission plans, and more involvement by parishes and deaneries in them.

    It also recommended that the changing nature of the Church demanded a restructuring of our diocesan staff team. The principle was that no job should exist unless there was a clear need for one; in other words, that every single post could be justified in a post-Kairos world.

    It was already on the cards that our various staff teams - from the Board of Finance, Board of Education and Board of Mission - would work together under one roof in a new diocesan office. That gave the group flexibility to decide how to arrange and deploy whatever staff it thought were needed.

    The result was a recommendation that staff serve in four teams - the core central resources team, and then three others where resources would be directed towards mission. The team leader in the Mission and Education area, a job that might be shared between Portsmouth and Winchester dioceses, would oversee relationships with both church and local authority schools as well as further and higher education.

    The team leader in the Mission and Society area would oversee Kairos implementation, social responsibility, care groups, urban and rural ministry, ecumenical and interfaith relations, evangelism, IDWAL, Porvoo and world mission links.

    And the team leader for Mission and Discipleship would head up parish resources, children’s and youth work, spirituality, music, vocations, liturgy and worship and the recruitment and selection for of ordained ministry. 

    This team would also be responsible for the new key area of learning and development, co-ordinating the delivery of all diocesan training for clergy and laity together in one cohesive programme.

    Core functions, such as accounts, property, human resources, legal, child protection, communication, IT and admin support would come under the team leader for Central Resources, who would be the deputy diocesan secretary.

    Back-up would come from the Archdeacons, each working with a forum helping to think strategically about the areas of Mission and Society, Mission and Edu-cation and Mission and Discipleship.

    If all these measures are approved by diocesan synod in February 2006, the impact on the way the diocese works will be huge. Consultation with existing diocesan staff has already begun, and will continue. Diocesan staff, synod members, the Bishop’s Council and many others will need to get used to a very different way of working.

    But the result should be a central structure that supports the Kairos aims of creating a Church that has a broader base in its local community and encourages a deeper spiritual life for both its adherents and those outside its congregations.

    “I hope that synod members will see the reasons why we have suggested such radical surgery to the Portsmouth diocesan structures,” said Dr Dilloway. “It’s not that the existing structures have failed us, or that they are inadequate.

    “It’s simply that a post-Kairos diocese demands a very different kind of structure - more flexible, less bureaucratic and perhaps more open to doing things in new ways.”