Opening Remarks of the Chief Operating Officer
January 27, 2012
I want to begin and end by updating you on the well-being of the staff of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. To do that, I need to tell you just a little bit about a movie, which has recently been nominated for Best Picture of the Year. It is called “Moneyball.” I think it would do every leader a world of good to study it carefully. “Moneyball” is about how Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s, changed the way the game of baseball is played despite an awful lot of voices that said you can’t change the way we’ve done it for a hundred years. It is similar to the seven last words of the church: “We’ve never done it that way before.” The challenge Billy Beane faced is that the Oakland A’s are a small media market team, which meant that he had a small budget to work with, and that ought to suggest right off the bat that this story has some relevance to the church. Beane’s challenge was that he couldn’t compete for the star players with the big money teams like the Yankees and the Red Sox with his small budget. As he puts it, “There’s the rich teams, there’s the poor teams, then there’s 50 tons of crap, then there’s us.” So, rather than trying to play the game the way the Yankees and Red Sox did, which doomed him to perpetual failure, he decides instead to play the game differently. His guiding principle is this: “Adapt or die.”
Adapt or die. That pretty much sums up the challenge of the Episcopal Church, and all churches, at the beginning of a post-modern, and certainly post-Christian era face. And that is why “adapt or die” and the movie “Moneyball” became the focus of two days of in house staff meetings in January. What emerged is this guiding principle for the life of the staff: Dream, create, adapt, act. Dream, create, adapt, act.
That is what we have set out to do as a staff. There are a lot of times when that is going to be difficult to do. This weekend is one of them. But what I as the Chief Operating Officer am absolutely committed to doing is keeping us focused on that principle no matter what comes. Dream, create, adapt, act.
So let me tell you what I dream about for our staff. I dream about a Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society staff that is true to its name. And I dream about a Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society staff that is known throughout the Church as creative, competent, and helpful, a staff all levels of our church want to be their resource, partners, and collaborator in engaging God’s mission to proclaim good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, and the acceptable year of the Lord (Lk. 4:18). The staff is energized and excited by that, I believe, and is beginning to see itself as a positive force for servant leadership in the church and not, at least not all of the time, as unappreciated, marginalized and forced to be passive. They have asked to continue the process we began at our in house event two weeks ago, and we plan to do that. And we plan to actively continue dreaming, creating, adapting, and acting.
Let me tell you how. For one thing, we as a staff seek increased interaction and engagement with Executive Council. Three Executive Council members, Frederica Thompsett, Stephanie Cheney, and Bruce Garner, participated in the in house process I described. Earlier this week two staff members and I participated in a conference call with two Council members on a program idea called “Building the Beloved Community” to address multicultural and diversity concerns. Last month we hired an Interim Legal Counsel, Paul Nix, who is here and whom I hope you will meet. Not only the Presiding Bishop and I were involved in that, but we involved Bonnie, Sally Johnson, David Beers, and Gay Jennings. To be the competent and respected leadership in the church that it can be, the staff needs the collaboration of the Executive Council. And, quite frankly, it needs the support of the Executive Council. It wants to work with you. And it will be responsive to you, your ideas, and your concerns. What I ask all of you, though, is that you treat the staff as your collaborators and partners, and work directly with us, at least first, and not take what’s on your mind instead to public forums and express your criticisms there, which unfortunately is not an isolated occurrence. When that happens it very much goes against the creativity of which we’re capable and which is precisely what the church needs from us. And I want to suggest that it is not a good way to carry out the fiduciary responsibilities of being a board, including those owed to the staff.
As we move toward building the reputation for competence, indeed excellence, that I dream about, I can tell you some initial signs of success. First, regarding Mission Funding, I ask you for a resolution to change the name “Mission Funding,” which conjures up anything but excellence and success, to something else, perhaps Churchwide Development Office, and let us start fresh. It is important because it is an area where I believe we can start to show success. In that area we have prepared a report on a case for a churchwide development effort, which has been presented to Council, as requested. We are now deeply engaged in moving the archives project forward, and I believe we have the confidence of the Board of Archives. We are actively working on a gift in the seven figure range to benefit a diocese in Province IX. We are actively working on a gift that could benefit Indigenous Ministries. We will convene an advisory committee in March. The office has prepared a case statement to lead to the sustainability of the unique strengths of our historically black Episcopal colleges. The office is prepared to work on the work of Haiti after the Church Foundation passes off that work later this year. There is a lot of potential here, and we are beginning, finally, to see some things pay off.
Also, I promised to you at our last meeting that we would have a new website before this meeting. It demonstrates both the excellence and the potential of our Communications Department, and we have them to thank for a highly creative and welcoming new site. There are improvements to be made, to be sure and the next phases are already underway, but it really is an extraordinary product.
The IT Department is in the process of completing a complete upgrade of all computers and a virtual desktop platform that will make networking and collaborating, and all our work, much, much easier and efficient. By the time we meet again we will have done something about the telephone answering system. I am tired of calling in and not being able to reach anyone. We have just sent two staff members to explore partnerships in, of all places, Kenya, where they found people on the ground extremely anxious to work with us and, among other things, the existence of the Katharine Jefferts Schori Women’s Center for Ministry in one rural diocese, something neither she nor any of us had any idea existed. Ask Sam to describe this trip for you.
I have two final things. As I began with a report about the well-being of the staff, I want to close with one as well. This meeting, as you might imagine, is the source of no small amount of anxiety for the staff as we consider the budget. I have informed them of the status of the budget process in a memo yesterday. I will share the budget drafts with them during the course of this meeting and its outcomes at the end of the meeting. I will do the same at the conclusion of the PB&F meeting next week, and Bishop Katharine and I will meet with the staff the week after that in person. Managers and team leaders are engaged in conversations about how to take whatever budget comes from General Convention and dream, create, adapt, and act. But I do ask you to be sensitive to their legitimate needs in this time.
And lastly, I mention my work in advocating for a serious discussion of far-reaching structural reform leaving nothing off the table and no question unasked. That work included, as you know, a presentation to the House of Bishops in September. There was some concern expressed at the time that the Council was not made aware of that presentation in advance. I did not give the presentation to Council in October because it was not on the agenda, and so some members of Council asked the Executive Committee to place it on the agenda for this meeting. The Executive Committee, however, did not think that was a good idea. I don’t know if any of you have interest in that presentation in seeing it or not, but I gave it to the staff at our in house meeting two weeks ago and I made copies of it. I have DVDs of the presentation with an introduction by Bishop Katharine and they are available to any of you who would like to have them.
The Rt. Rev. Stacy F. Sauls
Chief Operating Officer