Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tony is the man but further change needed!

Watchers of St John's College, Auckland, our one and only residential Anglican theological college under the governance of representatives of the whole of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, finally learned yesterday who the new Principal or Manukura will be: Tony Gerritsen. A full and warm article about the appointee is on Taonga.

I say 'finally' because the move from having the College led by three principals (of each of the three tikanga-based constituent colleges) to leadership by a single principal was mooted in the Reeves report to General Synod in 2010. That General Synod suspended the current canon governing the affairs of the College which permitted a Commissioner, Gail Thomson, to be appointed as a 'proto-principal' with a view to canonical change occurring at the GS of 2012 and a new principal appointed promptly thereafter. In fact GS 2012 failed to agree on canonical change but did permit the Governors of the College to proceed to appoint a principal. After advertising in November last year, NZ summer holidays slowing all life processes down, and the usual mysterious ways of our church occurring, we finally have, in mid-March 2013, an announcement :)

For me personally 'finally' has an added touch of satisfaction. Around 2004-5 I was part of a small team of three which reviewed the College on behalf of the church, a review which led to the establishment of the current Anglican Studies Programme (i.e. the review was listened to on one matter)! At that time I argued forcefully for a change from three principals to one principal. The vices of three principals (e.g. lack of clear leadership of the College in the development of programmes and appropriate staffing for those programmes) outweighed the virtues of multiple leadership (e.g. equal contribution from each tikanga to decision-making). I nearly persuaded the other two members of the team. Consultation with our respective tikanga threw up - expectedly - resistance to such change. But it was needed then, and it is finally happening now.

I commend Tony to our church, having worked with him for many years in ministry education (he has held roughly equivalent positions in the Diocese of Wellington while I have worked in the Nelson and Christchurch Dioceses).

I also commend to our church FURTHER CHANGE AT ST JOHN'S COLLEGE. 

Are those capitals 'shouting'? YES, INDEED.

We now need to change the governance of the College, not least so that Tony has effective and efficient support as the new principal in a newly structured College. Bear with me, if you will, through the details of the current set up and the change I propose.

The current Governors of the College are a body known as Te Kotahitanga (TK). This body has multiple responsibilities for all education in our church which is funded through the St John's College Trust Board to which it acts as an advisory Board. TK sends out all application papers for funding by the Board and receives all those papers, works through them, and makes decisions about what funding is to be recommended to the Board. Besides St John's College (as number one priority applicant), major applicants included thirteen episcopal units. In the process considerable time is spent in making policy, debating the merits of possible changes to the way funding is distributed, and considering the complex weaving which is life at St John's College. No one but the members of TK know how much time and energy is spent on these matters (normally by people who otherwise hold down full-time positions in the life of our church).

I suggest it is neither fair on TK itself nor on the College for this body to continue to be the Board of Governors of the College. It is time for a new and separate Board of Governors. It is time to go forward to a new body. We should not go back to a former model whereby TK delegated its responsibilities to a Board of Oversight. No. If anything we should go further back to a time when the bishops of our church constituted (so I believe) the Governors of the College. After all, the bishops are far and away the most important stakeholders in the College as they are the authorities who send people to the College for training and they are the ones who see 'on the ground' how effective the training is when their ordinands return to their episcopal units. Thus I propose:

(1) A new Board of Governors for the College is canonically formed at the next GS.

(2) The Board consists largely of bishops of our church, two from each tikanga* with three further positions for specialists drawn from areas of education (tertiary, theological, ministry formation, etc) to make nine voting members of the Board in total. From their numbers a chair would be chosen.

(3) No member of the Board except the Principal/Manukura (and, possibly, the 'financial executive officer' of the College), may be a member of the College whether as staff or student. The Principal (and financial executive officer) would be speaking but not voting members of the Board. (*This is a heavy requirement on Polynesia which has less bishops than the other tikanga, so some variation might be required such as 'an appointee of the bishop').

(4) This Board is responsible for governance of the College, including signing off the annual application for funding from the Trust Board via TK receiving, reviewing and recommending the application.

(5) The principal is accountable to the Board for the management of the College. The Board is accountable to General Synod for the governance of the College (e.g. via some or all its positions being elected at GS).

(6) The principal is expected to manage the College in such a manner (e.g. with an excellent locally formed management committee) that the Board of Governors only needs to meet quarterly. Ditto the Trust Board and TK are expected to support the College financially so the Board is required to focus on the sound expenditure of the funds, not on shortfalls in funding. (It is the first priority of the Trust Board to fund the College so funding constraints should not be an intrinsic problem for a soundly run College).

The least this church can do now that our College has a new principal is to ensure that Tony as the incumbent and the position itself, as a keystone of the College, is well supported.

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