In January, Bishop Cliff began writing about recommendations and resolutions that he wanted Pastors and delegates to review and pray about prior to General Conference 2020.
Below are each of the topics:

Jan 14 2020

Next week I will begin a series of interviews with the chair of the Board of Administration of the FMCIC about the upcoming General Conference. This week is also about General Conference – arguably the most important opportunity we have with regard General Conference: PRAYER. I asked Rev. Ken Roth, the leader of our National Prayer Team, about prayer and General Conference…

Ken, soon we’ll be sending out details about preparing PRAYERFULLY for General Conference, and about the Prayer Summit, but I’m wondering if you could give a teaser. How is the National Prayer Team mobilizing us to prepare for GC?

Ken: Actually, we see our PRAYERFUL preparation for General Conference as something bigger than just asking for a “good” conference. We are believing God to stir us up as a movement to pray, not only for a Spirit-anointed conference, but the renewal of the Free Methodist Church in Canada. What we are in earnest about is that as we approach conference, the level of prayer for our movement will significantly increase and that long after it is over, we will have grown to a new level of prayer that will invite a fresh outpouring of God’s Spirit upon us.

To help us to pray in this way we are planning a 40-day period leading up to conference where churches will participate in a 24/7 prayer tag-team, daily devotionals on prayer (written by leaders from across the country) will be shared, and specific prayer requests for conference will be shared along with praise points. This will lead up to a Prayer Summit the day before the General Conference that will be a learn-and-do experience. The keynote speakers are a very experienced couple who lead the Prayer Ministry of the Free Methodist Church in the U.S., Doug and Margie Newton. We are hoping that this will be a “sold out” event, even though there will be no charge for it.

Jan 21 2020

What kind of church does Canada need?

Over the next several weeks I will outline the recommendations that you and I will be discussing and voting on at General Conference 2020: Be Free! You will also be receiving a General Conference package as usual (it will be digital in our continued creation-care efforts). Most of these items will be familiar to you as we have been talking about them for the past 2 years.

I have written about them in the Mosaic and my Cliff’s Notes. We brought them to you at Regional Gatherings. My goal now is for you to bring these items to your leadership teams to discuss and pray about. I would ask that you send us (Board of Administration and me) any clarifying questions prior to GC. I have asked Harold Gonyou the BOA chair to lay these out for us. Today let’s talk BOA transition from management to vision/policy…

Dr. Harold Gonyou has been chairing our Board of Administration for almost 3 years. He has been an excellent board chair: he is prepared, agendas are sent out weeks before meetings, he connects with me very regularly (very important that chair and pastor connect often), he thinks a couple of steps ahead of every item (if the item is passed, if the item requires further discussion, etc), he actively listens with feedback and questions. Harold makes every effort to have all members’ input and he is prayerful. Harold, on behalf of the BOA and FMCIC thank you!

Now, Harold, you have been very busy helping us transition from a management board to being a vision/policy board. As a board we have read through “Pursuing God’s Will Together” by Ruth Haley Barton. We have moved from sub-committees to Teams, we are recommending a smaller therefore more robust BOA, we have developed a Personnel Team, commissioned a Think Tank, and Task Forces, as well as prayerfully discerned the “page 1” of The Manual! And much more! I am personally grateful for a healthy and enthusiastic BOA. Today, Harold, tell us a little about why we have had to transition from a management style of board to a vision-policy style and what steps you have taken?

Harold: It should be remembered that the BOA had just finished a Life Plan exercise, and so some organizational changes were to be expected. My understanding is that our organizational structure had been relatively unchanged since the early nineties when management boards were the norm, and policy boards were just beginning to gain popularity. We used this past term to shift to more of a policy board structure by eliminating board committees that ‘managed’ ministry areas and replacing them with teams of persons with expertise in each area. The management committee, which must make many business and regulatory decisions, remains a board committee. In addition, reports from MEGaP continue to come to the BOA as per the Manual, through the Leadership Development division. As a result of this re-organization, the board spends more of its time in discussion of vision and policy, and less on committee work.

The board is charged with holding the NLT and Bishop accountable. We have strengthened three components of this task. At each of our board meetings we discuss the reports from the NLT which Bishop Cliff delivers to us a couple of weeks in advance. We set aside time for each ministry area, and the recommendations it puts forward. Each meeting includes a closed session for questioning the NLT and bishop, followed by an in camera session with only the board, and then feedback to Bishop Cliff. As part of this we request the Personnel Team (we’ll talk more about that later) to provide an annual performance review of the bishop, who also receives the performance reviews of the other NLT members.

We have held ourselves (BOA members) accountable as well. Early on we developed a board members’ covenant, helping us to focus on performing the role that we were elected to. We also initiated a BOA members’ evaluation process which focused on the value that we see in each other and how we can help each other better achieve their potential on the board. Through this process we have developed a greater appreciation for each member of the board.

Reorganization is an evolving process. The changes themselves take time and often involve a learning process. But we have developed a sense of comfort working with each other in the changing environment that I believe bodes well for next term’s BOA.

Jan 28 2020

General Conference 2020: Be Free!

This is week 2 of my interviews with Harold Gonyou, Chair of the Board of Administration. Remember the goal is that you will have received motions and recommendations months before General Conference so that you can discuss in your local churches. If there are any clarifying questions, you can contact BOA or myself.

Harold, the BOA has been working on restructuring our organization. We have added Coaches, we have moved from sub-committees of BOA members, to “Teams” of experts or practitioners in the following areas: Church Health, Leadership Development, Church Planting, Prayer, Missions (Intercultural Engagement) – each of these teams report to the BOA (and each have a BOA rep as well as an NLT member leading). We have been doing important work with regard our BOA too. One of the recommendations that the BOA is making is about the size of the Board of Administration. We are recommending a size change. Can you explain what the motion is and the rationale involved?

Harold: The BOA had briefly discussed a smaller board size during the previous term, but it was so tied to our committee structure that we could not envision a change. Moving from committees of board members to teams of well qualified specialists or practitioners for each ministry area, the link between committees and board size was eliminated.

We had a task force gather information on efficient board sizes early in this term. Management boards tend to be larger, while vision/policy boards function best with 8-12 members. This size better facilitates discussion and communication. We felt that a board size of 10-12 might be appropriate for the FMCiC rather than our larger 16 members. With this in mind, we purposely did not refill board positions that became vacant during the term and finished with a board of 12. With this size we still had a member on every ministry team as well as a full management committee. Our discussions at BOA meetings were lively and involved everyone. We held a number of video conference calls and I would say that these might have worked better if we had had an even smaller group. The BOA is bringing forth a motion that the BOA consist of 10 members. The motion would retain equal numbers of lay and ministerial members as well as the principle of proportional regional representation. It also encourages the principle of proportional gender representation. We think there are a lot of positives in the motion being brought to conference.

You are saying that the advantages include, but are not limited to: a 10 member BOA is within the parameters of what research and best practice says is optimum size for our type of governance (16 is well outside of these parameters); 10 offers every member a consistent voice which is especially important for this time as Zoom (and similar platforms) are becoming an essential meeting space; nothing is lost in terms of equal regional or gender representation; cost savings for 10 versus 16 is significant; research tells us that the smaller the group the more committed they are in terms of participation and engagement; and very important is that Nominating Committee will be filling less positions and the BOA will therefore encounter less transition bumps.

Harold: We also recognized, and discussed, some of the challenges a smaller yet more representative board would encounter. It may be more difficult to achieve proportional regional and gender representation in a smaller board, and the balance could be upset if only one or two of the positions were vacant for an extended  period. Also, as the chair of the BOA must be a layperson, the pool of candidates for the chair will be more limited during each term. Overall, we feel that the advantages outweigh the challenges.

I mentioned last week that the BOA had engaged in an evaluation of its board members. I believe that process created a greater awareness of what each member brought to the board, and of imbalances in representation (gender and cultural as examples).  I think that level of awareness was more easily achieved because we were a smaller board, and we were healthier because of it.

Feb 4 2020

We are in a series of interviews with the Chair of the Board of Administration. Dr. Harold Gonyou is laying out recommendations that we will be discussing at General Conference May 14-17. Remember, BOA (and frankly your FMCIC) is hoping that you will have discussed these with your leadership teams, asked clarifying questions, and prayed. This week and next week we are outlining the proposed new Guiding Principles.

So far Harold we have outlined the reshaped Board of Administration, and the recommendation to decrease the size of the BOA while maintaining regional and clergy-lay representation. Today let’s talk about “Page 1” of The Manual. As a BOA we invited someone to come and lead us in an exercise to prayerfully consider our identity: Who and what is the Free Methodist Church in Canada? We discovered that we are and want to be “FREE”! In fact, the new Guiding Principles on Page 1 are based on our traditional “frees” but translated into Canadian 2020. Tell us about these Frees – process and purpose.

Harold: One of the issues we addressed during our recent Life Plan exercise was ‘What does it mean to be a Free Methodist?’ When we discussed this at Regional Gatherings our pastors and laity often made reference to the traditional ‘Freedoms’ describing a number of positions taken by the early FM church. But we could all agree that those statements needed some explaining when used in modern context. They were very specific responses to issues of the time (mid nineteenth century).

As we discussed the identity of our movement, the BOA focused on what is meaningful to people today. We asked ourselves what attracted us to, and retained us in, the FMCIC. Doctrine was important to some, but we all shared about warm, welcoming experiences and a sense of community within the local church. In trying to reduce those experiences to principles, we found we would often revert to the traditional ‘Freedoms’. Yet we all agreed that we couldn’t explain ourselves to non-FMers using those statements without going into their historical background.

We developed a set of ‘new Frees” that would capture the principles that guided early Free Methodists, but would reflect the context of today. These are not doctrinal statements although they reflect our doctrine. Nor are they vision and mission statements. We retain all of those in the proposed revisions. But they reflect ideas that describe how we think and approach ministry. They are guiding principles.

For instance, when the denomination was founded a ‘Free’ church meant that it stood against slavery. The underlying principle was that of pursuing social justice. That principle still guides us today as we recognize that there is intrinsic worth and value in all persons that isn’t always protected by our laws, social conventions, or economic practices. This freedom to pursue social justice was a major characteristic of early Methodism, heightened by the offensiveness of slavery in the USA (and elsewhere), and part of accepting responsibility for our communities by our churches today. We value people. The outcome has been the feeling of warmth and acceptance expressed by members of the BOA as they discussed what attracted them to the FMCIC.

I remember the BOA explaining that if we were on a plane or having a coffee with a friend, and that friend asked, “What’s a Free Methodist anyway?” We wanted a great answer. Depending on the amount of time and interest our friend has, we decided that a brief history is important and then a clear and concise statement of our Freedoms would be inspiring. Here are the links for the motion and the Manual Introduction:

The Frees: Motion

Manual Introduction Pages

Feb 12 2020

We are in week 4 of our series with Board of Administration chair Harold Gonyou. He is outlining resolutions that we will be voting about at General Conference. The goal of this series is for you to bring these to your leadership team to discuss, ask clarifying questions and pray about prior to General Conference. By the time we meet you will have participated in several Regional Gatherings that developed and discussed these; you have read about them in these notes over the past couple of years; you have read about them in the Mosaic; you will have received the full General Conference package and of course you will have had this series. Lots of think-prayer time to process.

Harold, I am hearing that some think that the new guiding principles are too generic. Dr. James Pedlar, Wesleyan scholar, addressed this very notion in a brilliant reply (which I assume people have read). Do you want to remind everyone of some of the things he said in response to this?

Harold: This document is intended to reflect our basic principles, not just those that differentiate us from other churches. So, of course you will find a great deal of ‘generic evangelicalism’ in it. Any evangelical should be able to read it and say there are a lot of similarities in our beliefs.  But DR. James Pedlar (Bastian Chair in Wesley Studies at Tyndale Seminary), in his comments which were published in these notes a few months ago, also saw a great deal of Methodist and Free Methodist beliefs and values in them as well.

He explained that some things could have been said in more ‘Wesleyan’ language, and as Free Methodists we would have recognized them immediately, but that terminology may not be understood by people trying to find out more about our church. I have a daughter who attends a different denomination, and I find I have to ask her to explain certain terms used in their church, because we all have our distinctive jargon. Our goal was to have a document that could be read and understood by people from no or different traditions. The ‘Frees’ do include some beliefs that distinguish us from some other traditions, and also include traditional emphases of our movement which give us a Free Methodist identity.

So, Harold, you are saying that the truth is, we are a church and therefore our vision, mission, core values, guiding principles, articles of religion will have similar language to every other Christian church? What is unique to each denomination, is their unique mix or combination of guiding principles. For instance, few denominations combine the values of collaboration, creativity, community, and justice in their particular list of values. Harold, why are these guiding principles on “page one” of our Manual?

Harold: Page 1, whether it is a newspaper, novel, or Manual, leads to page 2 and all of the rest of the publication. What you read on the first page determines if you will continue reading, but no one expects to find all of the details and answers on the first page. These are an introduction to our movement. In recent years I have assisted in our church membership classes. We used the ‘Frees’ as a starting point in our last class and these served to put our potential members at ease before we covered the specific doctrines and polity of our denomination. There is a complete message expressed in a short space. It covers the piece that comes from knowing God through Jesus Christ, the joy of being part of a believing community, the beauty of worship, and our engagement with other churches, our local community, and our society. And in all of these there is freedom to follow the spirit and not be constrained by the world around us. Hopefully we have captured the essence of the principles that guided earlier Methodists and Free Methodists, and that these will continue to guide us in the future, even if the wording is occasionally updated to reflect contemporary expression.

Just in case you missed part one of Harold’s discussion about the Frees last week, I highly recommend that you take time to read. Here again are the links for the resolution:

The Manual Intro pages

The Frees

March 3, 2020

Is your church readying for “General Conference 2020: Be Free!”? Are you praying for our time together? Are you reading, and prayerfully discussing the resolutions? Are you registered for the Prayer Summit? Are you registered for General Conference? Today our Board of Admin secretary, Dr. Dave Kreutzweiser is answering the question about the new Personnel Team.

The Manual describes a Personnel Committee, but based on conversations with past members, and considering how to further develop our National Leadership Team and their responsibilities, the BOA has reconfigured the Personnel Committee, into a ministry called Personnel Team. Dr. Dave, you are a member of this team and you helped us develop it. Tell us about the new Personnel Team.

DAVE: There has been an intentional effort over the past term to reconfigure and revamp the Personnel Committee and to transition it to a Personnel Team. Traditionally, a three-person Personnel Committee was in place to assist the bishop with performance appraisals of the National Leadership Team (including the bishop’s). But as we have transitioned to a Personnel Team (PT), the committee and its role has been expanded. This is intended to provide increased support to the Bishop on all matters pertaining to personnel management of conference employees, and to enhance guidance and stewardship of those personnel matters.

With the expanded role, there was an intentional effort to recruit PT members with relevant personnel and human resource management experience and skills. The expanded role of the PT now includes responsibilities in conducting an annual performance appraisal and regular check-ins with the bishop, in holding regular check-ins with the other National Leadership Team members, in providing oversight on performance appraisals, job descriptions, and compensation packages for all staff to ensure due process is being followed, and in serving as a point of contact for staff concerns that cannot be resolved through regular supervisory channels.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to serve on this Team, and am surrounded by capable people. The PT currently consists of the Bishop (but with clear policies around when it is appropriate for the Bishop to be recused from PT discussions and actions), Kim Henderson as chair, Daisy Wright (Bramalea FM), Mark Young as MEGaP representative, and myself as BOA representative. We are still working through this transition to PT and are learning and adjusting as we go, but we are confident that this new role of the expanded Personnel Team brings an enhanced degree of rigour to personnel management and gives our Bishop greater support and clarity in personnel matters. We can also envision how this PT can serve as a model for similar teams in local congregations to assist pastors and other church leaders in dealing with personnel issues.

Follow this link for General Conference resolution about Personnel Team: https://www.fmcic.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/General-Conference-Recommendation-Personnel-Team.pdf