Proceedings of the GCE Meeting, Nov. 19, 2021

The General Council Executive (GCE) gathered on November 19, 2021 for the first day of meetings. Adapting a previous practice to the virtual environment, General Council 43 Commissioners were invited to register and observe the meeting. The Executive reflected on John 18: 33-37, particularly on the call to bear witness to truth. Prayers were offered for communities directly affected by the recent catastrophic flooding in British Columbia and for the whole inhabited earth groaning in climate injustice.

Ministry Leadership

The General Council Executive received the report Ministry Leadership to Meet the Needs of the Church in the 2020s, offered by a task group. The task group was formed from appointments by the Theology Inter-church Inter-faith Committee and the Board of Vocation, working with regional and national staff. In the discussion of the report and related proposal, gratitude was expressed for committed and exceptional Designated Lay Ministers, many of whom are serving the church from a lifelong vocational call. Given a number of proposed changes to the proposal, this discussion (GS 128) will be revisited tomorrow.

Equity in Compensation

The Executive considered RC 01 Elimination of the General Council and Regional Council Salary Differential, originating from the Shining Waters Regional Council Executive. This proposal addressed a difference between lay and ordered personnel compensation in the General and Regional Council offices. Previously, ordered staff have been paid at a lower rate than lay employees, and lay pension accrual was based on the ordered personnel rate and not on their full salary.

The Executive of General Council decided to compensate lay and ordered (commissioned and ordained) staff equally for equal work with the General Council and Regional Council system, recognizing that the practice (of different levels of pay for lay and ordered staff) no longer achieves the objective for which it was originally introduced. Both ordered ministers and lay employees will start to accrue pension on their entire salary. Moving towards our new strategic plan that names Daring Justice as a pillar of our work, it was concluded that we cannot continue to pay ministry personnel less than a lay person doing a similar job. This change is one way of helping the church to more authentically live out our call to embrace justice and equity.

A financial plan to implement this change will be prepared no later than April 30, 2022, with changes to compensation retroactive to January 01, 2022. Approximately 50% of the staff positions affected are supported by assessment revenue and 50% are supported through Mission & Service.

In a related motion, the Executive directed the General Secretary to engage experts in analysis of compensation policies and practices paid to ministers of communities of faith and ministers in the General Council and Regional Council Offices. The intent is to examine the impact of these policies on ministers who are Indigenous, racialized, women, 2SLGBTQQIA+, and persons with disabilities.

Pension Plan Accountability Report

An accountability report was received from the Chair of the Pension Board. The plan is fully funded with no major concerns. Mr. Marcus Robertson was heartily thanked for his long service in this role, which he completes in 2022.

General Secretary Accountability Report

The General Secretary highlighted several items from his report including the United Church's presence at the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, implementation of the strategic plan, progress on moving the General Council office to the Bloor Street United Church location by 2025, and efforts to strengthen communications regarding ongoing decision making.

Right Relations

The General Secretary and Moderator are committed to meeting with Indigenous communities impacted by the residential schools run by The United Church of Canada that wish to do so. Where those meetings have been taking place, there is a focus on building relationships. Some communities are seeking information from the archives, and staff are responding to those requests.

Other Proposals

A number of other proposals passed through the consent motion including a decision to focus any expansion of retiree benefits to the provision of a defined benefit pension plan and reaffirm the 2020 decision to a five-year plan to attain self-sustainability for the retiree group health plan. The Executive also agreed that a change to The Manual be proposed to the 44th General Council that a diaconal or ordained minister from another denomination may serve in an appointment, normally up to 2 years, without a requirement that they be in the admission process.

General Council Executive reconvenes tomorrow, November 21, at 11:00 a.m. Eastern.