Consulting, reviewing, reporting – the MSR journey

major strategic review
last spoke with the Major Strategic Review (MSR) team in August last year. Since then we have reported on workshops, surveys and other engagements. People have also written letters to Crosslight commenting on the MSR. Crosslight sat down with the MSR team to discuss what is happening and what has been achieved so far?

At what stage is the MSR? What is happening now?

Last year we were involved in some broad, big vision discussions with a long list of councils, committees, agencies, institutions, groups and individuals throughout the synod. This year we have focused our discussions on issues specific to different groups. This has included discussions with groups and individuals leading lay and ordained ministry within the Church about support and training they need, as well as direct conversations with congregations and presbyteries to help us better understand the support needed to enhance mission and leadership. At the same time we have been speaking with synod-based ministries and operations about their services, plans and resourcing. We have held frank conversations with relevant committees and groups about finances, governance, ministry and mission.

It sounds like you have done a lot of consultation?

We have been asked to look at the whole of the Church in Victoria and Tasmania. If we recommend a change in one area, we know it will affect other areas in the Church. We have, deliberately, spent a lot of time talking with a lot of people and groups across the life of the Church so we can better understand the interdependencies.

The MSR is only in a position to advise the Church. Decisions regarding how to approach implementation will be considered progressively by the Synod Standing Committee or other appropriate councils of the Church. We need to demonstrate to these councils, and the wider Church, the discussion, thought and due diligence behind all our proposals to ensure trust and confidence in our advice.

What areas are being considered by the Review?

This Major Strategic Review is broader and deeper than anything we have, or any other synod has, done before. We are covering all facets of the Church in Victoria and Tasmania, including the various councils of the Church; synod-based ministries like Centre for Theology and Ministry, the Commission for Mission and UCA Funds Management; synod support services; Uniting AgeWell, UnitingCare, other agencies and  community services; schools and other institutions of the Church.

We often reflect on Paul’s image of the ‘body’ when faced with the reality of the unity and diversity within the many parts of the Church (1 Cor 12). We are taking a whole-of-Church perspective and giving a lot of consideration to the breadth and interconnectedness of the mission and ministry of the Church, as well as our commercial and compliance obligations.

Are there any common themes emerging?

Following our consultations last year we presented an interim report to the September 2014 Synod meeting and the following themes were affirmed for the Review. These themes continue to be matters of consideration and exploration regularly raised with us.

  • The changing nature of the Church;
  • Faith formation and discipleship;
  • Leadership, training, governance;
  • Relationships and communication;
  • Resources: people, property, social capital; and
  • Our financial future

When will the MSR be complete?

We will prepare a final report for the Synod Standing Committee by the 31 December 2015.

What has the MSR achieved so far?

We have been asked to advise the synod on vision, plans and sustainability into the future. And that is what we have been doing and will continue to do with our final report in December.

We have developed a statement of vision and mission principles that we are sharing as we continue to consult throughout the synod. These principles will inform our thinking when developing proposals.

The culture survey, conducted in February and March, provided some deep insights into the synod. The survey findings will inform strategic planning, but we are also talking with different teams within the synod about how to affect change in areas identified in the survey.

Since October 2014 we have undertaken a focused review of the mission and operations of the UnitingCare network in Victoria and Tasmania. We met and spoke with all community services agencies, reporting back to each on our findings. All the information gathered was collated and shared with the Synod Standing Committee before it considered and approved a new strategic direction for the UnitingCare agency network.

We have produced A New Season Bible studies and resources, which have been well received.

We have hosted a national discussion on governance. As part of this ongoing national discussion, we will be focusing on the composition and functioning of synod standing committees.

What have been the highlights so far?

Our people – our shared faith, passion and dedication.  The energy and enthusiasm we have experienced at youth, family and social justice camps. Hearing of the compassion and resourcefulness of the many mission activities of congregations. Meeting, praying and talking with so many people about their Christian faith.

Our goal is to establish a helpful environment by which all of us in the Church can continue to faithfully engage in worship, witness and service in the future and as part of a changing world.

Is the team still consulting?

Yes definitely. We would like to thank the many people and groups who continue to engage and support the work of the MSR, especially presbyteries and synod teams. We know some people feel like we have over-consulted. But we know there are others, as we read in Crosslight‘s letters page, who are frustrated with the lack of time or the scope of facilitated discussions.

We encourage people to be proactive and contact us directly. If you want to share any thoughts, discuss issues or follow up on an MSR discussion you’ve been involved in – email us, join our Facebook group, ask a question or leave a comment via our website.

How can people find out more?

We share news, reports, invitations and resources everywhere we can. We provide quarterly updates to presbyteries, submit news to the Synod E-newsletter which goes to groups including ministers and church council secretaries, contribute to Crosslight, publish news to our MSR Facebook group and have a MSR newsletter that people can sign-up to get updates.

If people don’t hear about the MSR through these channels, they can visit our website to find out more.

Major Strategic Review contact details

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