Thursday, February 9, 2012

Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts visit Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts website

Semester: 2012 Spring

Project Type: Facilitated Dialogue, Stakeholder Assessment

Students: Karl Jun, Felicia Cote, and Theodore Hart

Karl Jun, Felicia Cote, Theodore Hart

The Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts is home to 185 congregations, ranging in size from fewer than 50 people to over 1,000 people at worship on Sunday. Governance in the Episcopal Church is both hierarchical—bishops have certain authority—and democratic—laypeople and clergy elect their bishops and meet in convention to set policy. As such it is important that any decision making process includes hearing from many voices in the context of discernment and prayer as well as legislative resolution and debate.

At budget hearings for the last several years, some have questioned the health insurance policy of the Diocese, which requires the payment by parishes of 100% of the premiums of clergy and lay employees as part of their compensation package. It has been argued that this is not the norm in other professions and costs are growing untenably burdensome for a number of congregations. When a preliminary recommendation from the diocesan Compensation and Benefits Committee—that employees begin to pay a percentage of their health insurance premium—was floated for discussion, the conversation that followed became divisive indicating that deeper issues, beyond financial considerations, existed on both sides of the conversation and were an obstacle to good decision making.

Students will initiate and facilitate a series of conversations with stakeholders to help surface the various interests involved and begin a deeper conversation about possible options.

Our Work

  • Interview selected diocesan clergy, lay members, staff members and members of the diocesan council (the representative governing body of the diocese) to become familiar with the issues raised by the topic of health insurance contribution by employees.
  • Develop, plan, and implement a series of conversations at locations around the diocese where people can explore the facts, feelings and history (personal and civic) related to the topic.
  • Reflect, readjust, and re-direct as necessary both the conversations and the methodology.

Final Product

  • An analysis of the compensation conflict, including the underlying reasons
  • An oral and written report to the wider community on the findings and analysis
  • Recommendations for next steps