What does independent mean?
CrossNetters feel they have a vision to take the HCC Community Ministry to the next level. Its a vision for a ministry that could be more effective in our changing world. To do this with integrity requires the legal structure to be independent. (See comments on this later).
Elders are supportive of the vision but feel that CrossNet can’t be a true HCC Ministry if it has an independent legal structure and therefore consider it to be a para church organisation in which the relationship would be like one between HCC and World Vision or Alongsiders.
But CrossNet wants to be fully HCC and are afraid that sort of separation could be divisive in the church. CrossNetters feel the CrossNet vision is at the heart of the HCC vision and want to be regarded fully as an HCC ministry. CrossNetters consider that the legal structure as just a tool.
So we are going in circles!
IS IT ALL ABOUT CONTROL?
Late last year the elders redrafted the Trust Deed for Sowers and have determined that any new trust must use this deed. If a new initiative like CrossNet is not happy to work under the rules of this deed then they will be regarded as independent from HCC. The major change is that under the new deed the trust is described as an agreement between the HCC elders and the Sowers trustees, giving the elders full governing authority including the right to appoint or retire trustees.
You can view the entire Sowers Trust Deed here.
SO WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS?
Option One: CrossNet could adopt the HCC Trust Deed as its legal constitution.
The first question has to be “Would the HCC elders be happy to embrace CrossNet as an HCC ministry?” This has never been discussed with elders and it would be good to explore this option with them ... BUT
... if there are other insurmountable problems then there is no point in having that discussion. I've examined many church trusts over the last few days and have not found one in which the elders take such an obvious governing role as they do in the Sowers Trust Deed. (Although I'm sure that in most cases the trustees do acknowledge the authority of their sponsoring church). I noted with interest however, that some trust deeds are clear about their relationship with their sponsoring church and one states in their rules that trustees will be appointed by elders.
One of the most intriguing examples is the trust deed governing the Salvation Army. This trust deed was established in the early days of the Army and names General William Booth as the person who has the final governing control. (presumably that now applies to his successors).
Why Does Control Matter?
For CrossNet, this is very much a matter of appearance and strategy. Regardless of the legal structure, the CrossNet governing board would always want the HCC elders to be supportive of appointments to the trust board and also to ensure that the activities of CrossNet remain within the vision of HCC. In other words, as an expression of HCC it is right and proper that the elders retain the final authority regardless of the legal structure.
But there are some charitable funders and some sections of the community who have made it clear that they will not deal with a church or any religious organisation. This is the main reason why churches establish independent trusts. (The other reason is that the financial affairs of the trust are kept totally separate and this is advantageous should the trust ever get into financial difficulty).
Should CrossNet consider working under the HCC Trust Deed and not worry about those funding sources? This could be considered. There are many sources of funds that would not mind if CrossNet was fully controlled by a church.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MINISTRY TO SCHOOLS?
Perhaps the single biggest problem that would arise if CrossNet was not legally independent is the ministry to schools. Schools are increasingly cautious about involving churches in their school community. This is often in the news. In the past Sowers has been welcomed into the school community on condition that they are independent and are not a church.
An examination of the various trusts operated in association with South West Baptist in Christchurch (previously known as Spreydon Baptist) is revealing. This church and associated trusts have often been regarded as a model in NZ. An examination of their various trust deeds shows that some of these trusts make reference in their deed to the influence that the church has over the trust and some even refer to their goal of sharing the Christian faith...
The two exceptions to this are notable.
They are the Building Blocks Trust which runs community programmes for children and the
24-7 Trust which runs school programmes for teens. Neither of these trust deeds refer to their relationship to South West Baptist Church and we can assume that is for strategic reasons.
So, as school ministry is central to our CrossNet vision, this is the matter that needs to be prayerfully considered. What are the alternative options? Could CrossNet effectively carry out its vision in local schools with integrity if it operated under the current HCC Trust Deed?
OPTION TWO: WHAT'S WRONG WITH INDEPENDENCE?
Are we splitting hairs? What is so wrong with the independent status elders prefer? Lets analyse that for a moment.
Every Member of HCC is Independent
That's right. HCC is made up of individuals, all independent in their private lives, who choose to place themselves under the authority of the elders. Under the law a trust or charity is regarded as an individual. There is nothing to stop the independent CrossNet trust voluntarily placing itself under the authority of the elders of HCC.
In fact elders have stated that CrossNet can be as close to HCC as they wish.
I'd love to hear some thoughts on all of this.
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