The Work of a Diocesan Secretary

Introduction

I am an ordained Priest in the Church of Uganda serving as Diocesan Secretary in the Diocese of Bunyoro-Kitara in mid-Western Uganda. I was appointed Diocesan Secretary in October 2009. While I had had a long pastoral and church administration experience, becoming a Diocesan Administrative Officer (Diocesan Secretary) was a new experience altogether. In the discharge of my duties, I am answerable to the Diocesan Bishop, who is the overall Head of the entire Diocesan Mission. I wish to state that the information shared below is simply my experience with specific reference to Bunyoro-Kitara Diocese, which may not necessarily be the ideal model of the Diocesan Secretary’s Office.

 Diocesan/Church Policy Implementation

Church policy implementation is done through the various Departments whose ministries trickle down to the grass roots churches through their respective parishes. As Head of Administration I am responsible for the overall supervision and co-ordination of the respective Heads of Department to ensure effective performance in the different ministries. This entails receiving and reading through their work plans, activity programmes and periodical reports. However, many such ministry programmes are hampered by shortage of financial resources which undermines performance. These Departments include: Treasury, Planning and Development, Mission, Education, Health, Estates, Youth, Mothers Union and Women Ministries. Under these departments are units, sections or special ministries headed by other members of staff, who are answerable to the respective Heads of Department. At the end of the year, the different members of staff are expected to undergo performance appraisal to rate and determine their performance. This is done by each staff member with the immediate respective supervisor, counter-signed by the Diocesan Secretary after perusal. For the contract employees, the performance appraisal determines the renewal of their contracts. Departments that have lacked resources may however score lower than expected since some of their programmes may not have been implemented due to lack of funds.

Day-to-day administration of the Diocesan Office

It is my duty to supervise the entire Diocesan secretariat as well as the day-to-day administration of the Diocesan Office and to co-ordinate the activities of the Heads of Departments in the Diocese. As head of the secretariat, it is important to report for duty early enough so as to demonstrate a good example to the rest of staff. On reporting to office, the first thing is to sign the arrival book, which is a requirement of every member of staff. The beginning of our day is marked by a 30 minutes time of devotion, which includes praise, reading of scripture and prayer. This is also the time to pass on to staff any important information as may be deemed necessary by management. Members of staff are thereafter left to go to their respective offices to commence duty or to go to the field.

As accounting officer of the Diocese, one of the important roles of my office is to verify and authorize all financial requisitions before any form of payment is effected. This involves careful perusal of the payment vouchers with the attached requisitions, cross-checking with the vote book to ensure availability of funds for the said purpose and signing for the withdrawal of the funds from the bank. However, the biggest challenge in this process is that while the purpose for which funds are requested may be genuine, the funds for the said purpose may not be available due to failure or delay to realize the financial year’s estimated budget. When this happens, the concerned officer is not only disappointed but also frustrated. Officers are therefore advised to prioritize activities in advance so as to utilize the meagre resources more appropriately.

As Diocesan Secretary, I am responsible for developing and maintaining public relations with the outside world. This makes the office of the Diocesan Secretary quite busy since there are quite a number of visitors who seek to relate or consult with the Diocesan leadership. This may include Government officials, mission partners, NGO and community leaders, journalists, even casual ones that may simply want to say hello. While it is good discipline to make an appointment before visiting, it still remains a big challenge since many will simply come and expect to be attended to. If not well handled, such visitors may cause a lot of stress because attending to them fully may result in failure to execute other important obligations in time. It is therefore important to educate and encourage them to make an appointment before they come. In some cases, others may be asked to try another time because of the Diocesan Secretary’s busy schedule. As expected, this may cause disappointment to the visitor but as someone taught me, ‘if you fear to disappoint others then you will always be disappointed.’

Diocesan meetings

In consultation with the Diocesan Bishop, it is my duty to notify members of the Synod and Diocesan Council and the various Boards well in advance of the scheduled meetings, as well as the date, time and venue of the same. As Secretary to the Diocesan Synod and Council, it is my duty to ensure a proper record of deliberations, make available a copy to the Chairman (Bishop) as well as to implement the resolutions passed by these organs, which may require follow up with Heads of Departments on their line of implementation of similar resolutions as well as those of their respective Boards and Committees. In addition to these important meetings, routine management meetings help decision-making at that level.

Correspondence

The Diocesan Secretary receives correspondence from the Provincial Office, sister Dioceses, Government and other organizations; it is important to keep the Bishop informed of all such correspondence as may require his attention from time to time and to respond to the same without delay. The Diocesan Secretary as mouthpiece of the Diocese is responsible for issuing official communications on behalf of the Institution. Such communications may be to Government, partner organizations, Church and public institutions as well as internal correspondence within the Diocese.

Recruitment, training and deployment of Church Ministers

Selection and training of church ministers is done following clearly stated criteria coordinated by the Education Department. After successful training, the candidates are commissioned or ordained by the Bishop. Just before ordination/commissioning, the Diocesan Staff Board convenes to consider their posting to parish or other ministries. Such posting will normally result in some transfer of other ministers as may be deemed necessary by the Staff Board. The Office of the Diocesan Secretary is thereafter charged with the duty of communicating the decisions of the Board to the respective ministers. In addition to the letter of posting/transfer, a job description as well as the staff code of conduct are attached for perusal and consent by the minister concerned. For record purposes, the Office of the Diocesan Secretary establishes a personal file for each of the serving ministers, in which all documents related to the respective minister are kept for reference. Posting and transfer of staff requires logistical support in terms of transport for ministers and their families. Ministers serving in the various churches are answerable to the respective Archdeacons, who in turn report to the Diocesan Secretary.

Other Staff Recruitment

Being responsible for Human Resource management, it is my role to co-ordinate the process of staff recruitment. It is my duty to notify management of the need to fill the vacant posts so as to seek clearance for advertising the same, in both the media as well as public notice boards.  The advert should indicate the minimum qualification for the specific job as well the deadline for submission of applications. The shortlisted candidates are invited to appear before the Interviewing Panel which is responsible for selecting the best candidate(s) for the job. After appointment/contract letters have been prepared, the successful candidate(s) is invited to sign job contracts which include terms and conditions of service, job description as well as staff code of conduct. As the new staff member reports for duty, an orientation to induct them in their roles and duties is done.

Conclusion

What I have shared above does not encompass everything that I do as Diocesan Secretary but reflects some of the major roles of my office. I also wish to state that the success of the Diocesan Secretary’s work largely depends on close consultation with the Diocesan Bishop. Failure to consult with or take lawful instructions from the Diocesan Bishop may be counter-productive and may jeopardize the entire mission of the Church (Diocese).

Rev. Canon Samuel Kahuma is Diocesan Secretary of the Diocese of Bunyoro-Kitara.