Jesus said to him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead."
--Matthew 8:22

I beg to dream and differ from the hollow lies.
--Green Day

Monday, June 2, 2014

General Convention Preview: Days of Future Past

The Trident gum stakes out a tense no-man's land.
COD agrees with his similarly acronymed colleague at ESPN, TMQ, in moving towards a Unified Theory of Creep.  TMQ began a running feature where he noted instances of Christmas Creep, like Santa appearing in Labor Day parades.  Crusty, by the way, received crazy map props from TMQ in his September, 2009, column for submitting this: "Rev. Thomas Ferguson of Madison, Wis., tops them all: 'My wife and I checked into a hotel over Labor Day weekend. On the coffee table was a book titled 'Prayers for the Season.' I opened it. The first was, 'A Prayer to Remind us of the True Meaning of Christmas.' It warned against -- Christmas commercialism.'" A packaged spiritual commercial book warning us against the commercialization of Christmas! After years of publishing instances of Christmas Creep, TMQ retired the section on his blog, noting the phenomenon had become so widespread it was pointless to note all the instances of it.  Resistance is futile, and Christmas Creep is here, time to stop posting photos of Christmas trees appearing in malls in September. Then TMQ instituted a Unified Theory of Creep:  that the phenomenon of Christmas Creep was everywhere present in the culture, and we need to realize how pernicious the phenomenon of Creep has become; giving but one example, TMQ noted, "Yours truly pulled into an Exxon station on July 31 for petrol; the advert on the pump said, 'TIME FOR A WINTER TUNEUP.' I went to my mailbox on Aug. 6, and found a Land's End catalog headlined "FALL ARRIVES."  COD's favorite Unified Theory of Creep example is the picture he took shortly after Christmas, in the second week of January, with the clearance Christmas candy stacked next to the Easter candy.  Then again, this picture was taken in Canada, so maybe Canadian Easter and Canadian Christmas come at different times than they do in the States, due to the metric system or something.

Thus, Crusty is proud to announce Unified Theory of Creep:  General Convention Style!  Crusty is beating his slovenly competitors to the punch and coming out with his 2015 General Convention Preview, over a year before the actual Convention itself, which will be held next June in lovely Salt Lake City, Utah.  Seriously.  Crusty isn't being cynical, it's quite a beautiful city.  Crusty's been there a number of times, CODW (Crusty Old Dean's wife) grew up three hours north of the SLC, in beautiful Twin Falls, ID (home of the eponymously named falls that are taller than Niagara Falls -- yeah, two swipes at Canada in one posting.  COD is still angry about the Canadiens beating the Bruins. Suck on it Habs! And it's still too early for Crusty to talk about the women's gold medal hockey game from last February.) It gets a bad rap because people who've never been west of Pittsburgh think it's all Mormons, tumbleweeds, and bears, or something.  COD always wondered why
Crusty's preferred martini: Death's Door gin, up, very dry, with a twist.
we have never held General Convention there.  A former bishop of Utah replied to him, "We did host an Olympics, I think we could handle a General Convention," and Crusty replied, "Yeah, but it'll never happen because half the House of Bishops probably think you can't get a decent martini there."

Apparently, the advance team has reported back favorably on the martini situation, since General Convention is set to kick of June 25, 2015, in Salt Lake City. So:  on to Crusty's Convention Conjecture!  Remember, as noted in other preview posts, all predictions guaranteed to be right or your money back!  Which, since this blog is free...

I)  The PB election.  One major piece of business will be electing a Presiding Bishop.  Next year's election is unique in that the current PB is a viable candidate for nomination.

Note Crusty didn't say "current PB is eligible for re-election," for several reasons.

1)  Technically (note COD said "technically") you don't run for PB.  There's a nominating committee that vets, screens, and recommends a slate of candidates.

2)  There are no term limits or other rules around re-election of a PB, except for one: the same mandatory resignation age for all clergy, age 72.  That's the only criterion that informs the election of the PB.  (Well, there's also the five-year rule, but that's disputed -- since the PB must resign his/her current position, some think that the rule that a bishop can't resign to take another position unless he/she has been in his/her current one for five years applies -- Article II, Section 8 of the Constitution.  Thus you sometimes hear people say, "Oh, so-and-so isn't eligible because they haven't been bishop for five years."  They're wrong, in COD's mind, because Article II, Section 8, specifically refers to a bishop who may be "elected as Bishop..of another diocese."  The PB is not bishop of a diocese, so COD therefore decrees this Article is not in effect.)

Any active bishop at the time the election who is under the age of 72 is eligible, and any retired bishop physically present and under the age of 72 is eligible.  The only bishops excluded are "retired bishops not present."

This PB, who was elected at age 52, could be elected three times.  Once in 2006, again in 2015 at age 61, and again in 2024 at age 70, at which point she would need to resign in 2026.  Frank Griswold was elected at age 59 (he turned 60 later in that year) and could have been nominated again in 2006, but would have needed to resign in 2009.

There are provisions in place, of course, for filling the office of Presiding Bishop should it become vacant, because it's happened  ALL THE TIME.  John Gardiner Murray died in office (suffered a
Best left unsolved.
stroke in the House of Bishops!) as did his successor Charles P.Anderson, (lasted one year) who were the first two elected to the office rather than succeeding as senior bishop.  Three Presiding Bishops IN A ROW resigned before their terms were up:  Henry Knox Sherrill, Arthur Lichteneberg, and John Hines.  Of the first six persons elected to the position, only one served a full term and retired.  Even the drummers in Spinal Tap had a better record from 1929-1974 than Presiding Bishops, thankfully no primates died from a bizarre gardening accident.

So the current PB may be nominated, because she is a non-retired bishop at the electing conclave and under the age of 72. Then there's the question of *whether* she would consider being nominated, and here we have a whole host of rampant, and frankly at times ill-informed, speculation.  Full disclosure:  Crusty worked for the churchwide staff from 2001-2011, and served at the pleasure of two different Presiding Bishops, including the current one from 2006-2011.  COD doesn't claim to have any insider information (he's been gone for three years), and, even if he did, he wouldn't tell you.  On the one hand, idle church gossip with pretend insiders thinking they're in an Aaron Sorkin movie is one of the things Crusty has the least patience with; on the other, idle gossip from people who may be in the know leaking stuff is the only thing Crusty has even less respect for.  Even if I did know, I wouldn't tell you.  I consider it a privilege to have worked with Frank Griswold and Katharine Jefferts Schori, and won't cheapen that by inflating my own ego and pretending I have insider knowledge, or even giving it to you if I did.  Crusty grew up in Boston and knows how to treat snitches.  This is why COD was sorted into Hufflepuff, because apparently he is honest and loyal, or so Pottermore's Sorting Hat told me.

That said, Crusty predicts based on no insider information that the current PB will not let herself be considered for nomination.  Eighteen years is a long time to do anything in the church.  Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, announced he would be willing to be considered for a third, six-year term.  He was the first Presiding Bishop to be defeated for re-election, not so much because of any groundswell of resentment against him personally, but because eighteen years is a long time.  As one voting member of that Churchwide Assembly told COD, "It was hard to have as our theme, 'Always being made new,' and voting for eighteen years of the same PB at such a crucial crossroads in our history." Having worked with two PBs up close, the one thing Crusty
Everyone wants to be in Gryffindor.  Fear the Badger!
will say is that being a bishop is a hard, often thankless job, and being PB is a harder, even more thankless job, because your average bishop can get more done in his/her diocese than the PB can.  This is why the term was shortened from 12 years to 9, because the job damn near killed John Allin and Ed Browning.

Additional sideline:  frankly, Crusty doesn't really understand why we spend three years and over $226,000 on a nomination process when we also have a process for nomination by petition.  Why spend all that time and money when anyone can be nominated from the floor?  Frankly, Crusty would like to see an open process:  every bishop under the age of 72 is eligible, first ballot is a kind of nomination ballot.  Anyone can remove themselves from the ballot at any time after the first ballot, start dropping candidates after the third ballot with various vote thresholds, allow candidates after the third ballot to make presentations/speeches.   This is what the ELCA does, and it can be a crazy, Spirit-led fandango that brought us someone like their first woman Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, who was not on many people's radar (but was on Crusty's, who worked with her on ecumenical projects).

So Crusty predicts the current PB will let the committee know she will not be considered for nomination, but will wait as long as humanly possible to announce this, because she becomes a lame duck the instant she does.

Crusty prognosticates that some combination of the following persons will be on the list of four nominees presented by committee:  Mary-Gray Reeves (El Camino Real), Eugene Sutton (Maryland), Dean Wolfe (Kansas), Ian Douglas (Connecticut), Daniel Martins (Springfield), Andy Doyle (Texas), and Ed Konieczny (Oklahoma).

Right now Crusty is predicting either Ian Douglas or Gene Sutton as PB.  He does, however, reserve the right to revise this in his second General Convention preview edition, which will probably come out about a year from now.

II)  COD predicts that the issue of divesting from Israel -- more specifically, divesting from companies that do business in the occupied territories and/or supply materials to the Israeli Defense Forces as part of the occupation -- will make it out of committee for the first time and to the floor for debate.  This is an issue which has been debated in various church governing bodies, including a crazy parliamentary session at the 2012 Presbyterian General Assembly where a motion to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola, and Hewlett Packard because of materials it supplied to Israel failed by TWO VOTES, 333-331, with two abstentions.  Crusty doesn't think it will pass but thinks there's enough momentum for it to make it out of a legislative committee for the first time and thus derail all other business while we obsess over for a good 36 hours or so.

III)  There will be a much more reasonable and saner budgetary process, and no repeat of the utter fiasco of 2012, with clearer accountability and transprarency.  There's lots of reasons for this, first and foremost there's really no way to imagine it being more of an unspeakable, dysfunctional, clusterf**k than it was in 2012.  Nowhere to go but up, sadly.  Oh yeah, there are also changes in leadership (the previous President of the House of Deputies and the PB were at loggerheads) and a rosier revenue picture (great market returns in the past triennium and reasonable income levels from dioceses), among others.  However, we should also realize that this superficially rosier financial situation is in part a result of laying off/downsizing/not filling over 30% of the churchwide staff in the past 9 years and essentially turning the 815 building itself into a rental property management company without ever sitting down to do any strategic thinking or visioning on what we think a churchwide organization should look like.  "Wow, the patient looks better even though instead of trying to figure out what was wrong with her we just started chopping stuff off."  Which leads me to

IV)  The Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church (TREC).  Put simply, nothing will come of this.  They have put out two study papers.  The one on networks was cover-your-eyes awful (see Crusty's thoughts here; it's the only time COD has gotten emails castigating him for going too easy on someone or something).  The second addressed Governance and Administration (see Crusty's thoughts here), and received the kiss of death when the PHOD expressed her concern with structural reform limiting the prophetic voice of the Episcopal Church (COD can't find the tweet, which was from someone summarizing the PHOD's remarks, so is doing this from memory -- would welcome it if someone could find it).  Upon reading that, COD said, "TREC is dead, my friend.  TREC is dead."

They will, of course, play out the string.  They will release another paper or two (though have not done so for over three months), hold some kind of webinar or something in the fall since they don't have any funding for a churchwide conference, and duly file a report, perhaps even with some specific suggestions.  But since they are a special commission, any proposals would need to wend their way through the committee structure, where those who see TREC and talk of restructuring as a threat to the Episcopal Church will make sure nothing of substance makes it to the floor, and, if it does, that it will not pass.  This was a fait accompli, to a certain degree, when any substantive funding for a churchwide gathering was stripped from the resolution that created TREC at the 2012 General Convention and no one, anywhere, either from TREC or other governance structures, seemed inclined to lobby for any.  COD was present at a meeting of Executive Council in Fall 2013 when TREC gave a report; the question of funding for a Fall, 2014 churchwide gathering was mentioned, and someone asked if there was the possibility of finding the funds somewhere.  The response from the chair was, "No one has asked." And that was nine months ago.  There are good, thoughtful people on TREC who care about The Episcopal Church, Crusty doesn't blame them personally.  They never had a chance, but to be fair they have also done their own share of bungling (exhibit A:  the eagerly awaited and appalling first Study Paper they released).  Mind you, this is from a church that ADDED $100,000 to the committee which nominates a PB -- even though they can also have nominations from the floor, we spend $226,000 and three years to come up with four candidates -- and which estimates the costs of nominating, electing, installing, and transitioning at $500,000.  But we can't give TREC the money it needs to do a thorough job.  Where your treasure is, there you heart will be also.

To be clear, Crusty doesn't want the prophetic voice of The Episcopal Church to be inhibited, either.  Crusty isn't into a disempowering of lay persons or disenfranchising persons of color -- all three of these things he has been personally accused of, by the way.  COD has said again, and again, and will say again:  structural reform does not inherently, by its nature, do any of these things, or, for that matter, do anything inherently.  Often these charges are hurled by those who derive their own power, prestige, and authority from the current system and simply don't want to lose what they derive from it.  The current Constitution and Canons did not come down on Mt Horeb from God; they are a creature of their own times and places.  Many inherent elements of the polity of the Episcopal Church -- a bicameral structure, equal representation of dioceses regardless of size, making change in the church difficult (voting by orders; two successive conventions to amend Constitution) -- date straight back to 1789 and a church that consisted of a tiny handful of bishops and dioceses clustered on the East Coast and are now governing a much larger, globalized church. To give but one example: Put simply, would we really be the only church in Christendom that permits retired bishops the right to vote on budgets and legislation that they have no responsibility to implement if we were structuring a church in 1979 instead of 1789, when they had no category of retired bishop or even imagined a time when we would have so many?  Crusty's all for empowering the laity, having the most representational church governance bodies that we can have in terms of race, class, age, and gender, and having the Episcopal Church claim its voice in the pubic sphere; he's just not convinced our current polity does that.

Nothing of substance will come from the Restructuring Task Force, except maybe some resolution thanking them for their work, commending it to the church for discussion, and about continuing the conversations.  On the one hand there will be those seeking to undermine any efforts at restructuring; on the other there will be those who say, "But we need the new PB to weigh in on these conversations!" That one-two punch has TREC doomed.  BTW, Crusty called for electing an interim PB precisely to deal with the second objection, see my thoughts here, which includes proposals for revamping the PHOD and creating a truly representational office.

Oh well -- these are four issues COD sees on the horizon and some initial thoughts.  Crusty guesses that's enough for now for being one year out from General Convention and doing some long-range forecasting.    COD has to say he's not feeling very hopeful about General Convention 2015.  Crusty still believes in the Holy Spirit, and honestly hopes something may happen in the next year to change some of these prognostications -- TREC pulls Trinity Wall Street funding out of a hat and holds a churchwide gathering in 2014, a PB candidate expresses a clear desire for reforming the church as part
Kitty Pryde, take me to GC 1853 before saving the X-Men in 1973!
of his/her primacy -- but as it is, believes General Convention 2015 will be looked at much like the Muhlenberg Memorial of 1853.  Realizing the church had fallen behind on mission and evangelism, William Augustus Muhlenberg (GPE, Greatest Presbyter Ever!) proposed some visionary reforms to the church to remedy a chronic shortage of clergy and lackluster missionary work.  The General Convention formed a committee to study the issue, which came back in 1856 and recommended allowing people to separate the services of Litany, ante-Communion, and Communion so church wouldn't be so long, and punted on any and all other suggestions.  This, in part, is why in the year 1900 91% of Episcopalians still lived East of the Mississippi, and in 2000 only 12% of Episcopal Churches were founded after 1968.  In 2015, as in 1853, when the church is clearly presented with some (but certainly not all) of the challenges it was facing, it will end up doing nothing of substance.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Dreaming of Mutual Accountability: Do the Ed Lover Dance!

Crusty had an epiphany at the recently concluded Board of Directors meeting for the seminary where he teaches. (Frankly COD doesn't like "directors", he thinks "trustees" captures the essence of stewardship that being on a seminary board implies, but neither the state of Ohio nor the state of Illinois consulted with Crusy when they set up their laws for non-profit organizations, so to be in compliance we legally have a Board of Directors...hmm...maybe Crusty should call Fox News and have this be part of their "war on Christians" stuff?)

In case you're wondering where Crusty's been at lately, it's important to note blogging doesn't pay the bills.  COD has been kicking the reaccreditation process up to eleven at the seminary.  We are due for
Actual panel from AC unit COD owned.  Kicking it up to 11!!
our comprehensive visit from our accrediting agency, the Association of Theological Schools.  It's going to be a hum-dinger:  we have to a) deal with a seminary merger; b) update lots of things since one of the partners hasn't had a comprehensive visit in a decade; and c) incorporate all of the massive changes in higher education accreditation in the past decade.  Or, as Crusty likes to call it, the No Seminary Left Behind-ification of theological education.  Not to get too deep in the weeds of all of this, but until the 2000s, to get accredited, you more or less just had to say what you did, and prove you had the resources to accomplish that.  Yeah, we offer an MDiv.  Here's our curriculum, library, faculty, recent budget and audit.  Now accredit me and come back in ten years.  Since the 2000s, there has been introduced a third element:  OK, how do you know and measure how you're accomplishing what you say you're doing?  And herein there is a fundamental difference between a seminary primarily training people for ordained ministry and, say, being a nursing program or actuarial training program.  How can we demonstrate our program effectiveness to our accreditors for a program training people for ministry?  Emphases on data, outcomes, assessment, etc., are now essential elements of seminary accreditation. Can we determine how more spiritual students are at graduation than when they arrived?  Do they meet benchmark standards for homiletic effectiveness?

Needless to say, Crust has even more respect for his son's grade school teachers, who have been living this for over a decade, and sometimes whose salary, promotion, and school funding depend on the data related to their outcomes and benchmarks.

So the re-accreditation process is in full effect, much like Public Enemy, circa 1991 (PE in the house in full effect, yeah boy-eee!  Where my Brooklyn peeps @?  I'm taking a break right now to do the Ed Lover dance.  GenXers, you know what I'm talking about!  It's not the MC
God, I miss Yo! MTV Raps. Totally Pauly not at all.
Hammer and it ain't The Butt!)  Crusty briefed the Board of Directors at the meeting on the timeline and content of the self-study to be submitted as part of our re-accreditation process.  He wanted to give them a sense of the complexity of this project -- Crusty is essentially editing a book over the next few months and motivating a dozen or so staff and volunteers to help with this -- so he had a powerpoint which walked through all the different standards we had to be in compliance with.  Crusty, as usual, saw the eyes of the Directors start to glaze over as we discussed shared governance and the differences between qualitative and quantitative data.  Fearing he was beginning to lose the group, COD pulled his best Don Draper and went off the script of the presentation.

"Look," COD said, "when it comes down to it, this whole accreditation thing is, in essence, three things.  First we have to say who we are:  why are we here, what do we think we have to offer, and what do we do?  After that, we have to show how we actually do what we say we do:  faculty, curriculum, finances, etc.  Then we have to do a third thing:  how do we know if it's working?  How are we accountable to do what we say we do?  What systems do we have in place to make some corrections or changes if need be?"

Crusty then went on:  "And keep in mind nobody is forcing any of this on us.  The Association of Theological Schools is a peer-member organization.  The ATS doesn't 'do' anything -- member schools do.  Accreditation was started to ensure quality, so that a degree meant what it said, that faculty and staff are treated fairly and there are financial oversights.  Any member school can go to the meeting of the organization and propose a change to be discussed and voted on.  And when the team come to visits us, it won't be some technocrats, it will be people just like me, faculty from other member schools.  It's a peer-based system to be mutually accountable to one another." 

Once Crusty said that, the mood in the room shifted a bit.  They seemed to get what was going on.  One of the Board members said, "If we look at this from the right perspective, it's not a burden, but something that can help us articulate we are called to do, and do it better."  Heads nodding all around.

Then it hit Crusty:  Good God, what if we asked the church as a whole to do something like this?

Think about it.  What if we asked the church to do the three-fold process outlined above?  Hell, what if we asked the church to do any of the three steps outlined above?  What if St Swithin's Church sat down -- its Vestry, clergy, lay leaders -- and once every ten years asked, "OK, who do we think we are and what are we called to do?  How do we go about doing that?  And how do we know if we're actually doing it, what can we have in place periodically to review and revise what we do?"

Crusty has held to a kind of version a process like this.  Over the years, for every position Crusty has interviewed in to serve in the church, when asked if he has any questions, he always asks three questions:

--If this [church, chaplaincy, school, program] closed tomorrow, would anybody other than the people in that [church, chaplaincy, school, program] care or even notice?
Answer me these questions three, St Swithin's.

--What's the biggest challenge facing this [C, C, S, P] in the next five years?

--What resources (in the broadest possible sense) does this [C, C, S, P] have to meet those challenges?

COD is at times amazed and impressed at the depth of conversation those questions have opened up.

However, Crusty has at time winces at the utter inability of some of the C, C, S & Ps he has asked these questions to understand them, let alone answer them.

The first question is a way to get at mission and ministry:  what the hell are you here for?

The second is a reality check to get people to talk about how it ain't 1950 anymore and the church and the culture are in very, very different places -- and depending on local circumstances, that presents a varied number of challenges.

The third question is to think about how to accomplish that mission.  COD has often heard answers to the first question and said, "Do you realize you don't have any of the resources to accomplish that right now?" after discussing the third.  As a tangible example, back in 2000 Crusty was at a diocesan meeting where they announced plans to plant 10 new congregations in 10 years.  They asked if there were any questions and COD raised his hand.  "I have two," I replied.  "Where are these clergy going to come from and have you done any of the demographic research about where to plan these churches?"  They looked puzzled and I said, "The average church planter is someone under 40 with 5-7 years of ordained ministry experience.  We have no one in this diocese that meets that profile.  We have no training programs in any Episcopal seminaries, where about 80% of our clergy graduate from, that have any kind of training programs in evangelism or church planting."

That's kind of a digression to note that we certainly have conversations in different parts of the church about how to discern mission and ministry and effectiveness, how to establish aspects of feedback and reflection.

But I found myself looking at what our seminaries are being asked to do and thought, "My God, what would it mean to do this at all levels of the church?"

Crusty's not holding his breath that this may happen anytime soon; lamenting the inability or unwillingness of getting the church to address the massive changes and challenges facing us in any kind of systemic way is a recurring theme in this blog. Heck, when General Convention passed a resolution encouraging all churches to have websites, a handful of people voted against it on a voice vote.  But if it does, be sure he would do his best Ed Lover Dance.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Remembering Rowan: Crusty Gets Nostalgic

Some sad news from Crustyland last week.  The Rev Dr Rowan Greer, Walter Gray Professor Emertius of Anglican Studies at Yale Divinity School/Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, passed away at age 79.  Crusty always called him Father Greer, never Dr Greer or Professor Greer or, God forbid, Rowan -- and, to be honest, COD thinks Fr Greer was the only Episcopal priest he has always referred to, often even in the third person in conversation with others, as Fr Greer.  Heck as Crusty got older and became a Rev Dr himself, he increasingly has seen old mentors as colleagues; he has referred to his old field ed supervisor and the bishop who received him into the Episcopal Church and even primates by first name, but never Fr Greer.  He was an important mentor to COD, Crusty wouldn't be Crusty without him.

More on Fr Greer in a minute, but this week Crusty has been on a nostalgia trip, partly due to Fr Greer's passing but also due to some other, personal matters COD doesn't feel like sharing with the interwebz.  Got me thinking about the past, how Crusty got to where he is today, and mentors in general.  There have been many over the years, but these three in part come to mind this past week as Crusty has been pondering.

The first was my grandmother.  She was an amazing woman:  sent off to live on a farm with a family not her own, grew up without running water and electricity in rural New Hampshire.  She was the only woman in her high school graduating class; all the other women didn't finish, got married and got to work.  But my grandmother finished, and not only that, was the valedictorian.  She went off to college when it was rare for anyone to go, let alone women, graduating from the University of New Hampshire.  She was a mentor to me not just for her courage and intelligence, but as a Christian as well.  Crusty was a child of a mixed marriage. Dad was Irish Roman Catholic and Mom a New England Yankee Congregationalist, and it was still a bit of a scandal in 1950s Boston when they
Grandma circa 1935.  I still miss her.
married.  Since they were married in the Catholic Church, the deal was we had to be raised Catholic, and Crusty was.  Yet my grandmother was a proud and faithful Congregationalist; she was important to COD because she was someone I saw who seemed more interested in living out her faith day to day than in outward acts of churchly devotion and piety.  As a child COD struggled with what it meant to be Catholic apart from having to do (or not do) stuff:  go to Mass, not eat meat on Fridays during Lent, and so on.  Of course there's a long tradition of Catholic social justice teaching, Crusty's just saying it didn't enter into his worldview much in 1970s Massachusetts.  My grandmother, on the other hand, seemed more interested in doing stuff in the world than in church.   As East Boston began to experience increased Hispanic/Latino immigration, she helped set up Sunday schools in poorer neighborhoods. COD vividly remembers her telling stories of chasing rats out of Sunday school classrooms in churches in East Boston when she got there in the morning.  She was also a feminist, albeit in her own way.  She went back to school after my mother went off to college, earned a library science degree, went to work for the Congregational Library and Archives, eventually becoming the director herself, the first woman and first non-clergyman to head the organization.  Over the years COD has come to appreciate her as someone who was more interested in doing than being, and as someone who was willing to openly challenge what the church thought you could or could not do.  COD has tried to do the same.  Plus, she was one of the funniest, most acid-tongued people Crusty has ever known, and had no patience for fools.  When CODW (Crusty Old Dean's Wife) was meeting OMOCOD (Official Mother of Crusty Old Dean) and OFOCOD (figure it out) she said, "I hope your parents like me."  Crusty replied, "Forget them, you better hope my grandmother likes you."  Crusty likes to think he has inherited a bit of her acid-tongue.

The second was (is, he's still alive but retired now) a rabbi.  Crusty arrived at college in thoroughly skeptic mode.  After Confirmation, COD still went to church, not as often as before, and mostly out of a sense of obligation, and by his late teens AYMC (Angry You Man Crusty) has was skeptical of much of Christian belief and doctrine and began styling himself as an agnostic.  The church just seemed so hypocritical, Christians didn't seem to follow the teachings of Jesus and were obsessed with people's sex lives, and so Crusty's faith was in benign neglect and he becoming content with trying to do unto others as he wished they would do unto him.  However, Crusty was just a poser when it came to agnosticism, and it really didn't suit him.  For instance, while a Russian Studies major, he began taking
RBI Klein discussing I-Thou relationship with the ball with Buber.
religious studies classes.  There was something about the whole religion thing AYMC just couldn't shake.  And then he met Rabbi Roger Klein, the Jewish chaplain at the university Crusty attended.  The movie "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" had just come out, and we used to call him Roger Rabbi.  One of my buddies was a big fan of the band the English Beat, and instead called him Ranking Roger.   He was a tall man, with his rabbinic beard and booming voice.  He played softball on the religion department team, which earned him another nickname, RBI Klein.  He said that he was able to still play shortstop at his age because "I have an I-Thou relationship with the ball."  He was real, he was authentic, he was cool -- and he was a rabbi.  Crusty hadn't come across this combination of authenticity with faith before.  Sure, there has been hip and cool clergy Crusty had come across, but he often found himself wondering why they were clergy if they seemingly didn't believe in anything.  The rabbi was authentic but also a faithful Jew.   COD took several courses with him, and went to him for vocational advice, wondering if he should go off to study religion at the graduate level or continue with the plan to do doctoral work in Russian Studies. The rabbi told AYMC he could go become anything and probably be happy; but where might God be calling him to a life of wholeness, not just success?  Of fulfillment, and not contentment? Crusty was also very uncomfortable in the Catholic Church, but the rabbi told him to stick with it for now; he said asking questions would help me understand what I really believed; that too much change at once was too much; and to come to grips with the faith of my upbringing and make peace with it first before considering anything else.  Wise words from a wise man.  Rabbi Klein was an important mentor in showing COD you could be authentic and be a person of faith.

Then COD arrived at Yale Divinity School in the fall of 1991, 22 years old and planning to do a Master of Arts in Religion degree and eventually move on to doctoral work in biblical studies.  He walked into his first class, sat down, and in walked a man in a clerical collar with a dog trailing behind him.  COD was startled; he had never had a person in a clergy collar in a classroom!  The Catholic chaplain at the university he attended seemed rarely to dress as a priest except for Sundays.  And with a dog!  Fr Greer then opened class...with a prayer!  Crusty had never thought about beginning class with prayer before.  It was all so startling.  That was Fr Rowan Greer, and the course was Introduction to Church History.  COD took five classes with Fr Greer, and he was instrumental in helping Crusty switch from the MA in Religion to the MDiv, to begin to consider he might be called to ordained ministry, and to move from an emphasis in Biblical studies to Church History.

Academically, Fr Greer bridged New Testament studies and church history.  Crusty had taken OT and NT survey courses as an undergraduate, and some philosophy of religion classes, but it seemed that  the years from 100-1600 had been entirely skipped, and up to that point my academic work ended with the NT and picked up again with Descartes.  Fr Greer opened up all that space in-between.  His own doctoral work was in New Testament, but he bridged the NT and Patristic periods, in his writings he
Fr Greer and McGregor during Crusty's time at Yale.
focused on examining how the early church understood and interpreted Scripture.  This came as a breath of fresh air, because, as COD proceeded with his MAR with emphasis in New Testament, it had all started to feel a bit constricting.  COD wasn't sure he wanted to continue writing papers comparing the use of the hortatory subjunctive in the Pauline and deutero-Pauline corpus.  That's not a joke, that was an actual paper COD wrote. Fr Greer also made the early church come alive it all its fascinating weirdness, peppering his lectures with the bizarre oddities of the period (including sharing the earliest known evidence of a whoopee cushion) and his own shorthand mnemonic devices (the Frankenstein Theory of the Papacy; the Three Bears' Theory of the Trinity; the Mayonnaise Theory of the Incarnation).   By his third year in seminary, having switched to the MDiv, been received into The Episcopal Church, and considering both ordination and future academic work, Fr Greer became my academic advisor.

Fr Greer was an important mentor in the way he embodied being a scholar and a priest.  His priesthood didn't inhibit his scholarship, not did his scholarship overshadow his priesthood.  Crusty got to experience both sides, since Fr Greer was also the assisting priest in the congregation where COD did his field education work, Crusty got to see him in both his academic and his pastoral contexts.  He gave COD some of the best advice he's ever received, things Crusty still passes on to his own students.  One of my favorites was one of Crusty's first days assisting Fr Greer at the altar.  I was clearly a little nervous.  Fr Greer said, "Don't worry.  For one thing, if you make a mistake, just keep going.  Most of the time if you look like you know what you're doing nobody will notice.  You know, I forgot the Lord's Prayer once, and I don't think most people noticed.  Or else they assumed I probably did it on purpose, when I fact I just flipped two pages instead of one and didn't notice until it was too late."

As a seminary professor, Crusty finds himself sometimes echoing some of the things he learned from Fr Greer.  Crusty always tries to return papers as promptly as possible, like Fr Greer did.  Fr Greer would also rarely write in the margins of your paper, he would attach often several yellow lined pages with extended comments. COD can't pull this off -- he prefers papers submitted electronically -- but tries to add as many comments as he thinks are helpful.   Fr Greer always was focused on the student and learning, when at times it can feel as if you're a cog in some kind of machine.  Crusty tells every student at the seminary where he teaches, "The students aren't here for the seminary, the seminary is here for the students."  I like to think I picked that up from Fr Greer.

There are any number of Fr Greer stories.  The time his dog threw up a half-eaten bird in class and he went on lecturing without missing a beat.  While presiding at a weekday Eucharist, reading a particularly tendentious biography in Lesser Feasts and Fasts, then rolling his eyes and saying, "Good God this has to be one of the dreariest commemorations someone could have thought up.  Let's translate another commemoration." The way he never liked shaking hands during the peace, but would stand with his arms crossed and nod in your direction.  COD always wondered, in part, whether it had to do with the impairment on one of his hands due a childhood accident.

He was refreshingly blunt without being cynical or snarky or mean, there was a sincerity and honesty to his bluntness.  In particular Crusty remembers telling him he was going out to meet with a couple of parishioners at the congregation where I was doing field ed and he was assisting priest.  He rolled his eyes and I asked what that was about and he said, "Tom, you need to know that in every congregation there are a handful of people whose sole purpose is to undermine and destroy every single thing you want to do.  X and Y are two of those people."  He paused, then added, "The funny thing is they are sometimes really nice people otherwise."

While at Yale, and thanks to mentor and friends like Fr Greer and others, Crusty wanted to grow up to get a PhD in Early Church but also teach in Anglican Studies, which, astonishingly, Crusty has ended up doing.  In 2002, Crusty was absolutely floored to be one of the finalists for the Walter Gray Chair in Anglican Studies that Fr Greer has held (and BTW they chose the perfect candidate, COD's former classmate, while honored to be a finalist I would have picked the current incumbent over me).  I sent Fr Greer my dissertation when I finished it, attached a letter thanking him for helping crystallize my academic interests, but also thanking him for being such an important mentor and model of what it means to be a priest and a scholar and a teacher.  With typical graciousness, he send a hand-written reply several pages long and commented (favorably, I might add) on several points in the dissertation, demonstrating he had taken the time actually to read it.

So it's been a sad week for Crusty, not just with Fr Greer's passing, but, as noted above, with some other things he would rather not share.  Crusty felt a tinge of guilt he hadn't kept in touch with Fr Greer, or even let him know how important he was in COD's personal and vocational development.  Someone's passing often leaves us with regret for things unsaid.  But alongside this nostalgia and sadness there is also a bit of hope and encouragement.  Crusty has been pleased to see the outpouring of remembrances of Father Greer as news of his passing spread.  It made me remember what a privileged position it is to be a teacher on any level, to walk with people on their journeys.  Amidst challenges of preparing for accreditation, keeping an eye on the seminary's investment portfolio, and changing batteries in smoke detectors -- all the glamorous elements of being a seminary dean -- Fr Greer's passing has reminded Crusty that the seminary is here for the students.






Monday, March 17, 2014

Worse than a Tatar: COD on Crimea

There's an old Russian proverb: "Незваный гость хуже татарина," or, "an uninvited guest is worse than a Tatar."  Typical Russian black humor, comparing the nuisance of an uninvited guest to the Mongols, who invaded what we now call Russia in the 13th century, slaughtered inhabitants and sacked a number of cities, and subjected the area to paying tribute for centuries before the "Mongol yoke" was thrown off in the 15th century.

Today the Crimean autonomous region of Ukraine voted for independence in a referendum condemned by much of the international community.  Actually,  as he writes, COD admits we don't have the results yet, but you can bet your a*s this is going to be the result.   You may ask, WTF is COD doing commenting on stuff in Ukraine?  Well, in Crusty's past life, he was a Soviet and Eastern European studies major.  Crusty studied Russian language for four years in high school and four years in college, along with
Yes, COD used to have a thick head of jet black hair.  Sigh.
Russian literature and Eastern European/Russian/Soviet history.  Crusty lived in the Soviet Union for the summer of 1987 for two months (and spent a week in Kiev), and for five months in 1990 (decided to go to the Baltic countries for spring break that time, and had the train turned back at the Lithuanian border), as part of language immersion language programs, studying alongside Soviet, Eastern European, and Western students, living in dormitories at Soviet universities.  Look, here's a photo from my Soviet student ID, a mop-haired Crusty Old Dean at age 20 in 1990.  Don't click on it; you might get Rick-rolled.  Crusty also studied Eastern Orthodox Christianity, he received a Master of Theology degree from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, where he also, coincidentally, was the only non-Eastern Orthodox student enrolled at the time.  COD later went on to work as ecumenical officer for The Episcopal Church, in part helping to coordinate relationships with the Orthodox Churches (though admittedly those conversations were on the wane by the time COD arrived).  Crusty was last in Moscow in 2002 as part of the official Episcopal Church delegation to the Moscow Patriarchate.  While far from an expert, Crusty does have a little background and experience in Eastern Europe.

Crusty is not terribly surprised at the turn of events in Ukraine.  Crusty refused to watch the opening or closing ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics, tweeting that in 20 years we may look back on them with shame similar to the 1936 Olympics:  as giving the opportunity for a thug and a dictator to try to buff his image on a world stage.  What is happening right now has not dropped out of the sky, but rather been building for going on 15 years now.

There have been several things Crusty has been pondering in the past few weeks.

1)  First there's the almost utter ignorance in the West of the complex dynamics of the area.  We're dealing with over 1000 years of history, here, people -- and, if anything, the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s led to the West knowing even less about Eastern Europe.  If we aren't locked in a life and death ideological struggle, why learn anything about anybody else?  For instance, the Russian language program at Crusty's high school has been discontinued in favor of Chinese.  So, that said,

2)  There's the complexity to "Ukraine" itself.  The name, literally, in Russian means "on the border/edge."   Well...of what?  Of Russia/Muscovy of course.  The very name applied to the region defines it in terms of its neighbors, which has been Ukraine's lot for most of its history.  It was split up between Poland-Lithuania, the Crimean Khanate, and Muscovy in the 1500s, and its borders redrawn several times in the past hundred years.  It's been torn between East and West, Catholicism and Orthodoxy, in a more dramatic fashion than Russia (more on this below).  In Russian, to say "in Ukraine" uses a different preposition than is used for other countries.  In the more modern Soviet period, Ukraine suffered bitterly.  There was widespread resistance to the policy of forcing farmers onto collective farms, resulting in a catastrophic famine in the 1930s that killed millions.  During the Soviet period its western region was romanticized as the agricultural heartland of the country (kind of like many view the American
The dance sequences they were filming were pretty awesome.
midwest), with its Eastern region industrialized.  This is, after all, what the hammer and sickle symbol was all about:  the coming together of the oppressed agricultural and industrial workers to throw off capitalism and build a worker's paradise through the dictatorship of the proletariat.  There's a famous statue in Ukraine which captures this, the industrial worker with his hammer linking together with the female agricultural worker with her sickle.  When COD was in Kiev in the summer of 1987 they were filming a huge musical set piece for state television in front of the statue, if he could find the photo albums in his basement (still unpacking from the last move he made) COD would dig up the pictures he took.  Until then, here's a stock photo of the statue.

3)  There's the complexity to "Crimea."  The old Soviet Union was, on paper, technically a voluntary association of independent republics, which, in turn were theoretically based on all power given to local councils.  "Soviet" comes from the Russian verb "to advise, counsel" and during the revolutionary period local revolutionary councils of advice were set up in many cities, called soviets.  All power to the soviets! was the Bolshevik rallying cry.   Hence: the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  Within these theoretically independent republics were regions which were for various reasons granted a degree of autonomy.  This is all "theoretical", of course, since the USSR was a single party totalitarian dictatorship -- but these definitions existed on paper in the USSR constitution and in constitutions of the republics.  Crimea was an autonomous region within the Russian Soviet Federated Republic, but was transferred to the Ukrainian Socialist Federated Republic in 1954 by Nikita Khruschev, so has been "Ukrainian" only a little longer than Alaska has been a state or rock and roll has been rock and roll.  The inter webs will sometimes say Khruschev did this "while drunk,"
Khruschev's grave in Novodeviche cemetery, not the Kremlin.  COD visited.
but this is utterly ridiculous and part and parcel to efforts to discredit Khruschev as a buffoon.  There are various theories as to why Kruschev did this (while an ethnic Russian he was party head in Ukraine), all about as good as any other.  This was, however, just a formality at the time, since this was all part of the Soviet Union.   Crimea, in turn, was home to probably the third most famous and hallowed battle during the Second World War.  Though not getting as much historical ink as Leningrad or Stalingrad, the siege of Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula lasted years and was as devastating as the other battles.  The Second World War is revered as a national touchstone in the Russian conscience akin to adding the American Revolution and the Civil War and multiplying it by infinity.  It's referred to not as World War II, but the Great Patriotic War.    So Crimea itself, let alone Ukraine, has a complex dynamic within the region's history.  Further, with all the talk about whether Crimea is "Russian" or "Ukrainian", there's the fact that if anything, you could argue it is Crimean:  it had an independent existence for 400 years prior to being conquered by Russia as an independent khanate from the breakup of the Mongol empire (though it was in essence a vassal of the Ottomans).  The descendants of the Mongols and nomadic invaders, the Crimean Tatars, currently make up a large minority of the population, which leads to...

4)  How so much of what is happening are hangovers from events in Eastern Europe during World War II.  Just like the Civil War, and the battle to shape its historical understanding and legacy, define much of American politics and especially in the American South, so was World War II a defining event for much of Eastern Europe.  For one thing, parts of what we now call Ukraine didn't become part of Ukraine until after World War II: as part of the redrawing of national boundaries, the Soviets kept much of the parts of Eastern Europe they divided with Hitler.  For another, Crimea itself was changed by the war: while many Crimean Tatars served in the Red Army, many also collaborated with the Nazis, seeking to throw off the Soviet yoke.  This led to Stalin's retaliation by deporting  almost the entire population at the end of the war.  When Crusty was living in Moscow in the summer of 1987, he was taking a tour of St Basil's Cathedral in Red Square when suddenly groups of police officers came in, ordering the thronging tourists to evacuate the church by the back, the exits facing away from Red Square.  Trying surreptitiously to look back and see what was happening and not get his head cracked by a police baton (not the only time this almost happened, but those are other stories), COD saw police hauling people out of Red Square.  Later Crusty found out they were Crimean Tatars, occupying Red Square to demand the right of return to their homeland.  The Soviets had technically permitted the Tatars to return in 1967, but did nothing to facilitate repatriation.  The Crimean Tatars would return by the hundreds of thousands in the late 1980s and 1990s, but still are nowhere near as numerous as they once were in their homeland.

There's also the dynamics in Ukraine during the war:  Ukrainian nationalists, headed by Stepan Bandera, proclaimed an independent Ukrainian republic and were involved in a tactical alliance with the Nazis (somewhat like Finland, which shared no particular ideology with Nazi Germany, but fought with the Germans against the Soviets to try to reclaim territory seized by the Soviets in the 1939-1940 war).  The term "fascist" which is being thrown around by the Russian propaganda machine is in part mudslinging -- like in American when people call
Babi Yar memorial, outside of Kiev.
someone a "socialist" but without really meaning the person is calling for nationalization of industry, just as an insult because it's considered an offensive term -- but also a conscious effort to revive the taint of Ukrainian nationalism with Nazi fascism.  The shadows of 1939-1945 period stretch over this area of Eastern Europe. The most powerful experience COD has ever had (really defies description in terms of the emotions generated) was visiting Babi Yar, the site of mass executions of over 100,000 during the war by the Nazis, with some collaboration by local Ukrainians, including over 30,000 Jews in a single day.

5)  There's also the hangover from the Balkan wars of the 1990s.  The bombing campaign in Serbia in 1999 (anyone in the West even remember it?) was bitterly opposed by the Russians.  There is lingering animosity that it was only the Serbians who were punished with western military intervention; any atrocities committed by Croats or Slovenians or Albanian Kosovars, in their understanding of events, is whitewashed and Serbians blamed solely for the destruction that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia, which, by the way, was an arbitrary nation drawn up by the Western powers themselves after World War I.  Kosovo is particularly a sore spot.  There are many in Russia who feel the partition of Serbia and recognition of independence of Kosovo by the West is as illegal as what the West is saying about events in Crimea; for many in the Russian leadership, this is just an example of Russia and the West both being part of the same hypocrisy, like Michael Corleone and Senator Geary in The Godfather.

6)  And there's the religious component: the areas annexed and incorporated into Ukraine after World War II were largely areas with a "Greek Catholic" component.  Ukraine sits square in the boundary between Catholicism and Orthodoxy.  In the 1500s, a number of Orthodox Christians entered into a full communion arrangement with the Pope and the Catholic Church, while allowed to retain many aspects of Orthodox liturgy and practice (such as married parish clergy):  Ruthenians, Slovaks, Ukrainians, and others.  Lviv, in northwest Ukraine, is the cultural and intellectual center of Greek Catholic Ukrainian culture.  After World War II, with the redrawing of boundaries, Lviv and a number of Greek Catholics came under Soviet rule and were bitterly suppressed.  Nearly the entire hierarchy of bishops were arrested and sent to forced labor camps, and the property was confiscated by the state.  In addition to the East-West tensions (Eastern Ukraine having higher proportion of Russians, western Ukraine higher proportions of Ukrainians), there is also a Catholic-Orthodox element of this division.  The religious component was a significant aspect of Kosovo as well, almost nearly universally absent in discussion in the west.  Although populated by majority Muslim, Albanian Kosovars, the area of Kosovo is the historic center of Serbian Orthodoxy -- Pec is the ancient home of the Serbian patriarchate and where many former archbishops and patriarchs are buried.  A post-Christendom, secular west consistently fails to understand the impact of religious elements underlying current struggles.  (To give another example, Crusty Old Dean was taking an American Religious History course when the FBI stormed the Waco compound of the Branch Davidians in 1993.  We watched on TV in class.  The professor, visibly angry, said, "Nobody who knew anything about American religious history and the place and role of religious sectarianism would be surprised at this result.  This is what happens when we're ignorant of history.")

7)  Lastly, there's the whole concept of Russian self-understanding that is frankly lost on many in the West.  Crusty will not try to parse the mind of Vladimir Putin (if anyone can) he'll leave that to others with far more experience and guffaw at Jon Stewart's relentless mocking of Putin, because if there's one thing dictatorial thugs despise, it's mockery.  One thing to keep in mind, and which may be hard for the West to grasp, is the way Russia sees itself as a unique nation (if anything, this is one area of commonality between the USA and Russia).  It sees itself as unlike other nations.  It's neither Eastern nor Western, sitting between Asia and Europe.  It has the largest Orthodox Church in the world.  It's the largest Slavic nation and sees itself as the cornerstone of Slavic culture and protector of the Slavic peoples.  These understandings have been developed over the centuries, from notions of Russia as the "Third Rome" and successor to Constantinople after its fall to the Turks, to the "sobornost" philosophy of Alexander Khomiakov in the 19th century, to Pan-Slavism, to current writings by people like Alexander Dugin.  Sure, there are the geopolitical concerns, with Putin seeking to counter NATO and the West.  But also underlying this is the notion that Russia has a different calling and a special destiny.  Lacking any cohesive ideology for his dictatorship other than oligarchic kleptocracy, Putin has been turning to these aspects of Russian exceptionalism.  This, in part, underlies Putin's strategic alliance with the Russian Orthodox Church (the Patriarch now has an office in the Kremlin) and increasingly anti-Western propaganda.  Russia's anti-LBGT legislation is an extension of this:  Russia must not be infected by the West and its decadence but preserve its purity and its identity.

8)  We should also keep in mind the West's own complicity in all of this.  The West has done nothing as Russia has intervened repeatedly in its former Soviet republics.  George HW Bush did nothing over Moldova; George W. Bush did nothing over Georgia, which as an actual shooting war, in 2008.  There is, of course, the question of what we "can" do. At least during the good old days of the Cold War there was the threat of mutual assured destruction.  The West is complicit as it swims in a sea of Russian money:  Russian oligarchs bank in the City of London and Germany sells Russia trucks and other exports.  A cynical Putin knows that the West won't want to walk away from all that money over a tiny peninsula nobody knew about a month ago.  As one commentator put it, under Putin the oligarchs "rule like Stalin but live like Trump," and they couldn't do that without the West's involvement.

The 1990s were often talked about as the "end of history," to the bipolar Cold War dynamic that dominated the world since the end of World War II.  If anything, one could argue the 1990s were an anomaly rather than the inauguration of a new world order.  As we sit and listen to bloviating TV talking heads argue about who "lost" Crimea, we're facing the fact that admitting our own ignorance and dealing with complexity are two things politicians are not very good at.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Confessions of a Lent Madness Hater: Commissioned Clowns and Reptition

Now when all of the clowns you have commissioned
Have died in battle or in vain
And you're sick of all this repetition
Won't you come see me, Queen Jane?

Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited is surely one of the greatest pieces of American art ever produced, in Crusty's opinion right up there with Leaves of Grass, Copland's Appalachian Spring, Richard Wright's Black Boy, the paintings of George O'Keeffe, and the music of Nelson.  It was a masterful fusion of folk, Americana, blues, rock and roll, and pop, creating a sound no one had ever heard before; oft-imitated but never equaled.  Perhaps The Band in their finest moments, or the Waterboys' Killing My
If COD had a heart, Gunnar and Matthew wouldn't turn around and break it.
Heart, or the best of Ryan Adams' Whiskeytown, have come closest; and Tribe Called Quest and Public Enemy both did something similar, fusing a swath of influences to transform hip hop like Bob did with popular music.  Combine this with coming about at the cusp of transformative changes in American society in 1965, in the midst of civil rights, escalation in Vietnam, and one is hard pressed to come up with a work of music so transformative which also arrived at precisely the right kairos moment in history.  Perhaps best known for "Like a Rolling Stone," Crusty's favorite track has always been the first song of side 2 (yes COD knows CDs and Spotify playlists don't have "sides" but he grew up listening to Highway 61 on LP): Queen Jane Approximately.  Though often noted for being whimsical, prophetic, mysterious, or angry in many of his songs, Dylan could also be profoundly moving in his melancholoy (the aching heartbreak of "To Ramona" from Another Side of Bob Dylan).  Queen Jane Approximately stood out for COD in how it is irrepressibly melodic (the man can write a catchy tune when he wants to) but also disconsolate.  Conventionally interpreted as
Before he was a mumbling corporate shill for Chrysler.
referring to the end of his relationship with Joan Baez, like all Dylan songs it can stand on its own apart from whatever context that birthed it.  In addition to its melody there is also something about the dispirited resignation in the song that COD finds himself enveloped in.  "Now when all of the flower ladies want back what they have lent you/And the smell of their roses does not remain/And all of your children start to resent you/Won’t you come see me, Queen Jane?"  When Queen Jane's hopes, dreams, plans, and life does not turn out as they should, will Dylan be there when Queen Jane comes to see him?  If she does?  If for some reason you can't find your copy of Highway 61 Revisited (COD cannot imagine someone does not own a copy) listen to the song itself here.  Interestingly enough, it may not even be the best song about someone named Jane, as COD can never decide between this one and "Sweet Jane" by the Velvet Underground (and "Jane Says" by Jane's Addiction is no slouch, either).

This verse from Queen Jane Approximately has been rattling in Crusty's head this week.  Because Lent madness has started, the annual Hunger Games-like faceoff between 32 different 'saints', but with voting instead of battling to the death.  We will witness the death of many commissioned clowns in their brackets, and Crusty is already sick of all this repetition after only a few days.  Yes, COD is a Lent Madness Hater.  Before he unpacks this in any more depth, first two disclaimers:

1)  COD does not like Lent Madness.  However, this does not mean he dislikes any of the people who are part of it.  Crusty considers Scott Gunn and Tim Schenck colleagues and friends, thinks they're brilliant people and a couple of the finest priests he knows.  They've done more for The Episcopal Church than Crusty  ever will, and COD admires and respects them. Likewise COD is amazed at the erudition and dedication of the volunteers who provide biographical blogs to the Lent Madness website, he knows most of them personally and thinks they're talented and fantastic people.  All too often in the church we overpersonalize our opinion:  because I think something is bad, the people who support the thing I think is bad are either bad, or misguided, or ignorant, or led astray by bad, misguided, or ignorant people.  That's simply not the case; while COD doesn't like Lent Madness, he likes those involved and doesn't even think they're responsible for what he dislikes about it.

2)  COD does not like Lent Madness.  But he is not going to rain on the Lent Madness parade.  This is his one statement about it for this year.  Students and faculty at the seminary where COD teaches are filling out brackets and raising money for charity and really
This will be my one Lent Madness "hah-hah"
getting into it:  good for them.  Seriously.  Lent Madness gets lots of people energized, creates community, and makes people happy, and those are all wonderful and laudable things.  This blog post is all Crusty is going to say about Lent Madness in the twitterblogoinstavinesphere, and in his personal interactions will politely and circumspectly not engage Lent Madness.  COD will not be growling in the corner or rolling his eyes every time it is mentioned.  This is the only turd Crusty is throwing in the Lent Madness punchbowl. Having said my peace, after this blog post, Crusty will move on to other things.


But first the genesis of how this all started.  Back in 2012, Philander Chase was up against Thomas Merton in the first round of Lent Madness.  All well and good; Crusty is dean of the seminary that Philander Chase founded (Bexley Hall Seminary) so knows a little about him,  we have letters and diaries and notebooks in our archives from his time as bishop of Ohio and dean of the seminary.  COD encouraged students to vote for Philander, and figured that was that.  But when going to check on the voting results, Crusty began to be flummoxed by the comments he had read.  People were saying you shouldn't vote for Philander because he didn't treat his wife well, callously dragging her all over the country to his various pastoral calls so that she died.  People said you should vote for Merton because he appealed to Catholics and Protestants, that he was a forerunner in the area of interreligious dialogue, while Philander had narrow appeal to evangelical Episcopalians.  It made Crusty angry:  these were caricatures of the individuals involved.  Chase actually adored his wife; tuberculosis was a fatal, incurable disease; and by moving from the fetid swamp of New Orleans to the fresh air of Ohio he thought he was helping her.  Merton and Chase were so wildly different they could not be compared, but yet here we were.  Lent Madness learned not to mess with COD.  So Crusty pretty much did everything he could, reached out to the Lutherans at our sister seminary, had students get in touch with people at Kenyon College (which Philander also founded) and helped orchestrate, with others, a stunning upset.  Philander Chase was a complex and maddening person, a transformational leader, and an important voice in the early Episcopal Church and Lent Madness was just making him a commissioned clown to be stepped over on Merton's march to the next round.  Crusty would not have it.

Crusty outlined some thoughts on Lent Madness last year here and here.  Some of what follows is a distillation of some of those thoughts, but also with some additional reflections.  Having laid out my conversion experience from 2012, here's why doesn't Crusty like Lent Madness:

1)  As he has said previously, COD feels Lent Madness is like the statue of Nebuchadnezzar in the Book of Daniel:  an idea made out of gold but built on the clay feet of the Episcopal Church's utter paucity of a theology of sainthood.  How can we debate saints when we don't even have a common idea of what one is? Are they neat people for us to emulate, or cool people we wish could be our Facebook friends, or are they truly Holy Women and Holy Men, possessing sanctity and grace?  This is, of course, part of a much larger issue that Anglicanism and The Episcopal Church has struggled with one and off for centuries, and reflected in much of the debate around Holy Women, Holy Men, the proposed revision of the liturgical calendar suggested in 2009 and now undergoing another thorough overhaul, which COD thinks is a step in the right direction (read more about that here).The Episcopal Church has seems to have absolutely no clue at times, including on its liturgical calendar Baptist missionaries who would be horrified they are on an Episcopal liturgical calendar and non-Christians and persons with no historical veracity along with people considered exemplars of miraculous holiness by the church universal.  Debating voting for 'saints' in Lent Madness in the Episcopal Church at times seems like trying to argue physics but without quantum mechanics having been developed.  How to have a debate or a vote when there is no underlying theology?  How in God's name can we compare Frances Perkins and Martin Luther King, which was the matchup that incensed Crusty the most last year?  Crusty got a fresh perspective when sharing this matchup last year with an African American clergy colleague, who blurted out, half in shock, half with anger, "On my campus we would consider it insulting to put Dr King up against anybody for a golden halo."  Which leads to my next point...

2)  Lent Madness taps into some of the worst elements of the way the church processes things.  What should we do about anything in this world?  Have a debate which only scrapes the surface of something and then take a vote!  It works so well in General Convention, where we've solved the Israel-Palestine situation and racism and voted on the revision of ministry canons in 2003 and 2006 (arguable some of the most important legislation, which also got some of the briefest debate) with the most cursory discussion because we'd frittered away so much time elsewhere.  We, of course, never do this in Vestries, where we always engage issues of our local community in depth and come to consensus and never spend too much time debating what color to paint the parish hall.   To return to the Perkins-King matchup, a decent portion of the debate in the "church" focused around whether Perkins was more important because the New Deal "helped everyone" while Dr King and civil rights was mainly outreach to African Americans.  This is such an absurdist (if not insulting) take on things Crusty sometimes thinks Terry Gilliam would be perfect to direct "Lent Madness: the Movie." Gosh, what could go wrong when we take complex things and put them to a vote and debate them in an online forum?  This leads into my next point...

3)  Far from helping people learn more about fascinating people in the life of the church, oftentimes it ends up reducing the 'saints' to talking points for our own particular peccadillos and opinions on various matters, nothing more than images in a mirror reflecting our own personal, political, and spiritual contexts; the "new tribalism" that Crusty feared last year. Take the Philander-Merton contest from years ago.  Did anybody learn anything lasting about Chase or Merton from that?  No; because these confluences of factors - oversimplifying complex situations; reducing everything to a legislative process; and the lack of a cohesive theology of sainthood - makes it impossible.  Crusty isn't  sure if Lent Madness even does the job of getting us to know more about awesome people in the life of the church, and doesn't accomplish that at the expense of fostering a series of tangential conversations that often demean ourselves and the very issues these saints devoted their lives to.  Dr King should not be up for a
Sadly Football in the Groin was not one of his Oscar wins.
vote against anyone.  George C. Scott refused to pick up either of his Best Actor Academy Awards, in part because he thought the whole concept of actors from wildly different films competing against one another was ludicrous; COD thinks Lent Madness is equally ludicrous.

4)  Rather than learning anything about saints, we often just end up projecting ourselves and our time and values onto them.  Today, as Crusty writes, Alcuin and Ephrem of Edessa are being debated.  One person has stated he can't vote for Ephrem because of some of the anti-Jewish writings of his. As though Alcuin was a member of the Anti-Defamation League?  He was probably as anti-Jewish as anyone else in his own time, just because we don't have extant writings similar to Ephrem's doesn't somehow exonerate him.  The debates in Lent Madness at times get so pedantic Crusty rarely needs to follow the debates themselves.  Mark my words, COD bets you the Charles Wesley-John Wesley matchup with revolve around, "John was an uptight evangelical obsessed with theology and didn't Charles write some beautiful hymns so everybody vote Team Charles!"or "Charles would never has been able to write all those hymns with John being the theological force he was so vote Team John!"  In fact, most Anglican hymnals bowdlerize Charles' hymns to remove things Anglicans find suspect (just go look up "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" in any hymnal other than an Anglican one), fully shared his brother's evangelical theology and understanding of a theology of Christian perfection, and in some ways was *more* conservative than John.  But he'll win because people love singing 'Jesus Christ is Risen Today' on Easter Day, even though Charles only wrote the doxological fourth verse and the first three are an ancient Latin hymn, and nobody will know anything more about Charles and John than they did before this all started, since both were complex figures with enigmatic legacies who birthed a diverse, complex family of theological traditions.  But vote Team Charles, not uptight John, and let's throw in a few sneering Methodist jokes along the way.

COD isn't a Luddite and has consistently pushed for Christianity to use social media to engage a culture that increasingly has no clue what Christianity is.  If the whole point of Lent Madness that we use innovative ways and social media to engage the society around us in order to let an increasingly post-Christian culture know the Episcopal Church exists, and  that Christians have saints, COD wishes we could find a way that didn't demean many of the things these 'saints' represented and died for by reducing this all to talking points for online voting.  

So, I've said my peace.  Y'all go back to enjoying Lent Madness, roll your eyes at this blog post, and tell me to lighten up.  Really, I mean it, enjoy Lent Madness.  I don't like jazz, but I've got nothing against people who do.  I love show tunes but don't expect others to.  I don't like Lent Madness, but I don't impute anything about anybody who does and hope everyone has a great time.

Enjoy.  I'm good for another year.  I've got Bobby on Spotify right now.  As he once sang elsewhere,

I’d forever talk to you
But soon my words
They would turn into a meaningless ring
For deep in my heart
I know there is no help I can bring
Everything passes
Everything changes
Just do what you think you should do
And someday maybe
Who knows, baby
I’ll come and be cryin’ to you


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

TREC Paper on Governance: Beware Sophie's Choices

There's your problem, TREC.
Crusty Old Dean greets with enthusiasm the Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church's latest paper, this time on governance, which can be found here.  COD was not pleased at all with the poorly written, confusing, pointless, and historically illiterate paper on networks (that's a brief summary, read his thoughts more in depth here).  This paper, on the other hand, while the exact same length, is focused and offers some actual, substantive suggestions other than email list-servs.  TREC, were you just suckering us in, setting
the bar so low that this second paper would look even better?  Crusty was reminded of The Simpsons Halloween episode where Bart's Talking Krusty the Klown doll tries to kill him; when his mother calls the hotline, the technician notes, "There's your problem.  This doll was set to evil," and flips the switch on the back of the doll from "evil" to "good."  Whatever switch you have flipped, TREC, keep it where it is.

In its opening section, the paper starts of strong by laying out some guiding principles regarding the place and role of reimagining structure in reimagining the church as whole.  Retooling structures of governance can't save us, the paper notes, but says that perhaps retooling and rethinking can "foster innovation and adaptation" which are "already being explored and implemented at all levels of the church."  After apparently having never had a face-to-face encounter with a network in its first paper, TREC is aware there are groups all over the church doing all sorts of things.  This helps set the discussion on governance into an important framework.  No, we shouldn't think our governance can "save" us; but can it at best foster the adaptive changes we need to make at all levels of the church? Or at worst, can it get out of the way and not impede those groups which are moving forward with adaptive change?

What he looks like before all that makeup for Lent madness videos.
Further, COD is pleased that TREC finally seems to be fleshing out some of the proposals Crusty Old Dean laid out in a series of postings in 2011 and 2012 on this blog.  You can check out various musings in the archive from Fall of 2011 and up through Convention 2012, but a quick primer can be found here.  In addition, Crusty's sometime colleague and sometime nemesis, Scott Gunn, has been blogging on and off about this stuff since 2010.  Though he is Crusty's sometime nemesis (mainly due to the Lent[sic] Madness nonsense), nonetheless COD realizes we have more in common with our shameless penchant for self promotion of our own prescience, Cassandra-like though it may be (as if anyone has implemented any suggestions either of us have ever made).

The paper then lays out three different levels/structures of governance, and proposes some possible rethinking of them:  General Convention; Executive Council and the Church Center; and Committees, Commissions, Agencies, and Boards (CCABs).

I.  General Convention

The TREC paper presents a twofold vision for General Convention:

a)  a mission driven convocation that connects leaders (though not networks, which Crusty finds odd; haven't they ever been to the Exhibit Hall?)
b)  a governing body that meets at the same time to get governance stuff done; pass budgets, elect leaders.

Crusty has talked about this before -- the way he has put it has been, "What if we flipped Convention?"  Right now we have an Exhibit Hall where groups, networks, and institutions doing everything from promoting peace in the Middle East to theological education to sales gather.  They come on their own dime.  Walking up and down the Exhibit Hall you can see lots of different groups doing lots of different ministries.  In addition, we have Episcopal Church Women, which holds a concurrent triennial meeting.  Though perhaps not quite the juggernaut it once was, back in the day when ECW raised the bulk of the money for the episcopal Church's missionary work, this was a network to be reckoned with on par to Convention -- and which still meets concurrent with Convention.

We also have the House of Bishops and House of Deputies -- which tend to get most of the attention and money.

The way Crusty has tried to get at the same concept of having a missionary convocation and a governing body has been to think about what it would mean to flip this process: instead of spending the bulk of our collective energy in HOB and HOD, what if we spent most of our time sharing ideas and network building? This happens already in the Exhibit Hall; what if we institutionalized and prioritized it?  Not an exact parallel to what TREC is putting forth here, but another way to frame the same question.

While approving of this in principle, Crusty would also caution against still seeing governance as the primary mode of being -- for instance, in point #3 the paper notes "if the primary focus of General Convention is to be a missionary convocation..."  What if we truly flipped this and said, "we will have a missionary convocation, with General Convention meet concurrently" and actually prioritize the mission networking component?

Crusty approves of kicking around proposals to restructure General Convention, including restricting the vote to active and not retired bishops.  Good luck with any of these, however -- for example,  the Episcopal Church is the only church in Christendom which permits retired bishops to vote, and has been trying to change this for nearly 20 years, with little success, in part due to our polity (changing this requires changing the Constitution, which requires votes at two successive Conventions, including vote by orders in the HOD).

COD thinks we also need to step back from some of our hubris concerning General Convention.  At times it is asserted it is the largest deliberative body except for the Indian parliament.  Not only is this not true (the ELCA Churchwide Assembly and United Methodist General Conference are nearly the same size), this is nothing to be proud of.  With under 2,000,000 Episcopalians we have up to 880 persons in the House of Deputies.  If we had similar representation for the US House of Representatives, it would have over 130,000 members.  Yet while General Convention is large,  compounds its problems but also not being representative.  It skews overwhelmingly old and white, well, because the Episcopal Church skews old and white.

As an example:  an African American colleague once told Crusty, "Reducing the size of General Convention is racist because it will lead to the reduction of African American and minority representation."  Crusty replied, "I refuse to accept that."  A bit startled, the person repeated their statement.   Crusty replied:  "Structures to reform Convention are not racist.  By that measure, Convention itself as configured right now is racist because it is overwhelmingly white and old in a country increasingly diverse.  Rather, sadly, the Episcopal Church is shaped by its legacy of centuries of racism, which is why we do not reflect the society around us."  The person replied, "If we cut delegations form 4 to 3, then it means fewer people of color will get elected, you know that as well as I do."  I replied, "Actually, I think it means your diocese is racist, not this proposal, if it cannot elect people of color.  If we need to rectify the church's endemic racism, then by all means let's write in representation requirements."  Person replied:  "We can't have quotas, that's contrary to the gospel."  Crusty replied, "So is racism. And we already have a quota for equal representation of clergy and laity in House of Deputies."  Other churches have representation quotas, for persons of color and for representation of lay persons.  Crusty proposed, for instance, in his series of posts from 2011-2012 that we have quota for have a majority of lay persons over clergy in Convention (right now we have a quota for equal representation in the House of Deputies).

Crusty refuses to accept the charge that reducing the size of Convention disenfranchises anyone, and thinks accusations of this sort are either cynical ploys to swing opinion or people who believe their
So long as we can all agree not to grow mustaches like that.
own histrionic rhetoric.  Beware those presenting zero-sum games or Sophie's choice arguments when it comes to restructuring governance; COD can assure you these are those deriving the most power, privilege, and authority from the current system and fear losing that, and willing to smear perfectly good people with unwarranted accusations of racism, classism, and clericalism.  While critical at times of Convention's structure, COD knows that people involved in governance are good people, giving of their time and expertise, and wishes at times some of these folks would give others the same benefit of the doubt and not leap to ridiculous hyperbole.

COD would have liked to see some discussion around another way to streamline Convention -- namely, to have a unicameral structure, or, perhaps like COD proposed (and the Church of England has in General Synod) having orders sit and debate together but vote separately.

As to other GC restructuring proposals...Crusty approves of efforts to streamline the legislative process; it is simply ludicrous and wasteful to spend the first 48 hours or so of General Convention meeting in committees to do things like combine 10 resolutions that say the same thing into a single resolution.  In the ELCA, for instance, their Church Council (similar to Executive Council) can send resolutions directly to the Churchwide Assembly.  Crusty, however, thinks the paper punts on the biggest question of all, establishing a "screening process" to permit "only the most important resolutions."  This is essential, since the only method of organizing or prioritizing is to take resolutions in the order of the number of their legislative committee.  Thus in 2006 Crusty, when he was ecumenical officer, was waiting for the House of Deputies to approve Interim Eucharistic Sharing with United Methodists, who had already approved this in 2005.  As the clock was approaching 6pm, the House of Deputies was debating an utterly useless resolution to promote the teaching of evolution in school, which nobody remembers, had no effect, and helped no one -- whereas only Convention can approve Interim Eucharistic sharing.   We could not, however, move to take up resolutions in anything other than the order of their committee numbers without moving to suspend the rules of order.  This is why so many resolutions fail because of "non-concurrence", because Convention wastes so much time with worthless resolutions and often has little ability to prioritize.  Yes, there needs to be a process -- but it was to be in the service of an overall vision of Convention.  There are lots of proposals that have circulated in the blogosphere, given that this paper lays out three different visions for Executive Council alone, would it have killed them to float some ideas about the "screening process", which must be at the core of any proposal of reform of General Convention?

Similarly, the paper limits its discussion of the budgetary process to one sentence, saying it should move to the biblical tithe as standard for diocesan giving, and that dioceses should be held
Follow the money, TREC.
accountable.  The money is at the crux of this, since diocesan assessments and endowed money funds everything from Convention to church wide staff to appropriations to overseas dioceses -- to restrict budgetary proposals to one sentence, and that only on the giving side, it oversimplified to the point of almost not being worth mentioning.  The question of funding is one which impacts all aspects of the proposals in this paper, and confining it to this small of a discussion limits the utility of the paper as a whole.

Crusty also wonders how we can empower committees to do things they can already do (#7 and #9 here.  Committees already can kill, combine, defer, and reject resolutions before they ever get to Convention floor, for instance.

II.   Executive Council and Church Center

Where you treasure is, there your heart will be also?  Crusty is intrigued that a good deal of ink and the most concrete sets of suggestions seem to flow from the Executive Council discussions, where no less than three different alternative scenarios as presented.

Before getting into this section, COD would have hoped TREC could have prefaced it in some way, instead of leaping directly into proposals.  Part of what makes the issue of the relationship of Executive Council to the PB and to General Convention and to CCABs so fraught with freight is the existential nature of the issues involved -- yes, COD used "existential."  He is a Dean, after all, and has to throw out things like "hermeneutic" and "ontological."  But in this case the usage is apt:  some of the confusion surrounding governance as it relates to the PB and Council cuts to very nature of Council's existence. Formed in 1919, Council was an effort to collect and coordinate a variety of work being done by different organizations of the church, at a time when there nothing even remotely like diocesan or denominational staffs as we understand them, and where much of General Convention's work was done by ad hoc task forces.  The 1919 Convention was an effort to create structure where there was little, and the National Council was an effort to provide coordination, and, yes, oversight of everything from world mission to radio ministries to work among colored people.

What then happened, though, is that alongside this incarnation of Council there slowly, gradually evolved over the years a corporate structure, with a full-time PB and a staff in New York, and while General Convention, in turn, began to grow, develop, and formalize its own structures.  The Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations, for instance, wasn't formed in 1976, when it combined three different committees of Convention, one of them dating all the way back to 1862.  Formed for a particular purpose in a particular time, every level of the church from congregation to diocese to denominational staff to General Convention has evolved.  So what is Council, one of the first efforts to create structure, in a world of evolved structures of governance?

TREC notes they are "not of a single mind", and propose three different alternative models for Executive Council and relationship to PB and staff.

Alternate I:  Essentially increase power of Council at expense of PB and Church Center; for instance, there is a CEO, appointed by both PB and PHOD with consent of Council, who can be fired only by the Executive Council; restructurings must be approved by Executive Council; all employees are employees of the DFMS (not employees of the PB, for instance) and the EC is the Board of Directors of DFMS, so all employees work for Executive Council.  Alternative I wonders in somewhat cryptic fashion "There is no provision in our Constitution or Canons for a performance review of a PB, or for dismissing a PB except through an ecclesiastical disciplinary proceeding under Title IV of the Canons."   Great, the last thing we need is Executive Council firing the PB.  

So Alternate I is asserting Executive Council's authority over the PB.

Alternate II is the opposite:  asserting the PB's authority to appoint people like the COO, Treasurer, Secretary of Convention, who may be dismissed solely at PB's discretion, with staff working for the PB.

Crusty prefers Alternative III, and put forward a suggestion like this previously.  In TREC's Alternate III, the PB is not required to resign as bishop diocesan or suffragan, remains Chair, PHOD remains
Will people in Alternate Universe Exec Council have weird beards like in Star Trek and South Park?
vice-chair.  It suggests that Executive Council hire a General Secretary who may also serve as Secretary of the General Convention.  Crusty approves of much of this, but has recommended instead that a General Secretary be elected from any order.  As it stands, neither the PB nor PHOD have credibility as an elected CEO.  The PB is chosen solely from among the bishops, and only confirmed, not elected, by the House of Deputies.  The PHOD is nominated by, and elected solely by the House of Deputies, drawn from among only deputies, without even confirmation by Bishops.  Crusty would endorse an elected General Secretary drawn from any bishop, priest, deacon, or lay person in good standing anywhere in the church, to be a truly representative officer elected by the church.


With regard to size and makeup of Council, Crusty is concerned in this case with reduction of Council's size impacting representation.  Yes, I know, Crusty gave example above of reducing size does not necessarily mean reducing representation -- but here Crusty is looking mainly to the proposal for Provincial representation.  By all means, reduce the number elected by Convention from 12 lay, 4 bishops, and 4 clergy to 6 lay, 2 bishops, and 2 clergy.  That still preserves strong lay representation.  Reducing provincial representation from 18 to 9, with no quotas for clergy/lay, has the potential to impact lay representation.  COD would prefer preserving the 18 elected by provinces and keeping the 1 lay and 1 clerical representative, and explore the possibility of a stronger Executive Committee -- preferably not one where some members met in secret and developed their own budget proposals, like in the 2009-2012 triennium.

III.  CCABs

TREC rightly notes the mess here.  We have nearly 60 various Committees, Commissions, Agencies and Boards, everything from General Convention Standing Committees to things like Forward Movement.  There are too many, and there are confusing lines of oversight, reporting, accountability, and collaboration.  Crusty agrees there needs to be a better system for linking CCABs through Council (though having gone to his share of Executive Council meetings, COD has found that, despite the intention here for Council to take oversight of CCABs, that Council has mainly been interested in its own pet projects and often seemed to care little what CCABs were doing).  The question of interim bodies cannot be taken in isolation from the kind of mission-focused impulse laid out in the vision for General Convention.  How can CCABs be in the service of the kind of missional convention TREC has put forward?

However, the proposals here don't seem to make much sense.  Why eliminate all standing commissions except the three mentioned here?  For what reason?  How does this flow from the interaction between governance and being a missionary convocation?  Why not have three Standing Commissions:  one on Governance, one on Domestic Mission, one on International Mission?  Or some other streamlined structure that reflects the vision for adaptive change?

COD is concerned by the proposal to establish task forces as needed to carry out mandates of General Convention, appointed solely by the two presiding officers.  This has the potential to create just the kind of overlapping mandates, turf battles, and confusion about accountability and reporting that this report says it is trying to avoid.

Crusty also wonders how TREC proposes to convince the church to do what it already could be doing, something it suggests but offers no proposals for in several places.  It says that all interim bodies should post their minutes online. They already should be doing this.  It says they should "adopt new technologies."  They could be doing this already.  How TREC, how?

In general, Crusty thinks the TREC paper on governance is thought provoking and moves in the right direction, and a marked improvement over the first.  COD still wonders how or whether TREC will be able to move the conversation forward, whether it will make concrete proposals in form of legislation, or whether it will dump things at the feet of Convention.  As the paper notes, structure cannot save the church.  But if there's one thing structure can do, it's stymie change.