Monday, July 23, 2018

Let’s Talk About G-C: Let’s Talk About B-C-P

Summer greetings to all those haggard survivors of the endless death march that is General Convention.  Crusty salutes you!  Crusty attended this General Convention as a civilian, with no particular duties or responsibilites of any kind — I highly recommend this being the way to attend General Convention.

Welcome to the first of COD’s wrapups on General Convention.  In this post Crusty will be looking at how General Convention dealt with issues of Prayer Book revision and liturgical reform.  For the next post, COD will break down how the Convention addressed issues
COD is here, and he's in effect.
raised by the House of Deputies Special Commission on Sexual Misconduct and its report and recommendations to Convention.  In my epic reflection on the United Methodist-Episcopal Church full communion proposal, Crusty chose to frame the post against the backdrop of old school hip hop, because, well hip hop peaked between 1982-1994.  In these General Convention wrap ups, in honor of the Special Commission Report and the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements, Crusty will frame his reflections against the backdrop of some of the greatest female musical artists of all time.  Hence the opening title of this post, giving props to Salt, Pepa, and Spinderella.

So let’s get started:  Here I go, here I go, Here I go again — What’s Crusty’s weakness?  General Convention!

1.   Prayer Book Revision.

Crusty has broken this down in previous posts in past years, but it is revealed time and again at each General Convention:  we are in a profound ecclesiological crisis in the Episcopal Church.  On the one hand, in our polity, we created a unitary form of government:  all authority is vested in General Convention, since it is the only entity with the authority to change the Constitution and Canons and Book of Common Prayer.  Yet the reality is we have a unitary form of government with an entity that, at times, seems to have no idea what it is for and what the nature and scope of its authority is.  COD broke this down in detail in his discussion of Resolution D050 from General Convention 2015.  Things have not gotten better, friends, with how General Convention sometimes resembles a shambolic stumbling towards incomprehensible resolutions.

Let’s take Prayer Book Revision, shall we?  COD will lay it out step by step.

--The 2015 General Convention charged the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to "prepare a plan for comprehensive revision of the Book of Common Prayer."  The SCLM did so:  in its report it offered two possible paths.  One was a comprehensive revision, to be begun by action of the 2018 General Convention.  The second was a deeper engagement with the current Book of Common Prayer, authorization and engagement of alternative liturgies already available, and new translations of the BCP into languages used by The Episcopal Church.

SCLM was asked to do something, and it did it.

--After a long, passionate, and respectful debate that occupied several hours of floor time over two days, the House of Deputies passed Resolution A068 to authorize and begin this process of revision of the Book of Common Prayer.

--The resolution then went to the House of Bishops, where the situation was completely different.  There was no long, sustained, passionate debate.  A bishop stood and moved a substitute resolution to replace A068.  Portions of the resolution are incomprehensible gibberish.  It was clear that some bishops interpreted some resolved clauses in wildly different ways.  After a brief discussion, it was moved, voted on, and passed.

And the reality is, this whole resolution is a cynical con by the House of Bishops.  At times it's gibberish because they didn't have the courage to say and do what they really intended.  COD will reflect on a few resolves, break down the gibberish in them, and then translate into real speak from HOBSpeak.

A)  The first resolved:

That the 79th General Convention create a Task Force on Liturgical and Prayer Book Revision (TFLPBR), the membership of which will be jointly appointed by the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies, and will report to the appropriate legislative committee(s) of the 80th General Convention, ensuring that diverse voices of our church are active participants in this liturgical revision by constituting a group with leaders who represent the expertise, gender, age, theology, regional, and ethnic diversity of the church, to include, 10 laity, 10 priests or deacons, and 10 Bishops

First off: Crusty was actually in the House of Bishops when this was proposed.  The Grand Vizier of Things Ecumenical, longtime partner in crime David Simmons leaned over to me and said, "TFLPBR? It looks like a Hebrew word without the vowels.  I hereby propose we refer to this as
Wish I could tie you up in my shoes/Make you feel UnCrusty Too
TaFeLPuBeR!"  And COD replied, "So say we all.  If this thing passes, it shall henceforth be known as Tafelpuber!"  Or, as TLC might sing, "Maybe I'll get rid of all these vowels/and then I'll get back to me." (Miss you, Left Eye.  You left us too soon.)

So they a proposing to create a task force, with members appointed by the presiding officers, to deal with matters relating to liturgy, and that reports to the General Convention.  Huh.

We already have this, it's called the SCLM.

They nowhere explain why they feel the need for a commission like this, why it shouldn't be the SCLM or why they need another commission.  Let's be honest. It's because they don't have the courage to say:  "We don't like Ruth Meyers and the SCLM, we want another commission that we have more control over," which is the whole reason for this substitute to begin with.

Crusty is not sure what to make of the following.  In barely one day, the House of Bishops:

--They created a whole new commission even though WE ALREADY HAVE ONE THAT DOES THIS because they don't like the SCLM and its perceived dominance by Ruth Meyers.

--In the debate on re-admitting Cuba to the Episcopal Church, in one speech, a bishop specifically called out Sally Johnson, the chancellor of the House of Deputies, by name and said her interpretation of the Constitution and Canons was wrong.  Then, another bishop stood and asked for that speech to be transcribed into the minutes to it could be part of the official record.  My jaw dropped at the spitefulness of wanting to put the HOB's opinion in calling out a specific person (and that's all it is, BTW, an opinion) in the official record.

--The House of Bishops has regularly and routinely resisted compensation for the President of the House of Deputies, often couching it as some kind of guerrilla action towards having a co-Primate.

--In the Conference Committee appointed to reconcile the conflicting resolutions on Prayer Book revision, despite talking about engaging the diversity of our church in their resolution, the conference committee had three white male bishops on it.  And nobody said anything until the House of Bishops was called out on Twitter.  No, check that, Crusty called them out, COD tweeted out his shock right away.  As mentioned above, Crusty was sitting in the House of Bishops when they announced the all white male conference committee, despite all their language about diversity in their resolution, and my jaw dropped.  Crusty immediately tweeted out that the House of Bishops appointed an all white male conference committee.  One bishop replied to me and said "No the PB did, not the House."  To which COD replied, "Thanks for the correction.  PB appointed an all white male conference committee and none of the 170 bishops said anything while everyone I was sitting with noticed."

COD does not want to impugn motives to individual bishops.  Yet in barely one day in the House of Bishops, and entity over 90% male, there is a series of potentially troubling actions regarding women in authority and leadership in the church. One of the most important takeaways for Crusty from anti-racism training has been sorting out issues around intent and how things are received or perceived.  While the House of Bishops may not have intended any of these, nonetheless there can seem to be an accumulated suspicion and insensitivity with regards to women in leadership.

So:  Translation from HOBSpeak:  "We don't like Ruth Meyers or the SCLM so we're creating another commission with more bishops on it."  Here's the other Trojan Horse here. Standing Commissions have 5 bishops, 5 clergy, and 10 lay persons by canon.  This Commission has 10 bishops, 10 clergy, and 10 lay persons.  Not only can they again express the corporate disdain for female leadership from deputies, this will also allow for greater episcopal and clerical influence and input by circumventing the canonical requirements for Standing Commissions.

B)  Let's take Resolved #4:

"That this Convention memorialize the 1979 Book of Common Prayer as a Prayer Book of the church preserving the psalter, liturgies, The Lambeth Quadrilateral, Historic Documents, and Trinitarian Formularies ensuring its continued use..."

Here's just a few reasons why this resolved is utter gibberish:

--Why specifically name some sections of the BCP and not others?

--The Lambeth Quadrilateral is a subset of the historical documents, not its own section, so are the other historical documents somehow not in the same category?

--It mentions the Psalter but does not mention, for instance, the lectionary or calendar.  The Trinitarian Formularies are scattered throughout, so it appears to be singling out a specific liturgical aspect that needs to be preserved. The ENTIRETY of the BCP is what is authorized by General Convention.  They are throwing together a hodgepodge of elements from different liturgical components for reasons apparently known only to the 50 drafters of this resolution.

--These particular sections and/or smorgasborg of BCP-related entities are to be "preserved" and  the BCP is to be "memorialized".  What is the difference between preserving these sections, and memorializing the Book as a whole?  Does this mean we can alter other aspects of the 1979 BCP, but not these sections?  If the intent is for the 1979 BCP to be authorized for use, then why name specific sections that cannot be changed?  Do they mean these particular sections shouldn't be changed in subsequent revisions?

--What does "memorialize" mean?  The bishops themselves didn't know what this meant.  Let's repeat that.  The bishops themselves could not agree on what this verb meant.  One bishop stated that this verb authorized the use of the 1979 Prayer Book in perpetuity for use.  Another bishop
How long till the HOB gets it right?
said he understood it to mean the exact opposite, that to "memorialize" meant "to remember" and would consign it to the church's memory and its past.  They then said that's not what it meant, but didn't amend the resolution.  Sorry, bishops, but "what we said in the discussion in HOB" is not definitive: the resolution needs to be clear in what it says.

--What kind of use?  Officially authorized?  Occasionally authorized?  Authorized under the provisions of the bishop's authority under Title II?  If the resolved clause wants to authorize the BCP as an ongoing liturgical resource, then why can't it just say that?

So: Translation from HOB speak: "We want to move into realm of liturgical usage where there are multiple, authorized liturgical resources, like in the Church of England, Anglican Church of Canada, and other provinces, but are either unable to express ourselves in the English language and/or we don't want people really to know what we are proposing."

C)  And this is how we will do it:

That bishops engage worshiping communities in experimentation and the creation of alternative texts to offer to the wider church, and that each diocese be urged to create a liturgical commission to collect, reflect, teach and share these resources with the TFLPBR; and be it further

So...we are basically now throwing this to dioceses and local bishops?  Congrats, House of Bishops, instead of one SCLM, you're creating 110 diocesan-based SCLMs.  What could possibly go wrong?  COD is all for letting liturgical revision be grassroots based, but a number of dioceses can't even run a functioning ordination process.  Crusty can see two possibilities emerge:

a)  This could really go off the rails and some very...interesting liturgies could emerge; and
b)  Many dioceses just won't participate.   Crusty knows clergy in dioceses where use of Enriching Our Worship is not permitted, let alone the kind of liturgical spaghetti throwing on the wall being proposed here.

And then there's

D) That the TFLPBR in consultation with the Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, Constitution and Canons is directed to propose to the 80th General Convention revisions to the Constitution and Canons to enable The Episcopal Church to be adaptive in its engagement of future generations of Episcopalians, multiplying, connecting, and disseminating new liturgies for mission, attending to prayer book revision in other provinces of the Anglican Communion

Huh? Now we're proposing Constitutional and canonical revisions, in addition to any liturgical revisions to the BCP, without giving any indication of what they might be?  They're doing two things with this resolved:  a) Saying we should make propose Constitutional and canonical changes without giving any hint as to what they might be, because of  b)  the gibberish and jargon that makes up the last half of the sentence:  "be adaptive in its engagement of future generations of Episcopalians, multiplying, connecting, and disseminating new liturgies for mission..."  Damn, this reads like the blurb for a book called "Purpose Driven Liturgy".  If only they could have included "nimble."

So: Translation from HOB speak: "We want to move into realm of liturgical usage where they are multiple, authorized liturgical resources, like in the Church of England, Anglican Church of Canada, and other provinces, but are either unable to express ourselves in the English language and/or we don't want people really to know what we are proposing, and we already said this in a previous resolved and are kind of saying it again."

E)   In discussion in the House of Bishops, and again in the legislative committee where this was sent, there was concern raised that this resolution not be amended by the House of Deputies, because that would send it back to bishops, which may mean that nothing got passed at this Convention before time ran out...which brings me to my to a point COD has made before in advocating for a unicameral General Convention.

Our bicameral structure is undemocratic in that it routinely disenfranchises one house.  At every single Convention, there comes a point, towards the end, when legislation starts piling up, and people say:  "We can't amend this because if we do, it goes back to the other house, and it may not get passed, which means we end up not doing anything about this particular matter."  This happened with Title III and Title IV revisions in 2006 and 2009,  for instance.

At this Convention, the House of Deputies was disenfranchised in Prayer Book reform.  The bishops submitted a substitute, the conference committee just accepted it the substitute so that something would get passed, and the HOD passed it.  The HOD had a long, involved, passionate debate, and none of it mattered.

And, BTW, according to comments in the House of Bishops, 50 bishops were consulted and had input into this resolution.  And they produced something that nobody seems to know what it means. 
As Janet once told us, "This is a story about Control."
No joke, two different Episcopal media reports had the following headlines:

"Episcopal Church Approves Prayer Book Revision"
"Episcopal Church Kills Prayer Book Revision"

Also, this resolution doesn't provide any funding.

To give credit where it is due:

Crusty is actually not opposed to moving towards something like what the Church of England, Anglican Church of Canada, and other provinces have done, with more than one officially and fully authorized liturgical resource.  If this is what the House of Bishops wanted in their resolution, then why in God's name couldn't they say that?

And this resolution does a fine job of naming important elements like including creation care as an emphasis, lifting up inclusive language, stating the need to incorporate electronic and online resources in liturgical revision, calling for newer and better translations into French, Spanish, and Creole, and for embracing the range of diversity within our church in any process of liturgical revision.

F)  There's also the larger Commission question.  The establishment of this commission also reflects the way in which this General Convention officially ended any real efforts at restructuring or reform.  One of the few recommendations General Convention adopted from the Task Force for Re-imagining the Episcopal Church was the elimination of most Standing Commissions.  The 2015 Convention provided only for the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music and the Standing Commission on Structure, Governance, and Constitution and Canons.

By Crusty's count -- and he may have missed a few -- this General Convention re-established or created 39 commissions or task forces.  We now have more than we had in 2015, and we now will spend more on them.

And guess what:  we may it worse.  Standing Commissions, agencies, and boards were defined by canon, had standardized membership which had equal numbers of clergy and laity, and had clear lines
General Convention never gonna get it.
of accountability.  Now we are created a mish mash of Task Forces, special commissions, some with differing makeup of membership, some, like Tafelpuber, which allow for clerical dominance.

[BTW, Crusty predicted this in his 2015 wrapup -- COD said we would eventually have more commissions with unclear lines of accountability and reporting.]

Crusty sees this as a extension of a trend with General Convention:  despite being the only entity created which has the authority to do anything, it seems be unclear, at times, in just what it does.  Instead of having the kind of unitary governance laid out in the Constitution, we instead get a black hole of unitary muddling.

2.   The What Is Not Forbidden Rabbit Hole

Crusty would like to round out this initial post by weighing in on what he sees as a second very troubling ecclesiological trend: the what is not forbidden is permitted maxim.

COD tried to sound the alarm in his reflections on Resolution D050 from 2015: this is where General Convention authorized "An Order for Celebrating Holy Eucharist" for people to write new eucharistic prayers for use on Sunday celebrations.  The rubrics clearly, crystal clearly, state that "It is not intended for use at the principal Sunday or weekly celebration of the Holy Eucharist." 

It could not be more clear.  Yet the ruling from the platform, and in the debate in the House of Deputies, it was stated that since it did not explicitly forbid it, then it was permissible.  Even though the rubric itself does not permit it, it didn't forbid it.  And it passed, overwhelmingly.

Crusty said it then:  if this is the case, then why even have a Prayer Book or a General Convention?  We either have to craft canons, legislation, and rubrics that account for every possibility, or else we don't need them at all because we can pretty much do whatever we want.  For instance, where does it say we HAVE to use bread and wine?  Why can't I use Fresca and Cheez-Its?  There's nothing in the Constitution and Canons and Prayer Book that forbids it.  Why can't I baptize with rose petals instead of water?  Sure, there's a Canon that recognizes baptisms done with water, but it doesn't EXPLICTLY say that baptisms performed with other elements are not valid.

This came up again in the debate of the admission of the diocese of Cuba.  Look, COD supported admitting Cuba and wanted to find a way to do it.  But again this "what is not forbidden is permitted" argument was trotted out.  Sure, there was no mechanism for admitting an extra-provincial diocese -- so the argument that "what is not forbidden is permitted."

One bishop even quoted the revered White & Dykman, authors of the definitive Annotated Constitution and Canons.  (Crusty keeps his two-volume White & Dykman in the bathroom BTW.)  He quoted from White & Dykman that what is not forbidden is permitted. It was hard to follow what was happening live, but Crusty think the reference quoted was the one he found on p. 99
As Bey might say, "If you like then you shoulda made a canon of it
of Custy's edition:  "[General Convention] has the power to legislate on any subject unless expressly forbidden to do so by the Constitution."  The key here is LEGISLATE.  One could make the argument that General Convention had, in fact, legislated on this subject -- it had developed processes for admitting dioceses and missionary districts.  One could make an argument that this actually supports the HOD Chancellor's interpretation.  

And BTW, it is now, apparently, being applied retroactively to history.  Another bishop brought up ordination of women in the Cuba debate, saying "We did that because what was not forbidden was permitted."  This is utter nonsense.  Everyone at that time knew perfectly well that the ordination of women was not permitted under the Constitution and Canons.  It was defeated narrowly in 1973, which is why the irregular ordinations took place in 1974 and 1975.  It is why only retired bishops presided at these irregular ordinations.  Any engagement with the historical record will show women's ordination advocates took these bold and prophetic actions BECAUSE it was not permitted.  The bishops involved were censured and the House of Bishops voted to require the irregular ordinations be regularized by the dioceses where those clergy were resident because they had been irregular.

Crusty will sound the alarm again:  using What Is Not Forbidden is Permitted can lead us to some very dark places.  It can reflect whatever is animating the church at a given time.

Don't believe me?  The one reason The Episcopal Church never had legislated segregation was because we had a canonical governance structure.  Other Christian denominations created non-geographic areas that were for African-American congregations; notoriously the Methodist Church created a Central Conference for African-American congregations.  From 1883 to 1940, various proposals were put forward at EVERY General Convention to created some form of legislated segregation.  What was to prevent pro-segregation forces from saying, "There's nothing that forbids this so we're going to set one up"?

Don't believe me?  There's nothing that explicitly forbids a diocese from seceding from the Episcopal Church and joining another province of the Anglican Communion, like the Diocese of Forth Worth tried to do by becoming a missionary diocese of the Southern Cone, so long as it doesn't try to take any property with it.  The abandonment of communion canon only applies to seeking to be admitted to body not in communion with this church, whereas other provinces of the Communion are in communion with us.  Nowhere it becoming a missionary diocese of another province of the communion forbidden, so it must be permitted.  But you know for damn sure there is no way this would be countenanced by the General Convention.   What is not forbidden is permitted serves to reflect what "we" think at any particular time.

It can foster a climate of lawlessness in the church where we already routinely ignore some canons.  It calls into question our entire governance:  why even hold a General Convention, why even make Constitutional and canonical changes, why bother at all when we can decide at certain times they just don't matter?  Crusty will undoubtedly be called heartless to the suffering of Cuban Episcopalians or somehow opposed to matters of justice.  That's not the case.  There were more than two options here.  The choice was not between not admitting Cuba and doing whatever Convention wanted to do.  Just like there were all sorts of options other than making Rite III into whatever people wanted.  We just trotted out "what is not forbidden" and moved on.   This is a troubling ecclesiological development, one, if it persists, can serve to undermine our already shaky ecclesiology.

Sidenote:  Some may think that because there are some hard words here for the House of Bishops, Crusty is somehow anti-bishop.  In the truly lamentable and toxic atmosphere that characterizes relationships between our two houses, some may even think COD is part of that shadowy deep state that is trying to destroy the episcopacy.  Seriously, it is odd to think of reasonable people debunking flat earth and faked moon landings but suddenly see Game of Thrones-like conspiracies around every corner once they get to General Convention every three years.  Crusty has had hard words for the House of Deputies, too -- I once compared it to Chinese Democracy and Tammany Hall, for instance.  COD is on record for saying repeatedly there are systemic problems with the entire structure of General Convention, he is not singling out the bishops or the deputies.  The whole thing has some serious dysfunction.

Sidenote 2:  COD has also sometimes been accused of being overly critical of others' prose.  This is not being grammar police.  Legislation passed at General Convention shapes the overall course of ministry in aspects of the church, one should think we should be able actually to say what we are trying to do instead of just getting something passed and then letting people figure it out.  COD is not sorry for asking for accountability for a nearly two-week gathering that we spend three years prepping for and which we spend millions of dollars on, and asking it to do more than pass poorly written, vague resolutions in order to do something, anything, ahead of adjournment.   If we want to run our church through barely comprehensible resolutions drafted by a small group of people the night before, there's quicker and cheaper ways to do that than General Convention.  Also, feel free to critique anything I've written.  There's a long paper trail for me, and Crusty stands by what he has written.  Crusty published a church history book with Church Publishing, was lead drafter on the United Methodist-Episcopal Church proposal, I've drafted and edited dozens of resolutions submitted to General Convention as primary staff support to a Standing Commission from 2003-2009.  COD is glad to be held accountable for what he has written, and only asks others being willing to do so as well.

Crusty's General Convention Wrap-Up Part 2: Electric Boogaloo will be coming out next week.

Enjoy your Tafelpuber!  David Simmons, who coined this, has already trademarked it so you have to pay him 5 cents every time you use it.



Sunday, July 1, 2018

General Convention Preview, Part 1: #MeToo Task Force

Well, friends, here is what nobody has been waiting for:  Crusty's General Convention Preview Extravanganza.  You may have noticed Crusty has been quiet for several months; some of that has to do with some other projects he has been working on, COD is hard at work on his next book, a research project on what we in North America can learn from Christians in Eastern Europe and their experiences in the 1990s.  But the silence has also been in part because COD just can't seem to muster the Crust to write a General Convention preview. Heck, Crusty once wrote a GC preview a whole year before General Convention was to be held!  This is reluctance is, in part, because there are so many excellent ones out there already, particularly  Scott Gunn's exhaustive work, which is like the freakin' Stephen King's The Stand of General Convention previews  Seriously, given how verbose and long winded these blog postings are, if Crusty thinks something is long, that's like Greg Allman telling Duane "You know, maybe that guitar solo goes on a bit too long," or James Brown telling Sly Stone, "That riff is just a little too funky," or Donald Trump telling Kanye, "You know, I think maybe you're being a bit too narcissistic."

But it's not just that.  COD has realized this dilly-dallying on whether to write a GC preview is largely because COD had given up on General Convention.  Now, when Crusty says that, it is by no means because he thinks GC is unimportant or meaningless or doesn't relate to what happens in his
Stephen King says "TL:DR" to GC previews.
corner of the world.  Far from it; GC's budget shapes our priorities, it is historically where important strides towards inclusion of women and LGBTQ persons has taken place, Convention authorizes liturgical resources, among other ways it shapes the church.  It's not because GC is unimportant.

It's because COD no longer has much faith that GC will do anything about our impending implosion as a denomination.

In the fabulous early 2000s (wow does it pain Crusty to be that old that the early 2000s are now a relatively long time ago...) reboot of the sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica, there’s a crucial turning point in the confrontation between the newly sworn in President and the military commander of the Galactica.  Billions have died in a massive surprise attack by their enemies, the Cylons.  Commander Adama wants to reload and get back into the fight; the President thinks they have to flee for their lives and try to salvage the human race. “There’s a war on,” Commander Adama growls as only Edward James Olmos can.  “The war’s over,” the President says, “and we lost.”

Crusty thinks there is real need for substantive, top to bottom, transformative change in how we organize and be church, from the General Convention level to the seminary level to the diocesan level to the parish level.  Crusty’s spent a good chunk of his life trying, in his own way, to do this: serving 10 years on the Ecumenical staff of the Presiding Bishop working on closer partnerships with other Christian denominations; overseeing a merger of two seminaries to create a flexible, non-residential seminary training model that incorporates local formation; revamping and relaunching a college chaplaincy; and now as simple country parson, working on focusing a pastoral-size parish around worship, formation, and outreach.  At the churchwide level...well the record is not so good.  Crusty was disheartened by a slash-and-burn 30% budget cut in 2009 without little thought put into strategic goals or vision; argued hard for substantive reorganization proposals in 2012; was disappointed by the eventual report issued by the Task Force for Re-imagining the Episcopal Church; and was part of the posse that amended the budget on the floor of Convention in 2015 to include more funding for evangelism and church plants.

But what came out of it all?  In 2012, Crusty was all-in behind efforts and proposals to rethink and reshape our church to be in service of mission and ministry.  All that came out of that, including the TREC report, was a proposal to get rid of most Commissions, Committees, Agencies and Boards...which we did, while paradoxically increasing the amount budgeted spent on meetings.  In 2015, Crusty was part of the group that helped to amend the budget to have more money for church planting and evangelism, only to see in 2018 that money be scaled back while increasing amounts for other areas of governance.  General Convention is still largely old and white, since taking two weeks off in the middle of the summer (throwing in travel and pre-Convention meetings) effectively means we have a professionalized governance caste.  Numerous dioceses are still teetering in viability, and in many dioceses COD would hazard to guess anywhere from 30-50% of the parishes will close in the next 25 years or so.  Far from taking steps towards systemic change, we could argue, in fact, that we are in some ways worse off.

But then Crusty read the report from the House of Deputies Special Committee on Sexual Harassment and exploitation: Time to stop sulking in the tent like Achilles in the Iliad or Posh Spice
If you wanna b with Crusty, better get with our polity.
with committing to the Spice Girls Reunion Tour.  We can do something that matters at this Convention.

Crusty has written on issues of sexism, inequality, and misconduct at various times over the years in this blog, preached on it from the pulpit, and incorporated it into history classes he's taught.  This is, in part, because as a spouse of a female priest I have seen first hand the ways in which sexism is at work in the church.  But COD has to add that having a personal connection should in no way, shape, or form necessarily be determinative.  Civil rights for African Americans doesn't depend on someone have a personal connection and full equality for LGBTQ persons shouldn't depend on someone having a gay nephew.  That perpetuates the dynamic where those in power and who benefit from the systems in place still operate from a position of largesse and that somehow equality is to be "granted."  Equality, inclusion, and fairness are not something that need to be granted.  Rather we must dismantle the systems that those in power use to exploit and deny.  As people of faith, they are also not something to be granted because equality, inclusion, and fairness are inherent to who we are as children of God, made in the divine image in all the beauty of our diversity.

COD thus welcomed at long last the Report of the House of Deputies Special Committee on Sexual Harassment and exploitation.  Crusty had absolutely no issues with the makeup of the committee, which some had criticized as being all female, and somehow not representative of the church.  COD frankly found it laughable any church with an overwhelmingly male, white House of Bishops and an overwhelmingly old, white, upper middle class constituency could then turn around and start getting worried about bodies somehow not being capable of doing their job if they were not somehow diverse.  Those kinds of complaints are precisely the kind of example of those with power who benefit from the system doing their best to use their privilege to undermine change.

And while Crusty will be offering his thoughts and comments in the report, this report and its proposal in no way, shape, or form needs any of these thoughts: it does not need a straight white guy to give it a mansplaining seal of approval.  The report and its resolutions derive their authority canonically from its status as a Special Commission, and from the experience, wisdom, insight, and personal authority of its members, who are a broad, diverse, representative, dedicated, faithful, and accomplished cross section of the church.  I only write here as someone with privilege, who has benefited from systems of sexism and explicit and implicit bias, to fully support efforts to take systemic and tangible steps towards truth telling, confession, reconciliation, and restorative justice in any way I can.

The Special Committee divided its work into several subgroups: (1) Theology and Language; (2) Structural Equity; (3) Title IV and Training; (4) Truth and Reconciliation; and (5) Social Justice for Women.  Crusty commends the report in its entirety for its care, depth, and attention -- even more impressive given the compressed timeframe.  Established in March, in about three months the Special
Crusty on TREC b all like.
Commission has offered a series of resolutions that potentially can begin a path of transformation for the church.  This again just makes Crusty shake his head even more than the Task Force on Re-imagining the Church, which had a longer time period and more funding to do its work and still produced a report with resolutions that at times were gibberish.

Here are some thoughts on the individual subcommittees' work.

1)  Theology and Language:  the big suggestion here is that we begin the process of revising the Book of Common Prayer NOW for "urgent pastoral and evangelical need."

Crusty supports this proposal.  Language matters, the language we use about God matters, and the language we use in worship matters.

There's a 3-year-old child in Crusty's congregation.  We use inclusive language in liturgy in the sense that COD never uses "he" or "his" as an antecedent for "God" or the Holy Spirit.  We either use Enriching our Worship, or else make small changes to Rite II ("all who serve God in God's church" for instance).  I've preached on at least 4 or 5 occasions in the past 2 years that God is not gendered, and, while we do use "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" it's because, like the early church, we understand those to be imperfect efforts to describe a relationship that we can never define and not indicative of God's male-ness.  This church has had plenty of women serve in clergy roles and preside at the Eucharist.

This 3-year-old child refers to me as God.  She thinks I'm God.  THE God.  She didn't get it from me, from Sunday School, from our liturgy, or from her parents.  But she picked it up somewhere.  Where, it doesn't really matter, because it shows patriarchy is endemic in the society and the culture and the church.

The 1979 BCP is not inclusive in terms of gender in its language.  That's pretty straightforward and undeniable.  It actually now lags behind the Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church in some areas; for instance, in the Nicene Creed, the official Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic English language translation correctly translate the Holy Spirit as non-gendered:  "WHO proceeds from the Father and the Son, WHO with the Father and Son is worshipped and glorified."  Yes, there are alternatives out there, including Enriching Our Worship.  But EOW is largely considered "other."  When COD used EOW in a congregational setting, someone asked "Why aren't we using the Prayer Book?"  In another diocese where COD served, he was informed EOW was not permitted by the diocesan bishop.

So we need a universally authorized BCP that reflects inclusive language.  For almost a generation we have treated inclusive language as the kids' table to the real table of the official BCP.  For nearly 40 years.  For a church that talks about how praying shapes believing, how can we not realize that if we are fully to dismantle systems that privilege maleness, how can we have the current Prayer Book as normative?  We especially need an inclusive language Psalter, another place where we are almost comically and woefully behind the times:  Crusty at times has used the translation in the new Evangelical Lutheran Worship resource, itself a decade old, as well as the St Helena Psalter.

That said, COD has a caveat, and would like to propose the following as part of Prayer Book revision:

--Half the people on the BCP drafting commission must be under 45.  If this is for pastoral and evangelism purposes, let's have the people who are going to be leading that future church at the table in the revision.

Crusty also endorses the commitment to inclusive and gender/bias neutral language by General Convention, Executive Council, and churchwide staff, as well as asking our seminaries to do so as well -- and, indeed, many of our seminaries have been leading the way in this process.  When COD was academic dean of the seminary we already had an inclusive language policy and commitment in place.

2)  Structural Equity:  COD heartily endorses the proposals to create a curriculum for anti-sexism awareness and training, and to include the requirement of training for ordinands and clergy.  It parallels our commitment to addressing systemic racism by requiring anti-racism training and awareness.

COD also enthusiastically supports reforming our old boys network of position postings.  A good number of positions are simply never listed or posted.  Crusty welcomes the resolution here removing gender as an identifying marker due to unconscious bias, and financial history should be deleted as well from the centralized database of clergy profiles.  We live in a system where women are systematically underpaid; by basing future compensation on past compensation, we only perpetuate that system.  BTW the numbers on compensation disparity have been analyzed by the Church Pension Group, and this is not ancedotal; here are the numbers from a recent CPG study:

--Overall, average compensation for male clergy is $60,000 and $45,000 for women
--Women tend to receive less in average compensation than men for the same job with same years of experience.
--Women are less likely to be rectors than men: 93% of male clergy have held a Rector or Vicar position, as opposed to 65% of female clergy.
--Married male clergy received more in compensation than unmarried male clergy.  It is the inverse with female clergy: unmarried women receive higher average compensation that married women.

Similarly, there are ample social science and psychological surveys which have demonstrated implicit bias.  We have had the numbers before us for quite some time on the structural and compensation inequality in our system:  are we willing to do anything about them, or not?

Yet Crusty also would have liked to see a few stronger recommendations than what was in the report.  For instance,

--All positions that are at least half-time should be required to be listed through OTM. Some of our ecumenical partners require all positions be posted through a central database for openness, transparency, and equal access to positions.  Crusty is disappointed that the Special Committee "discussed...but did not finalize" a resolution to this effect.  The fact that we do not do this, unlike a number of other denominations, is an appalling lack of transparency and does not permit equal access to open positions.

--Crusty wishes the report had gone further in mandating compensation formulae for dioceses.  The diocese of Massachusetts, where Crusty serves, has one: while not perfect, it takes a lot of the negotiating out of the process of entering into a new position, and is based on congregation size, congregation budget, and the cleric's years of ordained experience.

Crusty also supports removing martial, family, or family planning status from permissible questions than can be asked in interviews, as well as being included as areas where persons cannot be denied access to the discernment processes for ordination.  My wife was once negotiating a letter of agreement that included pregnancy leave, and the other person stated, "I didn't know you were thinking of having more children."  A female colleague called me once and we talked about the possibility of her entering an episcopal search process, and I said, "You do realize your womb is now going to be a topic of public conversation, given the way women candidates are treated differently than male candidates.  Nobody would ever ask me what my sperm count is but people will ask you if you're planning to have children."

On reinstating a women's missioner...Crusty noted above how appalled he was with how the 2009 General Convention simply took a meat cleaver to the budget without any effort at all for establishing goals or priorities.  Thus we ended up with a church with systemic, glaring gender imbalances but no staff position for women's advocacy and empowerment.  By all means, we should have a staff position in this area.  COD has two quibbles, one major, one minor.  The minor one is "Women's
If it's going to be a Desk, at least hire Peggy Olson.

Desk."  It's not 1974, and churchwide program staff people are not answering phones at a desk but are spending half their time on the road building networks in the church.  Women's Missioner or something similar would seem more in line with current nomenclature.

The major quibble is that the amount suggested here is too low: $100,000.  Has the special commission internalized the mindset of the church that women should be paid less than others?  Something along the lines of $150,000 for salary, pension, and health care would seem more appropriate.

--Pension Equality:  Crusty is all for equity in how we treat lay and clergy employees, and I have blogged about this on several occasions.  As dean of a seminary, for instance, COD removed vesting provisions for lay employees in 403b plans:  since we must immediately pay assessments and allow clergy to accrue benefits, how can we make lay employees wait 6 months to a year?

That said, COD would like to run the numbers more on the proposal to have an 18% contribution to a defined contribution plan:  the 18% assessment on a cleric's compensation is not entirely equivalent to an 18% contribution to a 403b or defined contribution plan.  An 18% equivalency implies an equivalency between a defined benefit and defined contribution when the matter is more complicated. For instance,

--CPG provides other benefits in their defined benefit plan like disability and survivor's benefits; not all of the 18% goes towards paying and individual cleric's pensions, whereas the 18% in a defined contribution all goes towards the retirement benefit.

--A 403b is an asset that can be transferred.  If my wife and I both die after my child reaches a certain age, he wouldn't receive anything from CPG, whereas we could pass on a 403b no matter what our age or his age.

--There is the matter clergy being self-employed and paying the entirety of the 15.3 social security and medicaid assessments. Yes, clergy can take a housing allowance, but there are times when the social security assessment differential means clergy pay more in taxes than lay persons.  For instance, Crusty was once living in church housing.  That meant I could only take a small housing allowance, while also having to pay taxes on the fair market rental value of church housing, and responsible for the 15.3% FICA and SECA.  I paid more in taxes than an equivalent lay employee.  There are other financial issues to sort out in clergy and lay equity.

As a half-way covenant, when Crusty was academic dean, the compromise we offered to try to balance these issues was to make a 10.35% contribution to a 403b for lay employees that chose that option (18% minus  7.65% that clergy pay for FICA and SECA that lay employees do not = 10.35%) with no employee contribution needed at all (though they were free to contribute on their own).  Certainly not perfect, but an effort to try to balance striving for equity with the fact clergy are considered self-employed and lay persons are not.

COD is all for equity, but would like more research before mandating an 18% equivalency for defined contribution plans.

3)  Title IV and Governance:  COD appreciates the thorough care and attention given here, specifically in providing whistleblower provisions, creating a churchwide intake officer,  adding provisions against retaliation as part of the Title IV process, and lifting the statute of limitations for the next three years with regards sexual misconduct.  When talking with a Sudanese colleague, I once shared that I found it difficult at times to preach on apocalyptic texts, with the whole notion of Jesus coming to judge.  My Sudanese friend laughed and said, "Spoken like a Westerner.  If you come from an oppressed people, you would welcome the coming of Jesus.  Only the comfortable and guilty fear apocalyptic texts."  Only those with something to hide and the guilty should fear the lifting of statutes of limitation.  #TimesUp.

Crusty actually wishes the Special Commission had gone further in two crucial areas.

--The first had to do with clergy from full communion partners who serve in The Episcopal Church.  There's a bit of a problem here:  we cannot hold clergy from other churches accountable under our Title IV because Article VIII of the Constitution specifically exempts clergy from churches in full communion from subscribing to the Constitution & Canons.  This is in part because these clergy still remain in good standing in their own denomination, and only serve on a temporary basis under full communion arrangements.  It is also because different churches have different aspects and elements of accountability, and we open a Pandora's box if clergy can be held accountable in a church other than their own.  Do we really want Episcopal clergy be able to be deposed if they are found to be teaching contrary to the Augsburg Confession when serving in a Lutheran church by the ELCA's disciplinary process?

That said, there is the very real issues of clergy from full communion churches who commit sexual harassment or misconduct while serving in another church: currently all we can do is inform whomever they are accountable to in their sending church and hope that they pursue the matter.  We can't tell another denomination what to do, just as they cannot tell us (though Lord knows we have tried).

One of the resolutions proposed asks that the Executive Council "include language in the several agreements that govern the exchange of clergy between denominations to allow and encourage bishops to communicate information regarding any and all disciplinary actions in a cleric’s history, and enter into new agreements specifically for the exchange of information about involved clergy."  This is essentially codifying what is more or less the current practice by specifically writing this into the policies that inform clergy exchange.

While we cannot tell another denomination what to do, or hold clergy from other denominations accountable under Title IV, the reality is there are lots of other ways to hold persons accountable.  As academic dean at a seminary, none of the seminarians were accountable under Title IV.  Yet we had sexual harassment and misconduct policies that they had to abide by as condition of enrollment, and processes for holding them accountable and informing those with authority over them the results of any accountability investigations.

There's no reason we couldn't do something similar: any clergyperson from a full communion church serving in the Episcopal Church (other than occasional Sunday supply) must do so on a contractual basis: an ELCA pastor cannot be a Rector (to do so they would need to transfer and be received into The Episcopal Church).  Since it must be on a contractual basis, require that in every Letter of Agreement or other contractual process there be a definition of sexual harassment and misconduct, notice given that anyone found in violation of this will have the contract terminated, outline the process under which they would adjudicated for violating the definitions, state that non-compliance or non-cooperation will also result in the contract terminated, and that notice will be sent to the person's home judicatory and churchwide governance of the results of any investigations, as well as to the Episcopal Church's churchwide governance and all bishops of The Episcopal Church (just as we communicate any judgments and accords under Title IV to all bishops).

--The second is that there is no process for accountability for lay persons.  In the initial draft of the revised Title IV provisions proposed in 2009, lay persons would have been held accountable -- yet all provisions for accountability of lay persons was stripped in the final version approved by General Convention.  Crusty cannot speak to all the reasons why, but can only share that in the legislative hearing he attended, there were those who testified to their concern that bishops would use lay accountability under Title IV to harass, silence, or retaliate against lay persons.

I have to think there must be some middle ground between making laypersons accountable in all areas of Title IV on the one hand and having no accountability at all for laypersons under Title IV.  Right now, should a lay person commit sexual misconduct or sexual harassment, the only recourse is to fire the person, in addition to any criminal or civil proceedings.  COD once counseled someone who confronted their bishop about sexual misconduct by a lay employee and was told by their bishop there was nothing the bishop could do except fire the person and not provide a reference; and, since the only additional recourse was either criminal or civil charges, the bishop could not speak to the complainant again without an attorney present.  A layperson can relocate across the country and omit anything they want from their work or volunteer history, and accountability exists only insofar as networks of informal communication provide.

We must either include laypersons under Title IV at least as accountable for sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, or require inclusion of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment provisions in letters of agreement like COD proposes with regard to clergy from churches in full communion, or we will still have a huge lacuna in accountability.

4)  Truth and Reconciliation

Crusty is thankful for the clear, concise, and forceful case made here.  All too often the concept of "Truth and Reconciliation" can be tossed around, and we must be clear about what we would hope to emerge from such commission or process, and what the nature and scope would be.  In South Africa, for instance, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission could give amnesty to those who came forward and testified to crimes under apartheid.

This resolution is so clear and powerful that Crusty would like to recommend that the first resolved, if passed, be included it in the Historical Documents section of the future revision of the Book of Common Prayer proposed by the Special Commission.  I have already made a not to include this in any future iterations of church history courses I teach:

"Resolved, The House of Deputies concurring, That the 79th General Convention as the Body of Christ, confess our sins of gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence against women and girls in all their forms as we understand these sins, which include, but are not limited to, sexual and gender harassment, sexual assault, physical, spiritual, and emotionally abusive behavior, and oppression based on gender, particularly as these sins have denigrated and devalued women and their ministries; acknowledge that within our patriarchal culture, the misuse of power and authority is primarily exercised by men with the vast majority of victims being women; have created a culture of excuses, justifications,
enabling, and dishonesty around gender-based discrimination and violence; have not heard the experiences of women with the goal of justice through acts of contrition, restoration, and reconciliation; that we as the Church seek to turn from the systems of oppression, patriarchy, heteronormativity, white supremacy, and our colonial legacy, among them, and
seek to engage in restoration of the dignity of women and reconciliation from past acts, beginning with confessing to God and to one another the truth that we have not loved God with our whole heart, and mind, and strength, and that we have not loved, respected, and honored the presence, gifts, equality, and ministry of women, seeing in them the presence of Christ; we have embraced patriarchal power, and in doing so, have exploited women and been blind to injustice and prejudice; and we seek to repent and be restored to God and to each other; with the church and each diocese declaring a period of fasting and repentance for this sin..."

The proposal outlines and names the key aspects to any process: truthtelling, confession, and reconciliation; all too often we can try to stop with some combination or truthtelling and/or confession, without efforts at reconciliation or even restorative justice.

Crusty is also grateful for the consultation with ecumenical partners:  all too often we sometimes can fail to realize that many of our fellow Christians are dealing with these same issues, and can learn much from their processes.   The proposal here is to follow a process taken from the United Methodist Church's efforts in these areas and will give us a sense of the scope of the problems in the church; assist dioceses in developing their own Truth & Reconciliations processes; conduct audits of our structures to identify those places where these systems of exclusion function; and an additional resolution calls for a thorough and extensive survey more fully to hear people's stories and assess the depth and extent of misconduct and harassment in the church.

This is a powerful section in the report, and perhaps one which can be transformative and being the kind of church God calls us to be.

5)  Social Justice for Women: the report includes a number of important resolutions which look at social justice issues that disproportionately impact women:  from ending domestic violence in our congregations, addressing sexual assault and misconduct in the workplace, dealing with immigration issues which can disproportionately impact women and children; and access to health care.

The Report concludes on an important note, one which Crusty almost wishes had lead the report:  it focuses on intersectionality, which is significant.  Intersectionality as a concept acknowledges that issues can transcend any one particular subgroup and impact different marginalized groups in different ways.  This is part of the turn that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King made in the later years of his involvement in the civil rights movement: the realization that civil rights and voting rights had to be set against the backdrop of economic inequality and militarism.  He expressed this perhaps most most forcefully in his series of addresses collected in Trumpet of Conscience; though he summarized intersectionality in a simple sentence: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."  

The intersectionality identified in this report must also call the church to account for our need for continued work in overcoming and addressing systemic racism in the church and our exploitation of marginalized groups.  We are a racist, sexist church that is also stratified by income inequality and has marginalized youth and young adults as full participants.  While we have made steps towards addressing the past, such as requiring anti-racism training, we are still nowhere near restorative justice of any kind in any area.  In much of our church we skip from Absalom Jones to the Civil Rights movement, ignoring centuries of systemic racism.  We created a narrative that notes our "peaceful" reunification after the Civil War, ignoring that it was a cheap reunion built on the foundations of segregation.  We celebrate Emmegahbowh on our calendar in churches on land acquired through one of the greatest acts of genocide ever perpetuated.  Will we remain stalled in the places where we are only asked to give statements and make videos?

We have been here before.  In 1967, in the midst of urban violence, Presiding Bishop John Hines preached a sermon at General Convention calling for the church to act.  The General Convention created a Special Program redirected millions towards restorative justice and empowerment: up to nearly $20 million, adjusted for inflation.  It was a colossal failure because it foundered on the structural racism of the church.  It foundered because the structures set up did not adequately involve and consult with persons of color within the church.  It foundered because of backlash from racism within the church that resented this direction.  It foundered because it created a grants programs before it had the necessary relationships in place.

We stand on a similar precipice.  May this time, unlike with TREC and unlike with the General Convention Special Program, may God give us the courage to take those steps more truly to become the beloved community to which God calls us.




Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Ageism: Yo Church So Old

A few days ago, Crusty tweeted out some thoughts on the report of the Joint Nominating Committee, the entity that makes formal nominations for persons elected or appointed to various church
Yo church so old it got a mosaic of its founding Rector, not a photo.
commissions, agencies, task forces, and Boards.  Crusty noted with some alarm that 60% of the nominees were over the age of 60, and 81% were over the age of 50.   This tweet engendered some discussion, both online and in direct email messages.  When asked by one person what COD thought was behind the disparity, Crusty replied simply:  "Ageism."

That's an oversimplification, to be sure.  And Crusty would like to say from the outset he doesn't personally blame the JNC, or mean to cast shade on any of the nominees.  I'm sure the members did their best, I'm sure they did their due diligence, and I'm sure the people they are nominating are competent, faithful, qualified folks.  But we have a systemic issue with diversity.  The Episcopal
Usual church response to lack of diversity.
Church is old and white.  That's a fact that's undeniable and is borne out by all available data.  The median age of someone in the United States is about 37; in the Episcopal Church, it's about 57.  The USA is 62% Caucasian; the Episcopal Church is about 87%.  This overall lack of failure to be younger and more diverse is one of the main drivers of the Episcopal Church's decline; in 1960, the Episcopal Church was 90% white in a country that was about 85% white.  Nearly 60 years later, the country diversified and the church didn't.

Yet while not personally blaming the JNC, we also can't just shrug and say whatev.  We need to look our ageism issue square in the eye and ask what we will do about it.  Because Crusty hates to break it to you all, sunshine, but the church has a serious issue with ageism.  Implicitly and explicitly, the church repeatedly sends the message than young persons are not really integral to the life of the church and are not welcome.  Crusty will offer six examples.  Three are public, from the 2015 General Convention.  Three are ones he personally experienced in his own life in the church.

At the 2015 General Convention:

1)  In the House of Bishops, in the course of a session discussing the question of same sex marriage, one of the bishops joked that they wouldn't be able to solve the question that day since "We've been discussing matters of sexuality since before Bishop Rowe was born," referencing the youngest bishop in the House of Bishops.  Using someone's age as a
Borat's clueless insensitivity was a parody, not something to emulate.
punchline for a joke should be utterly unacceptable, yet there were some low-level chuckles and nobody said a thing.


2)  In the House of Deputies, the following occurred ON THE SAME DAY.  During the debate on developing policies towards use of alcohol at church events, a deputy stood up, asked the official youth delegation to stand, and implored the House to pass this for the sake of the youth.

This was so utterly, completely bonkers I had to look around and make sure it was actually happening.  Once I did, I tweeted out my astonishment that one member of the House of Deputies could use other members of the House as a prop for a floor speech.


My tweet got circulated quite a bit, and someone even stood up and referenced it from one of the microphones.  This prompted a response from the Vice President of the House of Deputies, who tweeted me.  He noted that the action was out of order, Deputies should only address the chair and should ask permission to address anyone else in the House.  To which Crusty thought:  That's it?  Only noting that it's out of order?  Not noting that even if the Chair granted the deputy permission, it's utterly condescending and unacceptable?  

3)  After a greeting was given to the House of Bishops from members of the official youth delegation, a member tweeted "How were these representatives chosen?  I am not impressed."

There was not a single, formal acknowledgment of any of these incidents nor was anyone ever held to account for them.  Imagine if ANY other demographic group other than age and youth  were involved in any of these incidents.  Consider the following:

--In the House of Bishops, after a difficult discussion of racial reconciliation, they brought the
How were these 20th century martyrs chosen? I am not impressed.
discussion to a close by joking, "Hey we've still got work to do, can't resolve this today, I mean we've been working on racial reconciliation since Bishop Curry's ancestors were slaves, amirite?"

--In the House of Deputies, as part of the debate on approving rites for same sex marriage, someone had asked all the gay members to stand and implored people to pass the legislation for their sake.

--If the Episcopal Church Women triennial gave their official greetings, and someone tweeted out, "How were these old women selected?  I am not impressed."

But yet all of these incidents from General Convention 2015 occasioned no soul searching or response, sending the message loud and clear that young people are jokes, to be publicly shamed, and used as props.

OK, those were the public ones.  What follows just a couple of examples selected from literally dozens and dozens of incidents Crusty could name from my own experience.  Crusty's got a history here.  Crusty's been active in the church almost his whole life: Sunday school, Confirmation, involved in with high school and college chaplaincies and student groups.  Felt the call, went to Yale Divinity School at 22.  Crusty was actually told by many persons at age 27 to go out and get more experience before starting the ordination process, even though I'd been active in the church my whole life; completed an MDiv, including a 2-year parish internship; a year-long, full-time, 12-month CPE residency; and was working in a congregation as a lay formation director.  Then there's my wife, who was ordained at age 25 in 1998 at the nadir of young persons being welcomed into the ordination process (only 300 clergy out of nearly 7,500 were under the age of 30 in 1998) and had the double whammy of being young and a woman.  She had been an active, cradle Episcopalian her whole life, deeply committed and involved in the church.  She was also told "You're too young, go get more experience," and replied to one of the members of the Commission on Ministry, "Your son's a doctor, did you tell him to go be a lawyer first?"  Despite all the bloviating about baptismal ministry, the church sent the message loud and clear that all of our years of lay, dedicated baptismal ministry didn't mean as much spending a decade at a day job you hated. What is "experience" sometimes code for?  

Here are just three ways I have seen the church demonstrate its sometimes downright antipathy to young people in the church:

A)  I was a lay person when our son was born, my wife was clergy, so often I was the one who cared for the kid during services.  One Sunday my wife was doing supply somewhere, I went to a church closer to our home, and the boy was fussy that day.  He was loud.  I took him out, calmed him down, took him back in, did my best.  He was only 9 months old and I didn't feel comfortable leaving him in a nursery at a church I'd never been to before.  I was red-faced and embarrassed because I was getting the occasional glare from parishioners.  I had managed to calm him down and was standing in the back, right by the door, so that if he got fussy again I could take him out.  After the peace, the priest stood in the pulpit and said, literally, "I'd like to draw your attention to some announcements, if you're able to hear them."  Since the only noise had been my child -- no B-1 bomber flyovers or anything -- the intention was clear.

I walked right out and never came back. 

B)  A good friend of mine was priest on staff of a church that decided to reach out to all the young families in their neighborhood.  They created a seeker's service, held at 9 AM, in between their 8 AM Rite I and 10 AM Rite II with choir.  It had contemporary music, was held in the parish hall.  After a year, it worked.  A parish that had 150 ASA now had an additional 100 people coming to this 9 AM service.  When time came for annual meeting, the nominating committee presented a slate that had no one from this 9 AM service despite is making up 40% of their ASA.  My colleague asked why.  The reply, "We don't know any of them."  My colleague:  "I gave you several names to contact."  Reply, "If they want to serve, they should come to the 8 or the 10.  That service isn't really church."

C)  After ordination, I was interviewing for a job at a parish and was told by someone in the interview "We're so glad to have a younger priest considering the position." (I was 40 years old, BTW).  I asked why and the person said, "Because no parents with children in this neighborhood have joined the church in the past 30 years."  Me:  "Really?"  Person:  "Yes, that's not an exaggeration."  Nods around
Homer Simpson's Seekers' Service?
the table.  Another member, visibly agitated and body language showing anger, leaned in and jabbed a finger pointing at me, "Yes, we're hoping you can be the one who gets them to join."  I replied, "Why aren't you asking yourselves what you've been doing for thirty years to prevent any families with young people have joined and instead think I know the answer when this is my first time in your church?"  

These interactions reveal another cold, hard reality in the church:  while there is often just plain ignorance, or implicit or unintended ageism in the church, there's also a strand in the church of open hostility and resentment towards youth and young adults.  Faced with aging congregations and financial challenges, the church at times seems to be saying to young persons, "Join our church, shut up, pledge, and serve on committees where we tell you what to do.  And by all means keep your damn children quiet because our children never, ever made a peep in church."  The church's attitude sometimes seems not all that different at times as Homer's fury when he's losing his election for sanitation commissioner, "I hate the public so much...if only they'd elect me!"

And the things is...there are real, tangible, concrete steps that we can take.  Here's just a few, and not meant to be exhaustive or comprehensive:

--We can set quotas for youth and young adult participation.  If we want to be serious about diversity and representation, set quotas.  Crusty has also suggested this for non-Caucasian representation in other blog posts, BTW.  COD repeatedly gets push back on it, often from people saying, "We can't set quotas, that limits the work of the Holy Spirit," or "We can't set quotas, the church doesn't do that."  Hey, everybody: General Convention, in fact, is founded on a quota system:  equal representation of clergy and lay in the House of Deputies.  We can and do set quotas where we feel it is foundational to how we understand representation.  We have set a quota at the highest level of our governance.  We as a church just choose not to do so in other areas.    Hey! Start with baby steps!  Set manageable goals! Maybe make a quota that 50% of our nominees need to be under 60 instead of 60%!

--Think about how we do business differently.  The way we do a lot of our church governance all too often makes it a burden to serve on many commissions and committees, requiring lay persons and people with younger children to take vacation days to go to multi-day church meetings and be away from their families.   We are very much in danger of having a professional class of quasi professional church technocrats who are the ones who have the time and privilege to attend all the gatherings.  And yet we are still unable to shorten General Convention, and we will no doubt restore pretty much every committee and task force we previously eliminated.

--If we include younger persons, include them with equal representation.  Give the youth presence at all our church meetings, including General Convention, voice and vote.  Otherwise we send the message loud and clear that our understanding of youth and young adult involvement is a kids' table to the "real" church.

Because the reality is the only way really to have broader representation of younger persons (and for all under-represented demographics, actually) in the church is: to invest in programs of formation; to specifically seek out, recruit, and nurture those persons; and to create an environment in the church where they are valued, welcomed, and their contributions taken seriously.  This kind of thing takes years, costs a lot, and requires a lot of training an institutional change.  But hey, we can do this.  A generation ago nobody wore seatbelts and people could smoke in public places.  Those behaviors changed because society put a lot if time and energy into education and training and changing a culture.  We've made progress in the church with inclusion of LGBQTI persons because we put a lot of time, energy, and institutional effort into that work.  There are ways forward with ageism in the church, the question is whether there is the will.

It's also important to note the church's the reality of ageism overall systemic sins of sexism, gender bias, racism, homophobia, and classism, among other failings.  While pointing out the issue with ageism, we must
Yo church so white it uses mayo instead of chrism at baptism.
also see where we fall short in the full inclusion of all of God's people.  There are thousand upon thousand incidences of discrimination and abuse directed towards women, people of color, and LBTQI persons happening right now.  And ageism certainly cuts both ways, and there are times in the church and in our society when older persons are marginalized and discounted.  That's wrong, too.  While pointing out this issue with ageism, I would rather not start arguing about what forms of oppression are more or less important.  Crusty spent a good portion of college, seminary, in other places listening to people debate about taxonomies of oppression than actually doing anything about the oppression.  Who we say has to wait often tells us a lot about our own biases, which is why Dr. King said that injustice anywhere was a threat to justice everywhere.

Concern about the future of the church drives much of the issues around ageism in the church.   Yet we cannot be held captive to those anxieties. The Episcopal Church runs the risk of being a kind of Samson, with our aging resulting in us pulling the church down around itself, the way Samson pulled the building down around the Philistines.  A number of our local congregations are already doing this, having effectively chosen to dwindle and die and close. That church where I interviewed ended up shutting its doors, quite possibly still resenting the neighborhood around it.  A church this white and old that doesn't take steps to change deserves to die, with the hope that God can raise up something from the wreckage of our systemic sins that toppled it to a new life that better reflects that diversity of all of God's people.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

#ChurchToo

The President of the House of Deputies and the Presiding Bishop recently released a letter to the church, reflecting on the current broader movement to address issues of sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.  Throughout the fall and winter we have seen the #MeToo movement, where women have shared their experiences on social media, along with the accompanying #ChurchToo movement.  The PB and PHOD write:

"As our societies have been forced into fresh recognition that women in all walks of life have suffered unspoken trauma at the hands of male aggressors and harassers, we have become
We already wear black in church, so we have a head start.
convinced that the Episcopal Church must work even harder to create a church that is not simply safe, but holy, humane and decent. We must commit to treating every person as a child of God, deserving of dignity and respect. We must also commit to ending the systemic sexism, misogyny and misuse of power that plague the church just as they corrupt our culture, institutions and governments."


This is to be commended.  We certainly need a church that is not only safe (which it isn't, BTW, in many contexts), but holy, humane, and decent.  We need to commit to ending systemic sexism, misogyny, and misuse of power.  Crusty has written several times on this blog about issues of sexism,  sexual misconduct, and systemic coverup of misconduct in the church, including at the highest levels.  How are we to commit to this?  The next paragraph is in many ways the crux of the letter:

"Our church must examine its history and come to a fuller understanding of how it has handled or mishandled cases of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse through the years. When facts dictate, we must confess and repent of those times when the church, its ministers or its members have been antagonistic or unresponsive to people—women, children and men—who have been sexually exploited or abused. And we must acknowledge that in our church and in our culture, the sexual exploitation of women is part of the same unjust system that also causes gender gaps in pay, promotion, health and empowerment."

This paragraph, frankly, terrifies Crusty.  Not because of what it is calling for the church to do -- Crusty is all for that -- but the way in which this is proposed.  Inviting people into an open conversation around an incredibly sensitive and emotional issue which exposes some of the church's deepest and darkest sins without any parameters is an invitation to a potentially pastoral damaging situation.

--Yes, we must "examine our history."  How?  Who will do the examining?  Most importantly, perhaps, how do we do that in a climate that can create a space for persons to share their experiences of abuse and misconduct?  This is not an academic exercise.  It is also not history. These are sins the church has committed and continues to commit against real, live persons, and is happening somewhere, right now, as I type this.

--"When facts dictate."  Does this mean some kind of forensic investigation of claims of abuse or misconduct before a conversation can take place?  What do we do about people who are no longer living?  What do we do about people in authority who aided, abetted, and covered up abuse?  One of the key aspects of a process of examination is to trust and believe the stories people bring forward, given that false accusations are exceedingly rare; here we have an evidentiary standard introduced without explanation or clarification, as part of this invitation this "examination."

One can only look at the morass the Church of England has created with its handling of the case of Bishop George Bell.  In its haste to make it look like it was doing something, the Church of England has donwplayed its own failures in addressing issues of abuse in the very real present in order publicly to name someone who has been dead for 60 years as an abuser.  Then, when its own commission set up to look at the matter expressed concerns with how this was handled, the Archbishop of Canterbury refused to walk back any concerns.  God forbid "examining our history" should prevent us from doing something about what is happening right now.

Look, sorry if you think Crusty may be over-parsing the words here, but maybe be careful when you  release letters on incredibly important but sensitive matters.  What in God's name does "when facts dictate" mean?  Who decides what the facts are?  Will this just reinforce the power dynamic that has allowed coverups to continue?

--"Unjust system that causes gender gaps in pay, promotion, health, and empowerment."

Yeah, Crusty blogged all about that a few months ago.  We already know this: women are less likely than men to be Rectors or bishops; women get paid less for the same work; we have all these numbers crunched by Church Pension Group and have know this for years.  Years.  Anyone who's been paying attention has knows this.  What, exactly, are we going to do about it?  Crusty noted some real, tangible things we could do, things as simple as dioceses enacting mandatory, instead of recommended, compensation formulas in dioceses.  And you know what?  We only have numbers on gender and pay imbalances for female clergy, which means that situation of female lay employees, who are discriminated against in terms of pay disparity and being considered for leadership positions in comparison to male lay employees, does not have corresponding factual data.  Acknowledging unjust systems is easy; doing something about them is what matters.


"We believe that each of us has a role to play in our collective repentance. And so, today, we invite you to join us in an Ash Wednesday Day of Prayer on February 14 devoted to meditating on the ways in which we in the church have failed to stand with women and other victims of abuse and harassment and to consider, as part of our Lenten disciplines, how we can redouble our work to be communities of safety that stand against the spiritual and physical violence of sexual exploitation and abuse."

Crusty repeats his concern noted above: inviting people into a sensitive, complex discussion without any parameters is an invitation to a potentially, even unintentionally, opening a Pandora's box.  It would be helpful to have a litany of repentance, for instance, to shape these kinds of meditations.  Suggestions for what specific elements could be in a Lenten discipline.  COD, frankly, is terrified at the potential of well-meaning but poorly equipped clergy and lay leaders making difficult situations more fraught, including the potential for triggering and re-traumatizing those who have experienced abuse.

"Neither of us professes to have all of the wisdom necessary to change the culture of our church and the society in which it ministers, and at this summer’s General Convention, we want to hear the voice of the wider church as we determine how to proceed in both atoning for the church’s past and shaping a more just future."

Thank Goodness, General Convention will solve the problem!  While these issues will clearly need to be discussed at General Convention, and while there are ways in which Convention can speak for the church and take action, addressing issues of sexual misconduct, sexual abuse, sexism, and misogyny are ones which must be addressed at the diocesan and parish level, as well as in other church related organizations (given the abuse experienced at church camps and church schools, for example).

The PB and PHOD are to be commended for their letter.  The church has been a both a source of sexual misconduct and abuse and an enabler, and we must acknowledge and atone for these sins.  Notably absent in this letter are mentions of the need for restorative justice, which is a key element of repentance and atonement.  We can be acknowledge a wrong, and be sorry for it, but what are we going to do to atone for it?  This is where the church, and our society, or instance, has repeatedly failed in matters of racial reconciliation, with a reluctance if not outright refusal to consider elements of restorative justice.  We can barely enforce requirements for anti-racism training, for God's sake.  Just like there are real, tangible ways the church can address matters of pay imbalance, there are real, tangible steps the church can take here to try to amend our systems.  Hey, here's a few:

We could re-examine Title IV.  Title IV was re-designed in the 1990s specifically with regards to matters of sexual misconduct.  Do we need to look at our current processes again?  

--For instance, currently Intake Officers have tremendous leeway in whether to dismiss complaints.  Granted there is an appeal process for when a complaint is dismissed, but do we really want to treat allegations of sexual misconduct with the same appeal process as allegations of rubrical violations?

--What about amending statutes of limitations for coverups of sexual misconduct in our disciplinary process?  As ways to empower restorative justice, some states amended their statutes of limitations to be able to hold persons accountable for sexual abuse.

--What about lay persons?  There is no accountability for sexual abuse, misogyny, or misconduct by lay persons other than firing them and having recourse to civil and/or criminal legal systems.  Initial revisions to Title IV in the 2000s included accountability for lay persons, but this was stripped from the final version. 

--Insist that clergy follow through on their legal obligations as mandatory reporters with clear training and clear consequences for failure to report.  I was giving a Title IV training once and gave a case study which involved mandatory reporting and a clergy person flat out said that they would decide whether to report something like what was outlined or not, mandatory reporting be damned.  

Again, Crusty wants to thank the PHOD and PB for their letter; if the church is not willing to address its own sins in this area, it doesn't deserve to exist.  But COD also, frankly, is deeply concerned at the invitation to conversation without leadership, guidelines, or parameters.  Crusty is also worried about whether this is all talk, and whether there will be any kind of
All too often the church's reaction on issues of sexual abuse.
substantive followup or followthrough.  Our history here is not terribly good.  At the same time we were revising Title IV in the 1990s to reflect issues of sexual misconduct, Presiding Bishop Browning was covering up sexual misconduct of minors by a fellow bishop, and, when this came to light, was never called to account for his actions and died feted by the church.  Several years ago we had one of our bishops murder someone while intoxicated, with people in the church having had numerous warning signs of alcohol abuse, but we have not significantly examined our broader complicity in alcohol and substance abuse. FFS, at one church event Crusty attended  hard alcohol was available at a social gathering.


Here are some real, tangible, appropriate ways we can incarnate what the PB and PHOD are calling the church to in their letter:

        •       Provide more resources for the church in shaping this conversation, perhaps beginning with a litany of repentance for Ash Wednesday.
        •       Look again at Title IV as well as other ways in which we handle reporting of sexual misconduct and harassment, including follow-up. In many ways it is the follow-up on reporting, as well as the receiving of the reports, which is essential, especially for women who have had the courage to come forward, and put themselves and their futures at risk.
        •       All clergy must uphold the law as mandated reporters with clear consequences for failure to do so.
        •       There must be a sustained, ongoing, systemic conversation, something like South Africa's Truth & Reconciliation Commission.  Many women have stories to tell; the church has many sins over covering up or dismissing abuse.  This will take years, involve considerable discussion, organization, planning, and commitment of financial resources and personnel.  
     •       Male clergy need to acknowledge and name their inherent privilege they have in our system.  All those with power and authority in the system must use that power not to preserve or defend our systems, but to diversify and reform them. [FWIW, the three instances where Crusty made the call on hiring for senior leadership positions, he stated that preference would be given to women and people of color, and all three hires were women, including a woman of color.] 
     •       Listen to women in the sexist system that is our church. Listen, and act upon their requests. Don't just "examine our history."

As we move forward in this discussion, we need to say, loud and clear:  Time is up.  The church will no longer be a place through sins of omission and commission with regards to sexual abuse and misconduct.