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

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A PB for our Times: JCNPB Profile

Crusty received, with trembling hands, the profile from the Joint Nominating Committee (hereafter JNCPB).  Though, as always, Crusty has always wondered why anyone would want the job, given the number of PBs who either died in office or resigned before their terms were up.  Here Crusty pauses to pour a 40 on the curb in memory of those PBs who did not complete their terms. (pause) OK, back to the profile. COD was glad to have it, in part because it reflects a much more comprehensive and inclusive process for nominating, electing, and confirming the office of Presiding Bishop.  The process for Presiding Bishop has gradually become more open since

The King was COD's preferred 40 oz back in the day.
it has become an elected office: a nominating committee was eventually created, the requirement that the choice of the HOB be confirmed by the HOD added, and the votes tallied on each ballot made public.  This current process for nominating the Presiding Bishop will be by far the most open and comprehensive of any that has taken place.  The JNCPB should be commended for doing the long, hard, thankless work of posting a profile and outlining the process.  It still begs the question Crusty has raised on several occasions -- namely, why we spend over $200,000 on a nomination and election process when persons can still be nominated from the floor -- but nonetheless the JNCPB should be commended with how it has continued to advance a more open and inclusive way we nominate the Presiding Bishop.

An "executive summary" precedes the longer description.  Frankly, Crusty could have done without this.  If you're discerning whether you feel called to be nominated for PB, would you really not read the entire description?  If you're someone entrusted with voting for PB, would you not read the entire description?  Seriously, who is the 2-page Executive Summary for?  The casual web-surfer who is interested?  For people to use in inquirers' classes? Actually that's not a bad idea.

COD is thankful for the longer profile, because, after reading the executive summary, he realized there was only one person who could fulfill the job description and has the seemingly endless and super-human laundry list of experience and skills:  Commander Adama from Battlestar Galactica. Think of the possibilities!  COD worked for the PB and he would have loved it if the PB delegated tasks by saying in the Edward James Olmos gravelly voice, "Do it."

Crusty is delighted by the turns of phrase in the Executive Summary.  The PB, apparently, should "delight" in the diversity of The Episcopal Church.  That's great, but to be honest, COD would love a PB that could help The Episcopal Church continue to shed itself of a legacy of being a white, racist, upper middle class church of the privileged.  We are still an overwhelmingly white church that struggles to be as inclusive as we claim to be.  While glad that diversity is clearly outlined as one of the central elements of the profile, "delighting" ain't enough for Crusty.

Crusty also loves the list of personal and professional attributes -- a nice balance -- but really finds it odd to have "Knowledge of, and experience in, the Episcopal Church" as one of the required attributes.  Um, you already need to be a bishop in The Episcopal Church to be eligible.  Shouldn't any nominee already have this?  #Duh.

And then the profile opines on the "changing and evolving" nature of the church.  Noting the
JCNPB obviously big Scorpions fans.
"winds of change blowing," the profile speaks of the "
Church-going Boomers that continue to populate our pews, and the Millennials’ “spiritual-not religious” interests have pushed the Church to claim its relevance." 

Hey, JCNPB, thanks for skipping people aged 42-55 in Generation X!  

As an Xer I can say, "Whatever," since we're used to it.  Crusty was at a church meeting once where the small group discussion question was -- and Crusty is not joking -- "How can Boomers learn to talk to millenials?"  Crusty raised his hand and said, "BTW, there are people here not Boomers and Millennials.  And BTW they are a handful of actual millennials in this room to talk to."
Couple of things as to why this sentence is so troubling to Crusty:
--first off, what's up with "church going Boomers that continue to populate our pews."  Again, #Duh.  Non-church going Boomers are not populating our pews.  Seems a bit redundant.


--race discussions for years in the USA were framed in a binary black-white paradigm; now many of these discussions take place in the context of multiculturalism and diversity, trying to incorporate Hispanic/Latino, Asian/Asian American, Native American, and other dynamics; this sentence perpetuates a similarly binary generational discussion as Boomer-Millennial which is simply unhelpful.
--thanks for discounting years of Boomers and Xers trying to push the church to claim its relevance while suddenly waking up to the contributions of the Millennials?
--doesn't the JCNPB realize that a very likely cohort for the next PB is an Xer?  Generational boundaries are fluid, but Xers are roughly 40-55 -- gosh, just upper end of that is just the age for someone to have been bishop for a few years and capable of serving a full nine years before retirement age.


And that's just in the Executive Summary.


Luckily this gets better, COD is glad he didn't stick to the Executive
You're welcome, JCNPB. 
Summary -- the profile more or less outlines a PB who is able to lead the church through a period of profound change and transition.  Since Crusty has already written extensively about this need on this blog, he is thankful the JCNPB took his suggestions.
OK, then there's a more expansive discussion on the diversity question than in the Executive Summary.  Crusty is all for welcoming the diverse, globalized nature of the church as called for here.  But we also need to realize that this diversity is in many ways a result of the church's racist, imperialist, expansionist background.  This dynamic is a complex one, to be sure; at times the agents of that imperialist domination can undermine it.  Take, for example, Charles Henry Brent: elected missionary bishop of the Philippines once it became part of the US grab for empire (not as if there were many Episcopalians were there clamoring for a bishop), he sailed the Pacific along with William Howard Taft, the appointed military governor.  However, Brent also undermined aspects of this narrative: he became a spokesperson for underprivileged and marginalized, fought against the opium trade, and missionized not among Roman Catholics (I will not set up my altar over another's, he said) but among those in the non-Christian rural interiors.  COD is all for diversity: but much of the diversity we have did not come from privileging diversity.  Much had to do with enslaved Africans worshipping in their master's chapels and The Episcopal Church following the United States' imperialist expansion.  Many note with pride large numbers of Native American Episcopalians, yet much of that expansion came at the systematic  efforts to eradicate Native customs, languages, and practices.  Yet here we are again calling for a PB to "delight" in that diversity; as COD has said, this simply isn't enough.


It is interesting that nothing more than "delight" is really asked for here, when in other areas of the profile there is the specific call to have values align with actions, as in the profile of the Presiding Bishop to demonstrate a life of prayer:  "We also seek a Presiding Bishop whose professed Christian values (for example, solidarity with the poor and marginalized) align with his or her personal engagement and action in the world."  

The other attributes sought in the Presiding Bishop are straightforward, until we get to the enigmatic  "Knowledge of, and experience in, the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion."  It would seem not just any knowledge of the Episcopal Church or Anglican Communion, but a specific understanding, is what is being sought.  The profile seeks "a respect and love for the distributive, shared authority of leadership across the Church including the scope and limitations of the authority of each position and body of the Church."   At first blush, to Crusty, this sounds a bit pejorative: as if previous incumbents did not have this understanding of the limitations and authority of each position?

Don't get Crusty wrong:  everyone and anyone will tell you that in an organizational structure, having clear definitions, boundaries, procedures, and processes in lines of authority is essential.  Otherwise miscommunication, misunderstanding of mission goals, turf-building, etc. and all sorts of dysfunction follows.  We certainly do need a Presiding Bishop with this
 
kind of understanding:  but part of the cluster**k of our governance in The Episcopal Church is that there is, at times, an overall lack of clarity of oversight and governance.  Our budget



.
mess in 2012 was due, in part, by efforts of various aspects of governance getting involved in the budgetary process that were confusing, overlapping, and dysfunctional.  Crusty would hope the profile could acknowledge this kind of "respect and love" is essential not only for the PB but for the PHOD, all bishops, and all leaders and volunteers in the church.   We cannot lay something at the feet of the PB which
Just don't think it applies to Crusty's family, Senator.
is present on may levels and layers of our governance.  As Michael said to Senator Geary, "We're all part of the same hypocrisy, Senator."


And once again COD is baffled by the repeated use of "delighting" in our diversity, which also gets put into the section on Knowledge of The Episcopal Church, where it also calls for a PB who will "delight in the cross cultural reality of our Church." Ima say this one more time:  DELIGHTING IS NOT ENOUGH.  Forty years after women's ordination we actually have fewer women bishop diocesans than in the 1990s and are still overwhelmingly white and old in an increasingly diverse culture.  F**k delighting.  Show me some action and vision and commitment.

Two thoughts on the "Programmatic focus and leadership" section.  This is where the lede for Crusty is buried:  halfway through this paragraph on page 12 it calls for a PB who will "enter the office with a passion for helping to lead the restructuring of the Church."  Finally!  Crusty has previously called for electing a caretaker or interim PB while restructuring conversations continue, arguing that it doesn't make sense to elect a PB under an old structure to step into a church that may look differently.  A counter to that would be to specifically seek out a PB with that kind of commitment.  It comes buried in the middle of the profile, but it's there.

And then, in the last sentence of the section on "leadership," it notes the PB should be "an effective and loving leader of the House of Bishops."  COD can't help but think listing this last has to be a statement of some kind:  after all, for the greater portion of the time the PB was an elected office, this was one of the main criteria for election.  The bishops, who, after all, are the ones who vote, seek someone they think will be an effective presider and convener of the House of Bishops.  This was the reason given by the HOB in rejecting the efforts in the 1960s and 1970s to have the PB elected by both houses, namely, that the HOB should have the right to elect its own presiding officer.  This was what several bishops said to Crusty back in 2006, noting, "The bishops are the ones who vote and a lot of us look at the candidate with an eye towards who will run the HOB most effectively."  That is here -- obviously since it's a canonical duty of the PB -- but comes at the end.

Following this description of what is sought, the profile then expands on sections outlining various canonical descriptions of the office and its duties.

And here we perhaps see this nomination and election could be a little different?  

For some background, the election of a PB falls into that interesting gray area between what is laid out in the Constitutions and what is laid out in the Canons.  The Constitution says that "the House of Bishops shall choose one of the Bishops of this church", with duties to be defined by canon.  That's it.  No nominees, just an election.  In the 1960s and 1970s, there was great ferment around the election process, with efforts put forth to have the PB elected by both the HOB and HOD, with the eventual result that the Presiding Bishop is elected by the HOB and confirmed by the HOD.  The nominating committee itself was created by canon, but tasked with developing and managing "a process for soliciting and identifying" nominees and a "timely process for any bishop or deputy" to express intent to nominate additional persons at the joint session when nominees are presented. JNCPB puts forth its nominees to a joint session of both Houses, and, at times, other names were submitted as well -- often referred to as nominated by "petition" though no actual petition was involved.  Herb Thompson, nominated in this way in 1997, was leading on the first ballot and ended up being the runner-up.  Additional candidates were nominated in this way in 2006, though none evidenced a strong showing.

The question is: how detailed a process is the JCNPB going to develop?  Nothing specific is laid out in the canons, and the Constitution has an even simpler process.  They note in the profile, "Any Bishop of the Episcopal Church on the day nominations are received in a Joint Session of the House of Deputies and House of Bishops at General Convention is eligible, subject to being nominated in accordance with the Canons and processes prescribed by the JNCPB."  Crusty is forced to ask:  what processes?  Submitting to background checks, etc.?  Due diligence of some kind?  Or is the JCNPB going to propose something other than what is laid out, where any bishop or deputy may nominate additional candidates?  Neither the profile nor their previous postings (see, for example, http://www.episcopalchurch.org/notice/joint-nominating-committee-provides-update-presents-first-three-essays) indicates anything other than what is laid out in the canons and in what we have seen so far.  

There is also the question of HOD consent.  Crusty, frankly, has always been a little amazed that the HOD has tended to roll over canonically with regard to the PB election.  It has moved to vote by orders on several occasions, most notably 1973, 1997, and 2006, so that it not seem like a formality.  But Crusty has wondered why the HOD has not exercised what authority it could -- for instance, the aforementioned its role in consenting to episcopal elections.  Previously, if episcopal elections occurred within a certain number of days before General Convention, consent was given at General Convention, instead of by diocesan Standing Committees.  One could make a reasonable argument that the election of the PB is an episcopal election (though COD is not entirely convinced by this argument, just saying you could make one), and therefore since it takes places at Convention the HOD would have had the responsibility to confirm that election -- but not just moving it for a vote, like in 2006 thirty seconds after the news was announced, but down to scheduling hearings and committee meetings like it did previously with other episcopal consents.   Yet this hypothetical argument is moot, since this provision has since been removed, and HOD no longer gives consent to episcopal elections.  It canonically may "confirm or not confirm" -- not consent -- to the election.  Though this provision has been removed, Crusty wonders if, only for process and discussion, HOD has ever considered resurrecting its legislative committee on consent to episcopal elections for a PB election confirmation.  Would be interesting to see if this is proposed, and what push back we might have, since it would exist in a dubious canonical area, since HOD no longer can have a committee on episcopal consents since it no longer has the ability to give consent.

Should the JCNPB, HOD, or HOB introduce processes and procedures not currently laid out canonically, Crusty is wondering if we  will  need to have a discussion about the "scope and limitations of the authority of each position and body of the Church"?  Personally, he hopes somebody does go off the rails canonically, because it gives him something to write about.

In the end, despite COD's comments here, the very fact we have a profile, regular and timely communication from the JCNPB, and a clearly outlined process, already places this PB election as the most transparent and inclusive.  Crusty also wishes the HOD would make a similar review of the election of the PHOD, which, as Crusty has argued on this blog (back in 2011!) is less transparent and less representative than the election of the PB.  If only every part of our much fetishized democratic processes in the church functioned as the JCNPB has, given all excruciating vestry , standing committee, diocesan convention, Executive Council, and yes, General Convention  meetings Crusty has gritted his teeth and sat through where democratic process was manipulated through personal vendetta, parliamentary procedure, and outright dysfunction.  

Way to go, JCNPB.  Now bring me some candidates that do more than delight!










Friday, August 1, 2014

On the Media: 40th Anniversary of Women's "Ordination"


Being an educated, liberal, white male, Crusty Old Dean is, of course, also an avid NPR listener (but not solely defined by that aspect of his demographic; COD is also an Old School Rap gourmand, having seen Public Enemy in concert, the only time he has been frisked).  One of Crusty's favorite NPR shows is "On the Media" (or OTM to junkies like COD) which, as its name implies, takes an in-depth,
Yeah, boy-eee!
critical look at how the media covers various events.  One of its great contributions is debunking myths often created by media hype.  For instance, demythologizing
 the hyperbolic news reports that a computer had "fooled" humans and thus passed the so-called Turing test and the day was coming soon when computers would be able to outthink people and we were not far from a Terminator-like scenario when computers decide to destroy humankind – when, in fact, the situation was far more nuanced and complex.  One of Crusty's first introductions to OTM was when it debunked the emotionally-charged narrative that Vietnam Vets had been "spat" on when they arrived back in the USA; doing extensive online searches of newspaper archives, they noted that this charge did not appear in print in any form until 1978, five years after American troops returned home.  What is often considered a defining aspect of nation’s response to the Vietnam War may have never actually happened.

Now that the commemorations have concluded, Crusty wanted to offer some OTM thoughts on the anniversary of the ordination of the Philadelphia 11, looking at some coverage of the commemoration of this event, and how this, in turn, informs how Episcopalians look at our own history.  Crusty thoroughly enjoyed much of the media coverage, both as an historian of The Episcopal Church and proud clergy spouse of a female priest.  CODW (Crusty Old Dean's Wife) is a far, far better priest than he will ever be and COD watched with unabashed admiration in the late 1990s as she bucked two forms of discrimination and was an ordained female clergy person at age 25, at a time that was the nadir of The Episcopal Church's seemingly institutional refusal to ordain younger persons.  CODW gave her own reflections on the anniversary hereYeah, she rocks.  Crusty knows that, suckahs.

OK, so let's allow COD to get the first thing off his chest:

A)  THIS WAS NOT THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF WOMEN'S ORDINATION.  Yes, Crusty resorted to all caps.  Let's count the ways this is wrong.

1)  The 1970 General Convention approved the ordination of women as deacons.  Deacons are ordained persons.  Therefore women ordained deacons are ordained women.  Not only did the 1970 General Convention approve women to be ordained deacon, it also ex-post-facto’d, abracadabra’d, double-secret probation’d, what-do-you-mean-Flash Gordon approaching’d, grandparented women
What do you mean, Crusty Old Dean approaching?
previously consecrated deaconesses and magically made them deacons as well (Crusty once met an aged deaconness who was not in favor of this decision, while being in favor of women's ordination, thinking that the action muddled the waters and understanding of the two offices of deacon and deaconness).  While not considered "ordained," deaconesses had been an approved office in the church since 1889, and involved the laying-on of hands by a bishop and invocation of the Holy Spirit for the office of deaconness.  Where were the media in 2010 on the 40th anniversary of the approval of women's ordination?  Or in 1989 on the centennial of women's ordination?

2)  This was not the first time women had been ordained to the priesthood.  Some accounts mentioned Florence Li-Tim Oi, who was ordained a priest in 1944 but voluntarily declined to exercise the ministry of priest.  But it was not just Florence Li-Tim Oi.  In 1971, the Anglican Church in Hong Kong ordained two women as priests as affirmed Florence Li-Tim Oi's standing as a priest.  Where were the media in 1984, or 2011, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the ordination of women to the priesthood in the Anglican Communion?

Crusty sometimes wonders if part of this discussion has to do with The Episcopal Church's reflection of American exceptionalism -- that somehow we are unique in the Anglican World and at the forefront of everything, when, in fact, the situation is far more complex and nuanced than that, and often The Episcopal Church is not the first or best or most distinctive.  For instance, there is the oft-repeated fetishization of the General Convention as the largest deliberative democratic body apart from the Indian Parliament, when this is utter hogwash, and the General Convention isn't even the largest deliberative denominational body in the United States:  the United Methodist General Conference and the ELCA Churchwide Assembly are both larger (admittedly depending on how many bishops show up for the House of Bishops). Likewise some Episcopalians seem to have an image of the Church of England liturgy being Mr Bean reading from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; when, in fact, there is arguably greater liturgical creativity and diversity in the Church of England than there in the Episcopal Church.  The Anglican Church in Hong Kong ordained women before The Episcopal Church.  The Anglican Church in Canada approved it in 1975, before The Episcopal Church did.  Hong Kong, Korea, Kenya, and Canada admitted women as deacons before the Episcopal Church, in 1968. Of course, this aspect of exceptionalism can be spun both ways; part of some conservative narratives is that The Episcopal Church charges ahead without concern as to what the rest of the Anglican world does.  The Episcopal Church was third in women's ordination.  The Anglican Consultative Council and the 1978 Lambeth Conference acknowledged that provinces could be of a different mind on this question; it wasn't something foisted onto the rest of the Communion.

B)  OK, how about another:  the narrative surrounding the nature of the ordinations themselves and their aftermath.  They were clearly irregular: the deacons did not have consents of their Standing Committees and their diocesan bishops did not delegate the ordination to the retired bishops who presided.  Of this, pretty much most accounts are agreed.  It's not as if there's anything about calling these ordinations "irregular", however, that implies any sense of their value.  It's incontrovertible they
Stay thirsty, my friends.
were irregular. But so what?  They weren't even the first irregular ordinations.  There was Florence Li-Tim Oi in 1944.  Bishop James Pike ordained a deaconness in 1964, declared he saw no difference in the ordination rites between deaconnesses and deacons, allowed the person to be called "Rev" and wear a clergy collar.  Going back to the founding of The Episcopal Church, Samuel Seabury's consecration was also considered irregular, as was his performing episcopal acts for persons not resident in Connecticut.

OK, so the fact they were irregular goes without saying.  But then there's the question of the response to that.  Some have argued The Episcopal Church "condemned" the ordinations, or somehow implied they were invalid.  The House of Bishops decried the actions of the retired bishops who presided, and modified an initial resolution declaring the ordinations "invalid" with one stating they were "irregular."  At the 1976 General Convention, the bishops again modified an initial resolution.  Originally the HOB was to consider a resolution calling for "conditional ordination" for those irregularly ordained, but in the end permitted local diocesan bishops to devise a ceremony of their own design to "regularize" the ordinations.

The real drama was not about the validity of the ordinations (they were pretty much considered valid but irregular in every official final action of the church), but rather the issue of the exercise of priestly ministry by those ordained.  It's telling that the first celebration of the Eucharist by those ordained was at the non-denominational Riverside Church, and not in an Episcopal Church.  There were more ecclesial charges filed over the irregular ordinations against Episcopal clergy who permitted celebrations of the eucharist in their churches in contradiction to pastoral directives from their diocesans than with the bishops who performed the ordinations (of the four ordaining bishops, only one resulted in an inhibition, with others censured). 

C)  And why can't the Washington 4 get no love??  Being the youngest of five children, Crusty knows well that often attention goes to those who are first.  Larry Doby doesn't get as much press as Jackie Robinson, who came up the same year as Robinson, was also a great baseball player, and endured the same
Washington 4.
racism as Robinson, but Crusty hasn't seen any movie about him, nor has he had his number retired by every single major league team.  Several accounts of the commemoration of the Philadelphia 11 didn't even mention the additional irregular ordinations.  Crusty has a fondness for the Washington 4, if only that one of them, the Rev Lee McGee, taught at Yale Divinity School when Crusty was there.  Plus, while there aren't very many good photos of the Philadelphia 11 easily accessible in the public domain, there's a good one of the Washington 4, which Crusty had framed and hangs in the seminary where he is dean...and appears to the right.

D)  Then there's the role of these ordinations in the debate surrounding the approval of the ordination of women to the presbyterate and episcopacy.  Some accounts spoke of them as "leading" to the approval of ordination of women to the presbyterate and episcopate in 1976 at the General Convention.   Many of the members themselves argued they were essential in getting the church over the hump from narrow defeats of women's ordination in 1970 and 1973 to narrow approval in 1976.  Lee McGee, who was at YDS when Crusty was there, shared with us this conviction.  One narrative is the church has been that the 1974 ordinations flowed from the 1973 General Convention's narrow defeat of approval of ordination of women.  While true that in 1973 the House of Deputies narrowly defeated the measure, in part due to the process of voting by orders, which requires, in essence, a supermajority.  The House of Bishops did not vote on it, but had indicated in informal votes that a majority of bishops were in favor.  But the nature of this "flow" to 1976 is more complex.  Crusty had another long conversation with someone who was a bishop at the time, who was wholeheartedly and vocally in favor of women's ordination, but opposed to the irregular ordinations, thinking it might, in fact, inspire backlash in 1976 in a vote that was going to be close, and that the 1976 Convention would have approved women's ordination, anyway, without the 1974 and 1975 ordinations.  Crusty's not trying to adjudicate who was right or wrong, only that the march from 1973 to 1974 to 1975 to 1976 was not as linear as laid out.

E)  Despite being in favor of the ordination of women, Crusty has always been  troubled at the precedent set in 1974 and 1975:  that one’s interpretation of Scripture and the Christian tradition permits someone to contravene the discipline of the church.  Even though supporting the ordination of women, this has troubled COD for a couple of reasons.

--It begs the question why we have Constitution and Canons at all if we enforce some but not others.  Many congregations and some dioceses openly offer communion to the unbaptized, in direct contradiction to the Constitution and Canons.  If we can ignore canons because we don’t agree with them, it leads to

--Selective enforcement of the canons based on any number of factors.  For instance, you could make a strong argument from Scripture and Tradition that we can ordain persons directly to the diaconate, priesthood, or even episcopacy, and do not need to have sequential ordination (that is, one must be ordained deacon before being ordained priest, and ordained priest before being ordained bishop).  You could argue it is a justice issue (that the transitional diaconate obscures the full and equal status or vocational deacons; that not allowing qualified lay persons to be eligible for election as bishop violates our understanding of baptism as the grounding of all ministry, and so on).  Could any bishop just ignore those canons?  Yeah right.

--Selectively enforcing canons gives us less credibility when we do bring charges against people, and can leave one at the whim of moving from one diocese to another and having what was considered OK in one diocese leaving one open to canonical discipline in another.  

Crusty doesn’t have a solution to this, he is honestly torn – supportive of the ordination of women, but always troubled by the precedent set: that if you think you’re performing a prophetic action and can marshall biblical and historical precedents, it’s OK to violate the Constitution and Canons of the church.  COD thinks if we're going to have canons, then we change the canons.  COD realizes, of course, that this question is, in a nutshell, part of Dr King's response to his clergy colleagues in Letter from a Birmingham jail who were counseling him to wait and let the process of civil rights unfold without civil disobedience.  Like Crusty says, he's torn; how to balance the place of prophetic witness and the possibility of dysfunctional canonical chaos? 

F)  Crusty is thankful, however, that many of the accounts of the commemoration of the ordinations of the Philadelphia 11 rightly point towards the future, and not just the past.  Forty years after these ordinations, despite making up more than half the population of the people of God, women account for about a third of the clergy; women also hold disproportionately fewer positions as rector, let alone as rector of larger congregations; and we have fewer women diocesan bishops now than previously.  Many if not all of the accounts covering the anniversary noted these elements.  In the 40th anniversary symposium held at Temple University on July 26, moderator the Very Rev Katharine Ragsdale of Episcopal Divinity School eloquently noted "the infuriating reality of how far we still have to go." This infuriating reality is not solely confined to issues of women's ministry, sadly.  Crusty spoke at a congregational forum a week after Gene Robinson's confirmation as Bishop of New Hampshire at the 2003 General Convention and opened with the words, "We need to spend less time celebrating and more time working to create a truly inclusive church.  Confirming Gene Robinson's election didn't solve the problem of human sexuality in The Episcopal Church."  Never mind the overwhelmingly white makeup of The Episcopal Church in an increasingly multicultural country.  The Rev Dr Carter Heyward stated something similar, noting that electing Barack Obama as president did not mean racism in America was over; likewise forty years after the ordination of the Philadelphia 11, issues of gender equality and sexism in the church are not over, and we are far from being as inclusive as we strive to be.  

FWIW, now that the official commemorations are over, these are Crusty's thoughts on remembering the anniversary of the irregular ordinations of the Philadelphia 11 to the priesthood.  Studying the past often holds up a mirror to our own context; witness the changing and disparate interpretations of everything from the American Civil War to the Fall of the Roman Empire to the Holocaust to the causes of the Great Depression.  Studying the recent past is, if anything, even more complex, without the advantage of perspective.  How we discuss the Philadelphia 11, and how the story of women's ordination in the Episcopal Church is told, is, in many ways, a mirror that reflects our current perspectives.  Which, if anything, is why it has been essential through organizations such as the Women's History Project to collect as much of the historical record as we can.  The study of the past doesn't need to be a reflection of our current projections and biases; ideally it is something which provides perspective and context.  Otherwise the study of history is just a way to get your history piece of pie in Trivial Pursuit.


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.