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

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Requiem for a Seminary: Or, Piling Up the Garbage Bags

The image to the right was taken in the summer of 2012.  These are blue garbage bags stuffed with carpeting and other interior debris from a building renovation.  Old, broken-down office furniture is stacked amidst the piles of garbage bags.  The building that was being
Stay classy, Kenyon College.
worked on (still is, BTW) is Bexley Hall, a structure on the campus of Kenyon College that served as the home of an Episcopal seminary from 1839-1968 (the seminary was founded in 1824 but moved in 1839 and eventually took its name from the building in which it was located), and after the seminary's departure served as home of the studio art department.  The place where these garbage bags are stacked is Colburn Hall, located directly behind Bexley Hall, and which served as the seminary library.  In a place where generations of theological students studied for the ministry, garbage bags were unceremoniously heaped and cheap, broken desks and chairs stacked.  Crusty somehow found it a fitting metaphor for Kenyon's relationship to the Episcopal seminary it housed for so many years. COD is currently Academic Dean at the institution which is the successor of Bexley Hall, Bexley Seabury Seminary. 


I have come back to this image in the past few days, reflecting on the situation at General Theological Seminary.  This may seem an odd image at first.  The reason this photo has been in my head is this: The one thing we should never presume is that our institutions are somehow existentially inviolable and immortal: we have opened and closed and merged seminaries, parishes, dioceses throughout the history of The Episcopal Church.  Bexley Hall Seminary left its home of over 144 years and in 1968 moved to Rochester, New York, to join the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School consortium.  And here's the rub:  this was not done out of a position of weakness.   The Seminary's enrollment was good, it had a full faculty, finances were OK, not great but not terrible.  Having read through much of the correspondence from the time, it became pretty clear that a major factor in relocating the seminary was that Kenyon didn't want an Episcopal seminary anymore.  Sometimes circumstances beyond our control impact our institutions.  Sometimes factors of our own creation do. Many times, it is a combination of both.  But whatever the case may be, we should not presume that General Theological Seminary is somehow destined to be on the landscape of The Episcopal Church.  In fifty years there may be a small plaque, hidden somewhere, obscured by an overgrown shrub, which notes "On the site of this [name of deluxe condominium and private park] was housed the campus of The General Theological Seminary."  

OK, before proceeding much further, some disclaimers.  If you're looking for some kind of insider take on the situation at General, go somewhere else.  Here's why (disclaimers follow):

A)  COD will not be going much into the details of the Board/Dean & President v. Faculty conflict. Crusty has been involved in a few situations of intense church conflict and has made difficult personnel decisions.  In situations of intense conflict, and in personnel disputes, often only the persons intimately involved in these situations truly know the depth of the situation: and that often discretion does not permit a public conversation even for those who are privy to the whole story.  COD is not on the faculty nor on the Board, so therefore does not feel it would be beneficial or helpful to be sucked into the maelstrom of statement and counter statement, and thus will offer no insider insights and will make no effort to adjudicate certain aspects of the conflict.

B)  Second disclaimer:  another reason this won't be a screed on the General situation is that Crusty knows and respects persons on both sides.  COD has friends and colleagues on the faculty whom he respects enormously.  COD has friends and colleagues on the Board whom he respects enormously.  For this reason Crusty will not be weighing in on certain elements of the situation.  My conversation with my son encapsulated this dynamic.  On Monday night I picked him up from rock climbing practice and he said, "Dad, you look sad."  I replied, "It's been a hard day."  Him:  "What happened?"  Me:  "Well, some of Daddy's friends apparently fired some of daddy's other friends, from what I can tell."  Him:  "Huh?  That doesn't make much sense."  Me:  "I know." 

C)   For reason #B above, and because Crusty is an academic dean of an Episcopal seminary (COD does have a day job), I will need to continue to be in relationship with General Seminary.  Because Crusty knows people on both sides, and is part of the system of theological education in The Episcopal Church, hence he is rife with potential conflicts of interests.  So Crusty won't be devoting attention to the back-and-forth of the conflict itself or trying to uncover the truth behind all the statements.

What Crusty would like to do is two things:  first, provide some broader historical perspective on this event and potential implications;  and secondly, note some concerns about several aspects of what has unfolded, all of which are in the public sphere.

Crusty is also aware that there undoubtedly numerous shoes still remaining that will drop, and that this post will probably be outdated by new statements and counter-statements as soon as it is published.  Consider it, then, a snapshot of where COD was late in the evening of September 30, 2014.

1)  First off, Crusty is shocked at the weaponization of resignation.  In its official statement (found here), the Board stated that: "the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of The General Theological Seminary voted with great regret to accept the resignations of eight members of the Seminary faculty."  This, in turn, was based on its interpretation that the letter from the faculty (found here) was, in effect, a letter of resignation.

Contrary to popular belief, there are ways to fire tenured faculty.  For instance: failure to perform duties, ending a degree program, or declaring a financial emergency.  However, these all involve procedures of due process.  This action by the Executive Committee (not even the full Board) is shocking, and to Crusty smacks of nothing but an effort to subvert due process and to terminate employees serving under negotiated contractual conditions.  Crusty will bet you any amount of money you that the faculty hired to replace the current faculty will not be tenure track. 

Then again, we also have precedent for this.  The Presiding Bishop accepted the renunciation of ordained ministry of the Bishop of South Carolina in 2012 under Title III, Canon 12, Section 7.  Despite the fact that the canon in question specifically said that a bishop must state, in writing to the Presiding Bishop, the wish to be relieved of the duties of a bishop in this church, the Presiding Bishop accepted the oral address given to a diocesan Convention (the announcement of this may be found here) as sufficient renunciation of ordained ministry under Title III, Canon 12, Section 7.  No matter that nothing was given in writing and the bishop did not specifically ask to be relived of the duties of bishop, which are two pretty clear provisions in the disciplinary process outlined in Title III, Canon 12, Section 7.  Now Crusty is under no illusions that the situation with the former Bishop of South Carolina was going to end well; however, there were a number of other disciplinary processes which might have followed.  Abandonment of communion (Title IV, Canon 16) would seem to have been the most appropriate   Indeed, had they simply charged him under any disciplinary process (refusal to follow the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer!), and he refused to comply, he could have been disciplined by his refusal to comply! Instead the renunciation canon was weaponized to circumvent any kind of ecclesial trial or due process and the bishop simply released, removed, and deprived.  

Here is what is terrifying, and why this is more than just a seminary squabble: as a church, we already can have tendencies towards centralization, clericalization, and hierarchy.  Yet we have a new disciplinary process in Title IV which places great emphasis on reaching agreements or accords, and we are enmeshed in various legal protections.  If we are beginning routinely to combine legal and canonical sleights of hand to circumvent due process with those tendencies towards hierarchy and centralization, then we are in for some very dark times. 

2)  Crusty is also surprised by the way this seemed to escalate so quickly.  Crusty is no attorney, but his grandfather was a union steward, his great-uncle was murdered for organizing a railroad union, and his mom was a union steward who negotiated two contracts with management. What Crusty learned from his mom returning home from late-night union meetings was this:  labor negotiations involve proposals and counter-proposals, often proposals offered for the sole purpose of giving back in future negotiation; and, always be willing to cool off instead of escalating to something you cannot step back from.  Where we the counter-proposals?  Who was counseling stepping back before escalating to a place one cannot easily walk back from?   For many outside the institution, we were introduced to the conflict by the wholly unprecedented event of the overwhelming majority of an Episcopal seminary faculty going on strike followed by the wholly unprecedented dismissal of the majority of a seminary's faculty, all within a 72-hour period.  COD finds himself wondering if
My feelings exactly, Ron Burgundy.
there was any in-between from "long-term, simmering conflict" to "that escalated quickly."  
Crusty also thinks the faculty did themselves no favors by including boycotting of worship in their letter, though he suspects it may have something to do with legal counsel, since the faculty were charging a hostile work environment (with worship be part of the workplace by that understanding).  COD's first thought was, when do we need to be in agreement to worship?  In the Russian Orthodox Church, they prayed for Stalin, for f**k's sake, the single greatest persecutor of the church since Maximinus (look it up!) because the liturgy included prayers for the governing authorities.

3)  Crusty keeps coming back to the students, caught in the middle of all of this.  Seminary is one of the hardest, most anxiety-producing things Crusty ever experienced.  One is constantly being assessed and judged, on some of the deepest and most personal elements of one's life, with absolutely no agency in any of it.  COD was once doing a bible study on
Mmm...pork...is there anything it can't fix?
the Prodigal Son, asking each member to share with whom they identified -- the older son, the younger son, or the father, and why.  One person had not shared, so Crusty invited her to speak. "No," she said, "what I have to say is stupid."  Crusty assured her that it was not, and her reflections were as valid as anyone else.  "I identify with the Fatted Calf," she said.  "Think about it:  the Fatted Calf is the only one in the story that didn't do anything.  The younger son ran off, the older son was resentful, the father gets to be the good guy.  The fatted calf was happily eating his slop one day, next thing you know, he's dead.  He suffers because of the decisions others have made."  At the time COD thought, "That may be the most profound insight I've ever heard on the parable of the Prodigal Son."  It came back to COD in reflecting on the students at General Seminary:  the students are the fatted calf, those who have done nothing to contribute to the situation, but nonetheless the ones who are suffering because of it.


4)  COD wonders how General Seminary can recover from this.  The Seminary has been struggling for more than a decade with financial crises, including deferred maintenance on its campus.  It had just restored a modicum of financial equilibrium, at the cost of selling roughly 60% of its property (this is a guess, COD doesn't know the actual square footage, but all that is left is the 21st street side of the block).  What of the potential of a cascading effect of drops in giving from alumni, who may react negatively to these events; bishops reluctant to send students to an institution in turmoil; and foundations who would not give grants to a place in this kind of conflict, among other factors?  Add to this the inevitable cost of legal fees from what could be numerous lawsuits? Depending on what develops, the seminary could possibly be put on probation by its accrediting agency (if it turns out accreditation guidelines were violated) or be cited by the federal government for other potential infractions.  How goes General whether another storm after barely making it through several in the last decade? There's nothing left to sell other than the reduced footprint of smaller seminary.

5)  It continues to erode what little credibility our church can claim in areas of economic and labor justice, because of our perceived and real double standards.  We have a two-tiered compensation system for full-time lay and clerical employees (you know, other denominations don't) and it unbelievably took us until the late 2000s to consider requiring pension benefits for lay persons working more than 1,000 hours a year.  Our governance often allows only those who have the work flexibility to participate (how many people can take off 10 days in the summer to go to General Convention?). Many congregations' budgets seem to rely on burning out volunteers, then replacing them with others to burnout.  How can we speak to the world on issues of labor justice and fairness, given some of the models operative in our church? Crusty can only imagine the indignant platitudes coming from various quarters of the church if another institution fired employees who claimed to be whistleblowers and were forming a union.  

6)  There may be ripple effects through theological education for the next 10-15 years, perhaps in ways we cannot yet know or understand.  After all, the sack of Rome in 410 and the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 were important events in their own time, but in hindsight they came to be understood as emblematic of signaling much greater change: the sack of Rome eventually linked to a "fall" of the Western Empire (though no one understood it that way at the time) and Manzikert as the starting point to an irrevocable erosion of the Byzantine Empire (though no one understood it that way at the time).  What has happened at General is so unprecedented, and potentially touches on so many issues the church is struggling with -- authority, governance, restructuring, theological education, the role of institutions, our relationship to the wider world -- who knows how this may be seen as emblematic of some kind of deeper shifts?

To be sure, these are difficult times in theological education.  One thing COD has said to his Board of Directors is this:  there are massive changes sweeping over the landscape of higher education that are going to impact all institutions.  You think seminaries are in trouble?  Look at law schools, who ask people to take out enormous sums of money for a three year program that still requires them to go learn how to be a lawyer after graduation.  Look at mid-range four-year liberal arts colleges  that are tuition-dependent and who know damn well the future
Apparently the war has started, Rhett.
demographics of 18-22 year olds.  On the other hand, we have sweeping changes in North American Christianity:  the rise of the "nones" which no affiliation; changing demographics (the Episcopal Church is overwhelmingly white in an increasingly non-white country); increase in secularization; and so on.  Well guess who is standing at the nexus of these two seismic shifts?  Theological education: buffeted by both the changes in higher education and in North American Christianity.  Of course it's going to be hard.


This is, in part, why the conflict at General is so galling.  As Crusty noted above concerning the fate of Bexley Hall, sometimes events beyond our control impact us, and sometimes event of our own doing.  At a time when events beyond our control are going to be impacting seminary education, how can we have a seminary implode from its own doings?  It'd be hard enough for a stand alone denominational seminary (in a church where the denomination provides not a shred of financial support for its seminaries) to make it as it is in these times.  To be dragged down by systemic conflict is to make a difficult situation even harder.  At times in the past few days Crusty has felt like Rhett in Gone with the Wind, after the battle of Gettysburg.  As people of Atlanta react to news of the Southern defeat and the sheer scale of the casualties involved, Rhett looks over the crowd and says, "Look at them...the South's sinking to its knees. It'll never rise again...The cause of living in the past is dying right in front of us."  Scarlett says, "I never heard you talk like that."  Rhett replies, "I'm angry.  Waste always makes me angry, and that's what this is, sheer waste."

As I mentioned above, we should not presume our institutions are somehow indestructible; nor should we want that for them even if it were a possibility.  The church is, after all, a
I said New Jerusalem, not Asgard from Thor comic books.
temporary institution: we supposedly await the day when it will no longer will be needed and we will be restored to relationship with God.  The vision of the New Jerusalem in the book of Revelation includes no Temple, because the people will need no intermediary and will know God.  Bexley Hall no longer occupies the physical structure Bexley Hall, but it still exists and is still forming people for ministry.  Should our seminary system as we know it cease to exist, then theological education and formation for ministry would continue as surely as it did before any of our seminaries were formed.  


Friday, September 5, 2014

Don't Wal-Mart My Church, Dude: The TREC Open Letter

Like most of America, Crusty has been spending late August ensconced in the Every Simpsons Ever Marathon on FXX.  We live in a country with crumbling infrastructure, congressional gridlock, massive budget problems, but let's focus on what America can do right:  Every Simpsons episode ever, and this fall, every Simpsons episode on demand! U-S-A! U-S-A!

The Simpsons marathon came to mind as Crusty perused TREC's latest tease.  They've moved from "position papers" to "open letters" to the church, apparently, though Crusty isn't really sure what the difference is.  The most recent came out earlier this week, and, after reading it, Crusty was reminded
I don't approve of TREC's Exec Council policy, but I do approve...
of Homer's ethical dilemma when Sideshow Bob, the homicidal maniac who was repeatedly tried to kill his son Bart and also tried to kill his sister-in-law Selma, ran for mayor.  In the voting booth, Homer muses, "I don't agree with his Bart-killing policy, but I do approve of his Selma-killing policy," and votes for Sideshow Bob.

COD was equally torn in reading over the TREC Letter to the Church.  There's much about it Crusty likes, but he also finds large portions of it disturbing if not utterly incomprehensible.  Crusty knows they have a difficult mandate, but after nearly eighteen months of meeting, COD is a bit perplexed that TREC seems unable to communicate clearly and consistently what it is doing and what it is about.   In what follows, Crusty will attempt to sum up what he thinks is productive as well as point out where he is baffled by what they are thinking.

1)  OK, let's start with that Lazarus metaphor.  TREC, I hope you realize the difference between resuscitation and resurrection.   Lazarus is raised, but it is not to anything new:  he is resuscitated, but
Raising of Lazarus or Walking Dead outtake?
will decay and die again some day.  His is a temporary reprieve.  One of the most vivid and powerful chapters in Kazantzakis' book The Last Temptation of Christ is where it tells the story of Lazarus in the years after his resuscitation, just how miserable his life was:  always cold, never fully alive again, waiting to die once more. Jesus is resurrected; his death leads to being reborn into a different way of being and mode of existence.  From that perspective, COD isn't so sure he wants to get behind a Lazarus metaphor for adaptive change in the church:  does it mean we're being reborn to a brief renaissance only to die an eventual death?  Crusty isn't even sure about the loosing:  yes, Lazarus is unbound -- but those bindings actually were servinga rather important and productive purpose.  If you want a "loosing" metaphor, why not Luke 13:12?

2)  "The need for change."  In general, Crusty is in agreement with much of what is said here; after all, he's been arguing something very similar for years, and began writing a lot of this on this blog in the fall of 2011.  We have shaped our governance in certain ways, often reflecting trends in broader society as a whole; we have made important shifts and changes in our governance, in part a response to changing missional contexts, in part a result of larger changes in North American society. One of COD's church history axioms is:  when the world changes, the church changes.  In general, this section summarizes as best can be in such a short amount of space some of the issues, including confusion in clarity of roles and a disconnect between levels of governance.  Crusty does, however, think they jumped a bit too fast into the weeds of esoteric church governance, and thinks a paragraph reminding people of the broader systemic changes happening would have provided some perspective before leaping into the specifics of churchwide governance.  We are entering into a profound reassessment and recasting of how institutions function, in part due to information technology, globalization, and generational shifts, among other factors; impacting everything from churches to the Elks Club to the Junior League to the United Nations.  What's happening in the Episcopal Church is not unusual, though modes of its manifestation and dynamics are particular.

Crusty agrees with the emphasis on church in an age of networks -- and is would like to point out that The Episcopal Church was very much a coalition of affinity based, self-supporting networks...in the 19th century.  Christians in North America did things like advocate against slavery and abolish alcohol and support the labor movement, without even a denominational infrastructure at all.  As COD wrote  here and here, and probably in other places as well, the church of the future will look in some ways more like 1850 than 1950.  Thanks for reading Crusty, TREC (actually COD is under no illusion at all that they read this, and knows quite well there are people as well versed in all of this as he is on TREC).

3)  "A New Paradigm."  Here is where the letters begins to go off the rails on a crazy train. A
For those who want to sing along...
central problem in the next section is what, exactly, they mean by "churchwide structure."  Do they mean the PB staff? Executive Council? Standing Commissions of General Convention?  The way this term is used in without clarification undermines much of what is said here.  In "the need for change," churchwide structure seems to reference everything from PB staff to Executive Council to General Convention.  It's not clear to Crusty what it is referencing in this section, and it makes it difficult to understand the suggestions they make.  It is here Crusty approves of the Selma-killing policy, but not their Bart-killing policy.


For example, under role of "Connector," the letter offers the following for what this might mean:

"Specific examples of what the churchwide structure must and should do to fulfill this role would include representing The Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion; forging ecumenical relationships and alliances; exercising canonical authority to foster and preserve the church’s catholicity (unity in diversity with the wider Christian Church); maintaining the church’s institutional history through the Church Archives; and fostering communication across the church around new ideas, learning, and opportunities for collaboration."


This paragraph is a maddening combination of hyper-specific and almost meaninglessly vague.  On the one hand, who can argue with representing us in the Anglican Communion and in ecumenical partnerships?  Sure, that's sounds like a connector.  But, um, what churchwide structure is doing this?  The PB, who does much of the day-to-day interaction with the Anglican Communion and ecumenical partners as a function of primate?  Executive Council, in its canonically defined role to elect representatives and officers to inter-Anglican and ecumenical?  The Standing Commission on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations, charged with legislative oversight of the church's ecumenical and interreligious work?  Since "churchwide" clarified here, how is it calling for anything different than the structures already in place?

Then there's the almost meaninglessly vague: "exercising canonical authority to foster and preserve the church’s catholicity (unity in diversity with the wider Christian Church)...and fostering communication across the church around new ideas, learning, and opportunities for collaboration."

What the f**k does that mean?  Exercising what canonical authority?  Is this some reference to the disciplinary process?  Crusty thought so, then saw "unity in diversity with the wider Christian Church" in parentheses afterwards.  This is simply unclear.  Add to that this is somehow understood to be part of what it means to be a "connector"?  Don't write a check your butt can't cash, TREC.  And then there's "fostering communication across the church around new ideas, learning, and opportunities for collaboration."  Great!  But again:  what aspect of the undefined "churchwide governance" is doing this?  Is it the Missionary Convention you bring up again later?  Is it the army of contractors you later call for?

Similar problems are rampant in  most of this section; for instance in the section "capability builder."  COD agrees wholeheartedly with the Bart-killing list of key capabilities: "Key capabilities needed in today’s missionary context include skills in ministry, community organization, reviving congregations, planting congregations, multicultural leadership, evangelism, Christian formation, reaching new generations, and reaching new populations. The expertise in these areas lies primarily at the grassroots level, but the churchwide structure can foster mutual learning, especially on a peer-to-peer basis."  Crusty shouted:  yes!

And then they provided the following specific examples: "Specific examples of what the churchwide structure must and should do to fulfill this role would include cultivating and fostering the sharing of expertise for targeted training and professional development."  Crusty scribbled, "These are not specific examples."  Again:  who will be doing this?  The Missionary Convention?  A subcommittee of Executive Council?  A reorganization of churchwide staff?  And how are we doing it? Massive reallocation of restricted endowment funds for the DFMS into building a 21st century missionary network?  This sentence is more like an extension of what comes before, not a set of specific examples.

4)  Implications for Churchwide Structures/Developing Recommendations.  Crusty is right on board with the realization that adaptive change is an ongoing process; we are not talking about birthing some kind of structures that will last us another 50 years, like updating the
HVAC in your current building, or something.  This will be an ongoing process, to be sure.
Hmm...maybe this is the problem.

 Then they lay out some vision here for a lean organization that sets goals and priorities...

And then we got some more problems.

Improvements to the effectiveness of the General Convention

--On the one hand, Crusty has some serious concerns that TREC even knows how the legislative process works.  For one thing, they note they will propose Constitutional and Canonical changes, which they hope will be "implemented as a total package."  Constitutional and Canonical changes are addressed differently in the legislative process, and thus would be exceedingly difficult to implement as a total package.  Constitutional changes require two successive Conventions, including a vote by orders in the House of Deputies.  Canonical changes may be changed by majority vote at a single Convention.  So the soonest any constitutional change voted on in 2015 could go into effect would probably be January 1, 2019.  Are we really saying we couldn't implement any changes at all until then when the package could go into effect? 

Then there's the proposal to reduce the number of legislative committees of General Convention. COD isn't sure how this will streamline General Convention.  Put simply, the legislative committees don't make any new work at all: in fact, they discharge resolutions, combine them with others, add them to en bloc consideration.  The way to streamline General Convention would be to find ways to be more effective about the legislation that is proposed.  For instance, in the ELCA, if a resolution comes from their version of Executive Council, it can go directly to the floor of their assembly.  We could increase the number of sponsors needed to file Deputies and Bishops' resolutions.  We could have Executive Council or the Secretary of General Convention combine numerous diocesan resolutions, which are voted on in diocesan conventions often months in advance, into omnibus resolutions before Convention meets.  We could move up the deadline for filing resolutions to the end of the first day.  COD doesn't necessarily endorse any or all of these, he's just pointing out actual proposals which would streamline legislation, whereas reducing the number of legislative committees would not.  Reducing legislative committees without doing any actual streamlining of legislation proposed would just mean fewer committees would deal with more legislation, actually slowing things down.

And what do they mean by "express permission" to let resolutions die?  They can already be discharged! "Hey, I know you can already do this, so could you please actually do it when you have a chance?"

--COD is concerned by their presumed mandate from the people, as they announce they will  "Draft resolutions for further streamlining of churchwide structures and governance that our work tells us represent the wishes of a large segment of church members and that we believe should be debated and resolved in the 2015 General Convention."  How do they know this represents the wishes of a large segment?  Have they done any kind of remotely scientific polling, or is this solely based on people who have self-selected and been in touch with TREC or taken various SurveyMonkeys?  If you're going to represent this as a mandate from the people, you damn well better be able to prove it.

Clarifications around the role of the central executive structures of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society 

Crusty is unsure why the duties and roles of the PB fall under "clarifications," since what they list here is (more or less, with some exceptions) the currently defined job of the Presiding Bishop.  But more importantly,

Crusty cannot support the proposals here for Executive Council and churchwide staff.  Yeah, I know.  Crusty is scared, too, he's actually defending Executive Council, the organization that almost single-handedly destroyed the budgeting process in 2012.

Executive Council:  To propose something this sweeping without any clarification for what kind of authority Council would exercise is inconceivable.  First, TREC proposes "The role of the Executive Council clarified as a “governance” role, similar to a non-profit Board of Trustees."  For one thing, Crusty thought they did have a governance role as outlined in the canons.  What is meant by the use of that word here, if it is different from that?  The fact they do not define "governance" is simply astounding to COD.  Do they mean some kind of policy-setting, big-picture, visioning Board?  Or some kind of Board with clearly defined governance role, just different from Council exercises now?  For instance, as a dean, Crusty has a Board of Trustees for a non-profit.  They don't just do the vision thing.  They can fire the President and Crusty!  Is that the kind of non-profit Board of Trustees you're envisioning?  If not, what?  Good God, you propose not to change the office of PB but propose a drastic reduction of Council without defining what it would do!

Council must have an actual governance role; for it not to, it would be like reducing Standing Committees to purely advisory functions.  We would never countenance that limitation on balancing clerical, lay, and episcopal authority.

The proposals for revamping Council are simply not fleshed out enough here, and COD believes would fall into the category of unintended consequences.  Specifically, Crusty cannot support and would do everything he can to prevent an all at-large Executive Council without regional representation.  The problems are so legion he can't even believe this was proposed, so will list just one right now:  This proposal has the potential to make large portions of the church invisible, specifically churches in the West and in rural communities.  If we want a Council consisting disproportionately of people from Provinces I, II, III, and IV, go right ahead.  If anything, COD would propose the reverse:  more specifics about representation in Council, not only from geographic and clerical/lay/episcopal, but also women, young adults, and persons of color.  The United Methodist Church and ELCA both have quota systems in place in governance, and this is one of the reasons they have some diversity in leadership.

■  Reduction in the number of CCABs and their scope

COD in general supports this; this was, after all, how General Convention functioned well into the 20th century.  Committees were appointed to work on specific projects; when they reported back to General Convention, they either turned in their report or asked to be continued to the next Convention.  We did things like, you know, establish the Pension Fund and revise the Prayer Book in 1892 and 1928 in this fashion.  This would, however, make "Nominations and Program" necessarily a kind of visioning or incubating Committee, since it would need to discern and prioritize projects and figure out who best to serve on them, not fall into the trap of responding to immediate needs of deputies and bishops and appointing the usual suspects.  The budgeting process of Executive Council in 2012 crashed and burned, in part, because it starting appropriating money based on who lobbied the hardest for their own passions.

A transition in the mission or program-related staff of DFMS to a primarily contractor-only model

Like the proposal for Council, to put forth such a sweeping overhaul without more clearly defining what is meant is simply either incompetent (they don't know what they're trying to say?), unconscionable (they do know and are scared to tell us?), or Machiavellian (they really know what they want to do but aren't telling us?).

What is meant by "contractor-only"?

--There is the justice component here.  To move to contracted staff that we will not need to pay unemployment insurance, pension, and benefits  would be like trying to run a university with only adjunct faculty.  This is a church which walked away from a union cleaning contract at its churchwide headquarters, without discussion or negotiation, to save money, but in turn purports to speak on matters of labor fairness and to support unions.  We already have a two-tiered system, where full-time lay employees are given different compensation packages than clergy; we already burn out so many of our volunteers.  Do we we want to have a two-tiered denominational staff of people in the PB's office, IT, HR, legal, and communications and a host of contractors who can be fired at will?

--Where would the "there" be?  It may be all well and good to assemble the people with the best skills, but how can that be done in conjunction with consistent emphasis on the priorities that are needed?  Take church planting, for example.  Addressing matters of evangelism through church planting will be a long process, requiring coordination, budgeting, and consistency in planning and oversight over a number of years.  Can this be done through a contractor-only workforce, with oversight provided by the Presiding Bishop's office, Council, and Convention as outlined in this section?   This would seem to run the potential risk for overcentralization in the Presiding Bishop's office, or simply letting the PB, Council, and General Convention get into their HR squabbles but this time over contracted employees with barely any rights or privileges.

--Staff in “support functions” like Human Resources, Finance, IT, Legal, Communications, or Archives would not be impacted.  Why?  We have already cut over 30% of the church budget and church staff since 2009.  With a smaller staff and smaller budget to manage, why do we not need corresponding reductions in support staff?  How can this simply be asserted with no explanation?  Just unbelievable.

Look, Crusty gets we need to have room for an adaptive approach.  The seminary where he
Will church plant for food.
teaches has done away with tenure, in part because we don't know what seminaries will look like in 10 years, let alone 20.  But we did so in an open, transparent way, with contracted employees with opportunities for advancement, promotion, and incentives, not through contractors.  There's a huge middle ground between running a university with a 100% tenured faculty on the one hand and a 100% adjunct faculty on the other.  There's a way to do so with denominational staff that doesn't have the potential to Wal-Mart our staff.


Conclusion

Thankfully, TREC seems to know that the work of adaptive change and innovation is already underway.    Let's take seminaries, for instance.  COD is constantly amazed that most clergy seem to think their seminary looks almost exactly the way it did in 1993, or 1989, or 1977, when they graduated; they think seminaries are full of a bunch of elitist intellectuals who don't know s**t about the church.  Well, almost every Episcopal seminary has programs in addition to a residential MDiv, including fully online degrees and low-residency models, and many of the parishes students come from are far more insular than most educational institutions.  Adaptive change is happening all around, and the disconnects are often as much the fault of centrifugal rather than centralizing tendencies.

So, good for TREC on realizing adaptive change is happening.  They didn't seem to know this in their first paper, when their brilliant ideas included email-listservs and pondering how they could be in touch with parts of the church already undertaking adaptive change.  

Crusty knows he has been critical of official TREC communications: this is not because he particularly relishes criticizing the work of others, often work undertaken with the best intentions and representing passion and commitment from those involved.  Crusty has been critical of TREC's official output so far because each of their papers, and now this open letter, have been frustrating mixes of getting some things right, but also rife with missteps and miscommunication.  COD still believe TREC is the best opportunity for presenting a comprehensive vision of reform and restructuring of the church to meet the missional challenges facing us, and will be attending the gathering in person in Washington, DC, on October 2 as a pledge of support.  However: if they can't communicate their vision and what they plan to do, is there any reason to believe they can shepherd through a massive set of reforms through General Convention?



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.