Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Special GC the Third!

The new Chief Operating Officer of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Stacy Sauls, gave a presentation to the House of Bishops calling for a substantive discussion on how to refocus our structure in order to better our mission work. Here's a link: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79425_129893_ENG_HTM.htm

To that I say: thank God!

Full disclosure: I served on the staff of the Church Center from 2001-2011, first as Associate Deputy for Ecumenical Relations (2001-2009), then Interim Deputy for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations (2010), then as Ecumenical and Interreligious Officer.

OK, back to previous comment: thank God! I distinctly remember the last day of General Convention 2006. Up to that point I considered General Convention an annoyance, recalling to mind Churchill's comments about democracy. Yeah, Convention wasn't great, but it beat a lot of other forms of polity. That last day in Columbus, though, I realized that GC was not just an annoyance, but actually destructive to life of our church. I may expand on this more later, but suffice to say leaving contentious issues to simmer for three years (with occasional input by Executive Council and HOB) and then be processed through a labyrinthine legislative procedure a healthy system produce does not.

I teach church history, and part of the equation is in our DNA: some of the core aspects of the Episcopal Church's polity was laid out in 1789. No judiciary or other mechanism to address or interpret complex questions was laid out (unlike some of our ecumenical partners, for instance). No chief executive was imagined. All we got was a legislative structure, designed for a handful of dioceses on the East Coast, meeting every three years and designed for slow, deliberate processes of change (voting by orders, consecutive Conventions to amend Constitution, etc.). The history of the Episcopal Church on the denominational level is the slow, gradual, at times haphazard tinkering and layering upon the 1789 framework (prime example: the development of the office of PB). And for good measure throw in a vision for decentralization and leaving dioceses tremendous latitude.

My only fear is that it is too late, and we should have been having these conversations a decade ago.

On the plus side, we might actually have a productive Special General Convention. We had one I bet nobody could name (1821, in part to deal with a bequest) and one that only people currently in their 60s and 70s could have attended (the contentious 1969 Special GC).

1 comment:

  1. Dude! I'm psyched you're starting this blog. Am adding it to my regular reading list. And perfectly titled, in the full nuances of the original Simpsons.

    Apropos of this post, the esoterica of Episcopal Church structure is interesting to me, primarily in how the hell we got here. Glad to hear from you on that.

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