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!










3 comments:

  1. I believe that the PHOD has proposed that the traditional "meet and greet" for PB nominees happen at General Convention itself and that the election be held in a joint HOB/HOD session, so it looks like this will be an interesting General Convention!

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  2. Yes, Gay Jennings has already said she plans to resurrect the legislative committee on episcopal consents to address the PB election. Regarding "delight in diversity" - I think the more appropriate reaction would be to "take immediate action to address our lamentable and embarrassing lack of diversity." Statistics released by the TEC Office of Research in 2010 show that TEC is 87% white, 6% black/African American, 3.5% Hispanic/Latino, and less than 2% each Asian/Pacific Islander, Multi-Racial, and Native American. http://www.episcopalchurch.org/sites/default/files/episcopal_overview_fact_2010.pdf
    That's pretty sad, especially given the growth trajectory in this country of the Latino and Asian populations in particular.

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  3. Susan, as usual, you say more eloquently what Crusty had as "f**k delight, let's see some action and commitment to diversity."

    I don't know if HOD has the canonical authority to revive a committee on episcopal consents. That authority was clearly taken away and now Standing Committees and Bishops with jurisdiction are sole bodies charged with consent to episcopal elections. Canon 1.2 speaks of the HOD having a role to "confirm or not confirm" -- not consent -- without outlining a procedure for giving or witholding confirmation. Crusty would be all for the HOD creating a process in order duly to exercise its canonical role, but it would seem that language of episcopal consent is canonically inappropriate. COD still expects some canonical whackiness at Convention on this matter...

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