Monday, January 6, 2014

Set 7: Show Me the Money!

At times the GOE tries to be the hipster GOE, smoking clove cigarettes and growing a throwback 80s Tom Selleck mustache, wearing a pork pie hat and only using locally sourced free range whalebone knitting needles.  Two years ago, the question for theory and practice of ministry was to write a social
Flanders' beatnik dad: "We've tried nothing and we're out of ideas."
media policy for your congregation.  Last year, they had one on "ashes to go."  Crusty didn't say this to the students at morning briefing today, since they were still grouchy from the Set 5 question on Saturday, but he feared that one of the questions today might be this year's Hipster Question.  But this is, apparently, the year without a Hipster question.

In fact, the GOE closes out strong. Crusty just can't quit you, GOE.  Just when he thought you were saving the best WTF Hipster Question for last, you come up with an Axios!  On the last question.

Set 7: Theory and Practice of Ministry

During your first year as the only clergy of a parish, you discover the parish has dire budget problems and the very survival of the parish is at stake.

The congregation is slowly growing but you know that even parishioners giving more generously would not be enough to make a significant dent in the church's financial outlook. There is a small unrestricted endowment.

Write an essay of 1,500 words to explain how you would approach this dilemma theologically, pastorally, and practically. Your answer should include how you would use this as an opportunity to engage the congregation and wider community in mission-oriented ministry.

Crusty got no major beefs with this question.  You certainly can't accuse the GOE of coming up with a scenario that's implausible: this is something that is all too much a reality for many of the church's congregations.  COD does grumble a bit about "discovering" the "dire" budget problems that have the "very survival of the parish at stake."  If you're truly unaware the place had budget problems until after you arrive at a new position, then there are other issues involved, too.  Either you didn't ask the right questions or they didn't provide you with the proper materials during the search process.  COD hopes no one would take any position without knowing full well the reality of the situation.  Crusty knew damn well what he was getting into by moving into theological education at a small, stand-alone Episcopal seminary at a time when seismic ripples are moving through higher education and the church is also going through substantive changes.  You can read more about COD's thoughts on that here, in Chapter 6.

But that aside from that beef:  That'll do, Set 7.  That'll do.  You asked a question that is assessing the current reality in many churches, unlike some of these other questions.  The response calls on the student to address the "theological, pastoral, and practical" responses.  This is exactly what needs to be done to
I've never been good at goodbyes…So that'll do, Pig.  That'll do.
walk a community through a process of transformation and renewal.  Crusty served as interim college chaplain for a chaplaincy that had major financial problems.  He told them, "We have to find our mission and our passion first, and decide what kind of chaplaincy we need in the 21st century, before beginning with any problem solving."  Over 18 months COD worked with the diocese and the Board to help bring about a major restructuring of the chaplaincy which has placed it on solid financial footing and a clearly defined role and mission.  The pathway forward for many financially struggling communities must include a combination of pastoral, theological, and practical thinking and processing.  It can be long, hard work, but transformation can happen, if it is grounded in a renewed sense of mission, discipleship, and purpose.  COD also likes that they don't give you any other ways out -- increased giving from current members and the endowment will not solve the problem.

Well done, Set 7.  You receive the ranking of:  Axios!  for a question that actually assesses something clergy in the 21st century will need to be able to do.

So, to recap, for our 7 canonical areas.  We had

--one ranking of Axios!
--one ranking of Axios*!,
--four rankings of "Meh"
--and one memorable WTF! ranking.

An interesting trends in this year's GOE of asking students to apply interpretation of concepts from these canonical areas to practical issues, albeit in varying degrees of success.  Set 6 had a kind of forced and contrived congregational component, Set 7 an all-too-real one.  [It's too soon for any additional
We do not speak that set's name.
comments from COD on the Set-That-Must-Not-Be-Named.]  COD wishes the GOE would address perhaps two of the most critical issues in North American Christianity, on which it has been silent for years: for one, the issues of globalization in 21st century Christianity and how it is impacting the Episcopal Church; for another, anything theologically or ethically the church might want to say about the most significant economic meltdown since the Great Depression and the staggering economic and income gaps that are only increasing in our society.  Can the Church speak to these massive, society-changing issues?  If not, why study history or theology or ethics?

Well, friends, it's time for Crusty to ride off into the sunset on this year's GOE blogging, or at least downstairs to the GOE After Party.  Thanks for joining me for the ride, though COD is continually perplexed as to why anyone cares what he thinks about anything, this blog came about mainly to spare CODW (Crusty Old Dean's Wife) from rolling her eyes as he pontificates on the state of the church and the world.  And despite what you may think, and what Crusty has been accused of by some people, COD is not opposed to the GOEs.  Crusty loves the fact the Episcopal Church has always had a competency-based system, ever since the Course of Ecclesiastical Studies introduced by William White.  There's never been a single standard, unlike, say, the PCUSA or ELCA or Roman Catholic Church where degrees are normative, even written into polity in some cases.  With a competency based system, we have an inherit flexibility -- should we ever choose fully to embrace it -- in how we train persons for the ordained ministry.  Crusty thinks something like the GOE is an essential component of a competency based system for training people for the ministry.  That said, we need to admit where current aspects of the system need overhauling.  We put a lot of time and energy in writing, administering, and assessing an exam when, in the end, it's the diocesan board of examining chaplains and local bishop who make the call.  COD has suggested before that the GBEC simply write the exam and let dioceses administer and assess it, since they're the ones whose opinion matters in the end.  But there clearly needs to be a broad discussion, with broad input, other than complaining about the same old system every year.

And Crusty freely admits he's had some hard words for how these questions have been posed.  He doesn't apologize.  People who have little agency in this system -- the students taking this exam -- are the ones whose processes towards ordination hang in the balance of what Crusty believes has been, at times, poorly worded questions and at other times ridiculous questions to be the basis on which to determine competency in a particular canonical area (Crusty's looking at you, Set 5).  COD doesn't think students should be the ones holding the bag for poor questions.  Part of Crusty's reasoning for blogging the GOEs is to provide at least some transparency in what is an opaque process.  Opaqueness in a process benefits those with the power; transparency benefits the process as a whole, and especially those without agency in that process.  As for saying some hard things; well, too bad, sunshine.  Crusty has worked for over 15 years in the church, and drafted documents and resolutions and concordats and proposals, and has had people say worse things than anything written here.  Crusty's been told he doesn't understand Anglicanism, that's he's a raging liberal, that he's a brain dead conservative, that "he has sold the apostolic heritage of Anglicanism for a mess of Protestant lentils," and so on.  Crusty's always been willing to be held accountable for what he has put before the church, and expects nothing less from others.

So be good, people.    Remember to stay grounded in prayer, Christian discipleship is hard and the only way to make it is to develop and cultivate a life of prayer.  Exercise regularly, it's the only free and 100% effective way to avoid numerous health problems. And have at least one minor vice to show the world you're human.

Glory to God, whose power, working in us, can do more than we can ask or imagine; Glory to God from generation to generation in the church, and in Christ Jesus forever and ever.

Calling All Hesychats! Set 6 Goes Apophatic.

[Disclaimer:  You know, Crusty can be serious at times (well, often, actually) and here is a very special message from COD:  These  blog postings are really about me arguing with the questions, and really are not intended to be a kind of GOE forum.  Crusty welcomes comments and feedback, but please do not discuss answers in the comments section, since the GOEs are a double-blind process -- readers aren't supposed to know who you are, God forbid any of them should stumble across this site.  While Crusty thinks the GOEs need some pretty substantial if not radical revamping and restructuring, he's also a firm believer in them, or something like them, and feels we need to follow the process in place while having discussions about what changes might be needed.  We do need a GOE forum, and Crusty has tried at times to try to get one going, and would welcome anyone who wants to grab their torch and pitchfork and join him.]

In the morning briefing after the 8 am Eucharist, Crusty asked the students to remind him which canonical areas were being assessed today.  Keep in mind, Crusty ends up spending more words and perhaps even more time drafting these blog posts than the students do in their answers, and COD tends to get a bit foggy by the end of all of this.  Throw in preaching and presiding yesterday at a church that was a 90 minute drive away each direction, and a -15 wind chill walking in to the seminary today, and you'd be feeling like Crusty, too.  "Theology in the morning," one student called out. "Maybe they'll ask us a church history question in the theology section since they asked us a theology question in the church history section," another called out.

Well, at least they did ask a theology question in the set on Christian Theology and Missiology.  Keep in mind, while we have shorthand for some of these sections, in reality the definitions of the canonical areas are often longer.  Since General Convention decided additional things were important, but couldn't keep adding canonical areas, they just periodically add to
Actual photo of COD after walking to seminary at 730 am in -15 wind chill.
the descriptions of the canonical areas.  For instance, while it's called "Church History" on the GOE, in the Constitution and Canons it's "Church History, including the ecumenical movement." On the GOE it's "Contemporary Society" whereas in the canons it's "Studies in contemporary society, including the historical and contemporary experience of racial and minority groups, and cross-cultural ministry skills. Cross-cultural ministry skills may include the ability to communicate in a contemporary language other than one's first language."  While Set 6 describes itself as "Christian Theology and Missiology," it's actually "Christian Theology, including Missionary Theology and Missiology."  Just once, Crusty would like them to ask a question about Missionary Theology and Missiology, he includes modules in the Anglican & Episcopal History and Anglican Theology courses at the seminary on the history and theology of Anglican missions.  If they're never going to test people on certain aspects (like the ecumenical movement, which hardly anybody teaches about anymore), why keep them in the canons?  If they're in the canons, let's prep people for them!  Crusty's students could throw down on an ecumenism question (they better be able to or GOEs will be the least of their problems).

Anyway, here's Set 6:

Set 6: Christian Theology and Missiology


Within the history of Christian theology, one can find two views of the knowability of God that seem incompatible. One is a view of God as active in history and knowable through divine acts. The other is a view of God as ontologically transcendent and therefore beyond all categories of human understanding and explication. You want to understand the relationship between these two views of God, which may appear to many in your congregation to be in conflict with each other.

Using two theological traditions within the history of Western Christianity that you think are appropriate, explain in an essay of 1,500 words how you would explicate the relationship between these two views to members of your congregation.

Maybe Crusty's just starting to get a little brain-dead at this stage in the process, or looking forward to the GOE party at 5pm, but he really didn't have much to quibble about with this question.  It's a pretty straightforward theological question:  there are indeed elements in the history of Christian theology which do speak of a God active in history and knowable; and the other where God is hopelessly other and transcendent.  COD found his thoughts crystallizing mainly in three areas:

1)  Again with the setup.  The whole "You want to understand the relationship between these two views of God, which may appear to many in your congregation to be in conflict with each other.which may appear to many in your congregation to be in conflict with each other" just seems tacked on and forced.  Are these two things related, your interest in the issue and your congregation's interest?  Or is this some kind of divine synergy, where you want to understand these issues and lo and behold, your congregation is grappling with them, too.  Were the drafters of the question thinking, "Gosh, we don't want this just to be some kind of theological exercise, let's get them to ground it in some way and apply it to a context" and so they came up with this?  I "want to understand the relationship"?  And I need to be able to explain it to my congregation, who are having discussions about how these views are in conflict with one another?  Crusty's been part of lots of congregations, urban and rural, East and MIwest and West Coast; also served as a college chaplain.   Can't say as he's come across the debate about how God is knowable or not in many of them.  COD has found often times theological conversations in congregations come out of personal, pastoral situations.   Someone whose healthy wife suddenly comes down with ovarian cancer can start asking questions about why these things are happening.  Someone who loves nature and fly fishing can feel that they find God there.  But COD doubts the first example would say, "I have some questions about theodicy," and the second, "Do you think we can only know God apophatically?"  9/11was also one of those times people were having theological discussions, though not necessarily using the kind of terminology and phraseology.  The setup here is a bit facile and forced.  Either just ask the student to explain the differences, or spend the time coming up with a real scenario and a real question about to apply a theological issue to a specific scenario.

2)  Because the problem is compounded in section 2.  Since we don't know much about the context in which these issues arise in the congregation, how are we to explain?  A sermon series?  Adult ed forum?  Crusty was no bones with asking students to explain the relationship between these two views (because in COD's mind this whole question is a bit of a red herring, since the two views are not incompatible).  COD personally would have done something like sketch out an adult ed forum; he certainly wouldn't want the readers to say, "We asked you to explicate it, not outline an adult ed forum.  You should have spent more time on explication."  In the Set-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named, while COD thought the question deserved its WTF ranking, at least explained very specifically what it was asking students to do.

3)  COD is also intrigued by the restriction to "Theological Traditions of Western Christianity."  Is this intentional, or just boilerplate without really thinking, or is it intended specifically to exclude other theological traditions?  Crusty has a Master of Theology degree from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, and he would have gone all Gregory of Palamas and Hesychast on this question.  Because the Hesychasts figured it all out
You might remember me from such films as "Calling All Hesychasts!"
(drawing upon some previous concepts laid out in Basil of Caesarea, among other things) by drawing distinctions between essence (God's own self) and energies (God's actions in the world).  We can experience God's energies, but not God's essences.  Palamas is a central figure in the development of Orthodox theology.  In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the First Sunday of Lent is the "Triumph of Orthodoxy," commemorating the final restoration of icons to the church after decades of bitter dispute between iconoclasts and iconodules, with icons at times banned from churches.  The Second Sunday of Lent is the Sunday of Gregory of Palamas; the church council in 1351 which gave its approval to hesychast theology is called a "Second Triumph of Orthodoxy" and Gregory and Hesychast theology is celebrated every year on the Second Sunday of Lent.  Orthodox choirs will intone a capella on March 16, 2014:

"O Gregory the miracle worker, light of Orthodoxy, supporter and teacher of the Church, invincible defender of theologians, the pride of Thessalonica, and preacher of grace, intercede for us forever that our souls may be saved."


"With one accord, we praise you as the sacred and divine vessel of wisdom and clear trumpet of theology, O our righteous Father Gregory of divine speech.  As a mind that stands now
Pray for the GOE takers, O Holy Gregory.
before the Primal Mind, you do ever guide aright and lead our mind to Him, that we all may cry:   Hail, o herald of grace divine."

[Taken from; slight different translations in different Orthodox jurisidictions.]

But this would specifically seem to have been excluded here.  Crusty might chalk it up to, "We can't assess people on things they might not know," but they've already shown themselves in Set 4 and Set 5 to be quite ready to do that.  So why not let someone who might have familiarity with Eastern Orthodox theology to apply that here?  

Overall, COD gives this a ranking of:  Meh.  The theological question being asked -- are the strands in Christian theology which say God is knowable in conflict with those that say God is other? -- is fairly straightforward.  But the setup/scenario ("explain this to your congregation flummoxed by apophaticism") seems tacked on and poorly defined, and the exclusion of Eastern Orthodox theology is perplexing.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Set 4, Ethics: Pinky, Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?

[Disclaimer:  You know, Crusty can be serious at times (well, often, actually) and here is a very special message from COD:  These  blog postings are really about me arguing with the questions, and really are not intended to be a kind of GOE forum.  Crusty welcomes comments and feedback, but please do not discuss answers in the comments section, since the GOEs are a double-blind process -- readers aren't supposed to know who you are, God forbid any of them should stumble across this site.  While Crusty thinks the GOEs need some pretty substantial if not radical revamping and restructuring, he's also a firm believer in them, or something like them, and feels we need to follow the process in place while having discussions about what changes might be needed.  We do need a GOE forum, and Crusty has tried at times to try to get one going, and would welcome anyone who wants to grab their torch and pitchfork and join him.]

The mid 1990s were a golden age for cartoons.  Crusty Old Dean was a graduate student then, single, in his 20s, living with other single dudes in their 20s and the occasional, and very brave, subset of female roommates.  Since it was the 1990s, COD (well he was not COD then) used to have to crawl out of bed at the ungodly hour of 10 am on Saturday, to watch cartoons, because there was no TiVO or DVR.  OCOCOD (a condition for which their is no cure, Official Child of Crusty Old Dean) stared at me blankly once when Crusty told him he had to go to bed during Game 7 of the

Language an impediment to understanding?  OMG LOL for realz.
1975 World Series and never saw the end of the game.  "Why didn't you just watch it the next morning on DVR?"  OCOCOD asked.  "We didn't have DVR then."  OCOCOD:  "You mean you had to watch things when they were on?"  COD:  "Yes, and hunt mammoth with nothing more than sharp sticks."  But it was certainly worth it to crawl out of bed on Sunday mornings!  It was a golden age of Saturday morning cartoons in the 1990s.  COD had grown up watching a lot of classics, Bugs Bunny and Tom & Jerry, and thankfully by the 1980s he was no longer watching cartoons when they became nothing more than marketing extensions.  But in the 1990s cartoons resurgenced (verbing weirds language, as Calvin once said to Hobbes): some of Crusty's favorites included Life with Louie, Animaniacs, Freakazoid, and especially The Tick and Pinky and the Brain.  For those unfortunate enough not to have seen Pinky and the Brain, it was about a genius mouse and his less than genius sidekick who attempted to take over the world every evening.  When he got his idea for a scheme to take over the world, The Brain would always ask Pinky, "Are you pondering what I'm pondering?"

Crusty thought of Pinky and the Brain as he readied for the Ethics question.  Ethics questions in recent years have tended to be think-pieces, asking open-ended, complex questions.  The 2011 Ethics question was, for instance, one sentence long: "Is it ever permissible for Christians to be involved (directly, as agents of violence, or 
indirectly/complicitly) in violence?"  In 2012, it was three sentences long, and asked students to comment on a fairly length extract from a theological article.  In 2013, students were asked to "present and expand on a Christian understanding of justice, drawing on your knowledge of sources in Scripture and the tradition of Christian thought."  There's usually really no way to prepare for the Ethics section, so COD usually preps students to review major concepts and principles in Ethics, but prepared for anything -- since these are usually think-pieces, Crusty always imagines the GOE writing people sitting around, thinking up an Ethics question, with one saying to the other, "Are you pondering what I'm pondering?" And the other saying, "I don't know Brain, but can you differentiate at least three forms of justice commonly discussed in Christian ethics and moral theology?"

Crusty also has a particular relationship to Ethics questions.  Crusty had never taken an Ethics class before taking GOEs, he just prepped by skimming the Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Encyclopedia of Christian Ethics resources for two days in the library.  When he took his GOE, COD saw the question and had no idea what they were talking about or looking for, so ended up writing something using the Narnia books as examples, particularly the whole concept of Deep Magic from Before the Dawn of Time to provide grounding to universal concepts such as justice and goodness.  Naturally he thought he bombed the Ethics question, but it ended up being the only canonical area in which he got "Oustanding" on his GOE (back in the day when they had four different possible assessments, rather than the current demonstrates competency/doesn't demonstrate competency in canonical area system).  Crusty, in turn, failed the History, Theology, and Liturgy portions (got the lowest of the four rankings), which he now teaches, while getting an outstanding in the only section he'd never taken a course in.  Crusty chalks this up to the way Ethics questions lend themselves to being think-pieces, and COD's own inherit ability to bulls**t like there's no tomorrow, something Crusty inherited from a long line of Boston Irish bulls****ers.

Well, Crusty Old Dean is going to do today what he does every day during GOE:  try to take over the question!  On to Set 4:

Set 4: Christian Ethics and Moral Theology 


The Preamble of the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes the following statements:

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women...

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge ...

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for
Too bad, because that would be a good skill to have for GOE prep.
these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

This statement is a representative example of a generally accepted concept, "fundamental human rights," and implies that the Church, as an organ of society, and Christians, as individual members of society, should teach, promote and secure the rights and freedoms described.

In an essay of 1,500 words:
1.    Explain what is commonly meant by the concept "fundamental human rights" and how these rights are generally thought to be established;
2.    Drawing on your existing knowledge of sources in Scripture and the tradition of Christian thought, explain how these "rights," so defined, fit or do not fit within a Christian understanding of moral theology;
3.    Given your response in 2, and choosing one issue generally discussed employing the language of "rights," describe how the Church and its members can best participate in the public discussion of this issue, specifically with regard to the concept of "rights."

Two quibbles about the setup to the question, before Crusty breaks down what students are actually being asked.  For one thing, we have another example of the question just kind of asserting something.  Previously they said "the Church teaches" without ever referencing what or how the church taught what they said it teaches.  Would it kill them to nuance this stuff just a bit? They're not writing telegrams and paying by the word.  Here we have "a representative example of a generally accepted concept."  What's "generally accepted" as a concept?  By whom?  In some places female circumcision could be argued to be a generally accepted concept.  To COD this cries out for another sentence or two, otherwise this question runs the risk of bumping into unexpected assumptions.  If they have an idea of what "fundamental human right" as a generally accepted concept means, then say it.  If not, don't just dangle it out there.  BTW, the UN Declaration defines these rights, as these words quoted here are then followed by an enumeration of exactly how the UN defined those human rights.  But students wouldn't know that unless they'd done the equivalent of memorizing a Yiddish opera, because no external resources are permitted here.

For another, COD harrumphed at the notion of the church "as an organ of society."  Well, the outward manifestation of the church is part of society, sure -- but the church is also the mystical body of all faithful, comprising those past, present, and future of all those who have been baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  At times the church needs to resist being an organ of society (Crusty thinks we should stop being legal agents of the state when it comes to marriage, for instance) and at times need to engage and embrace (striving for justice in the world, for instance).  The church as an organ of society has problematic aspects ecclesiologically, theologically, and ethically.

But on to the question itself.  COD honestly doesn't really know what's being asked in a lot of this.  

It begins with:  "Explain what is commonly meant by the concept 'fundamental human rights' and how these rights are generally thought to be established."  Crusty could give "an" answer to this, but it would pretty much just be his opinion.  If that's what they're looking for, great, but COD is getting a sinking feeling -- like he did with last year's Ethics question -- that they're somehow looking for students to box-check certain Ethical terms and issues here.  Give the Set 5 question it's due, even though Crusty gave it the dreaded
In case you need a battle cry for GOEs.  Spoon!
WTF ranking, at least it was crystal clear in what it was asking and what students needed to put in their answers.  Dudes, you're the ones who said these were "generally accepted", but now you're asking students to explain how they are established?  Would you be like Elaine and "yadda yadda" human rights? What if I don't agree with what you are asserting here and don't define rights in the way you are asking me to define them?  [BTW:  one of the things Crusty points out in his GOE prep with students -- actually the #1 thing in GOE prep -- is "ANSWER THE QUESTION AS ASKED.  Don't argue with the question.  Don't overthink the question.  If you don't understand it, just do your best to come up with something that fits into the outline and schema as asked.  The single worst thing to do is argue with the question."  This is why Crusty writes this blog, so there can be someone who can argue with the questions but has absolutely no involvement in the whole process, not part of the assessing or being assessed.]  What do they mean by established?  Honestly, COD knows what all the words mean here, but just really thinks they should have been a little more forthcoming and less Sphinx-like in what they're asking. 

Then, in the next part of the essay, "Drawing on your existing knowledge of sources in Scripture and the tradition of Christian thought, explain how these 'rights,' so defined, fit or do not fit within a Christian understanding of moral theology."  OK.  So the whole question is becoming one big game of Jenga -- if a student somehow heads down the wrong track in Part 1, they're screwed, because Part 2 is predicated on what they said in Part 1 -- the "rights, so defined" would seem to indicate the definitions provided in Part 1. COD also laughed at drawing on your "existing knowledge."  Since this is already a "no external resources question", then no use of brain implanting technology allowed?  Damn it!  I was going to get Topher from the Dollhouse to remote implant me with some mad Moral Theology skillz!  Also, what the hell do they mean by "fit" within a Christian understanding?   Really glad they chose such a precise theological word here.  

But putting aside some of the problematic ambiguity of phrasing here, nonetheless Part 2 is onto something really important.  Crusty thinks they are asking: societies/cultures/whatevers may define some things as "rights"; how does this interact with how the church understands ethics and right action?  For instance, at one point, you could argue that the right to have children was not necessarily your own:  many states in the US forcibly sterilized certain groups of people (criminals, those deemed mentally incompetent).   The way a society defines a right may not mesh with how Christians
Crustazoid rescues GOEs/Unless something better on TV!
understand right action in the world.  Crusty thinks they're getting at something very important here.  Crusty just really isn't a fan with how this is being set up.  If this is indeed what they are pondering, the same thing could have been accomplished in lots of more clear and explicit ways -- say, for instance, by actually using the UN Charter, instead of using it solely for the phrases "fundamental human rights" and "organ of society."  What about something like, "The UN charter defined some of the following as human rights...[examples follow].  How do they either conflict with or are consonant with Christian moral theology as derived from Scripture and Christian thought?  What are some way societies/governments/cultures have denied things as rights which would be problematic for Christian moral theology?"  Crusty thinks that would get at what what Part 2 is all about, but just with a lot more specificity and clarity, rather than flowing from the potential the rabbit hole of Part 1.

The game of Jenga continues with Part 3 -- having defined human rights in Part 1, and how that definition intersects with Christian moral theology in Part 2, in Part 3 students are then asked about a specific "right", and how the church and its members would participate in "public discussion."   When Crusty thought about this, he had to say, "You know, COD has not participated in too many public discussions on issues touching about Ethics and rights.  He's preached, he's advocated, he's gone to meetings and
Ah, TV before sound bytes.
demonstrations, he's lobbied elected officials, he's drafted statements."  This phrasing called to mind to Crusty some 1960s talk show where people sat in uncomfortable chairs and smoked on TV and had long conversations about important questions -- not that that's a bad thing, COD is distressed by the degeneration of public conversation and discourse.  It's just amused me to think of clergy or church members sitting around with skinny ties smoking and participating in some "public discussion", perhaps moderated by Charles Kuralt.

But again, if COD is pondering what the question is pondering, then they're onto something.  It seems the question is then asking, "Ok, take an example of a place where one of these 'rights' is consonant with Christian Ethics, and talk about how the church could do something about it."  That's one of the central aspects of ethics/moral theology; how does one relate belief to action, believing to doing, as an individual and as part of different groups? While Crusty thinks he's pondering what the question is pondering, he also thinks things could have been made a little clearer.

Overall, COD therefore gives this question a solid:  Meh.  The general principles here -- societies/cultures/whatevers may define certain things as rights, how does this conflict or flow from Christian moral theology, and then how does the church and individual Christians respond to a particular issue -- are what an Ethics/Moral Theology question should be about.  Yet we should be left, like Pinky to some kind of GOE The Brain, to wonder if we are pondering what the GOE is pondering, which is how Crusty is feeling after reading this.  After all, every single one of The Brain's plans for world domination failed.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

On Church History, Chimps, and Clericalism: A WTF Question

[Disclaimer:  You know, Crusty can be serious at times (well, often, actually) and here is a very special message from COD:  These  blog postings are really about me arguing with the questions, and really are not intended to be a kind of GOE forum.  Crusty welcomes comments and feedback, but please do not discuss answers in the comments section, since the GOEs are a double-blind process -- readers aren't supposed to know who you are, God forbid any of them should stumble across this site.  While Crusty thinks the GOEs need some pretty substantial if not radical revamping and restructuring, he's also a firm believer in them, or something like them, and feels we need to follow the process in place while having discussions about what changes might be needed.  We do need a GOE forum, and Crusty has tried at times to try to get one going, and would welcome anyone who wants to grab their torch and pitchfork and join him.]

On to Set 5!  Yeah, I'll get back to Set 4, Crusty also needed to write his sermon for tomorrow and got a little backed up yesterday.

That's right, Grumpy Orthodox Cat.

Set 5 is Church History, the canonical area close to Crusty's heart since his PhD is in church history and that's what he teaches.  Church History has been on a roll in recent years, coming out with short, mostly straightforward questions that have asked people to discuss a big issue (like councils in the church), go into a little depth on one specific area, and then connect it in some way to the Episcopal Church.  In general COD has been fine with how church history has been handled in past years.  Occasionally church history questions have even been timely; for the 2012 GOE, Crusty warned the students to expect something on church-state issues, since it was a presidential election year (and COD was correct in that prediction).  In a "no resources" church history question one must necessarily paint with a kind of broad brush and work with larger movements and contexts.  Crusty thinks what church history is all about is looking at the past to help make sense of our current reality and resource us as we figure out where God is calling us next, and has appreciated efforts in past years to construct questions that reflect that.

And then there's this question.  Congrats, #GOE2014.  It took three days and five sets of questions, but we have our first question getting the rank of WTF! in Crusty's grading system.

Set 5: Church History 

An enduring theme of church history has been the relationship between the sacrifice of Christ on the cross of Calvary and the holy Eucharist. This development has had a substantial effect on the history of ordained ministry in the Church.

Part A: Write an essay of 500 words on each of the two topics below:
1. Considering the Church in its first four centuries, discuss the development of a sacrificial understanding of the Eucharist as it affected concepts of ordained ministry. Give two specific examples of historical texts and/or historical figures who contributed to this sacrificial understanding of both Eucharist and/or ordained ministry. How did these two examples influence this historical evolution?

2. During the English Reformation of the 16th century, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer rejected the concept of the Eucharist as a sacrifice and the priest as the minister of sacrifice, and both Cranmer's 1550 Ordinal and his work on the 1552 edition of the Book of Common Prayer reflect this rejection liturgically. What were two historical figures or texts that lay behind Cranmer's thinking of the Eucharist as a sacrifice of praise, if a sacrifice at all? How did these examples influence Cranmer?

Part B: Write an essay of 500 words that discusses an example of how the issues of the Eucharist as sacrifice and/or the priest as minister of sacrifice have continued to shape Anglican belief and practice since the Reformation. Also explicate an example of how these issues remain significant in The Episcopal Church today.

Crusty gives this the WTF ranking because he does not accept the premise of this question.  The relationship between Christ's sacrifice on the Cross and the Holy Eucharist is one of the most enduring themes in theology, not church history.  And that's just the first sentence!  In the second sentence, students are then asked to reflect on the relationship between this  theological (not historical!) theme on the "history of the ordained ministry."  [On the topic of "substantial effects", personally Crusty thinks the adoption of the cursus honorum from Roman society had the most "substantial effect" on the development of the ordained ministry.]

After reading the first sentence, COD double-checked to see that this wasn't really the Theology question, but  scrolling back up saw that it does indeed say Set 5: Church History.  Now, don't think
Like Leo McGarry, COD has been rejecting premises of questions since the Hoover administration.
COD doesn't think theology and history are related, even integrated -- far from it.  When Crusty was asked to teach the Anglican studies stuff at another seminary, he said, "Yes, but only if you let me revamp the courses."  At that time they had a separate "Anglican History" course and "Anglican Theology" course.  COD said, "Theology is contextual, and I'll only do it if you let me teach one, year-long Anglican History and Theology course instead of two courses which perpetuate some kind of artificial distinction between history and theology."  The person called my bluff and agreed, so COD then actually had to do it.  Crusty was interviewing for a job at a different seminary and was asked, "Are you a historian who teaches historical theology or a theologian who looks at the historical development of theology?"  Crusty replied, "I don't accept the premise of the question because I don't accept those categories or distinctions."  (He had already discerned he was not a good match for that institution.)  

So don't think Crusty believes there's some hard-and-fast existential divide or matter-anti matter relationship between church history and theology and the two should never mix.  Far from it. Theology is contextual, and we can't look at theology without looking at the communities that produce it and how those communities were shaped by broader movements in their culture.  Crusty's whole dissertation was arguing that the church historians of the 4th century were actually writing theology!  (And you can buy it here.  It's currently ranked #7,494,121 on Amazon.)  A major issue here is that this is primarily a theological question that is grafted onto asking people to do some historical reflection. And a pretty
Sometimes the historical text and historical figure are one and the same
difficult question, too.  COD has a PhD in Early Church History, and it took me a couple of minutes to scratch my head and come up with historical figures and/or texts as examples.

And not only are students being asked to do a lot of theological reflection here, there's also the topic itself.  When COD first read it, he thought, "Really?  Really? Of all the topics, this is the one we are looking at to ask people to demonstrate competency in church history? The history asked for here is the history of the ordained ministry!"  There's nothing existentially wrong with this topic itself, it is something COD might consider as a paper topic, or maybe a question on a midterm examination, but thinks it is out of place as being the basis for competency in the canonical area.  Now someone might argue that looking at issues of ordained ministry and the sacrament of the Eucharist as it pertains to Christ's sacrifice on the Cross is something that we should absolutely expect people preparing for ordination to be able to articulate.  Most of the people taking this exam are going to be priests, not professional historians, so asking something related to ordained ministry is germane.  Fair enough, Crusty supposes, and he assumes that's part of the reasoning behind this.  But it also strikes COD that focusing on this in some ways continues to abet a kind of over-sacramentalization of the priesthood, and makes church history complicit to that by framing a question this way.  When interviewing for ordination and asked why he felt called to be a priest, COD replied, "I feel more called to be a presbyter.  Presbyter speaks to the broader understanding of the office -- preaching, teaching, pastoral care, leadership in a community, governance in the church and, yes, presiding at the sacraments.  After all, you could probably train a really smart chimpanzee to preside at the eucharist, but you can't train that chimp to connect how
Also a great tune by Wilco.  Is it obvious Crusty is oblivious to himself?
presiding at the Eucharist relates to other aspects of the Christian life."  For nearly 30 years processes of discernment for ordination in the Episcopal Church have, at times, tended to be almost solely focused on why someone is called to preside at the sacraments, which can warp overall understandings of the presbyterate (it's more than just presiding at the sacraments!) and exacerbate a church rife with clericalism.  To focus the church history question on this smacks of clericalism, when there are so many other things we could be asking about in church history.  Frankly, given the massive changes going on in the church globally and the way in which we are being called to transform many of the structures and institutions we have, Crusty is stunned that a clerical, inside-baseballish question like this is asked.  (Yeah, COD realizes most of you rolled your eyes and said "I can't believe he just knocked someone else for being insider baseballish! Pot kettle black, Crusty!")

In the past decade, in assessing competency in church history, the GOE has not asked anything remotely pertaining to the central issue currently facing the Christian church: the massive changes we are going through in global Christianity, everything from increased secularism and drop in Christian numbers in Europe and North America, the explosion of Christianity in Africa and Asia, issues of globalization and post-colonialism, things that are dramatically reshaping Christianity on a par with the Reformations of the 16th century and other seminal times in church history.  It is astounding to COD that no church history question in years has asked anything about what is happening globally to Christianity and not difficult to rectify.  They could very easily have asked something like, "Throughout its history, the church has gone through periods of change and transformation.  We are going through a similar process, etc." and then asked students to reflect on previous periods of change and transformation (Constantinian revolution, rebirth of Anglicanism following American Revolution, Gregorian Reform movement, English Reformation, Methodist revival, there's so many possibilities) and then asked them to connect that to current issues in the Episcopal Church or Anglican Communion.

Again, COD asks:  Really?  This is how we're asking students to demonstrate competency in church history at time of tremendous change and transformation?  On the one hand, a tremendous opportunity is being missed.   On the other, why are we bothering to ask people to demonstrate competency in church history if we can't ask them to apply it to some of the major issues facing the church?

It pains COD to give the church history question, his favorite canonical area of all canonical areas, a WTF ranking.  But make it so.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Set 3: It's Gonna Get Weird. Two Dragons.

On the Mickey Mouse Club, they used to have theme days.  Despite the name, Crusty Old Dean is really not terribly old.  But old enough to have watched reruns of the Mickey Mouse Club from the 1950s on TV as a child.  And for any millennials aghast at that, remember this:  the 1990s revival of the Mickey Mouse Club is just as far in the past as the original 1950s one was when COD was watching it in the mid-1970s.  As Yogi Berra once said, "That youth thing gets old after a while."  Anyway, they had theme days:  circus round-up day and special guest day, for instance.  One of the theme days was Anything Can Happen Day.

Welcome to Anything Can Happen Day at the GOEs.  The two biggest wildcard canonical areas are up for today:  Studies in Contemporary Society and Ethics and Moral Theology.  These canonical areas lend themselves to think-pieces (Ethics) or scenarios that people are asked to role play (Contemporary Society).  COD said to the students after Morning Prayer at our Hill Street Blues-esque morning briefing (or for you Sci-Fi fans, the Battlestar Galactica flight deck briefing for a suicide mission to take out a cylon base for some inexplicable reason relating to Boomer's child): "They gave you a straightforward Day 1.  Today could get weird.  But on the plus side, it's essentially all over after today.  Saturday there's one question, Church History, which is usually pretty fair.  Then you have Sunday off and you'll be so sick of this you'll coast on Monday.  And then we will provide food and booze at the end."

So in the words of the immortal Will Ferrell as Big Earl (from the underrated and oft overlooked
You're a very convincing dragon.  You should feel good about that.
Starsky and Hutch) Crusty has a feeling about today:  "I'm not gonna lie to you.  It's gonna get weird.  Two dragons."

Welcome to Set 3, the longest canonical area: "Studies in contemporary society, including the historical
and contemporary experience of racial and minority groups, and cross-cultural ministry skills."

Set 3: Contemporary Society (note: not real name of canonical area)


You are the priest in an inner city parish that has undergone several changes in its 100- year history. It has a strong sense of self-identity as a predominantly African-American congregation, with some members from other racial and ethnic backgrounds. Some congregants live in the community and others drive long distances. As is currently the case in many urban areas, the economy is changing, and new demographic groups are moving in. New businesses are being opened; new housing is being built. As a result, as in any group faced with change, fear of change is rising in the congregation. You have been called to help the congregation address this fear and move forward.
In an essay of 1,500 words, propose how you will approach this task. Include in your answer:
  •  The probable historical and contemporary experience of the congregation in question and how these experiences relate to the groups that are moving in. Identify at least one such group, and include how aspects such as race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, marital or social status may have affected the fear of change.
  • The role that the mission of the church as stated in the Catechism plays in your proposal.
  • The day-to-day practice of your own ministry that will respond to the complexity of social change both inside the congregation (for example, pastoral care, leadership, and worship) and outside the congregation (for example, the relationship of this congregation to the wider community).

Crusty has some mixed feelings on this question.  Not on what he thinks they are asking; but rather, how students are being asked to approach underlying issues here.

On the one hand, he is glad that the GBEC is actually using this canonical area to explore some of the issues outlined in the canonical area.  You would think that would be a no-brainer, but last year there was a bizarro attempt to expect seminarians to understand finite differences between Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam; the year before, it was all about church-state issues (read about those past questions here and here).  The last two years were perplexing, since the GBEC seemed to almost be trying to avoid having to ask students about the experience of racial and minority groups, focusing the 2012 question on church-state matters and the 2013 question on interreligious relations, when almost nobody gets any kind of prep or background in interreligious questions.

COD called the question last year for Studies in Contemporary Society "The Race Card Not Played."  Last year, by framing this canonical area's question about interreligious relations based on theology, COD thought the question was overlooking cultural, class, and racial differences.  Put simply, many people's issues with Muslims has more to do with racism than theology, since most Americans and Episcopalians don't have the faintest clue about Islam to know enough to object or disagree theologically but are informed by bias, ignorance, and racism.  Likewise, if a congregation is debating about whether to rent space to Pentecostal church, it's really probably more about race and class than theology, and probably has more to do the Pentecostals in question being brown and poor rather than whether they are Oneness Pentecostals or not and baptize only in the name of Jesus or use the Trinitarian formula.  Framing the question around theological differences last year was a cop-out and a failure to address underlying issues of race and class.

So Crusty's glad the GBEC actually decided to ask a question about what this canonical area is supposed to address:  "Studies in contemporary society, including the historical
and contemporary experience of racial and minority groups, and cross-cultural ministry skills."

But then it gets a little weird in the setup.  Students are asked to put themselves in the place of being rector of a church that is predominantly African American.  The setup itself runs smack into one of the realities of the issue of race in the Episcopal Church and most of mainline Protestant Christianity, namely, the extraordinary de facto segregation.  Most congregations tend to be overwhelmingly one ethnic background or another, and most of those backgrounds are white.  And most congregations of one ethnic or racial background tend to select a rector that matches their background.  Overwhelmingly white churches choose white rectors.  Church of our Savior in New York has not had a rector for several years because it's a historically Chinese congregation seeking an ethnically Chinese Anglican priest.  Now of course COD knows that there are multiracial and ethnically diverse congregations (and was a member of one at one point): but these are sadly the exceptions.  And of course there are examples of, say, an African American priest serving a predominantly white congregation; one of the faculty here at Bexley Hall is a Caucasian serving an overwhelmingly African American congregations.  But those are exceptions as well.  In addition, students taking GOEs are identified only by their number, like Toots Hibbert (now someone else has that number), so they are not supposed to use personal details about themselves.  They can't say, in response to this setup, "As a Caucasian serving in a historically African American Church" or "as a Latino serving in a historically African American Church I would have a different perspective."  They've chosen a rare entity -- a predominantly and historically African American congregation -- and asked students to enter into this world without being able to self-identify their own context.  Strikes me that students are being asked to do the ecclesial equivalent of riding a unicorn in today's question as some kind of fantastical setup.  Crusty, by the way, doesn't mean to imply any resignation or God forbid endorsement of this reality of the Episcopal Church; our rarely acknowledged legacy of institutional racism is a great sin of the Episcopal Church, and that legacy is the main reason it's still an overwhelmingly white denomination in an increasingly pluralistic country.  He also doesn't mean to denigrate the seriousness of the situation outlined here, only that the way this is set up for students to deal with the situation that is problematic and perplexing.

So COD is a bit perplexed by the nature of the setup.  Not by the underlying issues, mind you --  issues of multiculturalism and diversity are critical to the life of the church.  Failure to build a church that reflects the diversity of our society is a sin against the Gospel which calls us not to see those differences.  It will also lead to the eventual death of many forms of Christianity if they cannot embrace multiculturalism, because America has always been diverse and is becoming more so.  So not the issue itself, but the setup.  Asking white people (and yes, while there are exceptions, the overwhelmingly majority of the GOE takers will be white) to imagine themselves as rector of a historically African American congregation does not sit well with Crusty.  Is this replicating the dynamic of, say, movies and books like "The Help", where African Americans and their realities are only real when white people notice them?

COD also has a few quibbles with the description of the change process as outlined in the setup.  Having interviewed for several rector positions of the years, and serving as reference for seminary grads interviewing for jobs, he's not
Yes.  A gun-toting cat riding a fire-breathing unicorn over a rainbow.  You're welcome.
so sure about someone being called specifically charged to deal with change.  Congregations use their own code words for the process outlined in the setup:  "We want to grow" or "We want to reach out to the community" or "we want to get more asses in pews pledging so we can keep the roof from collapsing."  Anytime anyone says things like "we want to grow" or "we want to reach out", COD always asks, "Great, let's talk about how we would need to change to do that," resulting often with members of the search committee or whatever staring at him like he has just farted.  Now, of course there are exceptions, but here we have a magical congregation where the race-less rector (since students can't identify themselves) of a black church has space to park his unicorn also has the foresight to realize it needs to hire a change agent as well.  COD would have thought something like, "This church has called you to help with expressed desires to grow and reach out to the community, and you realize you will need to work with the congregation on addressing issues of change and adaptation" could do the trick here.

COD also doesn't care much for the "fear of change" stuff.  Crusty holds to the Ed Friedman systems theory mantra that people don't really fear change, they fear loss.  Congregations actually make all sorts of changes all the time over the years and survive them, from letting women on vestries to giving communion to infants to switching to a new prayer book.  As Friedman says, it's the fear of the loss of something, not change itself, which is what lies behind most of the anxiety in times of transition.  Learn how to lessen anxiety over sense of loss and you can help walk through change.

As for the essay  Crusty would love to assign something like this to every clergyperson and lay leader, not just GOE takers. But he is also terrified that the Episcopal Church's general inability to discuss its own history with racism may mean students are not adequately prepared to handle this.  Crusty has tried to do his best in his context, including sections on the history of underrepresented groups in church history classes, and having the entire seminary community, including faculty, go through anti-racism training, among others.  But this is a really complex issue.  Let's break down the three sections that students are being asked to cover in an essay of 1,500 words (realizing this blog post, even without quoting the question, will probably run to twice that word limit).

Include in your answer:

  •  The probable historical and contemporary experience of the congregation in question and how these experiences relate to the groups that are moving in. Identify at least one such group, and include how aspects such as race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, marital or social status may have affected the fear of change.
Keep in mind all that is being asked here.  Include "the probable historical and contemporary experience of the congregation."  Give a brief historical sketch of this hypothetical community!  For one thing, this requires some knowledge of the African American experience in the Episcopal Church, where predominantly African American congregations were formed in most major cities by the dawn of the 20th century.  If a congregation is 100 years old and predominantly African American, chances are it must have roots as an historically African American congregations, or otherwise be an even rarer entity, a multicultural church that is not
COD demands law enforcing use of Oxford comma.
historically African American but it also not a new church start since it's 100 years old -- something likely as rare as the rarely seen fire-breathing rainbow unicorn.  THEN students are expected to include, in essence, a comparison of that that historical experience -- which is a history of marginalization, exclusion, racism, and oppression -- with the newer groups moving in: "and how these experiences relate to the groups that are moving in."  Wow.  OK, so "Compare the African American experience with middle class LBGT persons and poorer recent immigrants from Honduras."  And remember, that's only one-half of the first thing they're asked to do!  Not just the historical and contemporary experience of an African American congregation and how it relates to newer group moving in, but THEN look at how issues of race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, martial or social status may have affected the fear of change." BTW, Crusty would prefer the use of "and" with an Oxford comma here:  "race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, AND martial or social status may have..."

And this is only part 1 of three things that need to be covered in a 1,500 word essay.  Speaking of which, here's the second thing students have to include:

  • The role that the mission of the church as stated in the Catechism plays in your proposal.
Again, keep in mind what is being asked here.  The mission of the church is to "restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ."  Students are being asked to talk about how the church can be an agent in that reconciliation of differing marginalized communities which is fundamental to God's vision for the creation.  COD thinks this is really a fantastic thing being asked in this portion of the essay, but is concerned about the leap to church as agent of reconciliation.   Many communities are in denial on the question of anti-racism and anti-oppression; some have moved into resistor status (using anti-oppression terminology); to move to becoming an anti-racist and reconciling community is exactly what we are being called to do.  But that's something you don't just ride into as gun-wielding cat on a fire-breathing unicorn.  The sheer complexity truly to be that kind of community can be staggering -- this community may have a long, long road of discernment and discussion truly to embrace multiculturalism and COD is chary of leaping straight to asking how they can be a reconciling community.  It is what we are called to do, and our replication of patterns of oppression within the church and failure truly embrace the Gospel that calls us not to see these differences is one of our greatest collective and individual sins. But this is just #2 or 3 things students are being asked to do in this essay!  They must also include

  • The day-to-day practice of your own ministry that will respond to the complexity of social change both inside the congregation (for example, pastoral care, leadership, and worship) and outside the congregation (for example, the relationship of this congregation to the wider community).
Part 3 of the essay does allow students some room to begin to explain how such a process of change and transformation might unfold, and rightly notes the need for an "internal" process within the congregation, and an "external" process, with how the congregation relates to the broader community -- with Crusty feeling the need to note that these boundaries are not hard and fast and we need to be wary of creating false dichotomies or projecting certain schema onto how churches relate to their communities.  Having been part of urban and rural communities, COD was frankly surprised at times how porous the boundaries were in some ways with the broader community; while not hard and fast, speaking personally COD has often seen that suburban churches or churches in more residential rather than downtown urban areas seem to have more rigid boundaries between the internal and external overall.  To give two quick examples.  1)  Serving as interim pastor at a very rural (town population 500) congregation, on my first day on the job, standing in line at the post office, everyone knew who I was by name.  The town was small enough, and people interacted at the only diner in town over breakfast and the town hall, that word had already spread.  2)  As seminarian intern in a downtown urban church, COD was tasked with going door-to-door and handing our flyers inviting people to a meeting at our church, we were considering opening a 24-hour drop-in shelter for homeless women and wanted to be in conversation with our neighbors about the proposal.  COD was surprised to find out how many people already knew about the project and about our other outreach programs.  By contrast, Crusty was serving as interim rector at a suburban congregation, went to the hospital to visit a parishioner, who was out for tests.  He chatted with her room-mate in while waiting for the parishioner to return from tests, who had also lived in the town for 50 years, mentioned to roommate he was pastor at X church, and the woman said, "Where's that?"  Granted, of course, there are all sorts of ways this dynamic can play out, and many rural and urban communities have differing degrees of engagement with their community -- COD is just saying here boundaries can be porous as well.

So section 3 does begin to allow students to address some of the truly complex issues raised in sections 1 and 2, and explain how one might actually begin to lead a congregation through a process of change and transformation.  Which is exactly what we need to be doing as a church:  helping lead communities through processes of change and transformation, in order to adapt to the truly changed contexts of mission and ministry where we find ourselves.  As my colleague and Lenten nemesis Scott Gunn has noted, there are congregations which are growing, and (spoiler alert!) they are ones which have devoted themselves to discipleship and mission, not maintenance.   On the other hand, there will be hundreds, perhaps thousands, of congregations in the Episcopal Church which will close over the next 25 years because, for various reasons (inability; unwillingness; it's already too late) are unable to navigate a process of change and transformation.  We will need clergy and lay leaders who can be change agents, so thank God to the GBEC for making this part of this canonical area this year.  When Crusty was ordained -- again, despite the cognomen, COD isn't that old, and was only ordained 5 years ago after serving as full time lay professional), throughout the process (well, processes, since Crusty was turned down for ordination three times) nobody asked him a single question about mission or evangelism, just asked him to explain whether he was called to preside at the Eucharist why he needed to be ordained to do the ministry he was called to.

So COD is thrilled the GBEC has shaped a question which addresses two of the most critical areas facing the Episcopal Church.  Our need truly to embrace multiculturalism and diversity, and our need to develop leaders who can leads communities through processes of change and transformation.  COD so wanted to give this question the Axios! ranking.  But the issues noted above with setup and framing of the question must, sadly, result in this question receiving the ranking of:  Meh.

My advice to you GOE takers on Anything Can Happen Day is my advice to all you out there in cyberspace wasting time doing something important by reading this blog:  Now go out there, listen to something by The Dan Band (warning:  NSFW, includes cursing) and be the best dragon you can be today.