Saturday, June 27, 2015

#27PB Election: 5 Things We Must Do

Crusty just got back from the House of Deputies, where Presiding-Bishop Elect Michael Curry addressed the House.  He spoke forcefully and movingly, acknowledging challenges facing Episcopalians but also noting "we have a God" and quoting Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the power of God's presence.  Crusty also just happened to be standing a few feet away when Bishop Curry
XXVII and XXVI in tha house (of Deputies).
entered the hall; everyone was expecting him to come in the main entrance, and then suddenly he, his family, and the North Carolina deputation suddenly appeared out of a door to Crusty's left.  COD barely had time to fumble for his phone to take a blurry picture; he was applauding, figuring he would not be close at all, the main entrance was over a hundred years and hundreds of people away.  But then there they were, he grabbed his phone, and COD snapped what photo he could before the security people started pushing the crowd back that was closing in fast.

The words from Bishop Curry are hanging in the air, but, Crusty being Crusty, he'd like to offer some preliminary and initial thoughts on this election.  Here are five things we must do:

1.  We must reform the PB nomination process.  We spent over $200,000 and at least 18months to nominate the person who was the clear and obvious choice.  Curry was elected on the first ballot with over 70 percent of the votes.  (BTW This is the first first-ballot election that we can confirm -- 1997 was the first time ballot results were reported.  In 1997 it was the third ballot; in 2006, on the fifth ballot.) Crusty has said on this blog before that we should consider the ELCA process, in which every active bishop is eligible, and the first ballot is a nominating ballot.  Additional ballots are taken, with lower vote total persons gradually dropped until only two are left.  And don't say this would exclude or restrict who might be elected: the ELCA has more women synodical bishops than the Episcopal Church has women diocesan bishops and they have 65 synods compared to 109 dioceses, and their first woman Presiding Bishop was elected through an open ballot process.

2.   The House of Deputies must adopt a different process for giving consent.  The process used at this Convention, a change from previous Conventions, was long, drawn out, and needlessly complex, and hopeless in the face of world saturated with social media.  From start to finish, it is quite likely if not certain the House of Deputies took longer to given consent than the House of Bishops did to elect.  Lest you think Crusty is denigrating the role of the HOD, far from it -- Crusty called on this blog for a more robust confirmation process before the President of the House of Deputies announced the new process.  While Crusty decries the leaking of the name of the candidate, he also realizes that in an age of social media it is foolish to think otherwise.  COD would like the PB to be elected by both Houses, but, failing that, there must be a process that gives a more formal place to the consent and confirmation role the HOD has, but it must be less cumbersome.

3.   We must give the PB-elect some opportunity to help shape priorities during this Convention.  The issues facing our church are too complex and fast-moving, and we approve a three-year budget in a few days that will shape priorities before the Presiding Bishop takes office in the fall.  The United
It took the Great Depression to change the presidential inauguration date.
States changed the date for the presidential inauguration from March 4 to January 20 precisely because the nation could no longer wait four months between the election and inauguration.  We cannot wait until after this Convention for the PB-elect to help shape policy.  PB&F (program, budget, and finance) should have a consultation as appropriate with the PB-elect, and there should be a similar consultation, as appropriate, with the Governance and Structure Committee which is dealing with shaping what legislative for restructuring comes to the floor.

4.    We must hold the other bishops nominated, their families, and their dioceses in our prayers.  Crusty cannot even imagine how emotionally, personally, and spiritually exhausting it must be to put oneself through such a public process of discernment and discussion -- let alone to then not be elected.  All the candidates were fine candidates, Crusty would have been proud to call any one of them Presiding Bishop.  Crusty, in turn, apologizes for any way his comments in his prediction column from last May might have sounded dismissive of any of the candidates.  With this election over, we must not forget to hold them in prayer, as well rejoice they will continue to bless the church in the ministries where they serve. 

5.   We must see this as a beginning, not an end, to engaging in transformative discussions and actions on questions of race, racism, and our own privilege.  Electing Barack Obama did not usher in the post-racial America some dreamed would happen; rather, it has exacerbated and laid bare some of the systemic racism in America.  We cannot think that electing the first African American Presiding Bishop solves the problem of race, racism, and white privilege in the Episcopal Church.  We are still overwhelmingly and disproportionately old and white in reflection to the society around us.  This is not only a death-knell for the church in terms of growth, but much more importantly it is a sin against the gospel we claim to preach that sees no divisions in Christ.  The Episcopal Church often suffers from a collective amnesia of our own complicity in systemic racism, jumping from Absalom Jones to Jonathan Daniels, ignoring our own racist past, and seemingly unable to move past conversations on race to truly living as an anti-racist church.   This must be a new beginning, a continuation, not an end, to the work we are called to do.

#27PB

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