Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Why I'm Breaking Up with Football...As a Christian

Crusty is taking a break from his usual pedantic, insider-baseball, church-relations blog to give you an insight into other aspects of his life.  Crusty isn't all about church and matters theological.  He enjoys music (Replacements are the greatest band ever), is a runner (at age 46 ran a 26:09 5k on the 4th of July), and an avid sports fan.  This blog post is all about my difficult decision to break up with professional football, and on the basis of how I understand myself as a Christian.

It's been a long couple of months, but I've finally gotten to a place where I can say this out loud:  I will no longer support the National Football League, and this is because of who I am as a person of faith, as a Christian.

Now, full disclosure, for any haters out there.  Crusty grew up in Boston and my family were Patriots season ticket holders from 1971-1994.  Crusty suffered through innumerable losing seasons and humiliations, 1-15 campaigns and 46-10 Super Bowl blowouts.  Our "season tickets" were two stickers on a metal bench in the old Sullivan Stadium/Schaefer Stadium, and more often than not one was in the vicinity of vomit, at least one fistfight, and lots of profanity at some point during the game.  In 1994, my Dad canceled the tickets because he didn't like Robert Kraft and was tired of their years of futility (thanks a lot, Dad, in a StubHub world I could have sent my kid to college with the resale value of two season tickets).

So yeah, I'm a Patriots fan.  And yeah, I know the rest of the world can't stand them, and, honestly, I don't really care.  Part of what makes sports great are having someone to hate as much as having someone to love.  It's important to say from the outset my breakup with the NFL began well before the Deflategate idiocy and  actually has little to do with that particular melodrama.  If anything, this travesty of the past few months has only accentuated underlying tensions.  I want to be clear from the outset I'm not breaking up with the NFL because of the ridiculous nonsense of the past eight months and counting.  I'm breaking up with the NFL because, as a Christian, I could no longer square my beliefs and values with this organization and this sport. Here's three reasons why.

1.  As a Christian I believe in economic fairness and justice.  While many Christians spew out the ridiculous "prosperity gospel", so accurately lampooned by John Oliver here, and while many others associate free market capitalism with Christianity, the reality is that the Old and New Testaments speak pretty consistently about economic fairness and justice.  The Old Testament has concepts of jubliee (see Leviticus 25, where jubliee year involved  forgiveness of debts and freeing of slaves) of not cheating others and dealing with people less fortunate and marginalized (widows, orphans, strangers) justly and fairly.  In the New Testament, Jesus spoke regularly about the need for wealth to be used for the greater good of the community.  The Book of Acts talks of a Christian community that held property in common and redistributed wealth towards the poor. One cannot be a Christian and not address the just and proper use of wealth and other resources.

Professional football runs a shameless con game that seems solely to support the wealthiest of the wealthy.  Right now we are viewing charades in St Louis, San Diego, Oakland, and Los Angeles whose sole purpose is to extort as much public money to support stadiums for plutocratic oligarchs.  This is not solely confined to football, mind you -- in Wisconsin they're considering cutting public education by hundreds of millions of dollars while at the same time giving hundreds of millions of dollars to replace a basketball arena that's only 17 years old.  People in Miami will be spending generations paying off their baseball stadium, if they ever do at all (read about it here); people in New Jersey are still paying for the old Meadowlands stadium, even though it was demolished years ago and is now a parking lot (read about it here)  The sheer greed and price tag is what marks the NFL's process; over $1 billion for these stadium plans in San Diego, Los Angeles, and St. Louis, while owners keep all revenue associated with it.

This is just so utterly unjust, and opposed to biblical and Christian injunctions to the proper use of wealth for the common good.  There are numerous economic studies which show these handouts do not provide the economic return promised, and are, more or less, simply extorting public funding for billionaires could fund on their own.  You can read about it here and here,  just to pick two articles out of a hat, one from a liberal and one from a conservative organization.  (BTW for all the people who envision the Patriots as the embodiment of evil, Robert Kraft funded his stadium 100% prviately with no public funding.)  How can one be a Christian and be blind to the economic injustice in the public paying billions to billionaires, at the expense of necessary public services to the poor and marginalized?

2.  The NFL does not deal fairly with its employees (the players).  The stunning and utter incompetence of its labor practices is just astounding.  Here's a few examples.  In recent years, they have tried to retroactively apply new standards of conduct to prior offenses.  (This does not include the bumbling response to the original offenses, which included a man knocking his wife unconscious and a father whipping his son with a stick so hard his son's testicles bled.)  These attempts to apply standards of conduct retroactively to fix the incompetent way the initial offenses violated labor standards so egregiously they were overturned by arbitrators.  Not to be outdone, in the current Deflatgate charade, the due process was even more laughable.  Again, I really don't care about the initial offense, which, if it was an offense at all, involved tampering with equipment, which happens and previously had been treated quickly and judiciously (like with the San Diego Chargers in 2012, see here).  This is about complete disregard for due process.  And again, this is not just griping from a Patriots fan.  John Dowd, the attorney who got Pete Rose kicked out of baseball for life, poked numerous holes in the report it took the NFL months to prepare, and pointed out the utter disregard for due process, which can be found here.  These holes include the NFL's own report noting that perhaps one, and maybe none, of the balls were actually underinflated; refusing to share its evidence; and applying punishments utterly out of proportion to previous precdent (Brett Favre paid a $50,000 fine for refusing to cooperate with an investigation; Tom Brady gets four games).  Making a mockery of arbitration, the same commissioner who handed down the sentence appointed himself as arbitrator to hear an appeal (in part because of the way his previous incompetent judgments were inconveniently overturned by arbitrators not himself).

Christianity cares about issues of due process, contract, and labor.  Christianity, and especially the Episcopal Church, have had a long and historic involvement in collective bargaining and fairness in labor.  As early as the 1880s the Episcopal Church was supporting the rights of workers to be treated fairly.  Later the church supported the 40-hour work week, and end to child labor practices, the right to form unions, and the right to collective bargaining.  How can I as an Anglican and Christian support an organization that makes an absolute mockery of due process and labor rights?  If the NFL sold grapes or tomatoes, it's likely Christians would be lining up to advocate for a boycott, like churches did for years in support of Farm Workers Union, or against Taco Bell in the 1990s and 2000s. 

3.  But all of this pales to the real reason why I, as a Christian, cannot support the NFL.  I've actually come to the conclusion that the utter catastrophe that has been the NFL's disciplinary process for the past couple of years is part of an elaborate con, to get the world talking about anything other than this fact: professional football is killing its own players.  They know that football causes chronic brain damage.  They forced ESPN to drop out of a PBS documentary on the subject (see here; conveniently, in the past year ESPN has dumped Bill Simmons, Gregg Easterbrook, and Keith Olbermann, the three biggest critics of the NFL).  Its proposed settlement to former players was thrown out of court as being too low.  The NFL's product is killing its players, it knows it, and we all should know it.  Every person talking about Ray Rice, every Deflategate, every angry media denunciation of a father whipping his child, is a media frenzy that does not talk about this central fact.  Is it any surprise the NFL was leaking inaccurate information in advance of the Super Bowl?  When the world was turning its attention to football, the last thing they wanted was for people to talk about the obvious, and instead talk about Tom Brady's balls.

Christianity and The Episcopal Church have taken numerous stands against such exploitation of human suffering for financial gain.  We have a whole office in Washington, DC to lobby the government on questions of justice and fairness.

If the NFL were anything other than a sports organization with its millions of devoted fans, things would be different.  Seriously:  if Wal-Mart was killing its own employees with its working conditions, flouting due process in labor negotiations, and extorting money from local communities to build its stores while keeping all the revenue -- would communities of faith stand for it?  Of course not.

So I'm breaking up with the NFL.  Just like I protested against apartheid in the 1980s and  just like I marched with union government employees in Wisconsin in 2011, there are times when we have to get a grip on our cognitive dissonance, square our actions with our beliefs, and decide whether we are willing to be compromised.  Under the Roman Empire, Christians were expected not to participate in public events which would require them to compromise who they were: they didn't attend gladitorial matches, for instance.  When the Emperor Constantine founded his new city of Constantinople in 330, he deliberately did not build an gladitorial arena like all other Roman cities. This, for me, has become a time when I can no longer consider myself a Christian with integrity and blindly support such an unjust system.

There's no reason why football should always be this popular.  Boxing and horse racing used to be as popular as professional football is currently, and those sports faded in popularity in part because of the way they were perceived as unnecessarily brutal.  I can only hope in 30 years we'll look at football like we looked at smoking in the 1950s, or cock fighting.

They hate the one who reproves in the gate,
   and they abhor the one who speaks the truth.
Therefore, because you trample on the poor
   and take from them levies of grain,
you have built houses of hewn stone,
   but you shall not live in them;
you have planted pleasant vineyards,
   but you shall not drink their wine.
For I know how many are your transgressions,
   and how great are your sins—
you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe,
   and push aside the needy in the gate.
Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time;
   for it is an evil time.

Seek good and not evil,
   that you may live;
and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you,
   just as you have said.
Hate evil and love good,
   and establish justice in the gate;

I hate, I despise your festivals,
   and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt-offerings and grain-offerings,
   I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
   I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
   I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
   and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. 

Amos 5: 10-15, 21-24. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Have Fun Storming the Castle! Crusty's GenCon Wrap-up

Like most people in the mid-late 1980s, post New Kids on the Block but pre-stockmarket crash, Crusty was indelibly shaped by Rob Reiner’s classic 1987 film The Princess Bride (and, to a lesser extent, the TV show, which was also called Fame).  One line which he has repeatedly endlessly over the years was Miracle Max’s final words to
Inigo, Fezzik, and the Man in Black as they get ready to attack Prince Humperdinck's fortress.  Miracle Max calls out cheerily as they walk away,  “Have fun storming the castle!”  Crusty has repeated this over the years as prelude to any kind of absurd, doomed, or hopeless endeavor.  Their plan is so outlandish; Inigo has already noted how many men are guarding the heavily fortified castle, and there are only three of them.  They are placing their trust in Miracle Max’s miracle pill to resurrect the (mostly! shows how much you know!) dead Man in Black, a pill whose efficacy Miracle Max even doubts.  When asked by his wife (she's not a witch!) if he thinks the pill to resurrect the (mostly) dead Man in Black will work, Max mutters, “It’ll take a miracle.”

As Crusty boarded his filght to Salt Lake City, this is all he could think about:  Have fun storming the castle!  As the handful of readers who slogged through Crusty's GenCon previews (such as they were...he just re-read them and they sound like the jazz odyssey stylings of the revamped Spinal Tap) may have gleaned, he had a lot of strum und drang heading into the triennial fandango in Mormon Central.  This was a moment, Crusty thought, for the church to get a grasp on the myriad challenges facing it – could we respond?
You are witnesses at the birth of Crusty's GenCon Preview, Mark 2!

Well, friends, Crusty has been to five General Conventions, and this one was, by far, the least soul-crushing experience of them all.  Rereading that sentence, Crusty wouldn't change a word of it, strange as it sounds.  Let's recap. 2003 was full of both exultation (we had taken a momentous step with consenting to the election of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire) and some dread (we had no idea what would happen, or what the consequences would be: were we going to get kicked out of the communion?).  2006 witnessed the upside of electing our first woman primate, followed by an epic legislative meltdown which made Crusty wonder if our structures were even capable of doing what we needed them to do, outlined in gory detail here and here.  2009 saw a dysfunctional budgetary process and financial bloodbath where we restructured without any strategic discussion, solely by defunding, in response to crisis.  In 2012, we witnessed a slow-motion budgetary train wreck in the months leading up to Convention and seemed to blink on the future, establishing a Task Force to restructure but didn’t fund it adequately.

Crusty found a strange feeling stirring inside him during GenCon 2015: much like Bart wondering what this strange feeling was for Homer (it’s respect, it turns out), COD felt a similar unexpected and unfamiliar emotion.  Hope.  Crusty has even cheekily decided to write this post all in Comic Sans, he is so giddy.

To be sure, however, while GenCon 2015 was much more encouraging than Crusty had expected, being Crusty, you can certainly expect that he will throw a turd in the punchbowl as well.  Heretofore follow Crusty’s Pro and Con from GenCon 2015.


MAWWIAGE.  The bwessed event. The dweam within a dweam.  MAWWIAGE is what brought us to Salt Lake City last June.  General Convention 2015 approved, overwhelmingly, to make available marriage rites for same gendered couples and revised the marriage canon accordingly.  As noted previously in this space, Crusty
Priest who presided at Crusty's wedding opened rehearsal with this quote.
wishes we would get out of the whole business of marrying people, and bless civil marriages, but he is certainly pleased by the actions of Convention.  Crusty sat down in secret with his first same gendered couple in 1995 and cobbled together a blessing service from various resources, which Crusty cut and pasted by hand and photocopied.  Crusty put the service together and presided at the ceremony because we were concerned about ecclesial authorities coming down hard, and, as a lay person, Crusty could not be defrocked and was beyond discipline.  COD would also like to point out that the ELCA did what we did six years ago, so he’s glad we finally have caught up to some of our ecumenical partners.  

PRO:  Election of Michael Curry as Presiding Bishop.  It may be a surprise to you that some people think Crusty is hopelessly cynical, sarcastic, and jaded.  When Crusty was in a creative writing class in high school, the teacher once said after handing back our short stories, "You kids are way to young to be so cynical."  Crusty replied, "We're way too old not to be."  (#GenerationX).   Yet even Crusty found himself moved by the election of Michael Curry as Presiding Bishop -- and will hasten to add he felt the same way in 2006 when Bishop Jefferts Schori was elected, he was present when her name was announced to the House of Deputies.  This election, however, was different in that there was such an overwhelming consensus behind the election: elected on the first ballot with over 70% of the votes cast.  After 1997, when a write-in candidate came in second, and in 2006, when it went five ballots and conservative bishops manipulated the election process (two bishops openly stated they voted for Bishop Jefferts Schori not because they wanted her to be PB, but that a woman primate would cause problems for the Episcopal Church in the broader communion), this election was almost a coronation the consensus was so strong.  However, just as in 2006, we need to look not only at the historic first.  True, Bishop Jefferts Schori was the first woman Presiding Bishop.  Yet she was also the first convert from Roman Catholicism to be PB, the first second-career clergyperson to be PB, the first person with a PhD in the sciences to be PB, and the first person to minister exclusively on the West Coast to be PB.  She was not just the first woman, and her election is indicative of broader changes in The Episcopal Church.  Bishop Curry is the first African American bishop, true, no doubt there.  But he's also the first to be elected on the first ballot since the current system was put in place, and brings such a clear focus on mission and evangelism that his election is also indicative a broader changes in the church.

As cynical and jaded as Crusty was, he was genuinely moved and choked up when Bishop Curry entered the convention hall.  As it happened, Crusty was also standing a few feet away.  Everyone though Bishop Curry would enter through the main entrance, and there was huge crowd on that side of the House of Deputies.  Then, suddenly, a door opened
Do they srsly need nametages?  Like they won't be let on the floor?
about 30 feet to Crusty's left and in walked Bishop Jefferts Schori, Bishop Curry, Bishop Curry's family, and representatives from the diocese of North Carolina.  Crusty was stunned and barely had time to pull out his phone and snap a picture before the crowd quickly realized what was happening and rushed over to his side of the hall, which is why it's so blurry and grainy, about 5 seconds after snapping this a huge crowd of people had swarmed and it was nearly impossible to see.  This is not to say that everything was perfect about this election process, Crusty had some thoughts on some things which need changing here.

MEMORIAL TO THE CHURCH.  Back in April, the Acts8 posse met in Columbus in to work on a Memorial to the church, seeking to revive something which had fallen by the wayside in terms of General Convention.  Luckily we didn’t try to revive absinthe, child labor, or phrenology, other things which last saw their heyday around the same time as the venerable Memorial.  While drafting, the other Acts8 members asked for his historical perspective on memorials, and Crusty replied, “Well, since the most famous Memorial, the Muhlenberg Memorial, was a colossal,
How we would have picked a Presiding Bishop in the 19th century?
Cassandra-like flop in terms of its impact, correctly presaging what needed to be done but the Convention didn’t do anything, sure, let’s do this thing.”  But lo and behold, over 500 people and 30 bishops signed on to what one wag referred to as a “Gassy Sermonette.” (Crusty loved that line and wished he had thought of it.  Crusty immediately said, “I have the new name for my next band: The Gassy Sermonettes.”  Srsly whoever you were in cyberspace who wrote that, the Crust is strong in you, that was awesome.)  We combined the Memorial to the Church with a number of resolutions, some of which Crusty thought had a decent shot at being addressed, some of which Crusty thought would die in committee and never see the light of day.  Then, lo and behold, it worked!  As my colleague Susan Brown Snook has pointed out, a group of people got together, with no money, drafted a memorial and handful of resolutions, and the bulk of them were passed and funded.

Crusty was particular astounded that the unthinkable happened:  the budget was successfully amended not once, but twice.  Like knocking over a Vegas casino in Oceans 11, many had talked about, and actively tried to, amend the proposed budget at General Convention.  Yet the budgetary process at Convention is Chinese Democracy at its finest:  a small group of people draft a document, relying on information largely provided by an even smaller group of people, which shapes the ministry of the church for the next three years and is presented with an often explicit demand for  approval, with barely 48 hours left in Convention, and the direst of apocalyptic scenarios invoked should it not be passed.  Crusty knows there were some who got their nose out of joint because the budget was amended; well, too bad: COD hates to break it to you, but this is what democracy looks like.  We can’t fetishize and laud our glorious democratic polity and then, you know, be angry when, you know, a democratic process plays itself out.  One of the resolutions crafted in Columbus, to “extravangtly fund” church planting, was passed but not funded, and, as part of the budgetary amendment process, was able to be funded. As one colleague opined, “I feel like the dog who caught the car.”  This will help fund new church starts, particularly among the Hispanic/Latino community.

In addition to these uplifting moments of Convention, however, they weren't all Happy Days. 

CON:  The at times bizarre, dysfunctional mistrust between the two Houses of Convention is embarassingly alive and well.  On two separate occasions when Crusty was present in the House of Deputies the phrase "bishops trying to take over the church" were uttered on the floor of the House during debate.  This, however, has nothing on the bizarre turn of events in the House of Bishops during discussion on the resolution proposed to clarify the roles of presiding officers, which included the inclusion of a stipend for the President of the House of Deputies.  One bishop actually spoke of a "concerted attack on the authority of bishops", while another talked about how the role of President of House of Deputies had expanded without any conversation or discussion, which, in turn, devolved into a snarky comment by one bishop that the current Presiding Bishop had expanded the role of the office of PB without conversation or discussion.  All of this on the floor, while the HOB was in session, streamed for all the world to see.  Crusty thought, "Good God, I wonder what they talk like when they're in closed session!"

This is yet another reason why Crusty argues for a unicameral General Convention: there continues to be mistrust and suspicion between the House of Deputies and House of Bishops.  Crusty knows one thing for sure, and that is meeting separately and regularly offering unchallenged caricatures of the other House is quite possibly the one thing which will never move us beyond the current mistrust.  When COD has dealt with conflict, one of the first things he tries to do is to get the parties to stop talking about each other, and begin talking to each other.

Crusty also realized, as he pointed out here, that the current bicameral structure has the added detriment of effectively disenfranchising either the House of Bishops or House of Deputies, depending on the situation.  Since we deal with complicated issues with barely hours left in Convention, the House of initial action gets to have a through debate and proposed amendments, while the House that is not the one of initial action is usually told, more or less, just to pass what is in front of them otherwise it won't get passed at all and trust us somebody somewhere will try to remember to fix it later.

CON:  No major substantive structural changes passed.  The Episcopal Resurrection group, which also includes some of the Acts8 posse, did propose a measure, which did pass, which allows for joint sessions of the HOD and HOB to be held, perhaps as baby steps for a potential unicameral (due for a second reading in 2018).  Otherwise, no major restructuring resolutions to General Convention -- which means any substantive change is now kicked down to 2022 at the soonest, since most would require constitutional changes, which require two consecutive Conventions to approve something, which will now mean 2018 and 2021 with any changes coming into effect for the 2022-2025 triennium.  True, they did vote to get ride of all the Standing Commissions, but a) actually added money to the meeting budget, so not sure how this is redirecting funds towards other mission priorities, and b) said that Executive Council would be "guided" by past commitments in determining which Task Forces to set up for the triennium, so I'm guessing we'll get a bunch of Task Force which look a lot like the current Standing Committee structure, only this time instead of being agreed upon and accountable to and reflecting the priorities as voted on by Convention it'll be whatever Exec Council feels like, and most likely just a re-creation of what we already have.  So even getting rid of the CCABs wasn't doing much.

CON:  Continued lack of clarity about what GenCon can do and/or should do, which, in turn, reinforces a tendency towards localism.  Crusty wrote extensively here that quite often resolutions ask conflicting and/or confusing things for GenCon to do, and picked a couple of resolutions for 2015, more or less at random, which exemplified this.  Neither of those resolutions passed in the format they were proposed, but, in Crusty's mind, Convention picked a doozy of a resolution to continue to show we don't really know what Convention is for sometimes: 

Here follows the saga of Resolution D050:

Resolved,  the House of Deputies concurring, That a bishop exercising ecclesiastical authority may authorize a congregation to use “An Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist” (BCP pp. 400-405) at a principal Sunday or weekly celebration of the Holy Eucharist, if the Eucharistic Prayer is written and submitted in advance of its use to the Bishop; while the BCP states that the rite “is not intended for use at the principal Sunday or weekly celebration of the Holy Eucharist,” the BCP does not forbid its use in such contexts.

First off, there's the larger question of why this is even needed.  There are at least nine approved Eucharistic prayers that Crusty knows about; Crusty has served in settings as diverse as small rural congregation and campus chaplain; and always was able to find an approved Eucharistic prayer that more or less fit the situation.  I am not even sure why this resolution is needed, and frankly was unconvinced by any of the examples offered during debate

Regardless, Crusty initially argued that this resolution should be out of order since it contradicts the plain meaning of the rubric.  The rubric clearly states that "An Order for Celebrating Holy Eucharist" is "not intended for use at the principal Sunday or weekly celebration of the Holy Eucharist."  Yet the resolution proposes to allow the diocesan bishop to do exactly that.  Crusty had a deputy friend approach the parliamentarian, challenging whether it was in order.  The parliamentarian said it was in order, and then Crusty and his colleague pondered challenging the ruling, but, since it was approaching the end of Convention, this meant that the House could spend its time in endless parliamentary wrangling instead of actually doing its work.  So we made the decision not to challenge the ruling and instead try to express concerns about the resolution itself.  It didn't work, and it passed, fairly overwhelmingly, showing, yet again, quite often people don't even know what they're asking Convention to do.

So what did Convention do?

What Convention is authorizing here is mind boggling: here we have, in one resolution, sweepingly authorized that what the BCP does not explicitly forbid is permitted.  Think about that, one more time.  The resolution states that since "the BCP does not forbid its use in
Maybe the Sicilian is in the House of Deputies.
such contexts", the bishop has the authority to authorize the Order for Celebrating Eucharist, despite the clearest plainest most obvious meaning of the BCP that it should NOT be used in this context.

This shows a profound lack of understanding between a rubric and a canon.

Given our ecclesiological subsidiarity, General Convention, from its outset in 1789, very clearly allowed for leeway in local governance, and only laid out what MUST be done in the Constitution and Canons.  So long as they did not violate the Constitution and Canons or any civil or criminal laws, dioceses could organize their business as they chose, and, so long as they did not violate the diocesan Constitution and Canons or Episcopal Church Constitution and Canons, parishes could do the same.  Thus we have local pecularities, like the Tennessee dioceses requiring a 2/3rds vote to elect a bishop, and some parishes where only the Vestry votes on the budget, not the parish as a whole.  The local level cannot contradict any higher levels in terms of canons.

This resolution mistakenly extends that canonical subsidiarity understanding to the rubrics, namely, that anybody is free to do whatever they want so long as the BCP does not explicitly forbid it.  Well, guess what was the only thing the 1789 Convention excluded from local option?  Yes, that's right -- LITURGY.  It enacted a single Book of Common Prayer for use and required that it be used.  Violation of the rubrics are grounds for clergy discipline!  Subsidiarity was NOT assumed for liturgy.  Use of locally authorized liturgies is carefully defined circumstances in Title II and in the Book of Common Prayer, and, by the way, the use of "An Order for Eucharist" as a Trojan horse for local liturgies happens to be EXPLICITLY NOT PERMITTED in the Book of Common Prayer.  I honestly don't know how many times I have to keep pointing that out.

Not only do they not exemplify canonical subsidiarity, rubrics function differently than canons.  They lay out what SHOULD be done, and, when there are permitted options, they give those options, like "stand or kneel."  

Here's an example.  The Prayer Book mentions water in baptism.  But nowhere does it say that you HAVE to use water, and it does NOT EXPLICITLY FORBID anything else.  So why can't we use rose petals to baptize someone?  According to D050, we can, just like we can use Fresca and Ritz Crackers for communion, because, after all, they are not explicitly forbidden (though they are mentioned in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, which speaks of Baptism and the Lord's Supper and the elements "ordained by him", it just says they must be "used" and does not EXPLICITLY FORBID other elements.  Hey, we use bread and wine at our 8am spoken service, it just says they "must" be used, doesn't say "at every service and at every time").  While this resolution places the permission to authorize this rite to the diocesan bishop, it does not do so not under the diocesan bishop's authority as laid out on p. 13 of the BCP, or in Title II, but solely on the grounds of what it lays out here in this resolution, this authority is delegated to the diocesan bishop by this resolution because this resolution has determined what is not forbidden is permitted, and then qualifies that permission in this case to the diocesan.  It's the most circular and baseless argument I could possibly think of, but it passed overwhelmingly, with absolutely no clue as to what precedent it has established.  Convention is on record as saying what is not explicitly forbidden is permitted.  Great job, GenCon. 

Remember, this is the same body which has spent the better part of 20 years variously tying itself up in knots about and endlessly discussed rites of marriage, as well as at this very Convention discussing in addition a process for revising the Book of Common Prayer, and whether to authorize a list of liturgical commemorations.  The same body that did that also, with very little discussion or debate, decided that anybody can do whatever the f**k they feel like liturgically if it's not forbidden by the rubrics.  So why did we even bother to propose a process to revise the BCP?  Why even bother authorizing commemorations? Why even bother with authorizing rites for same sex marriage?  Sure, the BCP says "man and woman" but nowhere does it explicitly forbid same sex couples from marrying.  Mischief managed!  No need to debate anything liturgically anymore!

Apart this simply resolution being, in Crusty's eyes, at best out of order and at worst a bad idea that continues to erode any "common" aspects to "common" prayer, it continues to show that, at times, we simply don't know what we are asking General Convention to do.

CON:  Age discrimination is alive and well at General Convention.  In addition to the strange, simmering animosity expressed at times on the floor of one House towards the other, the other moment that caused Crusty's jaw to drop was the casual age discrimination that went on, practically unremarked. in both the HOB and HOD.  

In the House of Bishops, in the course of a session discussing the question of same sex marriage, one of the bishops joked that "We've been discussing matters of sexuality since before Bishop Rowe was born," referencing the youngest bishop in the House of Bishops.  Using someone's age as a punchline for a joke should be utterly unacceptable, yes there were some low-level chuckles and nobody said a thing.

Imagine this:  after a discussion about issues of race and racism, someone cracks, "Hey, we've been arguing about equal treatment of African Americans in the church since Bishop Curry's ancestors are slaves -- c'mon, Amirite, people?"

Or, instead of the Bishop Rowe crack, after that same discussion of same sex marriage, someone said: "We've been discussing matters of sexuality since Bishop Robinson was in the closet and married to a woman!"

Of course not.  Yet nobody said a f****g word.  In the House of Bishops, a roomful of old people, of course it's OK to make fun of the one person who is (barely) 40. 

Then, in the House of Deputies, the following occurred ON THE SAME DAY.  During the debate on developing policies towards use of alcohol at church events, a deputy stood up, asked the official youth delegation to stand, and implored the House to pass this for the sake of the youth.

This was so utterly, completely bonkers I had to look around and make sure it was actually happening.  Once I did, I tweeted out my astonishment that one member of the House of Deputies could use other members of the House as a prop for a floor speech.  Can you imagine what would happen if someone did this during the debate on authorizing rites for same sex marriage:

"I'd like to ask all the gay members of the House to stand, and implore you to pass this resolution on same sex marriage for their sake."

Or this when voting to consent to the election of Michael Curry as Presiding Bishop:

"I'd like to ask all the black members of the House to stand, and implore you to consent to Bishop Curry's election as PB for their sake."

Of course not.  But nobody said a f****g word.  Until Crusty tweeted about it.

My tweet got circulated quite a bit, and someone even stood up and referenced it from one of the microphones.  This propmpted a response from the Vice President of the House of Deputies, who tweeted me.  He noted that the action was out of order, Deputies should only address the chair and should ask permission to address anyone else in the House.  To which Crusty thought:  That's it?  Only noting that it's out of order?  Not noting that even if the Chair granted the deputy permission, it's utterly condescending and unacceptable?  

And we look around and wonder why there aren't more young people in the church.  The cold, hard, reality is that a good number of folks are so utterly tone deaf to the needs and concerns of youth and young adults, and the church has spent a generation abandoning any effort to reach out to them.  While we remain addicted to structure and ADDED money for meetings even while we cut CUTTING EVERY STANDING COMMISSION, the budget cut funding for youth ministry, on top of spending a generation gutting campus chaplaincies.  The cluelessness of the Convention as a whole towards age discrimination and marginalization of youth shows that the church is reaping what it sows.  

Well, friends, those are some initial thoughts.  It was the least soul-crushing General Convention I have attended, but, like all General Conventions, the real issues will be addressed in the triennium.  Crusty fully expects there will be those who seek to recreate the Standing Commission structure more or less as task forces of Executive Council, and those who will seek to undo the budget amendments to fund church planting.  It's in the interim bodies and work between Conventions that the things passed at Convention either thrive or die.  As Mad Eye Moody would say, "Constant vigilance!"