Saturday, June 30, 2012

GC Preview: Welcome to the Terrordome

Watcha do gitcha head ready
Instead of gettin' physically sweaty
When I get mad
I put it down on a pad
Give ya somethin' that cha never had.

Probably no surprise that Crusty Old Dean put on Public Enemy's classic from 1989, "Welcome to the Terrordome," as he begins to get ready to head off to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church next week.  Yeah verily, the Terrordome looms as COD begins packing to leave for Convention.  As  COD laid out in some previous posts, he has gone from thinking General Convention was at times perhaps counterproductive to realizing it can be a destructive force in the life of the church, as well as being a place where the church was shine collectively and come together.  Read more about that revelation here and here.

As part of the run-up to General Convention, COD is presenting his Official General Convention Preview.  All predictions guaranteed correct or your money back -- which is an easy promise to make, since COD is free. Let's start with the easy stuff first.  Funny, isn't it, that back in the good old days of 2006 we would have though this stuff was going to be the hard stuff.

--Same Sex Blessings:  the proposed blessing of same sex unions will be adopted as a trial rite.  Will pass handily in a vote by orders in the House of Deputies, will be a bit closer in House of Bishops.   The vote by orders will be requested by the following deputations:  South Carolina, Central Florida, and Springfield. Crusty Old Dean will tweet his predictions of the HOB vote total (trying to recreate the magic of picking 62 as the number of "yes" votes for Gene Robinson in 2003) after listening to the debate.

--Anglican Covenant:  some version of the compromise resolution proposed by Ian Douglas will pass.  Something which affirms what we can endorse in the Covenant (pretty much all of Section 1-3), which raises concerns about Section 4, asks us to be in further discussion and study on this, and affirms our commitment to the Anglican Communion.  COD has opined on this before; why reject the Covenant?  It's going down anyway, and except for parts of Section IV there's good stuff in it; why hand the Communion an opportunity to marginalize us?  Force them to marginalize us.

Now:  onto some other things coming before Convention.

--The House of Bishops will go off the rails on the question of confirmation as a prerequisite for holding certain offices in the church.  Just like you double down on 11 in blackjack -- always, no matter what -- always, not matter what, bet on the House of Bishops to spend at least 20 minutes in any discussion that involves confirmation.

--PB&F will propose some version of a compromise budget between what was presented by the PB and what was handed to them by Executive Council.  COD thinks PB&F was already planning on reworking the budget to look more like what came out of the PB's office -- not that there's any collusion between the two, but that PB&F would try to come up with something that has a little more equity in the cutbacks.  Crusty Old Dean isn't entirely thrilled with the PB's budget, but a)  he sees it more as a transitional budget, and b) it's a step up from the inchoate Frankenstein budget Executive Council spat out.

--Gay Jennings will be elected PHOD.  While COD thinks she would be a fine PHOD, he is discouraged there has not been other candidates who have announced.  Like when Louie Crew ran against George Werner in 2003, we should at least have a choice, and a discussion, and hear a vision from different leaders in the church.  It's not healthy for a democratic institution to hand off leadership in a Politburo-style succession: someone from the former PHOD's council of advice and her chancellor are the likely next President and Vice President.

--The real battle is going to be over what entity emerges from this Convention that will look at restructuring the church.  It seems evident we have a reached a tipping point, and there is consensus that we need to take a long, hard, look at how the denomination is organized and funded for mission.  There nearly 30 resolutions from dioceses supporting, in some fashion, the calling of a Special General Convention in 2015 to deal with restructuring.  There are proposals to create a consultation of some kind to meet and discuss restructuring of the church.  There are proposals submitted to this Convention to do specific things -- for instance, B015 proposes a first reading of Constitutional changes to create a unicameral Convention.

Recall that Crusty Old Dean proposed, way back in October, proposed that we suspend the Canons in their entirety and take a first reading on removing voting by orders and taking the vote away from retired bishops (read about it here) in order to be able to start rolling out changes in 2015, not 2018 and beyond.  While Crusty Old Dean doesn't think we should do anything hasty -- the law of unintended consequences looms large -- on the other hand, we also can't wait until 2019 to bring in whatever changes will be proposed in 2015 and pass a second time in 2018 or even later (even if we manage to pass them in exactly the same language; we have shown a propensity to amend things on the second reading, this making it a first reading, thus require another second reading).

The battle will be over who is part of this consultation, and where the process is lodged.  The House of Deputies will fight to the end to make sure it is lodged in Standing Commission on Structure.  Crusty Old Dean is not against having significant involvement of the SC on Structure.  However, we need to have representation from our various networks -- like Forma (Christian Educators), the Stewardship Network, Campus chaplains, etc. -- and we MUST have significant representation from people under 30 and from underrepresented groups.  We are an old, white church in a country which is younger and more diverse, and with people under 30 hardwired in very different ways in understanding of community institutions, and networks.  If we are thinking of restructuring the church, is it ESSENTIAL that we have representation from the people who are going to inherit that church we restructure.  Since the average deputy is 60 years old and white, this is why COD has a problem with putting a creature of Convention in charge of the conversation. 

Some initial thoughts; this is not meant to be exhaustive or comprehensive.  COD will come back to this post at the end of Convention and we can engage in some group schadenfreude about how he could have gotten things so wrong.

If you're at Convention, COD is helping organize a gathering with Susan Brown Snook and Scott Gunn to share some dreams and visions for the future of the church -- look for info and updates at 

Follow Crusty Old Dean on Twitter @crustyoldean for updates from Convention.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Let's Get Crusty: COD Takes GC

Bet many readers out there have rolled their eyes are various times while reading this blog, wondering when Crusty Old Dean would stop ranting and actually do something?  I am Crusty, but I am merciful, and COD forgives any who may have thought that.  Because Crusty Old Dean is delighted to announce he is teaming up with Susan Brown Snook and former nemesis turned un-indicted co-conspirator Scott Gunn to gather a group of like minded people at General Convention.

Join us on July 5 at 9:30 pm, exact location to be determined.  This will be a time for bishops, clergy, and lay people, some deputies, some representing various networks gathered at Convention, to come together and share our visions, dreams, and hopes for the kind of church we need to co-create.

We're calling it our Acts 8 moment: reflecting that critical turning point in the church, a time of conflict, which was the genesis of the great transformation that helped bring Jesus' message from the Jewish community to the include the entire world.  Crusty Old Dean wanted to call it the Matthew 8:22 moment but he was outvoted.  We are also hoping that ChurchSnobTEC will show up in a Guy Fawkes mask.

Link up with us on Facebook at  This is where we will be posting up-to-date information like where, exactly, we will be meeting.

And stayed tuned to Crusty Old Dean.  I will be posting by General Convention preview in the next 24 hours or so.

Crusty Old Dean will also be firing up his twitter account for up-to-the-minute snark alerts from General Convention.  Follow him on Twitter @crustyoldean.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I Didn't Forget to Remember to Forget the GOEs

Crusty Old Dean weighed in on the PB's proposed budget in a previous post; while not perfect, it's certainly several steps up from the inchoate clusterf**k submitted to PB&F.  COD is willing to get behind the PB budget, seeing it as a transition budget for the 2013-2015 triennium, with the hope that a truly constructive resolution can come out of this Convention setting up some kind of consultation to discuss more substantive restructuring, with substantive changes to be introduced in 2015.

You might think Crusty Old Dean is getting on in years, since there were two things COD did not mention in the PB's budget, but he did mention in previous postings.  It's not that, in the words of the classic Elvis song (though COD prefers the Johnny Cash version), that COD forgot to remember.  Rather, COD felt they warranted a more in-depth discussion:  the funding for the General Board of Examining Chaplains and the seminarian assistance grant.  Let's take the second one first.

The pathetic and paltry seminarian assistance grants provided in the 2009 budget evidence some of the bizarre reality of General Convention, a fitting symbol of how it is out of whack with reality, its tendency to go all sound and fury, passing resolutions demanding peace in the Middle East and telling the US government how to handle North Korea, and in the end doing not much at all.  Take seminarian debt and financial assistance.   General Convention actually did something in 2009, passing a resolution to increase funding to seminarians.  So far so good.  But the amount was tiny, and even that paltry amount was cut in the Executive Council proposed budget, and also does not appear in the PB budget.

And COD is not too disconcerted by this.  Not because of the issue in question: COD is a seminary dean, after all, and was a former seminarian himself, and is still paying his student loans every month.  It's not because he doesn't think the issues is important, but because the solution was so pathetic.  It was almost insulting that we could consider to have addressed the question given the amount put forward -- a whopping $195,000 for the 2013-2015 triennium, or about $65,000 per year.  This is like saying the federal government is concerned about rising health care costs and coming up with $100 million in a multi-billion dollar industry, and BTW with no strategic plan other than that pittance amount. 

So COD is not disconcerted, because in this case maybe half a loaf -- hell,  not even that, maybe 1/100th of a loaf -- isn't better than no loaf at all.

Rather, let's show we take the matter seriously; let's come up with a strategic plan.  If the church is serious about establishing this development office proposed -- and COD is still unsure about the wisdom of using a draw from principal to fund a development office to raise money for the DFMS -- then let's make raising funding for theological education part of its charge.  Looking at our ecumenical partners is revealing; while we struggle to come up with $65,000 a year for seminarian assistance, the ELCA mobilized significant churchwide resources, raised over $40 million, and distributed nearly $1 million in scholarships to 187 seminarians in 2010-2011 alone.  Let's have General Convention take the matter seriously, and actually adopt a plan which might address the problem they claim they are so concerned about, rather than throwing $5 at a $1000 problem.

OK, now the GOEs.  The initial Executive Council budget eliminated funding for the General Board of Examining Chaplains, claiming that this was work better done at the diocesan level.  COD was concerned about this reasoning, for a couple of reasons:

--This is not just a diocesan matter, since areas of competency are mandated in the national canons;
--This is not just a diocesan matter, since having theologically and pastorally competent clergy is something which concerns the entire church;
--This is not just a diocesan matter because it's also a matter of equity and fairness; different dioceses have different realities and different resources; are we now, with a few months to spare, suddenly to tell 109 dioceses they are on their own?

And let's remember equity and fairness was the real reason for establishing the GOEs in the first place.  Prior to the GOEs, when we solely had a system of diocesan examinations, they could be wildly different in their level of complexity.  Some were considered fairly easy, while some were onerous.  They also could be overly personal; stories abounded of high church dioceses discriminating against low-church or evangelical ordinands, and vice versa.  The argument was to have a single, churchwide standard, double-blind, reflecting a single set of canonical areas of competence.

The reasoning behind this decision, to COD, showed the dark side to subsidiarity:  dumping something to a certain level of the church because somebody felt like it.  Instead, as COD has repeatedly argued, we should think of ways different levels and networks in the church can come together on an issue in which they have complementary stakes, instead of General Convention, through its budget, getting to be the body that decides who should do what kinds of things.
However, despite what he considers faulty reasoning, COD can live with the elimination of the General Board of Examining Chaplains and the GOEs in their current form because, well, the GOEs needed an overhaul, anyway.  They were expensive to write and grade, came at a terrible time (the week after New Year's), and at times exhibited the problems of having a double-blind system (the readers don't know who the students are and the students don't know who their readers are).  COD once counseled a student whose reader said he evidenced racial insensitivity to people of color.  The student was a person of color and actively involved in anti-racism work.  COD once counseled a student whose reader said they showed no understanding of youth and young adult ministry.  The student had worked at church camps all her life, was serving part-time as a youth minister, and felt called to a ministry with youth and young adults.  And so on.   The GOEs needed fixing, anyway.

This is in addition to COD's issues with GOEs as a seminary dean:  it's an examination seminaries have no role in writing, grading, or interpreting, yet we are expected to prepare students for it and deliver it.  

So by all means, let's end the General Board of Examining Chaplains, and take this as an opportunity to come up with a better system.  Because the inherent reason for the GOEs in the first place hasn't gone away:  having theologically and pastorally competent clergy is something that is probably a good thing for a church.  Having a centralized set of areas in which competency is to be expected defined in the canons is a good thing, too, in COD's opinion.   In fact, this is our canonical system at its best.  The canons are designed to outline what is considered essentially and necessary, and allows great flexibility.  For instance, as Crusty Old Dean always tells his students in class, the canons say dioceses should have bishops, and a system for choosing them, not does not lay out any one method.  We could draw lots or throw darts at photos on a cork board.  Similarly with theological education: there is tremendous room for creative adaptation, if only we could live into it.  The Episcopal Church does not have, and has never had, the expectation of a formal theological degree as normative; rather, we have come up with a set of standards and permitted flexibility in meeting them.  There is an inherent challenge in this, and this is where the rubber meets the road, because it puts the onus on the church to come together and find ways to live into that flexibility -- because as much as we claim to prize the flexibility in our governance, it also takes a lot of work.

COD would like to propose

--That a coalition of people connected with seminaries, and not just Episcopal seminaries, work with representatives from diocesan training programs, and persons actively engaged not only in parish ministry but non-parochial ministries (chaplains, etc.) to write an exam

--That they cover the seven areas from Title III, Canon 8, Section 5 (g), and more or less in the same format as the current GOE; with the proviso that one question may cover two areas (thus permitting six questions instead of seven, see below for reasoning)

--That this examination be written no later than November 1, 2012;

--That they be designed to be taken over a weekend, from Friday-Sunday (thus six sessions over three days/1 weekend instead of taking 5 days to administer)

--That there be a "window" when the examination can be given, any time from January 1, 2013-March 1, 2013.

--That each diocesan board of examining chaplains receive the examination and administer it in a manner they seem fit.  If they would like their students to take it at the seminary they are attending, work with the seminary on doing so; if they would like to administer it locally, they may do so

--Responsibility for reading and interpreting the responses is solely lodged with the diocesan examining chaplains.  This is one of the oddest things about the GOE right now; we spend a good chunk of money writing, reading, and grading it, yet the diocese can do whatever it wants with the results, anyway.

--That a modest fee be charged ($100) to help fund one initial meeting among the people drafting the exam, and that everything else be done online.

--Stop treating the GOE questions as if they were missile launch codes, and allow students to take them  in a place and at a time determined by the diocese.  Yes, it means some students may have taken the exam and others may have not.  But these are people going into ministry, and if we can't trust them to take a written exam and not cheat, are we really going to let them handle financial assets of the church and be privy to people's most intimate and personal concerns?

--And, of course, COD is open to other ideas.

One thing which COD keeps coming back to is in this blog is that one of the reasons many of the issues facing us are so pernicious is the way they are deeply rooted in issues in our polity.  We never sorted out the relationship between the PB and Council back in 1919 when the PB office was changed and the Council set up; any wonder nearly 100 years later these chickens are coming home to roost?  Same deal with seminaries: we have 10 seminaries, founded in different times and different places, with little or no connection to the denominational structure as a whole.  This is not how some other denominations function -- the United Methodist Church and ELCA have a much closer relationship with their seminaries, setting standards, giving an "official" stamp of approval to them, coordinating work between them at the denominational level, and providing funding (albeit steadily decreasing).  Part of the issue with seminarian funding and demonstrating competency is the fact that all the actors in the drama are independent of one another:  the canons set the standards but do nothing more; dioceses have tremendous leeway in how they choose to provide training for clergy; and all the seminaries are freestanding, independent organizations.

This makes it challenging, yes.  But it also provides incredible opportunity for creative partnership.  Can we seize those opportunities?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The PB's Budget: You're COD's Guitar Hero.

This fancy that I'm on has been going on too long;
It's time we stopped pretending things are real.
'Cause I've been living deep in sin, I've been living blind.
--Gram Parsons

Crusty Old Dean thought of these words as he chanced upon a bit of news, the fact that the Presiding Bishop has released a budget proposal -- the entire thing can be found here, from the Presiding Bishop's message to the budget itself.  So COD put some Gram Parsons on Spotify and got to work.

Before getting into some discussion of the budget itself, it would appear that a few preliminary remarks are warranted.

1)        It’s time we stopped pretending things are real; this is Gram’s painful acknowledgement to his lover that the relationship they are in is no longer functioning, and he just can’t live that way anymore.

One is to acknowledge that the budgetary system and process put in place for this triennium was a complete, total, and abject failure, from the Executive Committee of Executive Council to the probably well intentioned but disastrous efforts by Executive Council to allocate funding in a feeding frenzy of a plenary session.  In case you’re new to this blog, COD has been saying all along that he would like to see some actual, coherent, concerted effort to connect an understanding of mission, ecclesiology, and structure to our budgetary process.  Restructuring by defunding, without much explanation or consultation, was the path chosen in 2009.  Restructuring through dysfunctional implosion seemed to be the way we were going in 2012.

2)        We’ve been living deep in sin: the sin of different parties in the church with hubris to think that they, somehow, are the guarantors and preservers of the integrity of the church.  This had been the corrosive dysfunction that has been laid bare these past few months.  Time to acknowledge that sin:  to repent of it, all around, on all sides.  It is getting us nowhere.  It is destroying us.  We need to seek a way to move forward.

3)        We must solve the systemic difficulties between Executive Council and the Presiding Bishop.  As originally laid out in 1919 and refined in the 1920s, the Presiding Bishop was chair of the National (later Executive) Council, which oversaw and coordinated the church's ministries.  Council had inimtate oversight of what we would now call the mission work of the church.  Yet in the 1940s and 1950s, we moved to an understanding of the PB as CEO and the staff as "his" (now "her") staff.    This is an oversimplication, to be sure, but shows the relationship between the two has developed over time, and we need another redevelopment.  There needs to be a recalibration and appropriate shared oversight, so there is not the enmity and tension between Council and the Presiding Bishop -- which, BTW, the PB herself proposes in this budget (see below).

4)        OK, on to the budget.  There are several things COD commends about this budget:

---        It is based on our actual governance.  Instead of entrusting the budgetary process to ways that has never been done before (the Executive Committee of Executive Council; competing budgetary proposals based on 15% and 19% asking; having Executive Council itself willy nilly add to line items), this one is actually grounded in governance:  the Presiding Bishop’s canonical authority.  The responsibility for initiating and developing strategy rests with the Presiding Bishop. We have a Presiding Bishop, and the understanding of this office has undergone over a century of discussion, with specific responsibilities outlined by enactments of canons of the General Convention. 

My thanks to the Presiding Bishop for showing the courage to exercise the leadership entrusted to that office as decided upon by the church as a whole.  This does not, of course, negate the other aspects of our governance, as those who will surely denounce this as some sort of circumventing power grab know quite well:  This budget must, of course, be subject to the other mandates and provisions as outlined in the Constitution and Canons and Rules of Order. 

Crusty Old Dean is alarmed that, at times, there is at best hue and cry, and at worst cynical and knee-jerk anti-clericalism, when our governing structures do what they are supposed to do.  Take, for instance, some of the reaction to the proposal to the House of Bishops to call a Special General Convention:  well, the reality is that only the HOB can call a Special General Convention.  It’s our governance; if we don’t like it, then change it, but can we fault those who are actually using the processes laid down in our governance?  (BTW, COD would support such a change in this instance, making the calling of a Special Convention require broader input, whether from Executive Council, or a certain number of diocesan conventions, whatnot).  We have a layering of episcopal, clerical, and lay say in the governance of the church.  Let’s trust it, and not necessarily presume or impugn motive.

---        This budget actually explains things.  Recall, in the Executive Council budget, buried on line 372 was the acknowledgment that cuts were coming from the program aspects of several departments, leaving us with the situation that there would be staff but who had no budgets to coordinate or organize meetings.  This profound ecclesiological shift was nowhere laid out, buried in few line item descriptions.

This budget, for instance, explains the increase to Province IX, showing how it emerges from the sustainability conferences held.

---        It stands the old budget on its head, and redefines it in terms of the marks of mission.  This is something COD has been arguing for all along:  if we really, truly are going to shape our budget around these understandings of the marks of mission, then let’s actually do it.  This gives a sense of coherence to this budget, sorely lacking in the previous version.

---        A sense of mission strategy emerges.  The budget approved by Executive Council was simply mind boggling, with numbers added to various line items without any kind of overall organizing or operating principles.  In this budget, we can see clear patterns emerge.  For example:

It explains the $1,000,000 in additional funding to Young Adult Service Corps and Episcopal Service Corps and restores sensible and reasonable funding to the Formation section; these issues are also interconnected. The old budget increased funding for missionary and internship opportunities while slashing youth and young adult ministries 90%.  Where are we going to recruit young people to go into these internship programs if we have slashed every other formation and feeder program for them, from EYE to campus ministries?   Complex and interconnected issues require complex, interconnected solutions.

---        It restores program funding to several areas. Cutting program funding and insisting that other levels of the church now have sole responsibility for certain things is simply bereft of any true sense of the interconnected nature of the church. We cannot simply dump things every three years and ask dioceses and networks to step up and do work without getting buy-in, providing training, getting input and feedback from them.  Do we need dioceses and network to collaborate and co-create new ways of doing the mission of the church?  Aboslutely.  But General Convention deciding every three years what to dump on dioceses and networks without any discussion or planning at all is not doing that.  It’s what we did in 2009, and were set for a repeat in 2012. 

---        There are across the board reductions.  No single area is asked to take on a reduction which is out of proportion – unlike the Executive Council budget, where some areas had increased funding and others were cut 90%.  This budget acknowledges the reduction in 12.75 staff positions, spread in several areas.  Far from being centralized or staff-preserving, it reduces staff by nearly 10%.  The challenge will be not whether we are too staff driven -- we have consistently cut staff over the past decade -- but if we are willing to cut into governance.  We have cut over 40 staff positions at 815 in the past three years, yet there is a resolution to lengthen General Convention before us this summer.

---        Make sure you read the entire statement, not just the tidbits posted in various places. 

For one thing, at the end of the narrative statement, the PB states that she has asked Chief Operating Officer Stacy Sauls to "to conduct a thorough study of the location of the Episcopal Church Center."

For another, while this will be seen by some as a rebuke or even an effort to circumvent the work of Executive Council, the PB states that much of the implementation and living into these proposals will call for "collaborative cooperation" with Executive Council -- and further notes that this kind of collaborative cooperation has been possible in the past.  

Crusty Old Dean still has some concerns.

---        One is whether the numbers truly add up.  This budget seems to be based on the following assumptions:

a 19% asking formula and a realistic expectation of diocesan commitments, and
a budget surplus from various cuts which in turn
                        --allows for a reduction in principal on debt owed
                        --which in turn allows for a $5.3 million reduction in debt service

This combination of increased diocesan commitments and reduced debt payments is what allows for the $4.4 million in additional revenue in the PB budget from the EC budget.  Will these numbers add up?

---        The draw from principal to fund the development office remains in this budget proposal.  Crusty Old Dean just has concerns in general about funding things outside of the normal budgetary process. George W. Bush funded the Iraq and Afghanistan wars but special appropriations out of the budgetary process.  If something is worth doing, it’s worth budgeting, so that we can have a grasp of the actual cost.

Overall, though, this is a breath of fresh air, providing a budget which outlines and explains a coherent strategy based on the five marks of mission.  Bishops and deputies on PB&F, please give it the thorough hearing that it deserves.

Crusty Old Dean has switched over from Gram Parsons to The Clash on Spotify, which is apt:  Katharine Jefferts Schori, as Joe Strummer once said to Mick Jones, “You’re my guitar hero.”

Saturday, June 16, 2012

COD Ponders ACNA: Inconceivable!

“Inconceivable!” the Sicilian would keep shouting, as The Man in Black kept gaining on him.

“That word,” Inigo Montoye finally said, after The Man in Black survived every scenario where it was “inconceivable” that he could, “it does not mean what I think you think it means.”

This classic exchange from The Princess Bride came to COD as he explored the interconnected set of tubes that is The Internet.

There’s been some low level buzz in the Episcoblogospheretronmatrixweb in the past couple of weeks on the situation in the Anglican Church in North America, the uncle that doesn’t get along with your father the Episcopal Church and is responsible for a detritus of ill will in your family system.

My colleague Mark Harris has posted some interesting reflections here.  My former nemesis now well-wisher (as, in the words of Moe Syzslak, that I wish him no specific harm) Scott Gunn, posted some thoughts on ACNA’s “membership” claims here.

Crusty Old Dean had himself a good chortle as he sorted through Brother Mark and Currently Neutral Towards Scott’s posts.  Methinks, COD said between chortles, both of these chaps need to back up a bit.

Let’s start at the very beginning: before we even begin to think of what ACNA’s future might be, or what it’s membership might be, let’s face one central fact:

ACNA may be worth the A, but not the  C - NA .  While recognizably Anglican, is not a Church, and it is not North American – ecclesiologically speaking, that is.

Crusty Old Dean says this with no malice; COD is all snark and very little malice, actually.  I certainly have no ill will towards any folks in ACNA, and wish them well, hope they are happy, and wish there had not been so much acrimony leading to their formation, and thought that with more charity and good will things didn’t have to be so difficult.  It’s a free country, after all, and I don’t begrudge anyone the right and wish to worship as they please.   Crusty Old Dean, after all, once had a handshake agreement with a non-Episcopal Church Anglican body for a path leading towards mutual recognition of one another.  So long as people renounce bigotry, hatred, and caricature of the other, COD is willing to live and let live.  COD would love to form a pan-Anglican federation focused on truly partnering on matters where we have agreement, and walk with our brothers and sisters in a globalized world, and while he is at it he would also buy the world a Coke.

COD also realizes what’s good for the goose is good for the gander; sometimes he wonders if it’s fair game to ask if The Episcopal Church is “the”, whether it’s actually “Episcopal”, and what its understanding of church is.  But that’s another post for another time.  Frankly, he would prefer PECUSA as an official name, but that ecclesial horse has left the polity barn.

So in saying ACNA is not a church, it’s not personal, it’s business -- ecclesiological business, that is.  COD’s central claim still stands: ACNA is not a church.

It is, at best, an umbrella organization, perhaps like the AFL-CIO, or Comic-Con, or the Stargate franchise.  A quick perusal of ACNA’s governing documents shows that it permits entire denominations, or individual dioceses, or networks, to join. Some ACNA members have close relations with other Anglican provinces, born from divisions of the past decade; others separated over a century ago over issues which require the Oxford Dictionary of Christianity to explain, matters like baptismal regeneration, and previously functioned for decades with little or no connection to the broader Anglican Communion. 

Let’s look at a couple of examples.

There’s the Convocation of Anglican in North America, formerly an extension ministry of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, who consecrated its missionary bishops, now independent and self-governing – but also part of ACNA.   While listed as a member of ACNA, CANA also lists its leadership as being its Board of Directors, its Convocation Council, and its episcopacy.  It also lists a “sponsoring province,” the Province of Nigeria, a Provincial Primatial Archbishop (try saying that after a glass of sherry at 11 am on a Sunday morning with nothing but the sacrament in your belly), and a North American Archbishop.  How is a self-governing church with ties to another province of the Anglican Communion, and two different archbishops,  integrally a member of a “church” like ACNA?  Which begs a questions:  can ACNA be a province when one its members has its own Provincial Primatial Archbishop?

And then there’s the Reformed Episcopal Church, formed in 1873 with the defection of George Cummins, assistant bishop of the diocese of Kentucky, who objected to the encroaching popery of the Oxford Movement, which mixed with the contempt for baptismal regeneration held by the only bishop he consecrated, Charles Edward Cheney.  The REC, while a member of ACNA, still has its own Presiding Bishop, its own diocesan structure with diocesan bishops, its own missionary bishops, sponsors its own military chaplains, and continues to be governed by a General Council (similar to General Convention), has its own authorized Prayer Book, and has entered into ecumenical agreements with other churches.  The REC also is an international church, with international missionary dioceses.  So a church that’s over 140 years old, with its own Presiding Bishop, its own governing body, and its own authorized liturgies, recognized by the federal government as an endorsing body for federal chaplains, is also a part of ACNA? 

It also includes individual dioceses as members, like the Anglican Diocese of Great Lakes, which was originally affiliated with the diocese of Bolivia of the Southern Cone, then became part of CANA, and now is apparently a diocese of ACNA; and the dioceses formerly known as TEC dioceses San Joaquin, Quincy, Forth Worth, and Pittsburgh.

It also includes an affinity based network which has regrouped itself into a diocese:  The Episcopal Synod of America, founded in 1989 as an organization bringing together conservative Anglo-Catholics, later linked up with like minded folks who had formed Forward in Faith in the UK, to become Forward in Faith North America (FiFNA).  Formerly a network associated with ACNA, apparently even this became too much of an ecclesiological anomaly, so now this network of parishes has been rebranded as the Missionary Diocese of All Saints.  It consists of parishes scattered all over the country.

So why is ACNA not a church?

It is not a church because ACNA’s self-understanding flies in the face not only of the majority consensus of Anglican Christianity, but of catholic Christianity.

For one thing, in ACNA, the primary unit of mission is the congregation. (ACNA Constitution, Article IV.1).  This is in direct contrast to an Anglican and catholic understanding, where the primary unit is the diocese (clergy hold canonical residence in a diocese, not a congregation, for instance) and a province is made up of dioceses.

For another, ACNA has overlapping episcopal jurisdictions: the notion of congregations in one place united under one bishop is simply not even considered.  Several ACNA dioceses are national; some member organizations, in fact, are also international ecclesial entitites.

So even bracketing the question as to whether a group which is this disparate can hold together, from an affinity based Anglo-Catholic network to an evangelical low church Anglican body over a century old, we must acknowledge that, despite its name, the “CNA” does not hold up in “ACNA.”  COD will give them the “A” – ACNA has bishops in succession deriving from Anglican sources, albeit at times some more tenable than others; has held to the threefold order of ministry; and has a variety of authorized liturgical rites which certainly are recognizable Anglican.

However, it is not a “church” in the broader catholic sense because it understands the fundamental unit to be the congregation, makes no attempt at having one bishop in one place, and allows for dioceses to be grouped by affinity rather than geography. Richard Hooker Wilmer, responding to a proposal put forward in the 1880s, once argued that to create separate dioceses solely for African Americans  – so that a predominantly African American church in New York City would be grouped in the same diocese as a predominantly African American Episcopal Church in, say, Charleston – would mean that the Episcopal Church has given up on being a catholic church.  By this same reasoning, ACNA has given up on being a catholic church by jettisoning this understanding, albeit in a different context.

And it is not North American because several of its members claim to have overseas dioceses and to be international in scale.

ACNA –  it does not mean what I think they think it means.

You can’t spell inconceivable with a C, an N, and an A.

Friday, June 1, 2012

It's All Over But the Shouting: Annotated Budget

Never mind; it's all over but the shouting, just a waste of time.
And I suppose your guess, is more or less as bad as mine.

Or so sang Paul Westerberg from the Replacements.  At long last, some five months after the January Executive Council meeting which produced it, an extensive annotated budget with commentary on line items has been released.  And Westerberg is right:  it's all over but the shouting.  A small group of folks, apparently bickering amongst themselves, has fundamentally reduced the Episcopal Church's churchwide expression to administration and governance. 

The document released contains several sections: a forward from the Presiding Bishop, an overview of the budgetary process, an annotated draft budget, and several appendices detailing the survey produced to determine at what level certain ministries could best be done, previous draft budgets, and the memorandum from the Executive Council to the Program, Budget, and Finance Committee following their meeting.

There is a lot of material here, some we have seen before, some that we have not.   COD will make a few comments, but to be honest finds it difficult to write this post, since he finds the utterly dysfunctional process that has led us to this point so depressing.

1)  First of all, the Forward from the Presiding Bishop.  Noting that the process has caused "confusion" and that some think it was not "well-conceived," we are nonetheless told "this is what we have to work with."

COD is past asking for any semblance of accountability for mistakes made, or for putting any kind of procedures in place to make sure past errors can be corrected.  As predicted in a previous post, there will be absolutely no accountability of any kind for anything that has happened thus far.  COD has given up on hearing any of that sort.

What about some kind of acknowledgement of the pain, distress, confusion, and lack of trust in our governance that this process has created?

Is there no one, anywhere, who can offer the simplest apology for the complete disaster of this budgeting process?  The PB, the PHOD, any one of the 38 people on Executive Council?  No one?  Anywhere?   Of course not.  We're simply told to accept what we've been given.

2)  Having started out on that positive note, the next section is the narrative of the budgetary process.  WTF.  Good Lord, I am stunned that this is even more dysfunctional than I could have imagined.  Crusty Old Dean would not let any of the groups involved provide the snack for his son's soccer team.

Just a few snippets from the narrative.

A)  For this triennium, planning for the budget was placed in the hands of a new body, the Executive Committee of Executive Council (ECEC).  Prior to the group's first scheduled meeting, a rump group consisting of five of the eight voting members met on conference call without the three of the other voting members and without the non-voting members (Treasurer of the DFMS, Chief Operating Officer, Secretary of Convention) to come up with their own plans for the budget.  Nor did the rump group tell the other members they had met beforehand, it only came to light at the regularly scheduled meeting of the entire ECEC "when some realized other members...were working from a document at the November 8 meeting that not everyone had been given."  At the regularly scheduled meeting on November 8, the PB was called away due to an emergency.  The group met without her -- why not, more than half of them had met without the other committee members present at all.  The crux of the rump group's meeting was to draw up a budget based on a asking of 15% from dioceses, rather than the 19%, which would result in a greater reduction in overall revenue.

Unreal.  The puerile bickering between the PB and the PHOD was bad enough when it was eye-roll worthy; who thought it would be at the core of the struggle to reshape our churchwide structures outside of any democratic process?

B)  The Executive Council itself.  The ECEC met again in January to come up with a budget to the Executive Council (EC) as whole.  It considered the possibility of transition budget, keeping things more or less as they were, while working towards a revamped churchwide structure.  There it made a fateful decision.  The ECEC decided to present budgets based on both the 19% and 15% income askings.
Council decided to start with the budget based on 15%.  It considered what revenues would be like under the 19% plan, with the realization this amounted to about $5 million in additional revenue.  Then it decided, in plenary, to add the $5 million in additional revenue from a 19% plan back into the existing 15% budget in front of them.

I am not making this up.  I wish I was making it up.  The $5 million was added back in a feeding frenzy in a plenary session of the EC.  Is this any way to budget strategically?  Who can make the most impassioned plea?  Who can make it to the microphone to plead their case?  All along, staff were explicitly excluded from the budgetary process, perhaps so they would not lobby for their own particular areas.  So instead we got a budget that is the result of a fight between the PB and PHOD, combined with Executive Council members lobbying for their own particular causes.

The tension is palpable in the statements issued at the end of Council.  The PB spoke of it as the beginning "to look at restructuring of this church for God’s mission. It is the beginning of a process that is only one stage in what the reformers call ‘the church always in reformation.’”  The President of the House of Deputies, who did not get her 15% plan, groused that the budget was "captive to an ethic of survival of the institutional church as we know it" and that it continued  "the church’s continued reliance on an executive, staff-driven church."  A bit rich coming from someone who has spent the last six years making an unpaid office of governance into a Co-Primate, and has consistently increased the staff of her own office.  Apparently it is only some parts of the church where being staff-driven is a problem.

C)  And we have the budget itself.  Hard to believe it's even more f****d up in this version than in the mess that was spewed out in January.  

The highlights:  we are ending program as we know it to become a church devoted almost entirely to administration and the General Convention.  The portions marked "Canonical", summed up in line 248 (PB, General Convention, House of Deputies, Commissions, Executive Council, other required areas of governance and structure) and "Corporate" summed up in line 348 (chief operating officer,  administration like Human Resources, Controller, Treasurer, information technology at 815, etc.) are essentially unchanged.  Modifications to some line items here and there, but for those two categories as whole, the budget is essentially the same.

The lowlight for me :  in line 348 we slash the paltry $195,000 in aid to seminarians.  Our inability to function as a churchwide organization is simply stunning.  We budget $53,600,000 on our own governance and administration over a triennium and cut $195,000 in aid to seminarians.  By contrast, the ELCA churchwide organization, for instance, raised some $30 million and has given out nearly $6 million in direct scholarships to seminarians in the past decade.

Where your heart is, there your treasure is also.  Can't come up with $70,000 per year to help with crushing seminarian debt.  But we can certainly add staff to the PB's office and the PHOD's office.

D)  Since we're not cutting anything overall from the PB, PHOD, General Convention, or 815 administration, the cuts come from mission and program that is coordinated through the churchwide level.  Finally, in line 371, in the commentary, we get what no one has said in any statement so far.  Astonishing the lede would be buried so deeply.  There, in the commentary for the Evangelism and Church Planting line item, it says: "Executive Committee eliminated all program money consistent with the goal of focusing on a Diocesan Partnership Model in which services would be provided by making churchwide expertise available to support projects funded by individual diocesan mission plans."  It kept staff, just eliminated all program money.

This couldn't have been said elsewhere, earlier, in some kind of preface?  They couldn't just be honest in an executive summary and say, "We are balancing the budget cuts by eliminating program money from the following program areas."  Nope.  This has not been put into writing in the official statements up to this point.

Looking through the program section, similar language appears in the columns for Stewardship, Congregational Development, Liturgy & Music, and Ecumenical & Interreligious Relations.

E)  And then there is the whole matter of the Formation and Vocation area, slashed 90%, everything from Episcopal Youth Event to Campus Ministries.  At least here we get a description in the commentary of what actually happened.  In the original 15% budget proposed by the ECEC, this was cut $2.8 million.  According to the revenues from the 19% plan also floating around, Executive Council wanted to add $1 million.  Because of the feeding frenzy to spend the $5 million, this did not get allocated, only $150,000 to campus ministries got added back.  I guess those arguing for Formation and Vocation must have been in the bathroom when we decided to create a potential $550,000 boondoggle (line 357) to create services to offer to dioceses.

At least we now, at long last, know what "subsidiarity" means.  The only time this vaunted and central operating principle appears in the budget is in the commentary in the section on Formation and Vocation.  Subsidiarity apparently means your advocates didn't argue passionately enough for you or you didn't have the votes in EC when they started stuffing money back into the budget.  Good to know, at least, how they are using the term.

However, the commentary still does not explain why in the ECEC original budget Formation and Vocation was cut in such a draconian fashion.  Their own survey shows that yes, the question of Youth & Young Adult ministries was ranked fairly low on what was considered necessary to be done by churchwide organizations.  Yet it was cut disproportionately -- 90%! -- while other areas deemed equally if not less necessary kept staff and had their program budgets cut.   Congregational development, church planting, renewing black/Latino/Asian congregations, and Stewardship all ranked lower on the sacrosant survey but were not cut to the bone in the original proposed budget like Formation and Vocation.  Why? 

F)  In other areas, the Commentary is still opaque and reveals lack of transparency for decisions made.  Some examples...
In Line 709,  $860,000 is added to missionaries without any explanation.  Why is this added?  On what basis?  For what?

In Line 726, there was an addition to the Office of Government Relations based on the office's "good work."  Good heavens!  I didn't know these decisions on funding were merit-based or performance-based.  Do we have the criterion on why the OGR was considered doing better work, say, than any other department to deserve an increase?  And, apparently, not for any specific program:  the commentary then does not blanche to add: "What exactly would be accomplished was not specified."

Good to know we can get ride of Episcopal Youth Event, but because some people on Executive Council think the Office of Government Relations is so awesome we should just give them money with no particular goal in sight.  (BTW, I do think OGR is awesome; that's beside the point.  It's this unholy process which is the issue.)

G)  The survey.  The survey.  At long last a description of the survey that supposedly was the blueprint for figuring out budget priorities, when in reality this is just a farce, it is not the blueprint at all, since the budget decisions do not correspond to the results.  However, the first point we should make is that it is unfathomable that any major decisions were based on the survey.

For one thing, only 17% of people responded.  The director of research himself said that he had hoped for something close to 50%.  This was a tiny sample.  And it was overwhelmingly tilted guessed it...those involved in governance.  The single largest group responding were General Convention deputies.  The lowest number of responses received was from people serving on diocesan governing bodies.  How can we possibly determine what is best done at the diocesan level when they were one of the smallest groups represented?  And the questions!  For instance, for Formation and Youth...they were not asked whether "Supporting Youth Ministries" was necessary, but "Supporting Adults Who Work with Youth" and "Supporting Adults Who Work with Children."  What?  The understanding of youth ministry is supporting their adults in their work? Is that what we really think EYE, for instance, is -- supporting the grown-ups who work with children? 

Crusty Old Dean is completely, utterly, and totally disheartened at this point.  Bickering, dysfunction, incompetence, and lack of accountability pervade this entire process.  Decisions were made with no strategic thinking, instead based on infighting on the ECEC and then in a feeding frenzy in Executive Council.

In past General Conventions, we have simply been given a budget and told to adopt or all hell will break loose.  

It seems we only have a couple of options left (I'd welcome others):

1)  Adopt something like this budget, and accept that we have dismantled our entire churchwide organization based on not much more than fight between a handful of people over the vision for our churchwide organization, and wind up with Potemkin village for a churchwide organization, where administration and governance are protected by those with a vested interest in them, run by a Politburo in defiance of democratic process.

2)  DEMAND that a TRANSITIONAL BUDGET be adopted for the 2013-2015 to fund more or less our current structures with equal across-the-board cuts.  During this transition budget, allow for a churchwide discussion and consultation.  Find ways to make it happen!  Eliminate the across the Board 3% raises for the triennium.  Postpone the $1 million in additional staff proposed. Make it work somehow.

If not, then walk out and prevent a quorum necessary to pass this.  In the end, if we stand by and do nothing to try to prevent this injustice from moving forward, we forfeit our rightful place as the DFMS and instead accept this dysfunction as normative.  As Leviticus 19 tells us, if we see injustice, "you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself."