Tuesday, July 24, 2012

15 Things That Annoy Crusty Old Dean: COD Blows

Are these morons getting dumber or just louder?

Crusty Old Dean returned from his vacation to find a full-fledged internet meme in the making:  sometime-nemesis-uneasy-ally Scott Gunn and unaligned-towards-Tim Schenck have published their own "Things That Annoy Me" lists.  COD is not one to miss jumping on a meme just before it becomes tedious and annoying (see: the whole "S**t XXX says" from last spring). Or, as Mayor Quimby once said: "Very well: if that is the way the winds are blowing, let no one say I don't also blow." 

So, here COD blows.  Tim listed 20, Scott listed 10, so COD decided to split the difference and come up with 15.  Here they are, in no particular order (except #1):

1.            The Filioque

2.            The fact Donna Summer is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

3.            Those who don’t use affect and effect correctly

4.            People who don’t think sports “matter” but think their inconsequential interests “do”

5.            People who run red lights

6.            Knee-Jerk Clericalism

7.            Knee-Jerk Anti-Clericalism

8.            Those weird “regular collar” English clergy shirts (click here and shudder)

9.            Those who glare at people in church whose babies make the slightest noise but always blather about how welcoming and friendly their church is

10.            That Uncle Tupelo broke up

11.            Weird ice cream flavors

12.            People who talk on their cellphone while in standing in line at Starbucks

13.            Voting by orders at General Convention

14.            People who talk about what “they” think but never actually ask “them” what they think

15.            When the turn by turn GPS question my route decisions and sulkily says, “Recalculating.”

Saturday, July 14, 2012

COD's General Convention Recap: Slide It on Back, Haters

KNLB4ZD was taken as a license plate.
As promised, Crusty Old Dean is returning to his General Convention preview to engage in some Crustendfreude:  seeing where he got things right, and where he got things wrong.  And as promised, all predictions 100% correct or your money back;  an easy promise, since COD has not hit the "monetize" button on blogger and this blog remains free.

Rankings will be according to Crusty Old Dean's formula:

Axios! (Greek: worthy! what is shouted at ordinations by the congregation) = COD nailed it.
Meh: (like Revelation 3:16, neither hot nor cold) = COD sorta got it right
WTF?  (self explanatory) = COD has been using the same sources as the Wall Street Journal.

Predictions in italics, rankings and potential Crustenfreude in regular font:

 --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.

Ranking:  Axios!  The authorization did pass handily in the House of Deputies, exceeding the 75% threshold that calls for a reading of the results in a vote by orders.  COD more or less nailed it in the House of Bishops -- while predicting it would be "closer" (thereby raising the possibility of Crustenfreude) but, after listening to the debate, COD tweeted a predicted "yes" vote of 109.  The actual vote was 111.  So slide it on back, Crustenfreudians.  According to COD's notes deputations from the diocese of Honduras, Venezuela, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Southwest Florida, Central Florida, Western Louisiana, and South Carolina, Dallas, and Albany requested the vote.  Frankly COD is surprised Springfield is not on that list, but all of the others were.

--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.

Ranking:  Meh.  D008 and B005 were passed, which did contains affirmations of our commitment to  the Anglican Communion.  But we did not affirm what we could endorse in the Covenant, instead agreed to "monitor" developments and "declined" to a position on the Covenant.

--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.

Ranking:  Meh.  Resolution A042 was not acted upon, and referred back to a CCAB.  COD gives himself a "meh" here for two reasons:  the HOB didn't go as off the rails as he thought, and it turns out the HOD didn't really know what to do either about this mess we've made of mixing confirmation with membership while at the same time trying to live into baptismal ecclesiology.

--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.

Ranking:  Axios!  For another feather in COD's cap, the Presiding Bishop, when she went rogue and added 3-5 minutes of remarks to the Joint Session before it adjourned, stole the tag line from the Acts 8 Movement Crusty Old Dean put together with Susan Brown Snook and still-allied-like-Stalin-and-Roosevelt Scott Gunn, asking the assembly to share "What kind of church they dreamed of."  So, Double Axios!

--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.

Ranking:  Axios! Recall COD predicted Gay's election pretty much right after she announced her candidacy.  And, indeed, there was another candidate, Frank Logue from the diocese of Georgia.  Martha Alexander and Frank made a respectable showing, as Gay received 51.9% on the first ballot and Martha and Frank received 48.1% combined.

--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's more to this lengthier discussion, see COD's original post

Ranking:  Axios!  There was considerable discussion about how to synthesize the resolutions on reform and restructure of the church.

The legislative committee came out with an omnibus resolution, C095 -- COD gave his thoughts on that here.  While Crusty Old Dean is, in general, pleased with the Task Force process, there is still much to be seen in how this will be implemented.  We will have to be wary less the Task Force be stuffed with the usual suspects and spend three years trying to undermine and neuter the process.

COD was amused with the conflicting attitudes towards restructuring and reform.  On the one hand, we were warned repeatedly by some that we should be careful, cautious, and move slowly, less there be any unintended consequences of decisions made.  We were also told, repeatedly (and, in COD's opinion, falsely) that restructuring and reform leads to marginalization and exclusion.  Yet the HOD seemed to have no problem in acting quickly and without thinking of any possible unintended consequences of voting to sell 815 (did they take into account, say, severance for employees unable to move? how moving 815 would probably mean women and people of color losing their jobs?) yet got their knickers in a twist on B027, which would have radically reduced the number of Standing Commissions.  And did no one see the irony in the Standing Committee on the Structure of the Church both recommending lengthening the time of General Convention from 8 days to 10 days, while also proposing a resolution that the House of Bishops decrease its meetings from two per year one, as a matter of "stewardship"?

COD had no problem with voting down B027 and B015 (which proposed a unicameral General Convention).  This is not because COD is not in favor of the sentiment of these two resolutions -- COD told the proposer of B015 that he proposed something very similar back in October on this very blog.  But COD opposed them for the same reasons he opposed the draft Executive Council budget: both put the restructuring cart before the horse.  Just as we shouldn't restructure by budget cutting and dumping things onto diocese and other networks every three years, we shouldn't restructure piecemeal resolution by resolution. 

Of these predictions:  four Axios, 2 Meh, and no WTF.

COD is confident he has vanquished those willing to engage in Crustenfreude, and welcomes you all to KNEEL BEFORE C.O.D.!  (using the period in the acronym for once to prevent confusion with a tasty fish served best with malt vinegar and fries and Old Speckled Hen).

Trying to figure out how to move forward from Convention?

Join the Acts 8 Movement!  We will continue to nurture this movement, prayer for the future of our church, and incarnate this in our diocese, parishes, and networks.

Check out our Facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/Acts8Moment

And go here as well:


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Inclusion and Reform: Refusal to See the Log

All together, Ren and Stimpy fans!

 Crusty Old Dean wishes he didn't have to keep coming back to this issue, but, once again, he is perplexed by the effort to link those who want to look at reforming the church as somehow promoting racism, sexism, and exclusion.

Two recent actions have once again thrust this distortion into the spotlight.  As reported here (COD is still looking for the actual text) Bishop Catherine Roskam preached that "If Katharine Jefferts Schori were a man...the bishops wouldn’t be debating a measure to make the job of being Presiding Bishop into a part time post."  While not suggesting this was Bishop Ian Douglas' intention (who was the proposer of the resolution) she nonetheless warned that "his honest attempt to rethink how the church works is caught in a perfect storm of conflicting wind and waves."  Poor Ian -- his heart was in the right place, only to be caught up in a maelstrom of restructuring sexism.  Really?

Once again we here the refrain: rethinking or reforming leads to exclusion and marginalization; this time, even if done with the best intentions.

And, once again, Crusty Old Dean must aver: he acknowledges the church still struggles with racism, sexism, and inclusion.  Bishop Roskam is absolutely right that some bishops on the church's conservative wing elected Bishop Jefferts Schori in a misguided attempt to try to undermine the church's standing in the broader communion (thinking having a woman Primate would make it easier to marginalize the Episcopal Church).  Bishop Ben Benitez openly admitted this was why he voted for her.  Yet once again COD must question facile efforts to make a direct link between taking a good look at our structures and inevitable exclusion and marginalization.  The President of the House of Deputies did so in her opening remarks.  The same reporter who wrote up Bishop Roskam's sermon argued much the same in a different column here.

Which makes Crusty Old Dean ask:  are these people looking at Convention?

While these words were preached "to one of the most powerful men’s club’s of the Episcopal Church: the House of Bishops", have folks overlooked how Resolution A144, calling on a study to look at why so few women are being elected bishop, was hotly debated (though adopted) by the House of Deputies?

Or this other matter Convention addressed:

The Convention rejected the one way to ensure diversity in its midst:  adopting representation guidelines on appointments.  Proposed resolution D043 requested that on any commission or task force to look at restructuring the church, at least one-third of the persons be under 40.  Crusty Old Dean had no involvement in this resolution at all, but has argued something similar on this blog:  if we are going to engage in rethinking the church, we must include substantial representation of those persons under 40 to co-create the church they will lead.  At the Committee hearing on the topic, no one who signed up for public testimony testified against this resolution.  Yet the legislative committee moved to discharge it to a committee, saying the matter was handled in C095, the omnibus resolution COD blogged about here.  Yet that resolution does not mandate inclusion of people under 40 on the Task Force, only to the gathering which will meet with the Task Force.  When the vote on discharge was called, none of the bishops voted for discharge.  The deputies were tied, 10-10.  The chair cast the deciding vote, 11-10, to discharge -- effectively to kill this resolution.  The chair who cast the vote is Gay Jennings, newly elected President of the House of Deputies.

The General Convention is a body which has supported passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (here) and has endorsed the Anglican Consultative Council's Resolution 13/31, which calls for equal representation of men and women on commissions of the ACC (here).  It requested that several dioceses establish affirmative action programs (here).  And these are just a few samples of this Church endorsing and affirming other efforts to legislate equality, mandate representation, and endorse affirmative action.  Why is it more than willing to do this when speaking to others, but unwilling to apply any of these principles to itself?

As COD has said in previous posts, other denominations do have proportional representation rules, requiring, in different ways, representation from certain groups.  The ELCA has quota requirements in place for its Churchwide Assembly, and the United Methodist Church has requirements in place for various governing commissions of the church.

What is the Episcopal Church afraid of when it comes to taking actual steps to try to bring about diversity?  It has shown itself grumpy about even studying the question when it comes to the paltry number of women bishops!  Why do some keep trying to claim that people who ask questions about structure are setting us down a road of "unintended consequences" leading towards marginalization and exclusion?  How can than these charges possibly stand when Convention itself has shown that is is unwilling to take any real action on ensuring diversity in its own midst? Jesus said, "Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?"  How can a Convention that is overwhelmingly white and old not see the log in its eye while straining at the specks of unintended consequences from others? 

COD has always been concerned that those who derive power and authority from the current system will be capable of reforming it.  Crusty Old Dean likes the structure resolution.  But rest assured he will be watching how its implementation unfolds, and will continue to ask that we all see the log in our own eyes before constantly pointing out the speck in others'.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Proposed Budget: What COD Dreamed Of

As Homer might say, "Mmm...pie..."
Much like the Grinch could not stop Christmas from coming, somehow or other the Joint Session of both houses for the presentation of the budget came just the same.  Joint sessions always have an element of mishegas, or perhaps of boundary crossing.  Remember no non-deputies can even enter the floor of the House of Deputies (except, apparently, spouses of newly elected Presidents of the House of Deputies, though COD will not call on ruling the election out of order for that transgression) without the adoption of a special order to permit it.  Thus in a Joint Session bishops mingle freely with deputies, the main result of which is that it takes forever to call the session to order because bishops are posing for photos with their deputations, since this is the only time they are permitted to be with them on the floor.

The budget was presented by the co-chairs of the Program, Budget, and Finance Committee -- and it strongly reflects the budget proposal but forward by the Presiding Bishop, which COD blogged about here.   Crusty Old Dean will focus his comments in a couple of areas:

--Process:  PB&F, in its report, more or less admits that the budgetary process did not work this time around.  It calls on Executive Council, Chief Operating Officer and Staff, and PB&F to work on the budgetary process -- recall for this triennium Executive Council took the lead and staff were sidelined -- and calls on it to begin earlier in the triennium.  

--Income:  the 19% asking from dioceses is in place for the 2013-2015 triennium, along with a suggestion that in the restructuring conversations a there be a thorough discussion about coming up with a new paradigm for diocesan asking.  There is also a 5.8% draw from endowment funds.  These two sources make up the bulk of income, with smaller amounts coming from renting 3 1/2 floors of the Church Center in New York (oops -- aren't we're selling that?) and other things like exhibitor's fees at General Convention.

--Expense:  again, this more or less tracks the PB's budget.  Consolidation of some departments like Church Planting and Stewardship into larger block grants.   These block grants are intended to be collaborative, and the model of Episcopal Service Corps is cited -- to "encourage experimentation."

--Lazarus Stuff:  Lifelong Formation is brought back from the dead, and funding for youth and young adult ministries restored.  There is funding for the Episcopal Youth Event, along with $300,000 in grants for campus ministries, among other things.   In addition, the General Board of Examining Chaplains' funding is restored -- along with the charge that Convention act on its 2009 call to re-examine and re-evaluate the GBEC.  Thus essentially GBEC is funded for another triennium, with the expectation that some ideas for rethinking how this is to be done long term are put forward. 

Overall, the budget exemplifies some of what Crusty Old Dean has been saying: rather than restructure by cutting program, see this budget as a bridge between the structures we have and hold conversations in the triennium identifying how we need to modify, adapt, and let go of some things.  The GBEC is a great example of this: rather than simply cutting it and dumping it to the dioceses, it proposes funding GBEC and calling the church to conversation about how best to do this work in the future.

Some other tidbits:

--Proposes cutting one face-to-face meeting of Executive Council per year; currently it meets three times per year, this budget proposes one virtual and two face-to-face meetings.  Since nearly all the CCABs reduced their face-to-face meetings and have made use of videoconferencing and virtual meetings, it makes sense to ask Council to do the same.

--The endowment draw is in essence 5.8% for the triennium.  This is within the expectation of "prudence" as defined by law for non-profits.  The budget also expects return of 8% per year, which seems high; however, the budget notes return since 2003 has average 7.8%, including the crater of 2008.  COD would have liked to have seen the 2000-2012 average rate of return.

--There are significant cuts and significant increases to Communications.  On the one hand, Episcopal News Service ($617,000) and digital communications ($463,000) are cut significantly.  On the other hand, staff costs are up over $700,000, apparently reflecting the filling of positions vacant for the 2010-2012 triennium.  So we're cutting communications but adding staff?

--The budget includes the cutting of 10.75 staff positions.  Unlike 2009 -- where none of the staff knew who was being let go until minutes before the budget was presented -- this has been done in discussion and consultation with the staff.

And lastly:

The PB went a bit rogue at the end of the presentation.   She spoke to those present after the budget presentation was completed, and wondered if we might find ways to gather as bishops, clergy, and lay persons at times other than these formal presentations; if we did so, might we learn to speak, consult, and discuss in ways other than formal parliamentary mode (a paraphrase while COD was sitting on the floor of the Convention hall taking notes).

Crusty Old Dean found himself thinking, "You know, that's exactly what we were trying to do in our Acts 8 meeting earlier in Convention -- get people outside the legislative process to think about the church, not to be an affinity group of some kind, but just have people talk."

Then the PB concluded, saying, when we were in those kind of settings, maybe we could ask a question of each other:  "What is it that you dream for this church?"

This, of course, is exactly the question we asked people at Acts 8:  "I dream of a church..."  Read all about it here

COD is assuming this is one wild coincidence.  After all, COD hasn't spoken to her during this Convention.

My next thought was:  "I knew we should have trademarked that phrase!"

Monday, July 9, 2012

Smoke Rises from Structure Committee: And It is Good

At long last the smoke has risen from the Legislative Committee #6 on Structure.  At last we know whether the initial draft, captured by someone taking a photo with a cell phone of the resolution as it was being discussed, was no Bigfoot-esque hoax and actually reflects the work of the committee.  At long last the process of sifting over 90 resolutions on structure submitted to the General Convention has been completed (for now).  And lo, like Adonai surveying the creation on the last day, Crusty Old Dean declares this resolution to be “very good.”

Here follows Resolution C095 from the legislative Committee on Structure:

Resolved, the House of ________ concurring, That this General Convention believes the Holy Spirit is urging The Episcopal Church to reimagine itself, so that, grounded in our rich heritage and yet open to our creative future, we may more faithfully:

• Proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
• Teach, baptize and nurture new believers
• Respond to human need by loving service
• Seek to transform unjust structures of society
• Strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth;
and be it further

Resolved, That this General Convention establish a Task Force under the Joint Rules of Order, whose purpose shall be to present the 78th General Convention with a plan for reforming the Church’s structures, governance, and administration; and be it further
Resolved, That this Task Force shall be accountable directly to the General Convention, and independent of other governing structures, to maintain a high degree of autonomy; and be it further

Resolved, That the Task Force shall have as many as 24 members, appointed jointly by the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies by September 30, 2012. The membership of the Task Force shall reflect the diversity of the Church, and shall include some persons with critical distance from the Church’s institutional leadership; and be it further

Resolved, That, in order to be informed by the wisdom, expertise, and commitment of the whole body of the Church, the Task Force shall gather information and ideas from congregations, dioceses and provinces, and other interested individuals and organizations, including those not often heard from; engage other resources to provide information and guidance, and shall invite all these constituencies to be joined in prayer as they engage in this common work of discernment; and be it further

Resolved, That the Task Force shall convene a special gathering to receive responses to the proposed recommendations to be brought forward to the 78th General convention, and shall invite to this gathering from each diocese at least a bishop, a lay deputy, a clerical deputy, and one person under the age of 35. It may also include representatives of institutions and communities (e.g., religious orders, seminaries, intentional communities); and be it further

Resolved, That the Task Force shall report to the whole Church frequently, and shall make its final report and recommendations to the Church by November 2014, along with the resolutions necessary to implement them, including proposed amendments to the Constitution and Canons of the Church; and be it further

Resolved, That the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance consider adding $400,000 to the 2013-2015 triennial budget, to enable this Resolution to be implemented energetically and successfully, “…for surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

COD loves this resolution for several reasons.

First off, it grounds these conversations around the Five Marks of Mission: rather than being the current buzzword of the day, these marks of mission are ones which have been proposed at the Anglican Communion level as a way to bind the provinces together in common mission.  COD finds it fitting likewise to have our conversations about reform and restructuring be framed in the service of mission.

The resolution also notes the role of the Holy Spirit here:  indeed, who would have thought, twelve months ago, that reform and restructuring of the church would engage so much energy and passion?  Perhaps, instead of being labeled as efforts to marginalize people, might this indeed be a movement of the Spirit?  Over ninety resolutions were submitted, after all; it would take quite an orchestrated conspiracy to fool that many bishops, deputies, and dioceses.

It also places this process in the structures of the church but not wholly a creature of that governing structure.  Rather than having one of the Standing Commissions, like the Standing Commission on Structure, be in charge of this process of discussion, it creates a Joint Task Force under the Joint Rules of Order (Joint Rule 22).  It lets the presiding officers – PB and PHoD – appoint the members, but they will not be ex-officio, since by canon they are only members ex-officio of Standing Commissions, not Task Forces.  This would not preclude them, COD supposes, from appointing themselves, since that is not prohibited under Joint Rule of Order 22.  It also asks that those being appointed be have a “critical distance” from governing structures.  COD notes that creating a Joint Task Force strikes the balance between being grounded in Convention while still seeking the broadest possible input into these discussions.

This resolution also calls for a broader process of input apart from the question of appointment, asking for contributions from parishes, dioceses, congregations, and other networks.  Further, in addition to the Task Force itself, there is a call to convene a “special gathering,” to include representatives from all orders of ministry and specifically persons under 35.  Crusty Old Dean has been adamant there must be intentional inclusion of persons under 35, so we can actually let the generation that is going to receive this restructured church have a hand in shaping that restructuring.

COD enthusiastically supports this resolution.  It will be very interesting to see what may happen once it hits the floor of the House of Deputies, and whether there will be any substantive efforts at amending.

And of course COD thanks the Legislative Committee for apparently reading Crusty Old Dean, since he suggested something quite like what is proposed in this resolution.  COD is not just insufferable, he is also relentlessly self-congratulatory on the rare occasions he is right about something.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Thoughts on Selling 815: It Ain't About the Building

Yesterday the House of Deputies passed a resolution calling for the sale of the Church Center in New York, which passed in the House of Deputies -- next it will be considered by the House of Bishops.

Notice that Crusty Old Dean didn't reference selling "815" (though he did in the title of this blog post, purely to catch people's attention, a necessary concession).  COD doesn't refer to "815" for several reasons.

For one, it makes the building is synonymous with staff, which simply isn't the case.  There are an increasing percentage of staff persons who do not work out of the building.  COD worked for the denominational staff from 2001-2011, and only spent two years, 2001-2003, with an office in New York.  From 2003-2011 he was based in different places outside of New York.  So I didn't say "815" because that's not where everybody works.  There's a Washington office, a Los Angeles office, and many people working out of different places.

For another, the denominational staff isn't a building.  It's people. 815 is an address. 

COD's concern is not about "selling 815".  It's about a more holistic rethinking of what a denominational staff would be.  For many the building is a symbol, a relic, an idol, even, of a kind of establishment mentality -- as one person testified, "Constantine has left the building," referencing a kind of end of any notion of Christendom.  Well and good, to a certain sense.  We no longer have over 400 staff, nearly 100% of whom worked out of the building.  Yet who cares if Constantine leaves the building if we don't rethink the church?

COD has written a lot on this blog about what he thinks the future church will look like -- more network based, more focused around specific areas and concerns -- in short, more like 1850 than 1950.  For the vast bulk of the Episcopal Church's history, if you wanted to get something done, you gathered a group of like-minded people, formed an organization, and just did it.  If it had implications for the church as a whole, the General Convention might appoint a commission or committee to serve as a liaison and help coordinate the work.  The story of the 20th century is the consolidation, professionalization, and institutionalization of how the church organizes its mission work.

There's two challenges to this.  One has to do with the networks.  While we have lots of great networks in the church,  we'll need to make network development a key priority.  Provide resources and training to networks to help them do what they are going to be asked to do.  We will also need to work to develop new leaders for new networks, with training and resourcing.  Part of this will be done by dioceses and provinces, but COD thinks there will still be a place for denominational staff in this transition back to a future which will have elements of our past.

Another has to do with the denominational staff.  Denominational staff, correspondingly, are going to be folks who coordinate, resource, and develop networks -- there will be less "doing" on behalf of the church and more empowering and working with the church.  Just like the deacon in a church shouldn't "do" outreach ministry on behalf of the congregation, but should motivate, coordinate, and train the congregation to do that ministry.   There are lots of staff persons doing this kind of thing already, it will need to continue to be placed at the center of how staff relates to provinces, dioceses, networks, and other parts of the church.  One project COD had on the drawing board just before leaving staff, working closely with people scattered across the country, was to develop a network of seminarians and lay leaders under 35 interested and committed to interreligious dialogue and witness -- with not-yet COD (then he was EO) seeing his role in this project as a denominational staff person as providing an organizational, convening, and resourcing function, but letting the network itself choose and develop what it would actually do.
We can't stop at selling 815 and think we have slain Constantine.  COD is enthusiastically supportive of this resolution (I thought we should move most everything to the ELCA building in Chicago) with two caveats.

1)  We will need to be OK with the transition needed.  Those staff who may not be able to relocate due to personal or family concerns, including support staff as well as program staff, will be needed to be treated fairly.  Otherwise we will continue to pay lip service to justice, more than willing to lecture others without noticing the log in our own eye.  Like terminating a union service contract in 2009 without negotiation.

2)  We must also think broader and more holistically, and not rush to obsess over things like where the new denominational building might be.  We must also have conversations about what function our staff should have and how they will connect to all levels of the church.

If we don't begin to think in this way, it won't matter where the denomination gets its mail.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Stumbling Towards Chinese Democracy?

At the beginning of the 2006 General Convention, Crusty Old Dean bumped into a bishop and began talking with him about some upcoming legislation, figuring this person would be the chair of the relevant legislative committee.  The bishop stopped me (COD does tend to get worked up) and said, "I'm not the chair, talk to Bishop X."  COD was surprised:  the person in question was an expert in this area, with years of experience, and had served as chair of the legislative committee in question (recall at General Convention there are legislative committees for House of Bishops and House of Deputies that meet concurrently) for several conventions.

"I'm a candidate for Presiding Bishop," he said, "and when someone is a candidate for PB, we don't put them in any prominent positions of leadership like chairs of legislative committees or giving daily devotions in the House, because it wouldn't be fair to put that person in a position of prominence whereas another bishop might not have those opportunities."

Would that the House of Deputies followed a similar way of being.  COD was stunned to hear from deputy colleagues that two candidates for elected office had prominent roles in the orientation session for deputies.  What's more, they were wearing their campaign buttons.  Could no one see the impropriety of this, or perhaps considered letting someone else lead the orientation session other than declared candidates for office?

Perhaps this is why no other major candidates have announced their intention to run other than the ones we have so far.  The current candidates include someone from the PHOD's council of advice and the current chancellor to the PHOD.  There is one other candidate declared for PHOD, to be sure, but frankly COD is disheartened and disappointed there have not been other people who have stepped forward.  COD has spoken with several people over the last few weeks, asking them to consider either VP or President.  All -- and for good reasons -- have declined.

Which leaves with a fait accompli -- which is what concerns COD.  COD knows the candidates, thinks quite highly of them, and knows that they will do wonderful jobs, they have the background and experience.  But lack of discussion and debate, lack of viable and differing candidates, is not healthy for any democratic organization.

And putting candidates in places of prominence did not help COD's mood.  Are we slouching towards Chinese democracy, with the Politburo anointing their successors for acclamation?

Acts 8 Moment: We Dream of A Church

Last night, Crusty Old Dean, Susan Brown Snook, and currently-still-enjoying-detente-with Scott Gunn gathered a group of folks for what we have been calling our Acts 8 Moment.

Walking around Convention, wearing my Acts 8 button, as people look at my name tag, COD sometimes sees a flutter of recognition as they say, "You're Crusty Old Dean!"  This is usually followed by something like, "You don't seem that Crusty."  My usual reply is, "Well, not right now.  You should see me with my Crust on."

That flutter of recognition these past few days has been followed by, "So, what's the agenda for your meeting?"  COD mentioned this as we convened the group last night.  The reality is, we had no agenda.  We pulled this together because Scott, Susan, and COD have been reading each other's blogs, realized we had some common interests, and wanted to try to bring together some people with whom we had some common passions.  There was no action plan, we weren't stockpiling torches and pitchforks.

Crusty Old Dean shared why he was there: because I love this church.  I went to my 25th high school reunion a couple of weeks ago, I hadn't been to a single reunion before.  There were some jaw-drops as I shared what I had been doing, people were frankly surprised I had gone off and gotten ordained as an Episcopal priest.  Let's just say I wasn't a particularly pious teenager; I wasn't even an Episcopalian then.  Crusty Old Dean showed up last night because he loves this church, it changed and transformed my life, and loves this tradition of Anglican Christianity.

We had Bible study, on chapter 8 from the Book of Acts: how a time of upheaval in the life of the church actually became a moment of transformation.  We prayed together.  

And we invited people to share their dream of what they wanted the church to be.  A collection of these dreams can be found here: 


We also talked about what happens next.  COD shared with folks that Susan, Scott, and COD hadn't thought much about what Acts 8 would "do."  We agreed we should probably try to meet again later at Convention.  There was a groundswell of folks in the room, however, who did want further conversation about some specific things we might do -- so we broke up into affinity groups, where people that shared common interests and concerns could gather and talk.  Some wanted to talk about how we could pray for one another; others wanted to brainstorm on future leadership of the church; some wanted discussion on what specific proposals for reform we might put forward.  Crusty Old Dean was moved by the breadth and passion and commitment of those 100 or so people who showed up at 9:30 for a meeting, and stayed well after 11pm.  

Crusty Old Dean didn't share his own dream about what Acts 8 might be, because he didn't want to get in the way of where the group might go, or interfere with the Spirit.  One of my main goals was to gather a group of people who are interested in thinking about how we might better do what we do as a church.  If you've read this blog much at all, you should know COD thinks we need to adapt some of the structures we have in light of a profound constellation of change that is sweeping over religious institutions.  Not throw everything out, not to marginalize anyone, and not disenfranchise anybody -- at times COD cynically thinks these are charges thrown about loosely by those seeking to stifle conversations on reform.

For instance, re-imagining how we might rethink and reform our governance does not mean we are becoming less diverse: I just don't see the logic in this.  If we cut the House of Deputies, say, from 800 to 500, how does this mean we are less committed to diversity?   If General Convention is not diverse, it is because our dioceses -- who elect deputies and bishops -- are not identifying, recruiting, lifting up, and electing underrepresented persons.  It won't matter if we have 2,000 or 200 deputies if we do not take a commitment to diversity in all forms seriously.  If anything, claiming that reform of our structures somehow will lead to disenfranchisement and lack of diversity is absolving the church of its continued institutional racism and placing the blame on reform as a straw man. 

The real struggle coming up, as COD said in his GC preview, is what will happen in the next triennium.  Something will come out of this Convention which will be tasked with discussing reform of our governance -- and there will be an epic struggle to make sure this is lodged in the structures of Convention itself.  Well and good, as COD has said; obviously things like the Standing Commission on Structure must be involved and part of the discussion.  But there must be broader conversation, with broader involvement and buy-in that reflects the church as a whole.  COD is not convinced that change can come entirely from within, and a multitude of voices must have real involvement in these discussions and process.

Part of my dream is that those who came to Acts 8 might be the beginning of a network that can continue this conversation about restructuring and reform, should the institutional structures seek to take control of future reform discussions.  I hope and pray that a thoughtful and deliberate proposal will come out of this Convention to shape conversations in the next triennium; but if it doesn't, then my dream is to gather those who want to have those conversations.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

PHOD Opening Statement: Cut It Out With False Dichotomies:

President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori delivered their opening remarks to a joint session of General Convention today.  There was much to commend in both addresses, which traditionally have helped frame what is before Convention. 

COD appreciated in particular the way the President of the House of Deputies (PHOD) put to rest the old canard that the framers of the US constitution were the same folks who framed the Episcopal Church, and nuanced this by reflecting on the way the Episcopal Church was part of a “cross-fertilization” of ideas that emerged from the Revolution and post-Revolutionary years.

COD, however, found some perplexing and even troubling aspects of the PHOD’s address. 

For one, she reflected that:
We have not yet realized the ideal of shared leadership of laity, clergy and bishops.  Too many potential leaders in our church are excluded because people who already have power and access to money, technology, and education enjoy the privileges not available to all of us.  We are a great and diverse body gathered here today, but I know — we all know — that too many voices are still missing. Too few of us gathered here today are poor, or young or people of color. In our idealistic yet imperfect polity, too many voices remain unheard in the councils of the church.”

This is simply an apples to oranges comparison.  How does the struggle to have shared leadership of clergy, laity, and bishops relate to the exclusion of those who lack in power, money, technology, and education?  COD is not contesting the point:  yes, people are excluded and marginalized.  But the exclusion on the basis of race, class, socio-economic status, and access to technology is NOT tied to one’s ecclesial order in the church . We have bishops and clergy who come from financial strapped dioceses and we have lay people who come from wealthy dioceses with access to power, technology, and education.  We lack representation from poor, young, and people of color from episcopal, clerical, and lay orders.

These two points -- the failure to realize shared leadership of lay persons, clergy and bishops and our lack of diversity – simply are not directly correlated to one another.  Rather, they are part of a larger problem that transcends and is separate from a struggle for shared governance.  Yet here they are linked. 

Further, she noted that

Worse yet, in recent months, it’s even become fashionable in some circles to celebrate the exclusive nature of the church in the name of efficiency — to treat our governance as a lifeboat in which there is precious little room for laypeople and clergy, to question the value of our shared authority to the future of The Episcopal Church, to assert that the diversity of voices in our governance is just much, too loud, too messy, too expensive, and way too big.”

So this is not simply a lone apples to oranges comparison:  the "exclusive" nature of the church referenced above is again set against shared authority, and what follows is a set of false dichotomies set up for no other reason than to disparage all those interested in and seeking reform of the church as being motivated by a desire to disenfranchise the laity and stand for exclusivism.  Indeed, not only disenfranchisement, but, apparently, death itself:  the charge that some want to make governance a lifeboat into which few are invited, thus letting the rest freeze like poor Jack in Titanic (or so COD is told; he has actually never seen Titanic).

In her remarks the PHOD rightly calls out the choice between mission and governance as a false choice:  “I am worried that a false choice between mission and governance will keep us from hearing the voices of all the baptized as we restructure the church and create a budget for it.”

She should heed her own warnings when it comes to false choices. To frame matters as a choice between mission and governance is a false one, because mission and governance are intertwined; how organize ourselves shapes and informs how we do mission.   But saying we have to choose between the role of laity and clergy in the governance of the church and reform is an equally false choice, and one that these remarks simply revel in.

To quote the PHOD elsewhere in her remarks, “We need to cut it out.” 

If we are going to frame our restructuring conversations, perhaps it would be more productive to frame them as honest efforts by many of the same clergy and laity referenced here to have a sincere and heartfelt discussion about the future of the church we all love.  We need to cut out sweeping, single-minded, and wide-ranging accusations that efforts by clergy, bishops, and, yes, lay people in asking honest questions about how we might be better organized are simply efforts to make the church less diverse and to disenfranchise the laity.  These is the real false choice that was presented to us today.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

An Early GC WTF Moment: Christmas in July, Title IV Style

Yesterday, as Crusty Old Dean was writing his General Convention preview, one thing he left out was trying to predict the WTF moments for Convention.  At each Convention, there are always several things that seem to kind of come out of the blue.  Sometimes small, like in 2003 when the House of Bishops spent half an our discussing a routine resolution to not confirm Lutherans joining the Episcopal Church; sometimes big, like the entire B033 situation in 2006 and the budget in 2009 (sadly, those are not the only WTF moments at each of those Conventions, but just one example for each).  COD refrained from trying to predict anything, because inherent to a good WTF situation is not being able to see it coming.

Well, looks like we're getting started early.  Over at Anglican Ink, George Conger is reporting that nine bishops are being charged with misconduct for endorsing legal briefs in the lawsuits involving the former Episcopal dioceses of Quincy and Forth Worth.  These bishops endorsed legal briefs filed that challenged the Episcopal Church's efforts to request "summary judgment," more or less the effort to have the judge find in the Episcopal Church's favor and dismiss everything before even going to trial (in the Quincy case) or for endorsing a friend of the court brief in the Forth Worth case.  The bishops involved seem to be: (COD will be using "thinks" and "seems" and "appears" a lot in this post since all we have right now as of this writing is Conger's reporting and we have no real first-hand accounts):

1.  Rt Rev Maurice M. Benitez, retired Bishop of Texas,
2.  Rt Rev John W. Howe, retired Bishop of Central Florida
3.  Rt Rev Paul E. Lambert. Suffragan Bishop of Dallas
4.  Rt Rev William H. Love, Bishop of Albany
5.  Rt Rev D. Bruce MacPherson, Bishop of Western Louisiana
6.  Rt Rev Daniel H. Martins, Bishop of Springfield
7.  Rt. Rev. James M. Stanton, Bishop of Dallas,
8.  Rt. Rev. Edward L. Salmon, Jr., former Bishop of South Carolina and Dean of Nashotah House
9.  Rt. Rev. Peter H. Beckwith, former Bishop of Springfield

Seven bishops had disciplinary charges filed against them in the Forth Worth case and three in the Quincy case; Bishop MacPherson is on both lists -- so while "seven bishops" are reported in the Forth Worth case and "three bishops" in the Quincy case, it's nine actual bodies since Bishop MacPherson is apparently charged in both cases.

Here's the apparent quotation from the email from Bishop Clay Matthews:

"As the Intake Officer for the Church, I am obliged to inform you that a complaint has been received against you for your action in  [COD editing: relevant actions in the Quincy and Forth Worth situations depending on ]. In the next few weeks, I will initiate a disciplinary process according to Title IV Canon 6 Sec. 3 & 4 of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church."

OK, couple of thoughts here.

1.  COD finds it very interesting that this information is released just before 10,000 Episcopalians, including most of the elected leadership and many of the bishops, arrive in Indianapolis.  The only reason we even know about these charges is that someone connected to this, someone who received the email from Bishop Matthews, has leaked this information.  There is a pattern here; after all, the only reason we knew about charges filed against Bishop Mark Lawrence in the fall is because the diocese of South Carolina made the decision to release the information.  Seem to be clearly an effort to don a mantle of persecution.   In case you think COD is exaggerating, Conger's website reporting this information has a photo of someone wielding the kind of paddle used to strike children back in the bad old days with "DISCIPLINE" in the caption accompanying this release.

2.  This is how the process works:  a potential "offense" gets reported.  The first step -- Title 4, Canon 6, Sections 3 & 4 referenced in the email -- is to determine whether the information, even if true,  constitutes something which is legitimately an Offense under the Constitution and Canons.  Charges get filed against bishops and clergy; first thing is to determine if it's even a legitimate charge.  A bishop once told me had had been charged with misconduct because a member of the diocese thought the bishop's decision to grow a beard was an effort to make fun of his own beard.  Many of the potential offenses reported under Title IV are dismissed without ever going forward.

3.  Which begs a question:  what is the ground for accountability [the Title IV language] in question for endorsing the legal opinions of those representing the former diocese of Quincy and Forth Worth?  That is, what are they violating which would warrant reporting an offense?

There's always the two catch-alls:

--conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy
--violating the Doctrine, Discipline, or Worship of The Episcopal Church

COD is not a canon lawyer but he can't imagine endorsing someone else's opinion in a legal case in a secular court somehow rises to the level of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy or violating the doctrine, discipline, or worship. 

--It would not seem to be a charge of abandonment of communion, since that process is different and is governed by Title IV, Canon 16.

--COD thinks the most likely ground for accountability is Title IV, Canon 4, Section 1(e).  A member of the clergy is required to "safeguard the property and funds of the Church and Community."

Perhaps the argument is being made that by endorsing these legal efforts by the former dioceses of Forth Worth and Quincy to retain title to property and assets, these bishops are in violation of this requirement by supporting those who would seem to be in clear violation.

4.  If so, Crusty Old Dean certainly hopes these charges will be dismissed by the Intake Officer.  These bishops are third parties expressing opinions in cases that do not directly relate to them.  The majority are retired (or soon to be -- four are retired and MacPherson will soon join them) bishops and one is a suffragan.  This would seem to be a bit of a stretch that they are not safeguarding the property and funds of the church, since the retired bishops and the suffragans are not directly involved in oversight of property or funds at all, and the diocesans in questions are expressing an opinion which does not [currently] involve their diocese.  If any of these bishops were actually to be intimately involved with any property or funds directly under their oversight, that would be a different matter, and disciplinary charges would be certainly appropriate.

One could argue that these bishops in question are joining this legal argument so that, in the eventuality that the opinion they are supporting prevails -- that the Episcopal Church is not a hierarchical organization and dioceses have control over their own assets and property -- they could then, if that is indeed the ruling, move to take control of the property and assets that they do have oversight of.  But proving a conspiracy is different from proving actual failure to safeguard property.

5.  It could be that this is another chapter in this Church's long history of using the disciplinary process as a weapon against others with whom we disagree, or as a way to end episcopal pastoral relationships that aren't working.  The Onderdonks, George Cummins, Stephen Tyng, Walter Righter, and so on.  This is something liberals and conservatives, evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics, are both guilty of.  Just as the disciplinary process was stretched in an effort to dissolve the pastoral relationship between the bishop and the diocese of Philadelphia, it smacks to COD that the disciplinary process may being stretched here as well.  If those bishops who have actual involvement in the church's property or assets make a real move to violation Section 1 (e), by all means bring the hammer down.  But the ones listed here haven't, other than express an opinion.  And why go after retired bishops?  One of things that was so distasteful about the Righter heresy trial was that he was a retired bishop only acting on the request of the bishop diocesan and performing an ordination authorized by the bishop diocesan and Standing Committee.

6.  Keep in mind recent efforts and let's tone down the histrionics.  The over-reach in the Bennison case was struck down by a court of review, and the charges against Righter were dismissed.  Those bishops who have actually tried to take control of assets and take their dioceses out of the church have been deposed.  The charges against Bishop Lawrence were dismissed.   The system has been working, in COD's opinion.

7.  And again, this is all hypothetical since we have no clue what the actual charges are -- because the leakers haven't leaked that information yet.