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'.


  1. Hi Tom,
    Hope you are having a blast there! Your comments on resistance to change in the Church clearly echo my own concerns. Everyone is aflush with the idea of change, the energy is high and exciting. But when land back home, how will the energy be sustained, and how will things really start to move? You are right about the task force; I, too, w/b watching it!
    Thanks for the blog. Penelope L.

  2. Perhaps more importantly, bishops shouldn't be accusing other bishops of political foulness without the evidence to support the accusation. I mean, really... Ian Douglas is afraid of women in power?

  3. Very thought provoking! Perhaps we ought to center down and listen to the Holy Spirit awhile? Any chance the folks who will be on the ReStructure Task Force could/would have Palmer Parker or Richard Foster come and give a pre meeting workshop on Quaker Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business as a model?

  4. On the topic of diversity in age groups... I did a little digging.

    12% of the current US population is over the age of 60. Yet the number I was told was that 50% of the delegates are over 60. 25% of the US population asunder 30. Yet 7% of the delegates were under 30. There is a tremendous focus on race and gender, but our age gap is huge. Not only this, but it appears the age gap in our pews is roughly the same as the age gap in our power structure. Just food for thought.

    The number for GC77 are heresay, so take them with a grain of salt. The US Population numbers come from the most recent census information.

  5. Zeke makes a valid point...perhaps the intention is to increase the representation of the target age cohort assuming they will give us better insight to what target pop needs/wants in a church? Would it help the Task Force to set up a series of Facebook sites where folks with special interest on a special topic could gather and elicit church-wide input and publicly share and discuss perspectives BEFORE Task Force gets down to details?

    This was also maximize inclusivity - and for folks w/o personal Facebook access, perhaps parishes/dioceses might offer to have volunteers input on their behalf...heck, lets get input from shut ins, ya know? All, I've heard, does mean all....


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