Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Revamp the PB and PHOD: What You Don't Surrender, The World Strips Away

Bruce Springsteen went through some rough times in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  He fired his longtime band and got divorced from his glamorous Hollywood wife, while at the same time finding redemption in a new love and starting a family.  Reflecting on this period of transition, he once wrote: "In the end what you don't surrender/Well the world just strips away."  Trying to be what you are not, or cannot, is, in the end, a hopeless and futile effort -- because in the end the world will strip away what you are trying to avoid some way, some how.  Or, as Ahab said to Elijah, caught for stealing Naboth's
Bruce giving his acceptance speech after being elected PB in 2015.
vineyard: "Have you found me, o my enemy?"  "Yes, I have found you," Elijah replies.  One of Crusty's favorite exchanges in the Bible:  Ahab well knows what Jezebel has done on his behalf is wrong, and defies Jewish Law -- and further knows deep, down inside it is wrong and that he will be found out for it.  And sure enough, he is:  Elijah, and by extension God, finds him out.  Or, as The Message translation puts this exchange, "So:  you've run me down?"  to which Elijah replies, "Yes, I have found you out."

Crusty is starting to get anxious, even though the next General Convention of The Episcopal Church is still two years away.  The main work of the Task Force for Reimagining The Episcopal Church, or the unfortunately acronymed TREC (people, it rhymes with dreck) seems to mainly be throwing out twitter crowdsourced questions.  There is supposed to be a process of consultation, including a gathering in 2014 to present their report, and (currently) a $200,000 line item for this.  This is down from the $400,000 requested in Resolution C095 which established the Commission, and COD certainly hopes this amount survives throughout the triennium.  He also certainly hope TREC ends up doing something, because the last f*****g thing we need is to do the work of TREC at the 2015 General Convention and have wasted three years and $200,000.  But TREC has fantastic people on it and COD will hold out the hope that awesome stuff and specific proposals will emerge from them by the November, 2014 deadline.

On top of TREC's monthly crowdsourcing, Crusty's eyes popped at a number from the recently concluded Executive Council meeting.  $100,000 was added to the budget of the Presiding Bishop's Nominating Committee, to bring total budget expenditure to $226,000.  And that's just nominating the Presiding Bishop!  Executive Council also began the process of creating a transition team to assist in the move towards the new PB who will be elected in 2015 -- adding in transition and installation of the new PB, then the amount for nominating, electing, transitioning, and installing a Presiding Bishop comes to over $500,000.

This is from a church that wrings its hands about seminarian debt, and cut in 2012 the $65,000 per year pittance to help alleviate this. But we can blow a pro-rated ballpark $170,000 per year on nominating and installating our primate.

We continue to be addicted to governance.  As C095, the resolution establishing TREC, put it, we spend 47% of the budget adopted at General Convention on governance and structure.  And we show no signs of changing that.

Crusty advocated holding a special General Convention just before the regularly scheduled 2015 General Convention to allow for a speedier process of any constitutional changes.  Constitutional changes must be passed at two consecutive General Conventions.  Thus, you could make presentations at a 2015 Special Convention, which would be solely focused on presenting a report and proposed changes.  Then those proposals would be taken up by the regular meeting of Convention to follow immediately after it (since Constitutional amendments may only be voted on by regular, and not special, General Convention, as outlined in Article XII of the Constitution) for a first reading, and with a second reading in 2018 to make any changes to the Constitution.  As it is, Crusty has serious concerns about any constitutional changes even being addressed in 2015.

a)  Presenting the proposals at that Convention, and allowing for the time needed for them to be hashed out in Committee, with amendments and other resolutions submitted, will take an extraordinary amount of time -- how many Resolutions were combined in committee to create C095, which just called on us to look at establishing at Commission?  Better to do this in a 48-hour Special Convention focused solely on a TREC report, adjourn that at 12:00 noon, reconvene a regular Convention at 12:01 pm, and then proceed.

b)  Convention's attention will get diverted to electing a new PB and whatever budget mess comes our
way.  Seriously, Convention sometimes reminds me of Doug from Up, distracted by whatever squirrel runs in front of it.

c)  TREC doesn't present substantive proposals, and we f*****g do TREC's work at General Convention.

COD has a tremendous concern Convention will say, "Gosh, this is so complicated and important, and we need to let the new Presiding Bishop provide leadership and input, let's kick the whole thing to 2018."  Which means any Constitutional changes wouldn't possibly be enacted until 2021.  That's if we can even afford to hold General Convention in anything resembling its current format in 2021.

The Presiding Bishop nomination and election situation puts several issues before us, showing just how screwed up process and thinking is at this point.

a)  We are spending more money just on electing and nominating a Presiding Bishop than on the Commission charged with presenting a comprehensive plan for rethinking and restructuring the Church.  Add to this the fact 2012 Convention asked the nominating committee "to allow for any bishop or deputy to express the intent to nominate any other member of the House of Bishops from the floor when the committee presents its nominees to the joint session of the two Houses."  Crusty wishes he was making this up.  We're spending $226,000 and three years to come up with nominees when we also want to be able nominate anyone from the floor.  Occam's Razor, people!

b)   We will be going through a process of nomination not knowing what, if any, recommendations concerning the office of Presiding Bishop TREC may make.  Imagine someone coming to you and saying, "Hey, we'd like to interview you for a job, but there's a Human Resources committee completely rethinking our whole HR structure.  You interested?"  You'd be insane not to ask, "How can I interview for a job when I don't know what the job description may be?"  Yet that is what we are doing, only it's taking three years and over $200,000 to nominate and elect someone for a position we may change.

Crusty proposes the following to the Joint Nominating Committee and TREC:

1.   Nominate candidates to be a caretaker PB, an experienced or even retired bishop who may be willing to serve for a triennium.  We cannot elect a 9-year incumbent and possibly think we can make any changes to the office, so, in reality, we are locking in many aspects of our current structure through 2024 by electing a 9-year incumbent in 2015.

2.   So essentially elect an interim PB in 2015 while the church considers proposals to restructure and rethink the church.  Get a commitment from candidates, and have the PB-elect publicly announce, the intention to resign at the end of the 2018 General Convention.  Instead of spending over $500,000 to transition to an office which might be restructured, why not actually think about changing the office?  Currently we are coming up with a transition plan for the people in the office, not the office itself.

If we are able to make a first vote on Constitutional changes in 2015, and a second in 2018, then we could elect a new PB to serve under the new definitions of the office.  If we are unable, we could do any number of things depending on circumstances.  Ask the incumbent to stay on for three more years.  We could elect someone to serve out the remainder of the term through 2024, and then elect someone under any new provisions.  Sure, there would be some bumpiness and perhaps uncertainty, as in any kind of interim or transition period, but is this any worse than locking ourselves into our current system through 2024?

OK, all of the above is just about what we should be thinking about now, since actions and decisions made during this triennium have implications for our overall process of restructuring.

That doesn't even get to Crusty's ideas on rethinking the office of Presiding Bishop.  This needs to be
Put each bishop's name on a Jenga piece and have this kid pull it out: new PB!
part and parcel of a much broader rethinking of governance and structure. Like a game of Jenga, moving one piece has implications for the whole structure.  Or, as one of COD's colleagues in the twitterblogosintersphere put it, "Change one office, you need to change them all."  Any changes to PHOD and PB would impact the Secretary of General Convention, Canon to the Presiding Bishop, and so on, right down to Nearly Headless Samuel Seabury (if Samuel Provoost had his way), the House Ghost of the HOB.

Briefly, to give you a preview, Crusty is planning on busting out the following for rethinking presiding officers:

a)  make the Presiding Bishop a diocesan bishop again.  Upon election, the PB gets a suffragan or assisting bishop.  Rethink and scale back some aspects of the role and expand others, focus on the understanding of the office of Bishop in the Prayer Book as as guide to create an office that truly is chief pastor.

b)  roll back the governance creep that has been making the President of the House of Deputies a kind of co-primate.  COD has written on this here nearly 18 months ago:  the PHOD cannot be a co-primate because the office is not configured that way.  The Speaker of the House is not the Vice President.  The PHOD is nominated by, and elected solely from, the House of Deputies.  The PB, despite the time, expense, and cost, is nominated by a committee representing bishops, clergy, and laity and elected by one house and confirmed by another, with duties beyond being a presiding officer laid out in canon.  The PHOD is not representative because it is not intended to be.  The absurdity here is laid bare in the proposal noted above that  any deputy should be able to nominate the PB but only deputies can nominate and elect the PHOD.

c)   this is not because Crusty is anti-laity: far from it.  Taking into account elements outlined in sections (a) and (b), COD would create a new office.  Call it what you want: General Secretary, Grand Vizier, High Inquisitor, whatever.  This would become the elected CEO of the church. The PB would focus on being chief pastor and presiding officer of the HOB, and the President of the HOD would focus on being presiding officer of the HOD.  Allow any bishop, clergy, or lay person (not just a deputy) to be eligible for election, and require election by both Houses, not election by one and consent by another (as with PB) or election only by one (as with PHOD).  Lots of other provinces of the Anglican Communion have a General Secretary/provincial-wide elected office.  Let's research those.

Naturally, and obviously, all of this needs to be spelled out in more detail.  But it's not 1789 when we first invented the roles of PB and PHOD.  It's not 1919, one of the last times we fundamentally rethought them.  All of that just a teaser as to what Crusty's working on for his summer vacation, stay tuned for more.

We cannot continue to be addicted to governance: what we don't surrender and rethink, the world will strip away.  We already have a dramatically different denominational staff than a decade ago because we cut and reconfigured in continued response to financial cutbacks without ever asking what kind of denominational staff we should have.  Are we heading down the road to getting the same kind of church?


  1. Did anyone really believe TREC was going to trek? Did we really believe the last GC was committed to fundamental change? I have great respect for the PHoD and the VicePHOD, but when they were elected, I discerned a lack of commitment to anything new. The current incumbents are lovely people, but with their many many years of service as convention deputies and elsewhere in the service of the church, they not only represent to "old guard" - they ARE the old guard. Their election signaled (in my humble opinion) that talk of change was talk, not change. -- Crusty makes some interesting proposals. I don't agree with them (I don't think we can have a primate who remains in his/her diocesan position, for example), but discussing them would get the ball rolling.

  2. Right on, as usual,my friend. Guess the easiest way as far as the PB thing is concerned is to ask KJS to extend for three years. I think she'd do it in a heartbeat. I'm concerned about her having another nine year term (precedent-wise) but this might be a middle ground.

  3. Well said. I'm with you on the PB as diocesan (with suffragan to do the real diocesan work, as in Cantuar & Dover). I also favor a unicameral synod for reasons I've gone into before. I really like the idea of a "short term" PB to manage a major transition. It is helpful that the canon does not require a PB to serve the full 9 years, and makes explicit provision for an older PB to retire.

    1. Agreed, Tobias, Rome and Cantuar have system in place while we essentially have an episcopus vagans. I also weighed in on a unicameral system here:

    2. Thanks, Tom. Enjoyed reading your reflections at the link above. I see we are singing from the same hymnal, which is encouraging. Meanwhile, the snow-making machines in Hades are hard at work, so we shall see...

  4. Tom, I have various thoughts, but here's the first. You have actually understated the cost of nominating, electing, transitioning, and installing a new PB. Nominating costs alone are now budgeted at $226K (which is less than the JNCEPB thought they needed to do the job they were given by canon). At the last Exec Council meeting, the Finances for Mission Committee was told that the cost of transition and installation in 2006 was around $500K IN ADDITION to nomination costs, and we can expect that figure to be higher this time around due to inflation if nothing changes in the way we do this process. That transition figure includes the cost of searches for a new canon to the PB and COO, double executive staff for a while, etc. And the installation service itself is a huge expense, what with travel expense for all the luminaries who need to be there. I do think it is worth considering doing an installation service on the last day of Convention, while everyone is already present. A smaller enthronement can take place at the National Cathedral later, when the PB is ready to actually take over the job, and wouldn't require a huge travel contingent if we are disciplined about it. And doing the installation at Convention would allow far more of the church to attend.

  5. Hey Tom,
    I agree with your post and would like to propose getting the eligible and willing PB candidates in a room and cast lots for whom will be the next PB. It worked for Matthias and it could work for us. No politicking (shocked, shocked I say!), no dog and pony show, just a trust that any of the candidates could serve us well in this strange and really quite limited office. My views on the CEO office are not really fleshed out as of yet but I like where you're going my friend!

  6. Heaven forfend: Crusty underestimated? Not something COD is oft accused of. Thanks for this info!

  7. Hey Sarah, remember when the Moravians used to cast lots for bishop they included a blank lot in case God didn't want any of them to be chosen.

  8. Tom, I think that you hit the nail on the head in many ways. What if we just reverted to pre-1919 conventions? It was the longest serving member of the house that became presiding bishop. No election needed. General Convention moved to the new model in 1919 because they wanted a Presiding bishop that was more business like. I dare say that experiment did not turn out the way we had hoped. Our Ancestors were also concerned with PBs who were enfeebled. If we counted only Bishops Diocesan, then, thanks to mandatory retirement, that would no longer be an issue.

  9. I like the idea of getting a (potentially) non-clergy CEO to run the day to day operations, while the PB focuses more on pastoral care and chairing HoB meetings. Actually, it might be worth looking into that idea for dealing with parish administration, too, even though that would mess with our current system of ensuring clergy get a living.

  10. It's time to go unicameral in the GC (consisting of fewer deputies and only the active diocesan bishops), eliminate the office of PB, and require consolidation of every diocese of fewer than 5,000 ASA (to pick a number) in the lower 48. Leave the COO in place, selected by and reporting to the Executive Council - but the COO could be from any order. On occasions when a spokesperson or representative of TEC is needed, the Executive Council can appoint one du jour.

  11. Some interesting thoughts...seems to me that until we get some idea of what the jobs of TEC National versus the Provinces versus the Dioceses and the Parishes, Missions, etc. we're a bit ahead of ourselves talking about reworking national offices.

    1) The National Church ought to focus on those matters which it is uniquely qualified to handle: BCP, Hymnal, and related liturgical texts which are applicable to the whole church; the oversight of episcopal election and consecration; authorization to establish, modify or end provinces and/or dioceses within TEC; theological education research and resources; national evangelism; service programs (e.g. ER&D, Youth Service Corps, Episcopal Schools, etc.); denominational communications...

    2) Provinces: If we had wisdom we would emulate our friends in Africa and appoint a part-time Senior Bishop for each province within TEC - this would allow regions to focus on particular pastoral and mission opportunities without requiring GC involvement. Many of the matters which currently occupy GC could and should be handled by Deputies, Clergy and Bishops within the Provinces: various social, political and economic resolutions are currently dealt with at GC when various regions (not to mention dioceses and parishes) may not have a consensual position on the matter. I would also offer the thought that Provincial level cooperation might result in more timely and effective response to needs within the entire of Cathedral Deans, Canons, Chancellors, Church Lay Professionals, might best be undertaken at this level - better chance to encounter best practices.

    3) Dioceses: Dioceses need to become the face of the Church - with a few modifications: election of a bishop needs to be by popular vote of all members in good standing of the diocese voting in their parish; the bishop should serve for a fixed period subject to re-election every six years; the Diocesan is Chief Pastor and Teacher and defines the standards and preparation for Priests and Deacons within the Diocese; the Diocesan is responsible for discipline of clergy within the Diocese; the Diocese selects the Days of Optional Observance and Commemorations beyond the mandatory Feasts and Fasts of the Church....

    This would emphasize the service and mission needs of folks, communicants and others....

    Again, we're not living in the 1950s and we need to take a different approach to "doing church" today


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