Thursday, December 18, 2014

We're One, But We're Not the Same: Two Proposals for Restructuring and Reform

Hello all:  I came up with the idea of Crusty Old Dean one night while watching the Colbert Report during my time working for the denominatonal staff of The Episcopal Church.  Serving on denominational staff, I found myself at times amused and perplexed by the hyperbolic state of much
COD: fighting Truthiness in the church since 2011.
of the discourse in the church, the way the internet and social media at times seemed to inflame that, and the life-or-death attitude many in the church had towards things which were most decidely not life-and-death.  I hit upon the idea of a Colbert-like character, eventually envisioning Crusty Old Dean as a kind of meta-narrative, an effort to sneak in commentary under the guise of precisely the kind of rhetoric I had come to despair.  With my last post on the TREC final report, I regret if anyone mistook the character for the person clicking these keys.

TREC was given a difficult mandate, not given the funding needed, and, I think, was set up for impossible expectations and failure.  I know a goodly number of the people on the Commission and they are faithful, dedicated, brilliant, fantastic people.  Yes, the last post was hyperbolic.  But it will be nothing compared to the hyperbole that will be flung in sincerity and earnestness as we face hard issues in our church.  I personally have been told previous suggestions of mine for reducing the number of deputies is racist and classist, and at other times been told I am nothing more than really a shill for (fill in name of individual's perceived bogeyman).  I am sorry if anybody mistook my hyperbole for any true feelings about the work of TREC, and I decry in advance the hyperbole that will be flung by those who are serious in their allegations, unlike me.

However, that does not mean I do not think TREC needs to be held accountable and judged by its work.  Yes, they had a difficult mandate.  But TREC also had nearly two years to do its work and had access to hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding, yet showed a repeated consistency to be unable to clearly articulate what they were thinking or doing, and produced a report that is problematic, including three resolutions that are, at times, gibberish, and other resolutions which are out of order and can't even be considered in their current form.  They conducted all of their deliberations behind closed doors, consulted formally with hardly anyone, and held a churchwide gathering on October 2 in which they did almost all of the talking (95% by my admittedly not official record, since I was there and timed how much TREC members spoke versus how much time was spent by non-TREC persons) and only answered about half the questions they were asked (admittedly not an official statistic, though I would stand by this assessment should anyone want to watch the video and determine whether they even answered direct questions asked of them.  They did, for instance, not answer my question at all, and simply cycled back to their talking points)  Yes, they had a tough mandate.  But they also must be frankly held accountable for their work, and I take back nothing of substance that I have written on this blog, though I may at times regret the tone used.

The clock, however, is ticking, and General Convention itself is coming up this June.  While critical of much of TREC's work, I'd also like to point out many places where I commended them, including in the last post, where I noted

--how much I appreciated their biblical metaphor
--their overall analysis of the current issues facing the church, and some of our challenges in responding, were spot on
--I heartily endorse a unicameral legislature and called for one on this blog 3 1/2 years ago
--found their Executive Council proposal really intriguing; I had expected to hate it but even against my best intentions they melted my Crusty heart.  I would love to see that proposal get the debate and discussion it deserves.

To that extent, Crusty would like to do two things to contribute to the discussion about reform and restructuring as we move towards Convention.

1)  present my own proposal for a unicameral General Convention,
2)  make a suggestion about how we can truly engage restructuring and reform going forward.

1)  Proposal for a Unicameral General Convention, or, We're One But We're Not The Same
Crusty can't be holding on to what you've got, if all you've got is hurt, General Convention.

Resolved, the Article I, Sections 1-6 be repealed in their entirety and replaced with the following:

Article I.

Sec. 1. There shall be a General Convention of this Church, consisting of the order of Bishops, order of Clergy, and Order of Laity.   All three orders shall sit, deliberate, and vote jointly [not thrilled by "jointly" and thinking of better one to indicate default is to deliberate and vote together] on all matters before the Convention, except as indicated in Section 5; and in all deliberations freedom of debate shall be allowed.

Sec. 2. Each Bishop of this Church having jurisdiction, every Bishop Coadjutor, and every Suffragan Bishop shall have a seat and a vote.  Each diocese shall be represented by no more than three persons in the clerical order and three persons in the lay order with seat and vote.

Sec. 3.   At the General Convention next before the expiration of the term of office of the Presiding Bishop, the General Convention shall elect one of the Bishops as the Presiding Bishop of the Church according to the process defined by canon. The Presiding Bishop of the Church shall serve as a co-chair of General Convention. Candidates for the Presiding Bishop shall be elected by the General Convention, by separate but concurrent vote of each order. The affirmative vote of a majority of the deputies of each order shall be required for the election of a Presiding Bishop. The term and tenure of office and duties and particulars of the election not inconsistent with the preceding provisions shall be prescribed by canon.  If the Presiding Bishop of the Church shall resign the office as such, or if by
reason of infirmity shall become unable to serve, or in case of death, the Bishop who, according to the Rules of the Order of Bishops, becomes its Presiding Officer, shall (unless the date of the next General Convention is within three months) immediately call a special meeting of all bishops with voice and vote in General Convention to elect a Bishop to be the Presiding Bishop. The certificate of election shall be sent by the Presiding Officer to the Standing Committees of the several dioceses, and if a majority of the Standing Committees of the dioceses shall concur in the election, the Bishop elected shall become the Presiding Bishop of the Church to complete the term of office of the Presiding Bishop who had resigned, died, or been unable to serve due to infirmity.

Sec. 4. The Church in each Diocese which has been admitted to union with the General Convention, each area Mission established as provided by Article VI, and the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, shall be entitled to representation in the House of Deputies by not more than three ordained persons, Presbyters or Deacons, canonically resident in the Diocese and not more than
three Lay Persons, confirmed adult communicants of this Church, in good standing in the Diocese but not necessarily domiciled in the Diocese. Each Diocese, and the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, shall prescribe the manner in which its Deputies shall be chosen. To constitute a quorum for the transaction of business, the Clerical order shall be represented by at least one deputy in
each of a majority of the dioceses entitled to representation, and the Lay order shall likewise
be represented by at least one deputy in each of a majority of the dioceses entitled
to representation, and with representation of a majority of bishops with voice and vote.

Sec. 5. The vote on all questions which come before General Convention shall be by majority vote of all persons present, regardless of order, except as described in this section.  For any resolution which changes the canons of the church, orders shall be polled separately but concurrently, with a majority of each order required.  In addition, a request to be polled separately but concurrently, with a majority of each order required, may be made upon request of the bishops, clergy, and lay deputations of any five dioceses.  A request to be polled separately but concurrently may not be requested for procedural or parliamentary motions, but only on resolutions and amendments to resolutions.  In order to amend the Constitution or the Book of Common Prayer (excluding provisions for amending the Lectionary as outlined in the Constitution and Canons), a vote by orders will be taken.  A vote by orders requires two-thirds majority in each order for approval.  A vote by orders may not be taken on any other matter before the Convention other than amending the Constitution or Prayer Book.

Sec. 6 At the General Convention, a majority vote of those Deputies present, even though
less than a quorum, may adjourn from day to day.

Section 7 to remain the same.

There you go.  It's not perfect, but I think it's cleaner, clearer, and simpler than the one proposed by TREC.   I welcome comments and suggestions for improving this, or for noting anything I might have overlooked.  After all, I'm not a lawyer, didn't have two years and 24 other committee members working with me on this, and didn't have access to a couple of hundred thousands dollars, so did the best I could while having a burger and beer at this place (makes Five Guys look like McDonald's) and so am opening this to crowd-sourcing.
Mmmm...grass fed...

OK, now on to the really difficult question here.

TREC is spot-on in its assessment that the church, for various reasons, seems unable and/or incapable of even addressing the massive problems facing the church, something my colleague Scott Gunn has also outlined ably in his recent blog post on TREC (and ably showing his nerd cred with an awesome reference to classic Star Trek), and which I, too, have noted over the years.  Crusty pointed out in 2009 and 2012 that we were essentially restructuring by defunding, without any strategic plan or even identification of missional priorities.  Crusty worked on the denominational staff from 2001-2011, and in 2011 I had 2/3rds fewer staff and 40% less funding than in 2001 for the particular responsibilities I was charged, but nobody, nowhere, ever sat down and talked about what we needed to prioritize, what we needed to let go of, what we could delegate to other networks or partners, and what we needed to differently.  We can repeat this process in dioceses that are unsustainable, with congregations that are slowly dying but can't seem to figure out what their purpose is for.  When Crusty has interviewed for rector in a couple of places over the years, when asked if he has any questions, he always asks, "Yes, if this congregation closed tomorrow, what would anyone other than the members say?  Would they even notice?"  We must be able to have the conversations we need to have about what God is calling us to do in this time and place, and everything must be on the table as part of that.

This is all the more galling because strategic planning, missional discernment, and institutional change can happen.  Crusty was chaplain at a campus chaplaincy that went through a two-year process of visioning, resulting in creative use of assets in the service of a redefined mission.  It also resulted in tearing down 60% of the chaplaincy's footprint to make that creative use of assets possible and to endow that ministry.  This is the question I asked TREC on October 2:  To restructure means not just creating new things, but tearing down and even destroying other things.  What can we consider letting go in order to build new things?  The Episcopal Church in the 1780s could not have created the structures they did had not all of their older structure either been destroyed, or they had let go of.  

As many others have said, and which Crusty's echoes, we have to figure out what this institution we are restructuring is for.  When Crusty began as chaplain at the campus chaplaincy, we started a six-month visioning process, but Crusty forbade any problem solving for the first two months.  Instead,

--We needed to build a vision and discern what God was calling us to do.  We spent some time doing that.
--We identified what assets we head, as broadly as possible: our Anglican tradition, our property,  partners called to do similar things, anything that was a resource.
--We then, after 3 months, began to ask: how do we put our assets in the service of the mission we have identified?

There's nothing special about that process, Crusty didn't think it up and it's something lots of people are doing in lots of places.  We need to have, as a church, the conversations TREC had behind closed doors.  We need to discern what our missional priorities are.  We need to realize what we need to let go of.  We need to identify the assets that we have.  We need to seek out partners for this journey.  We have done almost none of that in the past triennium *as a church*, though it is happening in various places with astounding stories of transformation and vitality.

We need

--to elect a Presiding Bishop who has a commitment to revisioning this church, and who work with a variety of stakeholders to have a churchwide process of conversation and consultation from 2015-2018.

--allocate a significant amount of funding (in the millions) to permit a truly churchwide consultation over the next triennium.  It is going to require painful choices be made, Crusty has some ideas, but this is something the church as a whole has to do.  We allocate enormous sums of money for lots of different things in our church.  If we can't figure out how to pay for what we need to do, then we'll just keep restructuring by defunding until things reach a tipping point and various components -- churchwide staff, General Convention -- just collapse because we can't pull them off anymore.  So we need to begin to make hard choices at this Convention in order to structure the conversations we need to figure out what kind of churchwide structures we need to implement the priorities and mission we discern.

--we need to commence conversations with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America about combining operations, mission, and ministry as much as possible.  Crusty thinks we should move everything to Chicago and share a whole host of support services  (Information Technology, Human Resources, etc.) and begin to discern how to do as much as we can in mission and program together.  Guess what?  The ELCA has gone through downsizing and restructuring half a dozen times in the past decade, too, and is asking all the same questions we are.  Time to engage them together.  One of the things that most disheartened Crusty in his decade on denominational staff is that in 2011, when I left, a decade after Called to Common Mission with the ELCA had come into being, we only had one denominational-wide shared position.  For both communions not to consider deeper partnerships would be a failure of will and vision.

--given the time it takes to amend the Constitution, we need to select those reforms requiring Constitutional change that need to be presented to this Convention.  Should we decide in 2015 we don't need a unicameral General Convention, we can always decline to take the second vote.  If it's something we do, then we can take the second vote.  Repeat as needed.

Well, that's enough for now.  As many have noted, the conversations on restructuring and reform are going to continue.  While some of what TREC has done will go nowhere, there is a goodly amount that can be rolled into other processes and conversations, and Crusty looks forward to ploughing ahead.

Let the dead bury their own dead.  Those who are interested in resurrection, let's begin to build coalitions of the willing.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Let the Dead Bury Their Own Dead: TREC Final Report

In an interview once, Bruce Springsteen gave his definition of rock and roll:  it was short, simple, and poignant: "Singing happy about sad things."  This speaks to the way music, whether it be Springsteen or Mahler or Pete Seeger folk songs, has the ability to crystallize the depths of human feeling and emotion.  Pop music, in particular, has had the uncanny ability to hide much of its sadness and pathos
Break my heart/I only want to go and cry/It's so sad to watch a sweet thing die
around melodic hooks and catchy beats.  Or, as the main character in the classic novel High Fidelity by Nick Hornby once put it with regards to pop music, "Did I listen to the music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to the music?"  Of all the many ways pop music has the ability to couch sadness in harmony, no one has been quite the master that Brian Wilson has been.

Crusty still remembers suddenly realizing one day when he was about fifteen, "Hey, Beach Boys songs aren't really about surfing."  They're about the boundaries of our expectations and exercising limited freedoms within broader constraints.  Then, of course, there is Pet Sounds and what would become Smiley Smile: where Brian's collaborations with Van Dyke Parks and others, combined with the harmonies of the Beach Boys themselves, reached levels of lyrical and melodic transcendence tread only by the likes of Coltrane, Handel, Bach, the Clash, Romanos the Melodist, and few others.

The Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church (TREC) has issued its final report.  Perhaps it's not a good sign that after the finishing the report, Crusty had the overwhelming urge to drink some
The brownest of the brown want me to drink you?
Scotch and listen to Brian Wilson.  And in doing so, Crusty was reminded of one of the best examples of Springsteen's definition of rock and roll, which loops back to incorporate Brian himself:  the Barenaked Ladies' song Brian Wilson, which is a catchy pop tune about wondering if one is falling into the same depth of mental illness, disillusion, and substance abuse as Brian Wilson.  Nothing captures this dynamic more than the live version of the song, where the crowd sings along whimsically, always prompting Crusty to wonder if this was recorded in some country where English is not the native language, as the crowd chimes in to sing merrily along to the narrator's fear of his own descent into mental illness.

Crusty has found these words from Barenaked Ladies' song "Brian Wilson" echoing in his head this afternoon, pondering how to begin to try to offer a response.

"So I'm lying here, just staring at the ceiling tiles.
and I'm thinking about what to think about.
Just listening and relistening to Smiley Smile."

I found myself thinking about what to think about as I pondered the TREC final report.  Crusty has been writing about restructuring of the church since the fall of 2011, before it was cool to do so, when he realized living in California in the mid-1990s that Christendom had collapsed and denominationalism, thank God, was dying.  The church as a whole finally caught up to a conversation many have been having for years, in "emergent" and "fresh expressions" Christian movements -- and, like everything else the church does, has gotten it wrong.

Crusty always thought TREC was the best hope The Episcopal Church had for beginning to address huge issues facing the church.  As TREC points out in its own introduction, it seems as though the church is incapable, on a churchwide level, of even beginning to outline and define the scope of what we are facing.  Think about it!  The church once did massive things: created a world-class pension system that became a model for social security in a few years.  Built massive cathedrals over a generation where previously there had been none.  Created what is now Episcopal Relief & Development to respond to the massive problems facing postwar Europe.  The church seems cognizant of many of the issues swirling -- viability of dioceses, the number of churches we will need to close, the mounting problems of seminary debt -- but in seems completely incapable of even discussing these questions.  In what was a fitting metaphor for the church's impotence, in 2012 a church that wrings its hands continually about student loan debt eliminated the paltry pittance of $70,000 per year out of a more than $20 million budget towards seminarian debt without discussion or debate while approving hundreds of thousands of dollars just to nominate, elect, and install a Presiding Bishop.  Just like the nation that once built a world class infrastructure and state university education systems now has toilets like the one Crusty once saw in JFK Airport, our gateway to the world, where COD literally had to hotwire the flush mechanism by wrapping the exposed wires together.

The hope Crusty had in TREC is no more. 

The TREC report is, at times, an inchoate mishamash of the hyperspecific and the almost frustratingly vague, and this may be an element in its possible undoing.  The report runs the risk of kicking too much of what it was tasked to doing to the Convention itself, including an almost complete absence of financial implications for the restructuring it proposes, which means it will may, in turn, get kicked down the road again.  And again. At times I wonder if we will need to wait for our churchwide structures to collapse and build new ones instead of trying to spend the time, energy, and effort to reform them

Eventually, though, in trying to determine how to address the TREC report, Crusty just started at the beginning, which is the only place to start.

1.  Introduction.

Things started off hopefully.  Crusty found much to love in the introductory sections.

Crusty agreed that it's important to note that structural and technical changes alone are not sufficient to bring about a reimagining or revitalization of the church -- true transformation is about a deeper changing of relationship and connection.  But the report does note that structural and technical changes are essential to progress, which COD also agrees with.

While nodding approvingly at this prelude, Crusty also felt a sense of dread: the beginning of a dread of "doth protest too much."  Despite saying technical and structural changes are not sufficient, Crusty began to fear that a whole slew of technical and structural changes were coming.  Can a house divided against itself stand?  Was TREC going to outline a vision of the kind of deeper, transformational change needed, or end up only proposing technical and structural changes?  This is a tension within the report, between trying to shape a conversation for the church to have and proposing the actual changes as well, which means TREC might be neither hot nor cold, and not do either fully or effectively.

Or as Springsteen once put it, "Is a dream a lie if it don't come true, or is it something worse?"

But so far so good:  then TREC nailed the biblical metaphor.  COD winced at its previous Lazarus metaphor, since Lazarus, theologically speaking, is a metaphor for resuscitation, not resurrection, and Crusty didn't think it appropriate for revisioning the church.  Resurrection follows death, not resuscitation.  Jesus is born to a new mode of existence, Lazarus is resuscitated temporarily in the same rotten body that will die again.

COD loved the Luke metaphor here.  Movement precedes institution, practice precedes structure.  Let's got out in that world, and be nimble, people!

2.  Why the Church Needs to Change

Again, COD enjoyed much of what was said here.  it's important to name out inability to deal with pressing issues; as Crusty noted above, we are in danger of becoming the church equivalent of the broken down toilet in JFK, the crumbling Minneapolis bridge infrastructure, the gutting of the California public university system: unable to address the big issues we all know we are facing, we wind up not being able to do so much as go the bathroom eventually.

But then Crusty got his "doth protest too much" vibe.  They really debated about whether to present things in resolution form?  Really?  What did you think you were asked to do?  You wavered between being direct but open, specific but general?  And you also talk about technical and structural changes?  That this is the work of the church as a whole, yet you were tasked with structuring and reimagining this conversation?

TREC, hearing your vacillation here, Crusty was struck by Eugene Petersen's translation of Revelation 3: 17-17 in The Message: "You’re not cold, you’re not hot—far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant. You make me want to vomit."  That's a bit strong, to be sure, and Crusty doesn't mean to give the impression TREC makes me want to vomit -- but that there's a danger in being neither hot nor cold.
Homer reading Book of Revelation?

On to the first three omnibus resolutions they propose.

3.  A001, A002, A003

Then the report falls off a cliff with a series of problematic resolutions marked A001, A002, and A003.   Let's take them one at a time.

A) First resolution:  A001:  Restructure for Spiritual Encounter

First resolved:  COD is at least pleased TREC "urges" Episcopal seminaries to do this kind of work, since the Episcopal seminaries are independent entities and General Convention can't tell them what to do anymore than it can tell Harvard Divinity School or University of Phoenix what to do.

COD welcomes the urging of this kind of collaboration -- hell, Crusty is dean of a seminary that is the product of two seminaries that have formed a federated, collaborative partnership -- but worries this resolution itself feeds a narrative which fosters a disconnect seminaries and the broader church.  Many are doing exactly the kind of thing being talked about here: undergone curricular revisions, developed low residency programs, formed partnerships with diocesan formation programs.  Far from requiring ministry reviews and standards of accountability, Crusty would hope TREC would understand that theological education, unlike EVERY OTHER ENTITY IN THE CHURCH has an outside body -- our accreditors -- which call us to accountability in precisely areas of standards and practice.  Nobody bothers to ask a local congregation, "Tell us how you are living out the gospel and show us how you are doing that, include measured, tangible ways."  Yet perhaps alone in the church, no seminary can get away with not having practices of accountability, since accrediting bodies require goals, outcomes, and standards for demonstrating you have reached them.   COD hopes that this resolution remembers it is an "urge" -- including its specific call for reporting back to Executive Council and Convention -- since otherwise this would be some kind of undefined, massive, unfunded mandate.

TREC also reveals the first of a number of canonical ambiguities here, as it requests seminaries to "look beyond competency in the academic areas defined by canon."  Um, TREC, this really makes no sense to Crusty.

--if you want to redefine canonical areas of competency, why not suggest that?  You do, after all, make any number of canonical suggestions.
--or are you suggesting seminaries simply ignore their responsibility to prepare people for the General Ordination Exam, which is precisely based on those canonical areas?
--or are you asking seminaries to continue to prepare people for those canonical areas, but add all of these other areas of competence on top of that, creating another unfunded mandate?

Also, TREC, you might have a little more credibility urging others to collaboration if you had shown a modicum of it yourself.  You set up your own series of courses on leadership through without bothering to consult with any seminaries.  My own seminary, for instance, has a joint program on leadership with the Kellogg School of Management from Northwestern University, and offers training in community organizing, not for profit management, and leadership development.   Couple this with holding a forum on October 2 where you spoke for 95% of the time and only answered half the questions asked, and your credibility for urging collaboration rings rather hollow.

Second resolved: 

"That Diocesan Councils and Commissions on Ministry, in collaboration with their Bishop, encourage and support diverse ways for ordained clergy to make a living inside and outside the Church."

I do not know that this means.  First off, not every diocese has a diocesan council.  Second of all, what does "make a living inside and outside the church."  Make a living?  Does this mean bivocational clergy? 

Third resolved:

"That the Executive Council study the issue of clergy compensation"

Again, what does this mean?  To what end?

I'm just astounded 18 months and the best minds of the church somehow thought these two resolved clauses are resolutions for Convention to implement.  If you're going to speak in some kind of coded language, then by all means tell us here in your resolution since Explanation sections are not part of resolutions and are not voted upon.

Fourth resolved:

Well, here is the overly specific ying to the raging vague yang of the previous resolved clauses in one since resolved clause:  "That the Trustees of the Church Pension Fund study the following and report to the 79th General Convention: the current pension offerings and how well they serve the Church; the incentives in the current pension system; pension plan opportunities available to Episcopal clergy working in the secular world who are providing non-stipendiary service to The Episcopal Church; compensation models and pension benefits that may not be adequate or may be just in certain areas of the Church, particularly in dioceses outside the U.S."

We get specific -- look at a pension plan for non-stipendiary clergy and non-US clergy -- as well as vague or coded language -- "how well" pension offerings "serve the church" and the "incentives" in the current pension system.  If by "incentives" you mean "burned out clergy hanging on as long as humanly possible to maximize their length of service," then say so; otherwise, is it so hard to say what you mean in one clause when you show you can do it in the next clause?

All of this is prelude to the utter morass of the fifth resolved clause:

"That the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society develop a network to help Episcopal congregations, including clergy, vestry, organist, musical, lay, and other liturgical leaders, to become skilled in creating, nurturing, and developing spaces and moments for spiritual encounters that transform lives and unjust structures; and to have partnerships and practices with other congregations to become excellent stewards of spiritual, financial, real estate, and community resources; and to report their progress and learning annually to their Diocesan Convention/Council and Bishop."

Let's break this down:

--who in the DFMS will create this network?  A task force of Convention in the new world of having no commissions but all task forces?  The Executive Council, which you later charge with implementing resolutions?  The Presiding Bishop which you later define by a new canon as being responsible for program?  This has been a continual issue with TREC, one Crusty has pointed out in previous posts from previous reports, and which they seem oblivious to:  what is meant by "we" when they say "we"?

--how will this be paid for?  TREC, throughout this report, at times give suggested financial appropriation numbers to its suggestions, at times, like here, is utterly oblivious to what it might cost to create a network potentially this massive that will impact every congregation, clergy person, Vestry member, lay liturgical leader, and musician, potentially thousands and thousands of persons.

--and what this network do?  "help Episcopal congregations, including clergy, vestry, organist, musical, lay, and other liturgical leaders, to become skilled in creating, nurturing, and developing spaces and moments for spiritual encounters that transform lives and unjust structures."

Yes, they are legislating creating "spaces" and "moments" for "spiritual encounters."  And this is from the group which says it is trying to reduce the legislative scope of General Convention.

But not just that!  They are legislating cooperation and collaboration, so that "congregations, including clergy, vestry, organist, musical, lay, and other liturgical leaders" have "partnerships and
practices with other congregations to become excellent stewards of spiritual, financial, real

And they are mandating reporting back:  "and to report their progress and learning annually to their
Diocesan Convention/Council and Bishop."

Yes, friends:  TREC is proposing that General Convention mandate that the part-time, unpaid organist in your congregation report annually to the bishop how they are developing spiritual encounters.
And this from the group that has wrung its hands continually about Convention needlessly expanding its legislative scope?

B) Second Resolution;  A002 Reimagine Governance Structures

Five things are "proposed" here, though Crusty is using that term loosely, because, upon closer inspection, COD is utterly perplexed at what is being proposed and resolved.

First resolved:  a proposal to adopt a unicameral General Convention.  First off, Crusty is pleased: he proposed something like this back 2011, as mentioned here.  I likes me some unicameral.  This is a great idea: opportunity to streamline our way of doing business, and build on places where bishops, clergy, and laity debate and deliberate in other places (diocesan conventions, General Convention legislative committees, Standing Commissions).

The problem is, their proposed replacement of Article I of the Constitution does not do this, and, in fact, a number of their proposals violate other aspects of the Constitution.

Section 1 of their proposed Article I seems, actually, to create three houses, not one unicameral house.   It says the three orders "may meet and deliberate separately" and "On any matter requiring a vote, any order may choose to deliberate and/or vote separately."  With no benchmarks for what determines this -- does it take one person in the lay order asking to meet separately -- and with enabling "may" language, does this in reality mean we have three houses, not one?  Given the conflict between previous Presidents of the House of Deputies and House of Bishops, can you imagine that this permissive "may" language would have meant the houses ever would have met together at the 2006, 2009, and 2012 Conventions?  Unicameral legislatures often mandate the opposite -- default to voting and debating together, and defining when and how orders deliberate and vote separately.

Congratulations, TREC.  Your unicameral body as proposed here actually could create three houses, not one, with a net gain of one from the current House of Bishops and House of Deputies we currently have.

Section 2:  Crusty has argued for years that we should have only active bishops voting.  No other episcopally ordered church in Christendom gives its retired bishops voice and vote on everything.  However, the Episcopal Church has spent 68 years unsuccessfully trying to make only diocesan, coadjutor, and suffragan bishops have vote, as Crusty outlined here.  To summarize, here's the legislative history since 1946 of introducing constitutional amendments to permit only diocesan, coadjutor, and suffragan bishops having vote: 

1946 -- failed in HOB in part because it was poorly worded

1949 -- passed both HOB and HOD

1952 -- on second reading, failed in HOD.

1958 -- rejected in HOB.

1988--  Resolution came from Standing Commission on Structure of the Church.  First reading, passed  59-46 in the HOB and overwhelmingly by orders in the House of Deputies (HOD).

1991 -- needed a second reading; failed in HOB on a voice vote.

1997 -- Introduced as a  "B" resolution, meaning it was proposed by the bishops. First reading, passed 108-72 in HOB.  Defeated on vote by orders in HOD, failed by 9 votes in lay order and 4 in clerical order.

2003 -- Another B resolution, another proposal from the bishops' themselves.  First reading, passed overwhelmingly in the HOB, 127-30 with 7 abstentions.  Passed in HOD.

2006 -- Up for a second reading -- not so fast!  The 2003 resolution was amended in the legislative committee in 2006...thus it was not a second reading, but a first reading of a slightly amended version of the one that passed both Houses in 2003.  So that makes it:

2006 -- first reading:  proposal passed in both Houses.

2009 --  second reading of revised proposal of 2003 effort.  Passed overwhelmingly in the HOD.  HOB didn't even vote on it, referred it to the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons.

Doesn't bode well for massive constitutional change if we have been unable for 70 years to do something as simple and obvious as allow only active bishops to vote.  But yeah, COD is in favor of Section2 wholeheartedly.

Section 3 outlines a process for electing the Presiding Bishop by all three orders, which COD is cool with; he has argued that if the PB is going to represent the church as a whole, he/she should be elected by the church as a whole, instead of current election by HOB and consent by HOD.

Section 4 reduces lay and clerical deputations from 4 to 3.  Similarly, COD has argued for a smaller House of Deputies.  With 2,000,000 members and 880 members of the House of Deputies, if the US congress had similar proportional representation to the 315 million or so Americans, we'd have over 140,000 members of the House of Representatives.  Sure, go for it. COD proposed previously having a majority of laity to clergy, since laity make up 99% of the church but only have half representation, but whatever.

Section 5 again shows Crusty is utterly perplexed by TREC's Lewis Carroll-esque prose.

At first it says voting by orders is not required except where it is required -- which is exactly what the current practice is, voting by orders is not required unless where it is required.  Then, it keeps voting by orders to reflect the fact we now have a tricameral and not unicameral Convention:  voting by orders may be required if requested by the episcopal, clerical, and lay deputations of three dioceses and now requires concurrence by the episcopal, clerical, and lay deputations in a majority of each, with deputations having one vote.  It doesn't note what to do about split deputations, which can still come up with only two clergy or lay deputies are present, so as phrased here there's no provision for counting split deputations.  There's also the perplexing reference to situations where  "a greater vote is required by this Constitution or by the Canons in cases not specifically dealt with by this Constitution."  Crusty doesn't know of any other voting threshold other than simple majority or voting by orders, except perhaps for procedural issues in Robert's Rules of Order, which are part of the Rules of Order and not the Constitution and Canons, and a very few places where a two-thirds theshold in the House of Bishops is required.  Then again, the current article that defines voting by orders is pretty confusing, too, but at least it covers all the bases.

OK, that was all just one the unicameral proposal in their first resolved and looking at the actual constitutional amendments proposed.

Second resolved:  Not content with asking every Vestry to report back to its bishop on the moments of spiritual encounter it has created, General Convention is asking bishops to "create, nurture and develop a culture of collaboration." So instead of a network, bishops are mandated to created a "culture" -- but one that has tangible results in 

"new structures, partnerships and practices on the interpersonal, group, and organizational levels;
What would you say you "do" here, bishops?
measurable, tangible outcomes of performance; standards of accountability, reporting and mutual ministry reviews at all levels (bishops, clergy, diocesan bodies); frank discussion on the number and size of our dioceses and whether change is needed; and report their progress to each succeeding General Convention."

OK, let's follow this again:  Bishops are required to "create a culture" which will produce "new structures", including on the "interpersonal level" -- and which have "tangible outcomes of performance." And they must "report their progress."  Maybe they'll send in The Bobs from Office Space to help the bishops map their organization!

COD is frankly a bit just stunned we could think that General Convention could really order the bishops to create a "culture" to produce "interpersonal partnerships" that has "tangible outcomes."  I mean, for once Crusty is almost speechless at a group which has talked repeatedly about the need for collaborative networks but has produced a resolution mandating bishops to build relationships and report back to Convention -- they are running the risk of creating a centralized, top-down mandating, couched in the most perplexing language.  I honestly do not know what they think this resolved clause will do.

Third resolved:  The third resolved would be ruled out of order.  This third resolved proposes a process for "discernment, formation, search, and election of bishops in The Episcopal Church."

Fortunately, Article II of the Constitution lays down the rules for electing bishops in the Episcopal Church, and quite clearly prescribes no particular method for choosing bishops.  Thus the third resolved for having a mandated, churchwide process for discernment, formation, search and election would be out of order because it conflicts with Article II.

Fourth resolved: same thing, since it introduces a mandated step in the process for choosing a bishop, requiring consultation between Standing Committees in neighboring dioceses.  For the record, Crusty is all for this, but also, for the record,  out of order, conflicts with Article II.  Do we really want to start requiring dioceses to take certain steps in electing and discerning bishops, even if we do make other necessary constitutional changes?  Where there be no end to it?

Fifth resolved, not worth the ink spent on printing the resolution.  The fifth resolved calls for "the diocesan assessment percentage be lowered while making it canonically mandatory (with means for pastoral exception) for each diocese to meet that assessment."

So it lowers the assessment, without suggesting a number, then makes paying that assessment canonically mandatory,  but then also allow for a "pastoral exception" without defining what that exception is or who grants it.

Crusty is getting a little exasperated here.  What is the point of bothering to make a resolution which says absolutely nothing?  A fill-in-the-blank Mad Lib version of canonical reform could have come at least been more entertaining. "Resolved, the diocesan assessment be reduced to (number between 0 and 100) and if (name) does not pay (same number) then (verb) happens to (same name) (adverb)."  It does return to this issue in its canonical revisions, with some teeth in having consequences for not paying an assessment, but still provides no guidelines for the exemptions it also permits.

C)  Third Resolution:  A003

Hang in there, almost in range of winding this down.  The third resolution looks at "Restructure Assets in Service of God’s Mission in the Future" and has four resolved clauses.

First resolved:  that the General Convention "direct every diocese to develop a theology of sacredly inclusive use-of-space that is adaptive and generative financially and spiritually."

Sorry to sound like a broken record, but WTF does this mean? "sacred inclusive use of space" that is "adaptive and generative financially and spiritually"?  What, unlike the "culture" the bishops are required to creative, the dioceses are not required to report back or show the tangible performance outcomes of their theologies?  How are dioceses to do this?  What does this mean?  No network to be created to help them do this?

Second and third resolved:  Hold that, here is a massive new network created to help dioceses and congregations do just that, to convene experts "regionally" and to allocate $200,000.  Crusty almost spit out his Bailey's when reading this [it's late at night and he switched to Bailey's from whiskey] -- TREC actually put a financial number of the kind of massive restructuring they are proposing for once!  COD would be all for a massive reorientation of the church to help local communities "to re-envision their purpose."  I think that might cost more than $200,000, though.  We can't even nominate a Presiding Bishop for less than that, let alone marshall a phalanx of experts to assist 110 diocese in the long, complex process of missional discernment.

Fourth resolved:  Again, TREC, how are you so unable to simple say what you are talking about?   It mandates Standing Committees to "create standards for intervention and endowment spending policies; and designate Future Generation Funds." The second standard -- endowment spending policies -- COD would hope most already have, and, if not, is probably a good idea to have.  The first and third items here seem to have been thought up by a very unfunny ecclesial Dr Seuss.

What are "standards for intervention"?  Is this some kind of financial emergency manager, like the law the state of Michigan passed which allows it to intervene and take over financial affairs in a local municipality?  Are they saying dioceses can intervene in parishes' financial affairs?  If not, what does this mean?  What are "Future Generation Funds"?  I'm sorry if this sounds like Crust is being mean, but I'm not the one mandating this, you are.  You are mandating  -- not recommending, not exploring, in your language here you are requiring -- that Standing Committees establish these, so maybe it might be helpful to say what they are.

And we have just completed the first three resolutions of TREC.  A series of at times maddening and at times baffling resolutions. Dean
My hero.
Wormer once said to Flounder "Fat, drunk, and stupid was no way to go through life, son."  Well, TREC, Crusty Old Dean says to you, "At the same time vague, hyperspecific, and incomprehensible is no way to draft a resolution."  You might just you reap what you sow.

4)  On to the next section:  New Roles for Churchwide Structures.

In general, Crusty is OK with what is being proposed here; he has said until he is blue in the fact that affinity-based, self-sustaining networks were how the churches did much of their work in the 1700s and 1800s, that the 1900s institutional-building time is an anomaly, and the church will once again need to have significant involvement of self-sustaining, affinity-based networks.  By all means.

Yet they hoist themselves again with the own petard of their vagueness:  despite their need for clarity around roles and agenda, they again do not define who is shaping or setting this agenda (pages 11-12).  Convention?  Executive Council?  Presiding Bishop?

They then propose a series of canonical changes to deal with Executive Council, the Presiding Bishop, and Standing Commissions.

A)  Executive Council

The canonical revisions make the confusion of A001, A002, and A003 all the more strange:  while COD may not agree with them, at least these proposed canonical revisions in this section actually make literal sense, by and large, as written, unlike their proposed A001, A002, and A003.

There is a proposal for a smaller Executive Council, down to 19, with an effort to keep Provincial representation by having provinces submit nominees to be presented by a committee on nomination to be elected by the General Convention as a whole.  COD in general is intrigued by the notion of an Executive Council which is more a throwback to its incarnation in 1919, when the then-National Council was seen as having oversight of the church's mission and ministry.  Council prepared regular reports and published budgetary updates and oversaw the program work at a time when there were few full-time administrative staff.  This proposal is akin to that.  They have outlined a clear and compelling vision of Executive Council, it will be interesting to see how this is received, if anybody makes it this far in their report.

B)  Presiding Bishop.  The proposed canon fleshes out the definition of the role of PB in a unicameral General Convention.  It includes a nominating process, while at the same time permitting open nominations from the floor.  Crusty is continually perplexed by a process which has a long, expensive, and tine consuming nominating process but then allows open nominations.  Why not just permit open nominations?  The ELCA has done this for nearly thirty years and has elected some fine candidates as PB.

There will be undoubtedly ink spilled around whether this proposes increases centralization in the office of the Presiding Bishop.  To be honest, COD isn't so sure.  In Section 4a of this proposed canon, the PB is given responsibility for program and and executing policies of Convention.  However, in section 1a of the canon on Executive Council, Council is given authority of oversight over the PB and the DFMS, including setting salaries for staff, and Executive Council must approve new initiatives by the PB (PB Canon Section 4b).  Rather, Crusty wonders if TREC is actually setting up the exact same potential conflict between Council and Presiding Bishop, which has plagued the program work of the church for a good fifty years or so, by not clearly defining who has oversight over executing the program work of Convention?  We will still have PBs claiming authority over staff but having to clear "new initatives" with a Council that also has the power of the purse in setting salaries?

C)  CCABs.  TREC proposes eliminating all Standing Commissions except for Governance, Constitution, and Canons and Theology, Liturgy, and Music.  Crusty has no beef with this; for much of the life of the Episcopal Church, appointed task forces that were renewed at each Convention did a tremendous amount of work of the church.  However, this revision also leaves in place more or less all the same canons which permit the formation and creation of additional Standing Committees, which means Convention certainly has within its authority to continue to create Standing Committees to reflect its own pet priorities.

The proposed resolution on Standing Committees has a very bizarre proposal:  Proposed Resolution A006, Section 2 (l).  It proposes that any Commission which proposes a resolution to convention to  "authorize a member or members of General Convention, who, if possible, shall be a member of the Commission, with such limitations as the Commission may impose, to accept or reject, on behalf of the Commission, any amendments proposed by General Convention to any such Resolution; provided, however, that no such amendment may change the substance of the proposal, but shall be primarily for the purpose of correcting errors."  Let me get this straight:  they are proposing that, say, the Commission on Theology, Liturgy, and Music, which is proposing resolutions to Convention, also select someone from that Commission, who may reject any amendments Convention may make to their resolutions.  This makes no sense.  Are they really saying that someone from these commissions has veto power over what amendments Convention might make on a resolution?  If it is primarily with regard to correcting errors, then why should a commission member be able to reject the Convention's correction of the Commission's errors?  Who defines what "substance of the proposal" means?  This is so utterly out of left field, and, as written, seems to indicate Commission members may veto resolutions of General Convention.  If this is not what it means, then please explain what it means.

D)  Presiding Deputy.  A007 proposes the election of a Presiding Deputy who will alternate presidency of the unicameral Convention and share duties with the Presiding Bishop.  Sure, Crusty is OK with this, though he does not that this position would be funded by an additional assessment on the church that is not defined, again showing TREC's unwillingness to engage in the financial implications of what they are proposing.    Personally Crusty prefers making the PB and PD/HOD primarily presiding officers, and creating an office of General Secretary to be a truly churchwide representative office, but nobody else seems interested in that.

Well, that's about all.   Crusty, in general, approves of much in principle: a unicameral General Convention, a Presiding Deputy, simplifying the Commission structure.  Yet leading off with their at times just plain confusing Resolutions A001, A002, and A003 undoes much of what they are trying to propose in their efforts to legislate mandated reporting on establishing relationships and creating culture from bishops to local congregations.

In addition, despite all of their pages of proposals, Crusty is left noting two things:

--nowhere do they talk about the specifics of their proposal to shift General Convention to a missionary convocation.  It's mentioned in passing, but given the emphasis placed on this in previous statements, COD was kind of surprised not to see it fleshed out at least a little more.

--nowhere do they have any proposals about how they will pay for their massive restructuring of the church.  Crusty is not really interested in them getting in the weeds, but at least some indications of the financial implications of the overhauls they are proposing is important.

Crusty guesses this is enough for now.  While critical of TREC at times, COD knew there were very good people on TREC, they had been given a very difficult mandate, and were still the best possibility for some kind of churchwide structural change.  Initially Crusty was depressed today: reading through the absurd first three resolutions, he despaired at an opportunity lost.  TREC will not shape this conversation, and none of those three resolutions will make it to the floor in anything like the form proposed here, because of how poorly worded, defined, and written they are.  The lack of any kind of sense of who will define or shape an agenda going forward, or what financial implications are, combined with the election of a new presiding bishop, mean nothing of constitutional substance will be addressed at the 2015 Convention.  Everything of substance will be kicked down to 2018, meaning no possibility of any Constitutional changes to 2024 at the soonest, when -- guess what -- we'll be electing another PB -- and thus the long, slow, death rattle continues as we are still unable to frame or shape the large questions facing us.

But then Crusty's despair began to lessen.  COD no longer had to have hope in TREC, because TREC is over and done.  That means it is OK to move on, and to begin to look for signs of life and resurrection in the church.  Our opportunity to shape churchwide reform will pass, we will not do
Hangs on my wall.  Icon written for Crusty by dear friend.  Mt 8:22
much of substance, and in the 2020s and 2030s our churchwide structures will collapse on their own.   There's going to be lots of collapse in the church, after all.  A number of seminaries, about half our congregations, and maybe 40% of our dioceses will eventually no longer be viable.  Our churchwide organization will do the same.  Those surviving Episcopalians doing the mission of the Gospel will come together and create something.  Like the Popes declaring themselves infallible as their temporal power ended in 1870, like Episcopalians creating a new church only when their old one was destroyed in the Revolution, we can only create a new order when the old one has passed away.

Ironically, rather than being the harbinger of that new order, TREC helped to put an end to the old one.

I come back to the quote which has been at the top of this blog from the very first day I set it up.

Let the dead bury their own dead.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Requiem for a Seminary? Requiem for a Church.

As Crusty writes this blog post, the Board of Trustees of The General Theological Seminary are having their regularly scheduled fall meeting, which will include a meeting with the eight faculty who have been terminated from their positions by wrongful means.  COD still hopes for a spirit of reconciliation and compromise to prevail, and is holding the Board, Dean and President, all the faculty, students, and staff in prayer at this time.  Depending on the outcome of this meeting, the end of this column could be very different from the one it has right now.  And I pray that it does.

Crusty has just now read the statement from the General Board of Trustees, which may be found here.

The following post was written over a week ago, as COD expected this outcome.  What is truly sad is that Crusty has only had to change about 10% of what follows.

A few weeks ago, Crusty offered some thoughts on the situation at General Seminary.  It has turned out to be far and away the blog posting that has had the most views in the illustrious history of Crusty

Betcha didn't know Erasmus said that.
Old Dean -- nearly double as many hits as the second highest of all time.  When Crusty told someone this, they replied, "Guess you've tapped into some important issues here."  COD was less sanguine about his own brilliance.  "Maybe," Crusty replied, "but maybe it has more to do with the deafening silence in the Episcopal Church on what is happening. If Crusty is one of the few writing on it, then I guess people will read it by default."  While there have been notable grassroots groundswells of protest and concern about the situation, the has been a preponderance of silence from many in positions of power and authority in the church.

Silence is not necessarily a bad thing.  Scripture says even fools who keep silent can seem wise, lest they open their mouths and dispel that notion.  COD discussed this in his previous column, noting that often with regards to intense conflict, only those persons directly involved can really know what is happening, and at times it's wise for people to hold off on speculating who are not involved.  That's part of what is happening, Crusty supposes, with the silence in the church around what is happening at General Seminary.  COD is sure many are waiting to see what emerges -- which, BTW, is an easy thing to do when you're not the one who is no longer being paid and whose health insurance is no longer being contributed to by those claiming to be your former employer, and probably only New York's robust tenant's rights laws are keeping you from being evicted.

But it needs to be named that discretion is not the only reason for silence.  Though the exact situation is still unfolding, and not all the facts are known, there is still one very clear issue which is before us:  the weaponization of resignation by the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, and now by the full Board of Trustees, which was used to wrongfully terminate contractual employees.  For much of what follows, Crusty will be focusing on this particular issue: the manipulation of the Executive Committee of statements by eight of the faculty to interpret those statements as resignations.  This is to put aside other matters, like the question of the dean's misconduct or the decision by the faculty to move towards declaring a hostile work environment -- all of those matters are complex, and involve back-and-forths that not all of us are privy to. 

But of this weaponization of resignation, there should be no concern about the facts involved, no need for discretion, on this particular aspect of this controversy.  We have the letter from the eight faculty to the Board dated September 17, expressing their concerns; and their statement of September 25, where they claim they will not teach or attend worship or meetings.  We have the terse statement from the Board of Trustees accepting their resignations.  We have the adamant reply from the faculty they in no way, shape, or form submitted their resignations.  While many aspects of this conflict are unknown or in dispute, the content of none of the preceding is in dispute by any of the parties involved.

The fact we are being asked to accept this bold faced manipulation is an insult to the church, let alone the gospel.  It is nothing more than a violent attempt at restructuring an ecclesial institution through falsehood and deception.

The silence in the church around this unconscionable manipulation by the Executive Committee, confirmed by the full Board of Trustees, to terminate employees without due process is what truly saddens Crusty Old Dean.  The silence around this cannot be from discretion, since the facts are all in the public domain.  Perhaps the silence is from fear: fear from people that those with the power who have manipulated processes to strip people of their due process and terminate them; fear
Also, @KanyeHauerwest will not play scheduled concert on the Close.
that those who raise these concerns might find themselves subject to the same intimidation, since if the Executive Committee gets away with this it will surely embolden the church to intimidate others.  Perhaps it is cowardice.  Perhaps it is from ignorance.  Perhaps it is from avoidance of conflict, which only permits those who court conflict to run roughshod over those who avoid it.  What little comment there has been has come from without, not within, the church.  World-famous ethicist and theologian Stanley Hauerwas from Duke Divinity School has withdrawn from the endowed lectures series, the Paddock lectures, that he was to give.  The Jesuit magazine America has run an article expressing concerns about the situation.  

Because of this silence, Bishop Mark Sisk's question, as quoted in The New York Times and found here, remains unanswered: "I think the trustees felt, who are these people?"

Since this question has been echoed throughout the church, unanswered, to our collective shame, allow Crusty to offer a few replies.

--Who are these people?  

They are people who were employed under the conditions of their contracts.  If the Executive Committee and Board of Trustees feel they are in breach of contract, and are failing to perform their duties, they could have proceeded along those lines.  But they did not proceed in that manner, because, you know, that would take a long time and be messy and involved following procedures and policies, so they are seeking to remove them without due process.  Perhaps it is because they have been bleeding money for a good decade or more, and this is a way to avoid paying severance, or even permitting them to receive unemployment.  Or, even worse, a naked and cynical effort to dangle a sword of Damocles above them, permitting those that dance to the tune they pipe to rejoin the faculty but being rid of the meddlesome ones.

The statement from the Board of Trustees reveals the naked, blatant, manipulative reality here: the farce of resignation was created to allow the Board to decide, on what terms, they might or might not permit the faculty of their choosing to return.  Faculty are invited " to request provisional reinstatement as professors of the seminary."  

Further compounding this injustice, the statement from the Board then somehow has the gall to  proceed to state: "The Executive Committee stands ready to meet next week to hear requests of any of the eight former faculty members for reinstatement and to negotiate the terms of their provisional employment for the remainder of the academic year."  The same body that invented their resignations is now the entity that will determine, based on no basis or grounds laid out, the conditions of their provisional employment?

The Board of Trustees has laid waste to the whole notion of contract.  The reason this is important, lest we forget, is not just because of models of best practice, or our commitment to fairness and justice, but because of the way covenant reflects the fundamental nature of our relationship to God.  From the covenant of Noah, to the covenant with Abraham, to the covenant with Jacob, to the covenant with Moses, to God's chosen people, to the new revelation in Christ Jesus, God has been in relationship with humanity, promising to be our God if we will be God's people.  The Board has laid waste to covenant.  This is why this matters, and why this is not just an ivory-tower academic squabble.  If we, in the church, are going to make contractual relations entirely dependent on the definition of those in power, then we have defouled a core principle of how the church reflects, at its best, the divine relationship.  

--Who are these people?  

They are faculty members at a seminary authorized and accredited to operate by the Association of Theological Schools and the New York Regents.  National and state authorization and accrediting agencies have standards governing employee termination.  The Executive Board and Board of Trustees may feel they have the right to do what they have done, but that doesn't mean they have the right to be a licensed and accredited institution.  Crusty certainly hopes that the New York Regents and Association of Theological Schools will investigate this matter, now that the Board has made "provisional" employment dependent on whether you dance to their tune.

--Who are these people?  

They are professors at an Episcopal seminary, which purports to "respect the dignity and worth of every human being," a church with a long and sustained engagement with the labor movement, a church with numerous resolutions from General Convention taking stands on fairness and justice.  This has become yet another chapter in the hypocrisy of the church, eroding any credibility in speaking to labor issues and fairness in the world.  Let the world see how we treat our own employees, and let them judge as we deserve to be judged.  Instead, in something reminiscient from The Grapes of Wrath, the Executive Committee has decided to bring in replacement faculty.  Crusty comes from Boston, and we have a word for people brought in to replace those wrongfully terminated.   They are scabs, and this is a scab seminary.

Since nobody has bothered to answer the question, "Who are these people?" those are just a few thoughts on who they are.  But some other questions remain.

The question still remains: Who are the Executive Committee and the Board of Trustees to think they can get away with this blatant misrepresentation so as to deny people due process?  Again, this is why the situation at General matters: if due process depends on the largesse of those in power, if we are to weaponize dissent, what's to prevent any Rector who fails to follow a rubric of the Book of Common Prayer to be summarily charged with abandoning the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the church and be deposed until Title III, Canon 12, Section 7, without any due process and completely circumventing the Title IV disciplinary process?  Crusty has had several friend elected bishop, and, when he asks them how it is going, many roll their eyes and say, "I just need to turn over about half of the rectors in my diocese."  Well, problem solved, if due process is no longer in effect in The Episcopal Church.  Find a way to depose them.  It'll be fun, like "Where's Waldo?", except with real people.

The question still remains:  Who are we as a church to sit by and let something like this happen?  Are we even capable of being shamed by our own silence, the only critique coming from without instead of within?  If we are to accept these "resignations" by the Executive Committee, then we live in
Wonder if Terry Gilliam is an Episcopalian.
an Orwellian church akin to the movie Brazil, where those in power can warp reality, to suit themselves and we acquiesce.

The question still remains:  With all this talk about restructuring, is there a church left to save? 

Requiem for a seminary?  Requiem for a church which calls white black and black white, and calls things resignations which are not resignations.  Shall we be a church where petty oligarchies can run roughshod, whether in seminaries, or dioceses, or parishes, divorced from their constituencies?

Get thee behind me, Episcopal Church.  You're not worth critiquing anymore.