Wednesday, February 26, 2014

TREC Paper on Governance: Beware Sophie's Choices

There's your problem, TREC.
Crusty Old Dean greets with enthusiasm the Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church's latest paper, this time on governance, which can be found here.  COD was not pleased at all with the poorly written, confusing, pointless, and historically illiterate paper on networks (that's a brief summary, read his thoughts more in depth here).  This paper, on the other hand, while the exact same length, is focused and offers some actual, substantive suggestions other than email list-servs.  TREC, were you just suckering us in, setting
the bar so low that this second paper would look even better?  Crusty was reminded of The Simpsons Halloween episode where Bart's Talking Krusty the Klown doll tries to kill him; when his mother calls the hotline, the technician notes, "There's your problem.  This doll was set to evil," and flips the switch on the back of the doll from "evil" to "good."  Whatever switch you have flipped, TREC, keep it where it is.

In its opening section, the paper starts of strong by laying out some guiding principles regarding the place and role of reimagining structure in reimagining the church as whole.  Retooling structures of governance can't save us, the paper notes, but says that perhaps retooling and rethinking can "foster innovation and adaptation" which are "already being explored and implemented at all levels of the church."  After apparently having never had a face-to-face encounter with a network in its first paper, TREC is aware there are groups all over the church doing all sorts of things.  This helps set the discussion on governance into an important framework.  No, we shouldn't think our governance can "save" us; but can it at best foster the adaptive changes we need to make at all levels of the church? Or at worst, can it get out of the way and not impede those groups which are moving forward with adaptive change?

What he looks like before all that makeup for Lent madness videos.
Further, COD is pleased that TREC finally seems to be fleshing out some of the proposals Crusty Old Dean laid out in a series of postings in 2011 and 2012 on this blog.  You can check out various musings in the archive from Fall of 2011 and up through Convention 2012, but a quick primer can be found here.  In addition, Crusty's sometime colleague and sometime nemesis, Scott Gunn, has been blogging on and off about this stuff since 2010.  Though he is Crusty's sometime nemesis (mainly due to the Lent[sic] Madness nonsense), nonetheless COD realizes we have more in common with our shameless penchant for self promotion of our own prescience, Cassandra-like though it may be (as if anyone has implemented any suggestions either of us have ever made).

The paper then lays out three different levels/structures of governance, and proposes some possible rethinking of them:  General Convention; Executive Council and the Church Center; and Committees, Commissions, Agencies, and Boards (CCABs).

I.  General Convention

The TREC paper presents a twofold vision for General Convention:

a)  a mission driven convocation that connects leaders (though not networks, which Crusty finds odd; haven't they ever been to the Exhibit Hall?)
b)  a governing body that meets at the same time to get governance stuff done; pass budgets, elect leaders.

Crusty has talked about this before -- the way he has put it has been, "What if we flipped Convention?"  Right now we have an Exhibit Hall where groups, networks, and institutions doing everything from promoting peace in the Middle East to theological education to sales gather.  They come on their own dime.  Walking up and down the Exhibit Hall you can see lots of different groups doing lots of different ministries.  In addition, we have Episcopal Church Women, which holds a concurrent triennial meeting.  Though perhaps not quite the juggernaut it once was, back in the day when ECW raised the bulk of the money for the episcopal Church's missionary work, this was a network to be reckoned with on par to Convention -- and which still meets concurrent with Convention.

We also have the House of Bishops and House of Deputies -- which tend to get most of the attention and money.

The way Crusty has tried to get at the same concept of having a missionary convocation and a governing body has been to think about what it would mean to flip this process: instead of spending the bulk of our collective energy in HOB and HOD, what if we spent most of our time sharing ideas and network building? This happens already in the Exhibit Hall; what if we institutionalized and prioritized it?  Not an exact parallel to what TREC is putting forth here, but another way to frame the same question.

While approving of this in principle, Crusty would also caution against still seeing governance as the primary mode of being -- for instance, in point #3 the paper notes "if the primary focus of General Convention is to be a missionary convocation..."  What if we truly flipped this and said, "we will have a missionary convocation, with General Convention meet concurrently" and actually prioritize the mission networking component?

Crusty approves of kicking around proposals to restructure General Convention, including restricting the vote to active and not retired bishops.  Good luck with any of these, however -- for example,  the Episcopal Church is the only church in Christendom which permits retired bishops to vote, and has been trying to change this for nearly 20 years, with little success, in part due to our polity (changing this requires changing the Constitution, which requires votes at two successive Conventions, including vote by orders in the HOD).

COD thinks we also need to step back from some of our hubris concerning General Convention.  At times it is asserted it is the largest deliberative body except for the Indian parliament.  Not only is this not true (the ELCA Churchwide Assembly and United Methodist General Conference are nearly the same size), this is nothing to be proud of.  With under 2,000,000 Episcopalians we have up to 880 persons in the House of Deputies.  If we had similar representation for the US House of Representatives, it would have over 130,000 members.  Yet while General Convention is large,  compounds its problems but also not being representative.  It skews overwhelmingly old and white, well, because the Episcopal Church skews old and white.

As an example:  an African American colleague once told Crusty, "Reducing the size of General Convention is racist because it will lead to the reduction of African American and minority representation."  Crusty replied, "I refuse to accept that."  A bit startled, the person repeated their statement.   Crusty replied:  "Structures to reform Convention are not racist.  By that measure, Convention itself as configured right now is racist because it is overwhelmingly white and old in a country increasingly diverse.  Rather, sadly, the Episcopal Church is shaped by its legacy of centuries of racism, which is why we do not reflect the society around us."  The person replied, "If we cut delegations form 4 to 3, then it means fewer people of color will get elected, you know that as well as I do."  I replied, "Actually, I think it means your diocese is racist, not this proposal, if it cannot elect people of color.  If we need to rectify the church's endemic racism, then by all means let's write in representation requirements."  Person replied:  "We can't have quotas, that's contrary to the gospel."  Crusty replied, "So is racism. And we already have a quota for equal representation of clergy and laity in House of Deputies."  Other churches have representation quotas, for persons of color and for representation of lay persons.  Crusty proposed, for instance, in his series of posts from 2011-2012 that we have quota for have a majority of lay persons over clergy in Convention (right now we have a quota for equal representation in the House of Deputies).

Crusty refuses to accept the charge that reducing the size of Convention disenfranchises anyone, and thinks accusations of this sort are either cynical ploys to swing opinion or people who believe their
So long as we can all agree not to grow mustaches like that.
own histrionic rhetoric.  Beware those presenting zero-sum games or Sophie's choice arguments when it comes to restructuring governance; COD can assure you these are those deriving the most power, privilege, and authority from the current system and fear losing that, and willing to smear perfectly good people with unwarranted accusations of racism, classism, and clericalism.  While critical at times of Convention's structure, COD knows that people involved in governance are good people, giving of their time and expertise, and wishes at times some of these folks would give others the same benefit of the doubt and not leap to ridiculous hyperbole.

COD would have liked to see some discussion around another way to streamline Convention -- namely, to have a unicameral structure, or, perhaps like COD proposed (and the Church of England has in General Synod) having orders sit and debate together but vote separately.

As to other GC restructuring proposals...Crusty approves of efforts to streamline the legislative process; it is simply ludicrous and wasteful to spend the first 48 hours or so of General Convention meeting in committees to do things like combine 10 resolutions that say the same thing into a single resolution.  In the ELCA, for instance, their Church Council (similar to Executive Council) can send resolutions directly to the Churchwide Assembly.  Crusty, however, thinks the paper punts on the biggest question of all, establishing a "screening process" to permit "only the most important resolutions."  This is essential, since the only method of organizing or prioritizing is to take resolutions in the order of the number of their legislative committee.  Thus in 2006 Crusty, when he was ecumenical officer, was waiting for the House of Deputies to approve Interim Eucharistic Sharing with United Methodists, who had already approved this in 2005.  As the clock was approaching 6pm, the House of Deputies was debating an utterly useless resolution to promote the teaching of evolution in school, which nobody remembers, had no effect, and helped no one -- whereas only Convention can approve Interim Eucharistic sharing.   We could not, however, move to take up resolutions in anything other than the order of their committee numbers without moving to suspend the rules of order.  This is why so many resolutions fail because of "non-concurrence", because Convention wastes so much time with worthless resolutions and often has little ability to prioritize.  Yes, there needs to be a process -- but it was to be in the service of an overall vision of Convention.  There are lots of proposals that have circulated in the blogosphere, given that this paper lays out three different visions for Executive Council alone, would it have killed them to float some ideas about the "screening process", which must be at the core of any proposal of reform of General Convention?

Similarly, the paper limits its discussion of the budgetary process to one sentence, saying it should move to the biblical tithe as standard for diocesan giving, and that dioceses should be held
Follow the money, TREC.
accountable.  The money is at the crux of this, since diocesan assessments and endowed money funds everything from Convention to church wide staff to appropriations to overseas dioceses -- to restrict budgetary proposals to one sentence, and that only on the giving side, it oversimplified to the point of almost not being worth mentioning.  The question of funding is one which impacts all aspects of the proposals in this paper, and confining it to this small of a discussion limits the utility of the paper as a whole.

Crusty also wonders how we can empower committees to do things they can already do (#7 and #9 here.  Committees already can kill, combine, defer, and reject resolutions before they ever get to Convention floor, for instance.

II.   Executive Council and Church Center

Where you treasure is, there your heart will be also?  Crusty is intrigued that a good deal of ink and the most concrete sets of suggestions seem to flow from the Executive Council discussions, where no less than three different alternative scenarios as presented.

Before getting into this section, COD would have hoped TREC could have prefaced it in some way, instead of leaping directly into proposals.  Part of what makes the issue of the relationship of Executive Council to the PB and to General Convention and to CCABs so fraught with freight is the existential nature of the issues involved -- yes, COD used "existential."  He is a Dean, after all, and has to throw out things like "hermeneutic" and "ontological."  But in this case the usage is apt:  some of the confusion surrounding governance as it relates to the PB and Council cuts to very nature of Council's existence. Formed in 1919, Council was an effort to collect and coordinate a variety of work being done by different organizations of the church, at a time when there nothing even remotely like diocesan or denominational staffs as we understand them, and where much of General Convention's work was done by ad hoc task forces.  The 1919 Convention was an effort to create structure where there was little, and the National Council was an effort to provide coordination, and, yes, oversight of everything from world mission to radio ministries to work among colored people.

What then happened, though, is that alongside this incarnation of Council there slowly, gradually evolved over the years a corporate structure, with a full-time PB and a staff in New York, and while General Convention, in turn, began to grow, develop, and formalize its own structures.  The Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations, for instance, wasn't formed in 1976, when it combined three different committees of Convention, one of them dating all the way back to 1862.  Formed for a particular purpose in a particular time, every level of the church from congregation to diocese to denominational staff to General Convention has evolved.  So what is Council, one of the first efforts to create structure, in a world of evolved structures of governance?

TREC notes they are "not of a single mind", and propose three different alternative models for Executive Council and relationship to PB and staff.

Alternate I:  Essentially increase power of Council at expense of PB and Church Center; for instance, there is a CEO, appointed by both PB and PHOD with consent of Council, who can be fired only by the Executive Council; restructurings must be approved by Executive Council; all employees are employees of the DFMS (not employees of the PB, for instance) and the EC is the Board of Directors of DFMS, so all employees work for Executive Council.  Alternative I wonders in somewhat cryptic fashion "There is no provision in our Constitution or Canons for a performance review of a PB, or for dismissing a PB except through an ecclesiastical disciplinary proceeding under Title IV of the Canons."   Great, the last thing we need is Executive Council firing the PB.  

So Alternate I is asserting Executive Council's authority over the PB.

Alternate II is the opposite:  asserting the PB's authority to appoint people like the COO, Treasurer, Secretary of Convention, who may be dismissed solely at PB's discretion, with staff working for the PB.

Crusty prefers Alternative III, and put forward a suggestion like this previously.  In TREC's Alternate III, the PB is not required to resign as bishop diocesan or suffragan, remains Chair, PHOD remains
Will people in Alternate Universe Exec Council have weird beards like in Star Trek and South Park?
vice-chair.  It suggests that Executive Council hire a General Secretary who may also serve as Secretary of the General Convention.  Crusty approves of much of this, but has recommended instead that a General Secretary be elected from any order.  As it stands, neither the PB nor PHOD have credibility as an elected CEO.  The PB is chosen solely from among the bishops, and only confirmed, not elected, by the House of Deputies.  The PHOD is nominated by, and elected solely by the House of Deputies, drawn from among only deputies, without even confirmation by Bishops.  Crusty would endorse an elected General Secretary drawn from any bishop, priest, deacon, or lay person in good standing anywhere in the church, to be a truly representative officer elected by the church.

With regard to size and makeup of Council, Crusty is concerned in this case with reduction of Council's size impacting representation.  Yes, I know, Crusty gave example above of reducing size does not necessarily mean reducing representation -- but here Crusty is looking mainly to the proposal for Provincial representation.  By all means, reduce the number elected by Convention from 12 lay, 4 bishops, and 4 clergy to 6 lay, 2 bishops, and 2 clergy.  That still preserves strong lay representation.  Reducing provincial representation from 18 to 9, with no quotas for clergy/lay, has the potential to impact lay representation.  COD would prefer preserving the 18 elected by provinces and keeping the 1 lay and 1 clerical representative, and explore the possibility of a stronger Executive Committee -- preferably not one where some members met in secret and developed their own budget proposals, like in the 2009-2012 triennium.


TREC rightly notes the mess here.  We have nearly 60 various Committees, Commissions, Agencies and Boards, everything from General Convention Standing Committees to things like Forward Movement.  There are too many, and there are confusing lines of oversight, reporting, accountability, and collaboration.  Crusty agrees there needs to be a better system for linking CCABs through Council (though having gone to his share of Executive Council meetings, COD has found that, despite the intention here for Council to take oversight of CCABs, that Council has mainly been interested in its own pet projects and often seemed to care little what CCABs were doing).  The question of interim bodies cannot be taken in isolation from the kind of mission-focused impulse laid out in the vision for General Convention.  How can CCABs be in the service of the kind of missional convention TREC has put forward?

However, the proposals here don't seem to make much sense.  Why eliminate all standing commissions except the three mentioned here?  For what reason?  How does this flow from the interaction between governance and being a missionary convocation?  Why not have three Standing Commissions:  one on Governance, one on Domestic Mission, one on International Mission?  Or some other streamlined structure that reflects the vision for adaptive change?

COD is concerned by the proposal to establish task forces as needed to carry out mandates of General Convention, appointed solely by the two presiding officers.  This has the potential to create just the kind of overlapping mandates, turf battles, and confusion about accountability and reporting that this report says it is trying to avoid.

Crusty also wonders how TREC proposes to convince the church to do what it already could be doing, something it suggests but offers no proposals for in several places.  It says that all interim bodies should post their minutes online. They already should be doing this.  It says they should "adopt new technologies."  They could be doing this already.  How TREC, how?

In general, Crusty thinks the TREC paper on governance is thought provoking and moves in the right direction, and a marked improvement over the first.  COD still wonders how or whether TREC will be able to move the conversation forward, whether it will make concrete proposals in form of legislation, or whether it will dump things at the feet of Convention.  As the paper notes, structure cannot save the church.  But if there's one thing structure can do, it's stymie change.

Monday, February 17, 2014

TREC Junction: What's Your Function? On Networks

Conjunction junction -- what's your function?
I got three favorite networks that get most my jobs done.
Hooking up words, and phrase, and clauses.

The Task for for Reimagining the Episcopal Church recently issued one of its first Study Papers, this one on Episcopal networks.  TREC noted that it will be doing this over the next few months, issuing short papers on various aspects of reimagining the church, asking for input and feedback.  As he read the TREC paper, Crusty Old Dean was reminded of these lyrics from the Schoolhouse Rock classic "Conjunction Junction," as the old man working in the railyard talks about how conjunctions connect elements in sentences like hooking up boxcars on trains, as TREC spoke of the ways various networks connect different parts of the church.

COD's initial reaction to this paper is one of puzzlement -- which may not seem like the most likely reaction -- intermingled with significant reflection, since Crusty has written about networks extensively on this blog -- combined with annoyance, as the paper seems overly fond of using dashes in sentences -- which creates a very choppy reading experience like this very sentence.  When COD turned in the first draft of the first chapter of his dissertation, written at the top of the first page in red pen were these words from his advisor:  "Disabuse yourself of your love of semicolons or this is going to be a very long process."  COD loved to write long, scholarly sentences, expounding on complex issues in the formation of Christian doctrine; often involving semicolons to combine complex sentences without using conjunctions; which most likely would have saddened the guy from Conjunction Junction.  TREC, disabuse yourself of your love of using "--" or it's going to be a very long process.

Crusty's puzzlement was not just confined to TREC's grammatical choices.  On the one hand, Crusty has no issue with the paper's central premise: that we need to rethink the ways in which networks in the church operate and function.  Hopefully we didn't need to be 18 months out from General Convention 2012 to state this point, however, and thinks TREC could have come to that conclusion much sooner.  Crusty has said something similar time and again on this blog, much of it BEFORE the 2012 General Convention, in the fall of 2011 and spring of 2012.

Apart from that central premise, to be blunt, COD doesn't know what the hell this paper was trying to say.  It claims to be laying out and being explicit about certain understandings and assumptions we might have concerning networks and structure in the church -- but then makes a series of assumptions that COD has trouble accepting, and misses opportunities within the very assumptions it lays out.  The paper rightly notes a tendency to distrust "the center" but then oddly confines this to "Protestant denominations."  Rather the consensus of most scholarship of American religion notes that this is something which cuts across almost all aspects of religion in America.  Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Protestant denominations share this tendency.  Martin Marty summed this
The man can make any bowtie work.
up by quipping that in America, everyone is a little bit Baptist.  You could even argue this tendency is not even confined to Christianity; after all, this is the place that has given birth to movements such as Unitarianism, Reform Judaism, Reconstructionist Judaism, and a host of Restorationist movements for whom establishing a new center to distrust became central.

Yet while noting this distrust is of "any center" the paper as a whole seems to confine itself solely to the very centers it says are outdated.  All of the verbage here used to describe 815 -- a sense of disconnect and feel that a top-down, hierarchical, hub-and-spoke model no longer viable -- could accurately describe the way many congregations feel about their diocese, and the way COD has felt in some of the congregations where he has been a member.  Likewise, the effort to defend a "power center" is not reserved solely to churchwide structures, but could be describe any number of committees in a local congregation.  There is an opportunity here to take a key aspect of this paper on networks -- the erosion of a "center" and tendencies to distrust that "center" -- and universalize it, which is something the paper consistently fails to do.  We don't need to reimagine our churchwide structures; we need to reimagine and rethink how we do church from top to bottom.  Otherwise we could reimagine networks to connect a bunch of dying congregations while healthy ones move on to some other kind of structure.  At times, it even seems to take what seems even to Crusty gratuitous shots at the governance structures we have, noting the "sacralization of division of powers" held by some people with regard to our shared governance, which seemed a bit unnecessary.  [I know, you're thinking a) COD has a threshold for gratuitous shots? and b) is he actually defending General Convention?]

After failing to lay out central assumptions behind understandings of the "center", the paper then goes down a strange rabbit hole on sin, noting that we often don't think of sin when we think of how we structure and order the church; we speak of silos, dysfunction, bureaucracy, but not of how our ability to be "mired, knotted, and entangled" might be construed as sin.  COD is troubled by this because of the paper's tendency to focus solely on churchwide networks -- is somehow only the House of Bishops,
It all comes back to Erasmus' 1515 edition of the NT, people.
House of Deputies, Executive Council, and 815 capable of this kind of sin?  This is not directly stated here, to be sure, but the discussion in the paper repeatedly comes back to churchwide networks. Rather than seeing some networks in the church as "sinful", COD wishes the paper had focused on "metanoia" instead. This Greek word was traditionally translated as "repent" in Latin, but in his 1515 critical edition of the New Testament Erasmus noted that in the original Greek "metanoia" has additional nuances, liberating the concept from being subsumed into the medieval penitential cycle of confession, absolution, and penance.  Metanoia means "turning again" (literally), to reorient, to rededicate.  Could we not say at times ALL of our networks in the church have fallen short -- and this is a time for us to practice metanoia, to recommit ourselves, rather than labeling the failings of some networks as sinful?  Again echoing a theme, COD found himself approving in principle of what is laid out here but puzzled by some of the ways concepts are being applied.  Otherwise it appears this paper is only accusing some networks of being sinful, most likely the same ones it sneers at some people for "sacralizing."

The paper then moves on to speak of networks themselves, and lays out four different kinds, in the process demonstrating continued addiction to the "--":

1. Personal networks—both intimate and social 
2. Issue/lobby/political networks—most active in legislative events 
3. Project/missional networks—centered around missional acts, including networks of those who experience great need and pain. 
4. Knowledge sharing or co-learning networks 

COD has no real beef with this laying out of networks; it's as good as any, COD supposes.  Then they ask how networks that fall into #1 and #2 can inform networks in #3 and #4.  Fair enough, though COD doesn't see this in a linear fashion, but rather in a more synergistic way; there very well may be ways #4 informs #1, for instance.  What he does have a major beef with is the notion that there are "networks 1.0", those established in the second half of the 20th century, and the need for us to transition to "networks 2.0."  This breakdown, which is an essential hermeneutic to the second half of the paper, COD utterly rejects.  And he rejects it because, for instance,

1)  THERE WERE NETWORKS IN THE CHURCH BEFORE 1950!  TREC, Crusty agrees with your assessment that much of the structure of the Episcopal Church is a reflection and creation of a particular time and place.  COD has argued that in numerous places on this blog over the past three years.  However, there were networks before networks 1.0.  The story of American Christianity, when there were no such thing as diocesan or denominational structures, was that of "voluntary societies" -- affinity based, self-sustaining networks, both denominationally and cross-denominationally.  The American Bible Society, the American Board of Commissions for Domestic Missions, Women's Christian Temperance Union, abolition societies, American Bible and Prayer Book Society, Evangelical Association -- we could go on and on.  The way Christians got stuff done in the 1800s was by coming together and creating an affinity based, self-sustaining network (usually by dues subscription, but not always).  These were networks (0.0 since 1.0 and 2.0 seem to be spoken for?) and it's how Episcopalians and people of faith got s**t done, like, you know, sending out hundreds of thousands of missionaries, founding networks of schools and colleges, getting alcohol outlawed [though Crusty does not approve, nonetheless it's an example of what self-sustaining affinity based networks could do], all of it with nothing like the kind of involvement of central denominational structures as we now understand them.  This was also how marginalized persons claimed their voices:  Alexander Crummell came back from Liberia and helped form an affinity based network of Episcopalians to oppose proposals by southern dioceses to create segregated jurisdictions for African Americans.  What we know as the United Thank Offering and Episcopal Church Women were groups of lay women who formed networks to raise money for missionary work.  COD is just flabbergasted that any discussion of networks does not note how essential they were to The Episcopal Church and American Christianity prior to 1950.  COD has said on this blog the church of the future will look more like 1850 than 1950 as we look to try to understand self-sustaining, affinity based networks in the church.

2)  Crusty is just flummoxed by TREC's understanding of "change."  They assert that we can't sit back and wait for usual demographic changes to transform us.  They trot out just the kind of trendy corporate example that they say the church shouldn't be imitating in Steve Jobs, noting Jobs at first didn't know how to get past resistance from people to using keyboards on computers, but that he eventually decided that younger people would come along and use them, and thus a tide of demographic change would transform the industry.  The Episcopal Church can't rely on that, TREC says.  To which Crusty says, So what?  True, we can't wait for a tidal wave of younger people to come along and transform the church, because the church skews ridiculously old and is resistant to change.  Yet is there no other way to work with change in the church than to be transformed by demographic tidal waves?  What would it take to invite what younger Episcopalians there are in the church truly to co-create the structures that will be needed in a future church, instead of a bunch of old people pondering what structures we need to reimagine for "them"?  Read Crusty's extended thoughts on this here.

3)  The paper then concludes with reflecting on four different networks, and, in doing so, makes Crusty wonder if they know what hey're talking about when it comes to networks in the church.

--First up is the House of Bishops, House of Deputies, and Executive Council.  The paper asks how they might move beyond "prescribed roles and positions" and "be in the service of missional networking and co-learning" -- that is, sees them as a #1 and #2 in their four kinds of netowrks and asking how they could be more #3 and #4.  Sure, this would be great.  But COD thinks that the paper runs the danger of being a slave to its own categories.  Rather, COD would rather ask, how can HOB, HOD, and EC be ALL FOUR of the networks outlined above?  Because there is the potential in them to do that, potential which they certainly fall short of, but which you could argue is inherent in them; and, at their best (which admittedly isn't often), this is what they do.

Crusty is confused by the paper's obsession with email list-servs as its only "real" suggestion at change.  It asks how the Bishops and Deputies email list-servs might "serve less partisan ends."  TREC, the church is not going to be saved by email list-servs, which are so f*****g 1998, anyway.

The paper again repeats its problematic application of "center" only to certain bodies; it notes how HOB, HOD, and Council are a "center.". Crusty could make an argument that HOB, HOD, and EC are as much "networked" as they are a "center".  Council has a balance of bishops, clergy, and laity distributed geographically from across the church.  They are a center, and they are a network; the categories are simply not as uniform as laid out here.

--Next up are the seminaries.  First off, there are 10 Episcopal seminaries, not 11.  Try to keep up, TREC, Bexley and Seabury merged.  Second, COD challenges the simply asserted "seminaries compete."  Crusty is a seminary dean.  He thinks seminaries have particular charisms or ministries within the church, and draw certain networks (bishops, students, dioceses) to them.  Frankly I don't
Reset the chamber for Nashotah House.
think many students stay up late at night wondering whether to go to EDS or Nashotah.  How many seminaries actually compete for students and donors?  You could argue that seminaries are just the kind of self-sustaining networks of affinity that we should be looking at, with all the benefits and challenges that come with that (for instance, one thing we need to keep in mind is that historically many of the 19th century self sustaining networks fail and others ceased to be when their reason for existence changed).  COD's seminary has been around for 190 years, gone through four major changes and different incarnations, and doesn't receive a dime from any denominational entity.  That said, seminaries absolutely need to collaborate, and, in fact, that was one of the main topics of the most recent Council of Deans meeting.   Seminaries get that massive changes have swept across higher education and the church.  Sorry to break it to you, church, but it's true.  COD finds it comical that many in the church somehow have a frozen in carbonite understanding of seminaries from 1977.  Did you know ever single Episcopal seminary offers courses in multiple formats (weekends/weeklong intensives/online/summer sessions), not just semester-long classes?  That some have fully online degrees?  That almost all have low-residence options?  Showing their obsession with email, TREC again wonders if having a "combined email directory" would be useful.  Honestly, I don't know what this means.  An "email directory"?  Is this a list-serv?  A printout of people at seminaries with emails to get bound at Kinko's?  What are they talking about?
The focus on seminaries also leads COD to wonder if TREC isn't even aware of the depth of networks that it is supposed to be addressing.  Put simply, Episcopal seminaries aren't the only place where theological education is happening. There are diocesan schools of formation, diaconal training programs, non-Episcopal seminaries, programs of continuing education and formation, not to mention the critical need for lifelong Christian formation for all people, not just those training for ministry.  Seminaries are just one network among many for theological education and formation.

--Then comes 815.  Yes, "815" came to be in the mid-20th century, but 815, in turn, was built on "281", the original building at 281 Park Avenue where a church wide office was located.  The modern spoke-and-hub model of The Episcopal Church was actually a creature of the 1919 General Convention, which created a "National Council" (later Executive Council).  But why did it create a National Council?  To help coordinate all the different ministries that were already going on!  So, TREC, you gotta realize the structures of the Episcopal Church didn't begin in 1950, or it's going to be a long 18 months till Convention 2015.

TREC is also apparently aware 815 exists, but does know much about it; they "seek to find out 815's perspective and experience in working with change" and "how it views its role in networking."  First off, Crusty doesn't even like the notion of "815" -- because it's not a building, it's people.  Most of "815" isn't even in "815" anymore.  It's people who spend much of their time on the road like Crusty did when he worked there, working to build connections with networks in the church.  And "815" has gone through enormous change.  Granted, Crusty has been very critical about how that change has been implemented (just peruse's COD's take on the budgeting process in 2012), but it's not as if "815" itself has been a static entity for the past 60 years.  For God's sake, TREC, it's been 18 months since General Convention, and a year since TREC was organized and open for business.  Maybe you could send a Martian rover to 815 to learn about them in their native habitat.

And again, TREC applies skepticism and distrust only to 815.  All of the charges COD has heard bishops level at 815 he has heard many clergy and lay leaders in dioceses level at their bishops and diocesan structures, and COD has heard laity in congregations grumble in the exact same way about their rectors and small cabal of lay leaders running the congregation. 

--Then come provinces.  They note provinces function differently and wonder why this is. TREC, all you gotta do is ask.  There are very good reasons for why provinces function differently, and it mainly comes down to geography.  Seriously, just ask.  There's lots of people who could speak to this, some of whom COD thinks are on TREC.

After discussing these four networks, TREC concludes by noting that a major portion of their work will be "to identify functioning 2.0 networks and tell their stories."  Crusty once again feels the need to point out the deficiency of the "1.0" and "2.0" models.  There were networks before the "1.0" paradigm that began in 1950.  And even after 1950, networks emerged -- maybe networks "1.5"? Take, for instance, work in global mission.  In the 1970s and 1980s, the Episcopal Church reduced funding for overseas mission work and sponsored missionaries.  This was, in part, due to budget cuts because of reduced revenues, but also because of a pulling back as a reaction against the colonialism and imperialism endemic to much of the previous iterations of global mission.  Guess what?  New networks like Anglican Frontier Missions and the Episcopal Partnership for Global Mission and Global Episcopal Missionary Network emerged to pick up the slack -- yes, networks stepped in and began to do mission work even in the 1980s and 1990s, even when we supposedly had a centralized, hub-and-spoke paradigm.

Like their experience with "815" -- TREC has been unable to be in contact with them for a year? -- COD is absolutely floored that TREC produced a paper on networks and has done, apparently, almost nothing in looking at emerging networks in the church.  This may be the single biggest drawback to this entire position paper.  Why even publish one if you clearly demonstrate you don't seem to know how networks are operating in the church and what new networks are out there?  As it stands, halfway through the triennium, in its first study paper, TREC spends as nearly as much time on the House of Bishops and Deputies email list-serv as it does on the emerging networks in the church.

Overall, as COD says, he agrees with the central premise of the paper:  that new and reinvigorated networks will be an essential component of The Episcopal Church going forward, and that much of our current structure is a creature of a particular phase of the church's life.  But COD is just astounded that this is TREC's first word on the matter after nearly a year of work, making Crusty wonder if TREC is not in danger of being ensnared in some of the very categories it claims to need transcending.

[Note: the original version of this post misstated the amount of time TREC has been working.  Though approved at GC 2012, TREC was only officially organized for business in February 2013, so has been working for a year, not 18 months.  Crusty apologizes.  Perhaps it only seems like we've been talking about restructuring forever.]