Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Almy Catalog, The Episcopal Church, and the Smurfette Problem

Crusty flopped down on the couch after lunch on Sunday, ready for The Clergy Nap.  In preparation for this weekly event, Crusty likes to do something that stops his mind from racing from the events of the morning and allows him to settle down.  Since COD is easily whipped into a self-righteous fury, he was not looking for something to stoke his readily induced indignant rage. This Sunday, he noticed the fall C.M Almy catalog: sure to induce napdom.   What can be offensive about moderately priced ecclesiastical garb of moderate quality that never changes?  What's new in Guatemalan stoles?  Is it finally time to buy those preaching tabs?  What's the ugliest chasuble I can find?  Instead, he saw this advertisement while flipping through the clergy shirt section, and presents it for once without a snarky caption, in its fullness, without comment:

Far from inducing a nap, this resulted in the following reactions from Crusty:


Resulting in this blog post:


Let's enumerate what's wrong with this photo.

1)  It treats women differently than men, by definition a central component to sexism.

Example:  Almy has what it calls an "ideal" clergy shirt for men, which zips up in the back and has a flat front.  Hey, just like this woman's clergy shirt, which has a flat front and zips up in the back!

Have they ever, in the decades they have had this "ideal" men's shirt, EVER shown the back of the male model?  Never.  They have shown this guy, who's probably been dead for 10 years because the photo never changes.

For the woman's shirt in question, we have the shot of the woman's back, stretching down to her nether regions, paired with a frontal shot of the woman un/buttoning the front of a shirt.  We don't have this guy's back showing how the shirt zips up.  We don't have him showing us how the shirt works by pulling it over his head, revealing his 6-pack tawny port abs and Delta Tau Delta t-shirt underneath.  Given the warm feelings this photo imparts, he likely has a pipe and a glass of scotch on the table next to him, jaunty thumb on his belt as he dispenses homespun wisdom.

2)  You might argue, "Lighten up, they need to show that the clergy shirt layers over something else."

OK, here's the problem with that:




This is a particular trope: sexualizing women by showing them from the back.  Comic books have done this for decades, sexualizing women in a way that they would never sexualize male superheroes.

Hey, here's a widely distributed promo photo for Netflix's series The Defenders.  Guess who is photographed from the back, in order to accentuate her anatomy, while every other member is photographed from the front?  It's  Jessica Jones, the female member:

Hey, here's a series of promotional photos from the Avengers' movie.  Robert Downey, Chris Evans, and Chris Helmsworth are all very handsome, buff guys.  Guess who is regularly shown in profile, to accentuate her lady parts?  Black Widow!




Here's a screen capture from the DVD's main page.  Which one is posed differently from the others?

Crusty literally could go on and on and on.  And we're not even getting into Game of Thrones.  Thing is, I expect this from Hollywood.  But the f****g Almy catalog?

C)  It's also not how a specifically female-oriented company markets it.  Women Spirit, a company specifically promoting women's clerical wear, advertises the exact same shirt as follows:

The focus is on the garment, it tells us the story of the person who designed it, there is no person buttoning/unbuttoning her shirt, and the person is facing the camera.

So that's what's wrong with the photo:  It treats a female model different from a male model, markets an item for women differently than it does for men, and either intentionally or unintentionally perpetuates a stereotypical visual sexualization of women.

OK, so that's what's wrong with the photo.  Crusty is frankly baffled that in 2017 this somehow was considered a good idea for a marketing campaign.

Now -- why does this matter in the broader issue of sexism in the church?

1)  It represents the same kind of failure adequately and fully to bring women clergy fully into the life of the church, even though it has been decades since we have had female clergy in The Episcopal Church.  It matters because the church has to face its issue with the Smurfette Problem.  The Smurfette Principle is the concept that an otherwise all-male cast of characters gets a lone female character, often sexualized or some other stereotype, as a token figure.  Black Widow, as portrayed in The Avengers movies, is the perfect modern analogue.

The reason the Smurfette Problem matters is because it inhibits the full equality of women in the life of any group or organization: in the words of the person who coined the term: "The message is clear. Boys are the norm, girls the variation; boys are central, girls peripheral; boys are individuals, girls types. Boys define the group, its story and its code of values. Girls exist only in relation to boys."  Over forty years after the ordination of women, nearly thirty years after the consecration of the first woman bishop, we must address the fact that maleness is still the presumed as normative, women are tokenized, often placed into stereotypical categories.

Crusty wants to be clear that the Almy catalog is not the problem, and a write-in campaign will not fix the deeper, underlying issues in the church.

Any look at any objective series of data confirms this.  Women clergy still lag behind men in the church in the following ways:

--Overall, average compensation for male clergy is $60,000 and $45,000 for women
--Women tend to receive less in average compensation than men for the same job with same years of experience.
--Women are less likely to be rectors than men: 93% of male clergy have held a Rector or Vicar position, as opposed to 65% of female clergy.
--Men are 61% likely to say it is difficult to balance being a clergyperson and parent; 84% of women clergy say it is difficult to balance being a cleric and parent.
--Married male clergy received more in compensation than unmarried male clergy.  It is the inverse with female clergy: unmarried women receive higher average compensation that married women.
--Men are more likely to say it was "easy" to find a suitable paid position (42% of men vs. 28% of women)
--We have been consecrating women as bishops since 1989.  We have over 100 dioceses in the Episcopal Church.  We have had 15 women diocesan bishops in those thirty years over those 100 dioceses.

And more!  Here's 40 pages of recent data on women clergy which demonstrates differences with male clergy crunched and explained by the Church Pension Group!

Just like electing Barack Obama as President did not solve the issue of race in the United States, electing Katharine Jefferts Schori did not solve the issue of sexism and full equality of women in the life of the church.  We still have a glaring Smurfette Problem, down the level that a photo like this was considered appropriate for a marketing campaign.

2)  In fact, there are precisely those who think because we have lady bishops, lady rectors, and lady doctors [note: this, as the Official Child of Crusty Old Dean (OCOCOD) would say, with an eye roll, is "sarcastic voice." There is no such thing as a lady bishop or a lady doctor, appending a "lady" in front of something only reinforces the Smurfette Principle that maleness is the normative paradigm] that sexism is no more.  Over a year ago Crusty was serving as supply clergy and preached a sermon where we spoke about the need for full inclusion in the life of the church, and specifically named racism, homophobia, and sexism as areas where the church cannot pretend that these issues have been resolved.  Someone came up to him afterwards and said, "I can understand you naming racism and homophobia, but why sexism?  Women can do anything men can do in the church."  Literally, Crusty laughed and said, "Yeah, amirite? So many people think that."  See, I thought the guy was joking.  Staring at me stone faced, I then stammered, "Oh jeez, you were serious?"  Crusty then rattled off the statistics cited above and more, but the man walked away, clearly unconvinced.  Another parishioner came up and said, "I don't mean to pry, but I overheard.  Don't be so hard on him, nobody has ever talked about sexism in this church from this pulpit except you here this morning.  Nobody's ever told most people this.  It's probably is news to him."

Another example!  Crusty was on a non-voting observer on a search committee for a church institution which brought in three candidates for a senior leadership position:  a white male clergy person, a male clergy person of color, and a female clergy person.  It came down to the white male clergy person and the white female clergy person.  One prominent member of the search committee solemnly intoned that they were both great candidates, but the female "Just isn't ready for prime time."  People around the table nodded.  Crusty thought, "WTF are these people talking about?  The woman headed an organization with a larger number of employees and larger budget than the male clergy person, but somehow the male clergy person was "ready for prime time"?

So not only do we have a Smurfette Problem -- not only are women tokenized and marginalized -- many times leadership is complicit.

Nobody had spoken to that congregation about sexism, so it was a surprise to some.

No voting members challenged the assumption that an equally qualified female candidate leading a larger sized organization than the male candidate was "not ready for prime time."  [Crusty, who was an observer, and had no voice and no vote, but did express this concern privately, during a break, to several members of the search committee before the vote was taken.  I felt it was not my place as a non-voting observer publicly to insert myself into another organization's decision making process.]

Church leadership stand convicted of failing to call out and name this kind of sexism, particularly and especially  male clergy, who benefit from the systemic sexism of the system.  We speak of poverty having systemic components.  We speak of racism having systemic components.  We must name the fact that sexism in the church has systemic components which transcend whatever individual persons may or not may not express.

And these examples here are ones of discrimination in employment and deployment and equal opportunity and access, which, as reprehensible as they are, pale in comparison to other manifestations of sexism in the church.  This does not take into account sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, and physical and verbal abuse towards women and women in leadership in the church.  It wasn't even until the 1990s that our disciplinary canons were amended to remove statutes of limitation for sexual misconduct, and to permit single individuals to bring charges of sexual misconduct (rather than needing people to "sign on" to a presentment, which was the previous process.  Can you imagine being a woman who has been the victim of sexual harassment or misconduct and having to go find some priests to convince them to sign on to your complaint?).

3)  One may argue, "Oh come on, Crusty, it's just a photo, they didn't mean it."  You know what?  Crusty doesn't care whether this was intentional or not, just like it doesn't matter whether one intends to be racist or not, whether one unintentionally invokes racist tropes or motifs.  That perpetuates the power dynamic:  those with power do not get to define what is sexist and what is not.

4)   Hey, full disclosure:  my wife is a priest.  Mrs Crusty [again: sarcastic voice;  Mrs Crusty kept her maiden name, we have a child with a hyphenated name, all of which has caused untold confusion when it comes to compiling church directory time] was ordained at age 25 at a time when only 300 or so of the 7,500 or so clergy in the church were under 35 years of age, let alone female.  We have been married for nearly the entirety of her ordained life, so Crusty has had a front-row seat to sexism in the church.  Crusty has seen her subjected to a whole range of sexism: from explicit sneering, to using passive-aggressive tactics as a cover, and even from people utterly clueless they're being sexist.  COD has always always tried to be as helpful and supportive as possible to Mrs Crusty, while also realizing he cannot reinforce patriarchal paradigms and be some kind of  savior.

But guess what?  One does not need to have a gay nephew to understand homophobia and discrimination against LGBT persons is wrong.  One doesn't need to have a black friend to understand that racism is wrong.  Just because COD is married to a female clergyperson does not mean one has to have a connection to a woman to realize that sexism is wrong because EVERY HUMAN BEING ALIVE TODAY HAS A CONNECTION TO A WOMAN BY VIRTUE OF BIRTH.  While giving you my own testimony, it doesn't make me special, one shouldn't get a cookie just for doing what is right, and doesn't let anyone else off the hook.  Standing against injustice should not depend on having a personal connection to a particular injustice. "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

I call you out, whoever approved this spread in the Almy catalogue.  But that was only the symptom that set off Crusty's rage: we have much deeper, systemic issues around gender inequality.  So while I call them out, Crusty does not want the Almy catalog to be the issue, that will only keep the church from addressing the deeper questions.  I call out a church that doesn't think it is a problem.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Crusty's Fake News! for Anglicanism

There's been a lot of ink spilled in the last year or two on "fake news."  It's been interesting to chart the development of the term, which began, originally, as an effort to identify the planting of actual fake news stories, either intentionally (through malicious intent) or unintentionally (through

Seen a lot of sci-fi, but missed this one. 

gnorance) to influence opinion.  In the last several months, "fake news" seems to have morphed into a polemical term to attack anything anyone doesn't particular like or choose to believe.  Though used in different ways currently, both ways are malicious and corrosive.

It can be tempting to see this solely as a political issue, or a byproduct of our increasingly polarized times. But you could argue as well it has deep, deep roots, and that adhering to things that are not true as if they are is something people do by nature.  Psychological studies have shown that when confronted with facts that directly contradict a strongly held belief, people are actually MORE likely to say that they hold to that opinion.

And, naturally, COD is not about to let the church think our s**t don't stink.  That's what Crusty does, and he don't take no vacations from that, even though he's writing this blog post beside the lake at the ancestral family cabin in New Hampshire.  Those in the church shouldn't be so high and mighty as we sneer at the poor rubes who hold to their political "fake news." Crusty would like to add that he is not trying to normalize this whole phenomenon of "fake news" by saying it's ubiquitous, or everyone does it: the opposite.  Crusty is trying to point out ways in which the church is complicit, that it purposefully and/or through ignorance, the church has put forth elements of our history that are not true, largely to support a particular conception of how the church should be, regardless of the underlying reality. So strap in, here's just a small selection of Crusty's top 5 "fake news" elements that he gathers many, if not most, Episcopalians and/or Anglicans hold to.

1.  Hooker's three-legged stool of Scripture, tradition, and reason.  The notion that we, as Episcopalians, cite Hooker as authoritative and definitive in defining our sources of authority: and Hooker spoke of a three-
Sorry, google images, these are both equally abhorrent.
legged stool, so that Anglicans balance Scripture, tradition, and reason.

There's several reasons why this is "fake news."

--Hooker NEVER mentioned a three-legged stool.  He does use a metaphor of plaiting a rope, and layering the strands of Scripture, tradition, and reason, with Scripture, the most important source, as the central cord around which tradition and reason are layered.

--Hooker does not use "reason" in the same sense that we do.  We think of reason as using our brain to make our own choices and decisions about things.  That's not what reason meant in the 16th century.  As heir to the scholastic tradition (in many ways, Hooker could be seen as one of the last scholastic theologians by method), reason is given to us by God to be able to discern God's revelation in the world around us: not to make our own decisions, but to see what God intends.  A subtle, but important, distinction.

--It'd be hard for Hooker strongly to influence Anglicanism when he was pretty much forgotten until about until the 19th century.  Hooker largely faded from Anglican consciousness:  Joseph Butler was far more influential in the late 18th and early 19th centuries than Hooker.  In the first course of study outlined by the Episcopal Church, the Course of Ecclesiastical Studies of 1804, Richard Hooker does not appear as one of the authors required to be read for ordination in the church. It was only in the 19th century his work was republished, and a Hooker renaissance began which rightly continues to this day.  It'd be more accurate to say Hooker has shaped modern Anglicanism's efforts to try to understand itself.

2.   Here's one Crusty has heard on more than one occasion:  "The Episcopal Church was created by the same people that drafted the U.S. Constitution, that's why there are so many similarities."

My God, where to deconstruct this one abomination of hubris?

--First off, the U.S. Constitution was written in 1787, the Episcopal Church constitution was written in 1789.  They weren't even drafted at the same time, and there was no overlap of individuals involved.  Yes, there were drafts of forms of church governance going around in 1787, but they looked
In 2060, people will probably think Hamilton was influenced by 1789 Constitution.
nothing like what was coming out of the Constitutional Convention.

Even though the Episcopal Church Constitution was approved in 1789, two years after the federal Constitution had been completed, had been circulated for approval, and received considerable discussion, the church constitution STILL did not show direct influences from the US Constitution.  Here are some key differences:

--The Episcopal Church created only a legislative body, with no judiciary or executive branch.  The central feature of the U.S. Constitution, of checks and balances, is nowhere to be found.  In the 1789 Constitution, there was bicameral legislative body, to be sure.  But so what?  States created bicameral governing bodies before the 1787 Constitution, so that's not even necessarily a direct influence.

--The Episcopal Church constitution created no chief executive -- the Presiding Bishop presided over the House of Bishops when it was in session once every three years, had hardly any other governance role.  There's nothing resembling a body to adjudicate differences in interpretation like a judiciary; only the legislative body can adjudicate differences by changing canons or the constitution.

--The bicameral legislature wasn't even really bicameral:  the original constitution allowed the House of Deputies to overrule the House of Bishops.  If the HOD passed something, and HOB didn't, by a 4/5ths vote, the HOD could override them and pass it anyway.

--There are some similarities.  There's some merit in the notion that anything not specifically outlined in the constitution could be left to individual dioceses.  There's the important sense that the people have a right to be involved in governance.  But a stronger case could be made that the 1787 federal constitution and 1789 Episcopal Church constitution are both drawing from the same influences in American society rather than any direct cause and effect.

This one is simply a hangover from an establishment mentality and a sense of exceptionalism.

3.  The Episcopal Church was always open, welcome, and accepting.  

Actually, for a large portion of its existence, the Episcopal Church was seen as fairly conservative.  We need to be careful of extrapolating back into the past some vision of a progressive Anglicanism.  

--Crusty often has students talk about the Elizabethan "Settlement" of the English Reformation as being perfectly understandable because Anglicanism is by nature open, affirming, and tolerant.  COD usually replies by saying, "Non Church of England marriages weren't recognized as legal until the mid-nineteenth century, and in colonial America non-Anglicans were taxed to support Anglican churches.  There's nothing inherently open and tolerant about Anglicanism."

--It was one the last mainline Protestant denominations (using that as sociological, not theological term, so please no indignant comments about how the Episcopal Church is not "Protestant"; COD wholeheartedly agrees with that ecclesiologically; "mainline Protestant" is a sociological and historical term) to ordain women.  The Methodist Church permitted women to be representatives to General Conference nearly fifty years before women could serve as deputies to General Convention, and women were granted full clergy status twenty years before the approval of the ordination of women in The Episcopal Church.

--The General Convention never issued any resolution of any kind on the war in Vietnam.  

--Yes, the Episcopal Church ordained Absalom Jones as priest in 1804, the first African American to be ordained in a predominantly white church.  But neither Jones nor his congregation were given voice or vote at diocesan conventions, so we could just as easily celebrate this not as an open and affirming gesture, but the establishment of de facto segregation.

--The Episcopal Church had some of the most conservative canons on divorce and remarriage until revisions in the 1960s.

This is not to debate the merit of changing the marriage canons or saying we shouldn't have ordained Jones if we didn't give him equal status, only noting the Episcopal Church took a number of stands, even in the past generation, that would very easily be seen as "conservative." And this is not to deny the Episcopal Church certainly did take some progressive stands, such as moving the 1955 General Convention from Texas to Honolulu when told that African American deputies would not be given equal access due to segregation laws.

The Episcopal Church did get involved in the labor movement, to the extent that a significant number of bishops signed on the Church Association for the Advancement of the Interest of Labor in the 1880s.  Yet this action itself showed how the church was largely understood as a staid, conservative entity.  This was considered so extraordinary a major US newspaper was astounded that the Episcopal Church, the church of power and money and privilege, had gotten behind the labor movement.

4.  The Episcopal Church didn't split over slavery, and came together again after the war seamlessly.

One the one hand, this is technically true.  However...

--The church did split.  There was this thing called the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America, PECCSA.  The church split over secession, which was based on slavery (every secession ordinance mentions slavery; the Confederate constitution made slavery the only thing that could never be changed by amendment; and nearly every congressman or Senator mentioned preserving slavery in their resignation speeches from the U.S. Congress).

--The reunion of the church is presented more or less as "the Southern bishops and dioceses returned to the 1865 General Convention and things continued as if they never left."  This is not the case.  Some southern dioceses and bishops did attend the 1865 Convention, on the argument that the PECCSA existed because the
Leonidas Polk, bishop and general, distinct from Leonidas from 300.
CSA existed; now that the CSA no longer existed, they returned to the Episcopal Church.  However, not all southern bishops held to this.  Several bishops and dioceses did not attend on the grounds that they had left the Episcopal Church and formed another church, and could only rejoin the Episcopal Church once the PECCSA was dissolved, which a rump group of southern bishops and dioceses met to dissolve, and only after that rejoined the Episcopal Church.  

Perhaps most importantly....IT'S NOT AS IF NOT SPLITTING OVER SLAVERY IS SOMETHING TO BE PROUD OF.  The reason other churches split over slavery is because they took a stand on slaveholding.  Episcopalians had more important things to take a stand on and to commit the grave sin of schism over, like in 1873 over whether it was OK to have candles on the altar and reserve the sacrament, rather than whether it was OK to own another human being.

4.  The Episcopal Church isn't "evangelical."

Here we are dealing with particular baggage from our American context.  The word "evangelical" has a complex history in the Christian world, and even more so in the United States.  The evangelical revival of the and the Great Awakening had tremendous influence on global Christianity and American Christianity, summed up in historian Martin Marty's quip that "in America, everyone is at least a little bit Baptist."  However, in the 20th century the term "evangelical" has gone through more phases and mutations than the membership of Fleetwood Mac; it weaves in and out of fundamentalism, Pentecostalism, neo-evangelicalism, and classic evangelicalism, with a healthy dose of involvement in reform and renewal movements.  "Evangelical" now seems to mean, roughly, "conservative Christian."  The term has become so amorphous and so divorced from its history some persons are declining to call themselves evangelicals; Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Church, certainly no liberal, has written that "Many of those who tell pollsters they are “evangelical” may well be drunk right now, and haven’t been into a church since someone invited them to Vacation Bible School sometime back when Seinfeld was in first-run episodes."

Students in my classes are often shocked, sometimes horrified, one student notably offended, when I tell them that in the 19th century the Episcopal Church had a large and influential evangelical party.  I
Bad at theology and math both apparently.
tell them about Alexander Viets Griswold, who was a bishop as well as a parish Rector in the days when bishops had day jobs, who would have altar calls where he would then administer confirmation to those who came forward.  I then trace the decline of the evangelical party, which never really went away entirely, and the development of the low church movement.  I remember one person saying "Well thank God for that."  I asked why, and the student replied, "Because it wasn't really Anglican was it?"  My response was, "Tell that the vast numbers of evangelicals in the Anglican world."  Sometimes the response is, "Yes, I know there are evangelicals in Africa."  Yet the Church of England, Church of Ireland, and Anglican Church in Australia (among others) all have prominent evangelical wings.  There's a seminary of the Episcopal Church rooted firmly in the evangelical party of the Anglican world.  There are churches in Africa and Asia that are not predominantly evangelical, and in fact have significant high church components.

The problem with the ignorance of the evangelical movement in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican world is twofold.

--First, it feeds into a narrative that presumes our current incarnation of The Episcopal Church is somehow eternal and normative.  Therefore, the 19th century evangelical party must have been an aberration because it is unlike our current experience.  Well, our current incarnation of Anglicanism will probably look like an aberration in a hundred years; there has always been significant development.  We only started having the Eucharist as the norm for weekly worship in the past generation.  We cannot presume any incarnation of Anglicanism is normative, only see how it is part of a broader development of a tradition over a thousand years old, and how it preserves a continuity of worship and belief while adapting to context.

--Ignorance of the Episcopal Church's evangelical past increasingly puts us at odds with the broader Anglican world, which has vibrant and diverse evangelical movements.  If we take the baggage of our American context, ignorance of our own past history, and project that onto the broader diversity of global Christianity, we run the risk of a slow drift of inability to understand one another, like the Eastern and Western churches did after the collapse of the eastern Roman Empire.  The schism of 1054 was not so much a rupture as the result of hundreds of years of slow, gradual drifting apart through lack of contacts and inability to understand one another.  I fear we are doing the same in the Anglican world.

5.   That anything has been the way it currently is for more than a generation or so.  Let me be clear, there are some things that do have continuity throughout the history of Christianity and held by the vast majority of Christians: divinity of Jesus, two sacraments established by Christ, an ordered ministry (note: this is not an exhaustive list).  And within what we call Anglican Christianity, there's a threefold ordering of ministry, an authorized liturgy, communion with the see of Canterbury (note: not an attempt as an exhaustive list).  When I speak of change and development in the church, Crusty is not saying we throw everything out every generation.  Not at all.  But all too often our ignorance of our past makes us think that somehow the way things are is the way things always have been.

COD could give dozens upon dozens of examples.  Here's one: back when he was not Crusty, just a humble layperson, Crusty was attending a congregation where he served on the worship committee.  The discussion was about finding Sunday supply during the rector's sabbatical.  Crusty mentioned, "Well maybe we could do Morning Prayer on fifth Sundays as a way to ease the scheduling burden."  COD was informed "That's not really church, here we do the Eucharist on Sunday mornings.  That's UCC."  Crusty said, "It wasn't until 1986 that this church had weekly communion, it did Eucharist first, third, and fifth Sundays and Morning Prayer with sermon on second and fourth Sundays."  The conversation was taking place in 1994.  The person speaking was not a newcomer, and had been attending for 20 years.  Now, one can discuss all you want as to whether it's wise or proper or even good theology, but the one thing, in that context, that could not be argued, is that the parish had never done it before.  

You may ask, Why is this all important?  Why are you so worked up, Crusty?  Well, this fake news matters for several reasons.

--The myths we cling to often tell us more about ourselves and our current context than the supposed historical events.  

The myth of the Episcopal Church Constitution being hand-in-glove with the US Constitution is a fantasy spun by an Episcopal Church with delusions of establishment grandeur.  

The myth that the Episcopal Church didn't split over slavery takes this exceptionalism and joins it with our unwillingness to look at our own complicity with structures of racism and oppression.

And we could go on.  

--Ignorance of our past will only compound our problems.  Because of its American context, the Episcopal Church already has strong impulses towards localism; as a church born out of the American Revolution, we have devolved considerable governance and authority to dioceses and congregations.  Combining an impetus towards localism with an inability to see how things have been different can cause us to lose significant portions of our own tradition.  Some more examples...

The Episcopal Church used to start, close, and merge dioceses all the time.  Western Nebraska, Duluth, Western Colorado, COD could go on and on.  We now seem to think our number of dioceses were written down in the Torah, and talk of merger or realignment routinely goes nowhere.  We have a number of dioceses that are simply not viable.  We need to realign, combine, reconfigure.  We used to do this.  

We used to start and close congregations all the time, on a large scale as recently as the 1950s.  Within a generation we seem to have lost the ability to do this, though thankfully there are signs of rebirth in many corners.

Taking our failure of nerve and undergirding it with an ignorance of our past robs us of tools we have used in the past to be more missionally focused

So where did this fake news come from?  

There's lots of reasons for the preponderance of fake news.  

--There's a failure to take adult catechesis seriously in any way, shape or form.  When COD was a college chaplain, a handful of students came to him and said, "Could you do a confirmation class for us, like an overview of the basics of Christianity and the Episcopal Church?" Sure, I replied, and said I'd get in touch with the bishop's office to see when the next confirmation was.  "No," they replied, "We're already confirmed."  Some of them had only one session of Confirmation prep.  Several had absolutely none.  This is an extreme example, to be sure, and there are notable exceptions, but in many ways we have simply failed in any kind of adult formation or catechesis, throwing in the towel when we don't get the numbers we want at the bible study held in between services instead of trying to find other ways.

--Crusty has taught in the seminary world for 15 years now and the number of courses in history and theology has shrunk.  COD took four entry level, introductory courses in history and/or theology that were required for the MDiv all the way back in 1993.  It's common in many programs to have two, in some just one single course covering an overview of history and theology.  To be sure, there's good reason for this:  we have broadened the curriculum to include lots of other important training, with increased emphasis on praxis and leadership.  But Crusty knows someone who graduated from seminary who took three required liturgy courses and only two required history courses.  Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

--We make this fake news an excuse for our failure of nerve.  Instead of clinging to this fake news,
A new three-legged stool?
we should be looking at the elements which made us believe in it in the first place.  We cannot account for the systems of racism and oppression in the church unless we take an honest look at our own past.  We cannot figure out how to respond to this missional context unless we can learn from how we have done so, repeatedly, in the past.  Otherwise we run the danger of becoming like the Ministry of Truth in Orwell's 1984, constantly rewriting our understanding of history to reflect and uphold our present.