And then, there was the Covenant.
Tag Archives: church politics
That sound you’ve been hearing for the past few weeks has been the sound of many eager deputies, flipping electronic pages in their PDF copies of the Blue Book*
The Blue Book is the 759 page tome of reports from committees, boards, and agencies to the 2012 General Convention, and it’s required, and somewhat gripping, reading. (Did you know there was a guy who is the Custodian to the Standard Book of Common Prayer? Did you know he writes a report? Doesn’t that conjure images in your head of the one, true, perfect BCP held in a vault of 815 Second Ave, NYC with Frodo and Sam guarding it?)
I am going to Convention this summer, and am on the legislative committee for Canons. While both of these facts mean that I have suddenly become way less fun at parties (“Want me to explain Title IV charges to you?”), they also mean that I get to highlight my PDF within an inch of its life. And that I get to learn all about ALL OF THE RULES.
Canons are nothing more than how we intentionally order our common life. Our ground rules. And as such, our attempts to set them are fascinating.
My former diocese had this practice of reciting our diocesan norms at every gathering. We would promise each other not to yell, not to name call, not to “impune the spiritual maturity of those who disagreed with us.” To watch newcomers’ eyes widen as they recited these was great. What trauma had befallen these poor people, that they set these rules?!
Rules, or our attempts at them, are thus instructive. Learn the rules, learn yourself.
It is in this spirit, that I will now attempt to bring you an overview, over the next few days, of the proposed canonical changes at GC2012. I’ll just hit the highlights, not include every grammar fix and language-clean up.
Resolution A030: Renunciation language
Proposed by the Standing Committee on Constitution and Canons
This resolution proposes to alter language in the canons around clergy who voluntarily renounce their orders. Apparently, certain sections of the church find the current ‘renunciation’ language to be too negative. This canon replaces this language with ‘release and remove’ which, I suppose, sounds better?
The gist of the whole thing is that people who no longer want to be clergy shouldn’t feel so bad about it, and we should find better language.
This resolution also includes an alteration to give bishops, who have been charged with abandonment of the church, the option to be released from their vows. Given our current situation, with bishops trying to abscond with dioceses and parishes and whatnot, I’d say that offering someone that option of voluntary renunciation (or release) is a good move. And saves on legal fees.
Resolution A033: Fixing Title IV
Proposed by the Standing Committee on Constitutions and Canons
Looking ahead to the B,C, and D resolutions, there are several requests afoot to revise Title IV, and right after we succeeded in getting the darn thing written, too. This set of revisions, among other things, provides a process to file a complaint, provides for the complainant to have an advocate without having to hire a lawyer, and specifies bounds for confidentiality.
Whether this will succeed in satisfying people’s problems with Title IV remains to be seen.
Resolution A061: Bibles!
Proposed by the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music
The biblical translations read from during church services is decided by the canons. SCLM wants to add the Common English Bible and The Message to the approved translations.
While nothing says you can’t use whatever Bible you want to in your daily life, this suggestion has caused great controversy in the various listservs and Twitterspheres of the church. Apparently, The Message inspires controversy not seen since the advent of the Folk Mass. I will point out, however, that just because a Bible is approved, does not mean you have to use it.
The Good News Bible (1976) is already approved. That ship of “preserving formal equivalence” has sailed.
Resolution A062: Getting a Spanish BCP that Spanish-Speakers won’t mock us for
Speaking of formal equivalence! Know what preserves it? Our prayer book translations! They tend to be literal, clunky and awkward for native speakers, or anyone with more than a ‘liturgical’ knowledge of the language. This is not helpful when we’re trying to do ministry in growing non-English speaking populations.
Therefore, the SCLM wants to free up the translators to use idiomatic language and cultural context in their translations. Since one of the strengths of Anglicanism is our ability to adapt to various cultures, this makes a lot of sense.
Also, the report of the Custodian of the Standard Book of Common Prayer was all about how we should pass this resolution. So there’s that.
I’ll leave it there for now.
Next time, we’ll look at the proposals from the Standing Committee on Ministry Development: Many New Ways of Firing Someone!
*Which isn’t Blue. Rather, it’s salmon-colored, according to the Preface. Or would be, if it were actually made of paper, and had a cover. Instead, it’s electronic. This is a very meta book, you understand. The coen of its blueness/non-blueness helps us to contemplate the unknowableness of divinity.
I have now returned from Hawaii, and I understand now why everyone’s nuts about tropical islands. (I had never been to one before. I had been to San Matteo in Belize, but that’s an island largely constructed like Mt. Trashmore in Virginia Beach, plus gated resorts, and desperate poverty mixed in. The ambiance is odd, is what I’m saying.)
But seriously! Tropical islands! Quite amazing!
But all was not going to the beach, drinking boba tea, and quoting ‘Arrested Development’.
Each year, Prov conference is a powerful experience for me. Each year, when we do our closing group discussion, at least a couple students say something along the lines of “This is the first time I’ve been in church with people my own age.” “This is the first time I can talk to people my own age about my faith.” “Campus ministry is the first time I’ve felt welcomed and accepted by the church.” Every. Year.
This year, however, it took on a different cast. Because this year, we also had to talk about what we were facing as the province west of the Rockies.
So there was the possibility that this would be the last Prov conference, as it is incarnated currently. We’ve promised ourselves that this won’t be the case, but we’ve already lost all of our provincial funding, due to budget cuts there. (And remember folks, this is the local level that’s supposed to be picking up the slack of the church wide budget cuts.) And for ministry budgets already strained to the breaking point, more-expensive conferences are going to be difficult to swallow.
But we will make it happen. Because that’s what we do.
So after a fairly heartening weekend of earnest, dedicated college students, worshipping, learning, and planning together, I was less than thrilled to receive this memo from the heads of PB&F regarding the draft budget.
On the one hand, hooray, this is much of what Susan Snook+ has been saying for the past few weeks, and now someone with budgetary power has admitted it.
On the other hand….
Look, Executive Council, I understand that this was a new process, but can we all now get around the fact that this process failed? This is not a process that we can trust. Because the end result of said process is a budget that contains such grievous errors that it doesn’t balance in several places and accidentally defunded almost the entirety of Christian formation across the Episcopal Church.
Aside from my basic questions (did no one have a calculator!?) which, I realize, are not the helpful at this point, what strikes me is the assertion in the memo that the de-funding was a mistake, but no one remembers quite how much they wanted to put there, and besides, to re-fund Formation would take equal cuts elsewhere.
So while this appears to be an accident, it still amounts to de-funding Christian Formation. Unless PB&F can magically produce the money.
Some of the questions that constantly get asked of me, and others in ministry with young adults, are “What do young adults want from the church? How can we do more/better young adult ministry? How do we get young adults in church?” It happened in Hawaii as well. The dean of the cathedral in Honolulu asked that we hold the Dean’s Forum on this very topic.
There are many ways to answer this question. Many different visions.
I can tell you where to start though.
YOU SHOULD FUND. IT.
It is a powerful kind of disheartening when you attempt to do ministry, and over and over again, you are told it is the most important ministry in the church, and yet….the budget gets slashed again and again.
And here, it’s worse. The budget (evidently) didn’t get slashed because they agonized over it, faced a revenue shortfall, and triaged what mission items were most important. They slashed our budget because no one was paying close enough attention. It wasn’t a low priority; it wasn’t even on the radar. They passed a budget that, for whatever reason, hadn’t been checked.
So, here we go, Church. Here’s what I need, as a certified Young Person. (I’m 28 years old–I count, despite being a priest.)
Here is what I need from you, My Church. Here’s the answer to that question you keep asking me.
You need to say that you are sorry, that you realize this budget thing didn’t go well this year. You need to say you’re sorry that you overlooked the crucial part of administration that is budgeting. Part of the leadership you were elected to is owning up when things fall apart, and they just did. You need to admit it.
And then, you need to Fix It.
Write a letter to PB&F (which looks like it’s happening), outline a better budget that takes into account the actual mission priorities this Church has espoused, and FIX. IT.
And, look, I’ll help you. I will sit in meetings, I will voice my opinion, I will help write budgets, I will help pass them. I will even explain the point of Twitter for the ten thousandth time. I will pull my own weight and then some. I will help you come up with a better way to make budgets, since this one fell flat. I fell in love with this church when I was a kid, and I’m not going anywhere. We’ll work together; it will be great.
But you need to fix this.
Because the secret to getting young people in the church (or anyone into church) is that you actually have to care about them. Not in a lip-service way, or in a non-committal way, but in a dedicated, flesh in the game, asking what they think and feel, sort of way. You actually have to honestly care about them. (Jesus said something along these lines, I do believe. Smart guy, that Jesus.)
So help me believe that the Church actually cares enough about young people to give us money, and not just lots of anxiety. Help me convince my students that the Church wants them for their voices and opinions, and not just their life expectancy and wallets.
Please, Fix It.
As an elected deputy to General Convention 2012, I get to partake in an interesting exercise in in-box management known as the HoB/D listserv. It’s an email listserv open to all deputies, bishops, and diocesan and Church Center staff (I think).
Thus far, I’ve refrained from commenting much on what’s happened in the Church of England over the past few weeks. And by ‘refrained’, I’m excluding a Facebook status, and a ranting session to my friend in Montana.
If you’d like, Episcopal Cafe has done a very good job covering everything as it unfolded here.
Basically, if you’ll recall, in the summer of 2003, as The Episcopal Church here was getting excited over the election of V.Gene Robinson, the Church of England leaked the news that someone had nominated Jeffery John, a celibate gay man in a long-standing partnership, to be bishop of Southwark. Chaos ensued, and finally, the +Archbishop of Canterbury stepped in and asked that he withdraw his name from consideration, “for the unity of the church,” which is what happened. Anger was expressed at the time over the leak, because unlike in the American church, English bishops are appointed in absolute secrecy, or, at least, they are supposed to be.
Now, the late dean of Southwark cathedral’s family has released a memo detailing his take on what happened that summer. And it reads like a 21st century version of Anthony Trollope. You can read the memo for yourself at the link above, and I won’t repeat it here, but suffice it to say, no one comes out looking particularly pleasant, ++Rowan least of all. Suddenly, his motivation shifts from church unity to looking like something much more upsetting.
In today’s Episcopal Cafe, Jim Naughton has an excellent piece meditating on the differences between what appears to have happened in Southwark and what’s currently happening in the walkabouts in Washington DC’s bishop election. It raises several things that I’ve been pondering, now that I’ve gotten over my initial impulse to stage a cleansing re-enactment of the Battle of Yorktown.
So messiness will ensue whenever broken humanity is involved. The question is, do you want to acknowledge this openly? Or do you want to try to deny this and wait until it festers and breaks out in some horrific, even worse form?
Our Episcopal method of electing bishops might be political, but it is overtly political. Everyone has a voice, and everyone gets to raise their voice to the rafters and make their case, even if (and I cop to this willingly) I heartily disagree with many of these voices and many of these arguments. At no point, do we, as a church, expect the Holy Spirit to squeeze herself into a tiny back room filled with cigar smoke. That’s a pretty tall order, and I, for one, don’t like to order around any portion of the Trinity.
So we argue and wrestle with stuff. It’s unseemly, you might say. But it’s also a sign of trust. Trust in each other, trust in the Spirit, and trust that we will be led into the truth eventually, because God is still with us. We don’t have to have all the answers right now. (Herein the difference between a living faith and a stoic one, perhaps?)
If Jesus wrote fortune cookies, one of the better one-liners would have been “There is nothing hidden that won’t be revealed. There is nothing secret that won’t be shouted from the rooftops.” And man, he wasn’t kidding. Generally, I’ve heard this interpreted to be something about how, at the Day of Judgement, everything we’ve ever done will be revealed to God. Which, ok, that works. But let’s give the 1st century rabbi some credit–this is also pretty pragmatic advice.
If you’re living an inauthentic life, it’s going to come up, at some point. It’s going to wreak some havoc. It just will. ::Insert pointed look at politician of your choice here:: Hypocrisy doesn’t work in the long run for humanity. It hurts our brains. We get bent into weird shapes and we get confused. And humans are nothing if not easily confused. We dearly love consistency. Saying one thing and doing another is just hard to keep up for decades on end. It has to come to an end at some point. Someone is going to call you on it. Whether it’s a single person being hypocritical, or an entire institution. Or an entire planet.
Eventually, someone points it out.
And blessed are those people. For, though they frequently get shouted down, cursed at, and run out of town on rails, they are doing the work of the Spirit.