10/27/2014

Anglican Mission Pioneers seen from another perspective.

The Church Mission Society recently held a meeting of 120 "Pioneers" in Oxford.  Apparently it was a lively meeting.

The phrase "mission pioneers" was used several times in the report, based, I suppose in part on our following Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 2).  It's a catchy evangelical sort of phrase - one which makes missionaries the front edge, leading us into the world, as well as making missionaries a kind of extension of the work of Jesus, who is pioneer, etc.

Still, given experiences this summer in South Dakota among the Lakota, and now in Haiti among a people who freed themselves from slavery and are aware of their continued slavery to the masters that still linger, willing to control them, "pioneer" is a word that means exploitation, struggle and death.

The pioneers were, it turned out, carriers of many diseases, some biological, killing off large numbers of people by just being there, some economic and social, some theological. The record of pioneer activity is a graveyard of tragic results for either the people who already lived on the lands the pioneers entered, or for the people they brought as chattel to work for them.  Pioneers, viewed as noble and life giving in many tellings - settling the west, opening the new world, and so forth, are in the accounts of those who suffered their presence, awful pioneers of death.

CMS needs to rethink the use of this notion that the 120 enthusiastic and well intentioned attendees at this conference are "pioneers."  Find another name.  Better yet, find another reason for being in the world in Christ's name than bringing Christianity to the spiritually impoverished.  Being hungry, having no hope, being without money, and being without faith, these are all conditions that are real and need to be met as real. Being poor is a condition often cast on people making them choice subjects for conquest, even conquest by care.

We can do better than send out "pioneers."

10/14/2014

Doing Art in Haiti: Another kind of pilgimage.

Its been months in the preparation and years in the making.

 Friday I leave the little town on the edge of the bay and near the big waters and head for Haiti. I am going to be an artist in residence at the National School of Art of Haiti. - ENARTS - for four weeks.

It is a very different sort of trip there, a very different sort of engagement.  

It is a sort of pilgrimage into the land of the imagination - not just the land of my imagination but of the imagination of Haiti as well. I will spend  a bit over four weeks in an intensive time of creative work with Haitian artists and artisans, and hopefully my imagination will explode into new visions. We will see. But mostly I will, God willing and some friends in Haiti consenting, walk for a short while in the company of artists, who I hope are also visionaries. I can't wait.


Earlier in the summer ten young people and eight adults went from St. Peter's, Lewes, on another sort of walk - a holy walk - with Lakota friends. At the close of our time there was an honor ceremony and I was given a scallop shell in memory of the trip. The scallop shell is a traditional sign of pilgrimage and it served to remind me that our pilgrimage in South Dakota was also a kind of strange pilgrimage, in that there was no destination apart from the walking together, no certificate at the end, no completion. It was a walking with.

Sunday evening those of us who went from Lewes had a chance to thank those in the parish who sponsored us by buying "shares" in our engagement there. Several of the young people spoke powerfully of the walk with Lakota young people and how the act of walking with others was so very different from learning about others.

So in some ways my trip to Haiti this time is a "walking with".   I hope to walk with Haitians trying to sing, dance, write, make marks on paper, distress metal into art, and on and on. And the act of walking with these friends will, I sense, be very different from learning about their art, or even learning to do art as they do.  In the end I will be walking my own walk, in terms of creative activity, and my aristic work will stand or fall on its own. But I will walk for a time with others who have found vocation in this way, and maybe (God willing) I will find greater clarity in the work I do.

I will take the Shell with me.  Thanks to the Rev. Margaret Watson, of Eagle Butte, SD, for the shell and the jog forward. Thanks to Kathryn, my beloved, for the support of  my years of dreams and visions and trips to Haiti.  And of course to Yvan and Cecile, friends for very many years, who are family wherever I am. And thanks to St. Peter's for encouragement both for this, and for my engagement with youth work there, and for a place where that other vocation of mine - the ministry of priest - gets mostly played out.

It turns out walking with the young in Lakota Land makes me younger, young enough to test vocation again, to taste the delicious idea that there might be a "new thing" in living, even as the years remaining are, shall we say, limited.

What I will be doing at ENARTS is working as a printmaker, working in relief printing (mostly from wood blocks carved there).  I hope to spend two days a week at an atelier for iron art makers, and three days in open studio time at ENARTS. If the reader is interested, examples of my work can be seen at www.preludiumarts.net 

I've been to Haiti in good times and bad for over forty-five years. Mostly I have been there to be with my good friend  Yvan Francois and his good friends and family.  I've been involved in life there on all sorts of levels. 

But this is something new for me. At long last I will be a contributor, not to Haiti the needy (but it never needed me) or Haiti "the poorest country in the western hemisphere" (Yvan and I hate that intro) but Haiti the creative and wonderous. A very small contributer, for sure, but there none the less. 

In a world that celebrates disaster and pain (for there our attention is often drawn) it is a blessing to be present in celebration of the small acts that reflect the larger Grace and greater will of The Creator, who had something god-like in mind for our hands and hearts. 

In the rubble that is the world, may we all find ways to mark the presence of Joy.

10/01/2014

Network of Episcopal Clergy Associations - new website,

NECA (The Network of Episcopal Clergy Associations) has a new website and is kick-starting its way into the 21st Century, and just in time. 

Events at General Seminary, the state of seminary education elsewhere, the move to contract workers and greater and greater limitations on the safety-net provided by the notion of tenure as rector, the lack employment by some and security of position by others, and the general misuse of the resources provided by retired clergy, all contribute to a time when clergy face considerable challenges.  Support for clergy by clergy is a vital part of the overall health of clergy, and NECA can be a resource for individuals, churches and dioceses as all try to make best use of, and provide best support for, the ordained.

Go visit the site HERE.

And, by the by, join up in any way possible!

9/24/2014

The Presiding BIshop: Nine years more? Don't believe so at present.

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has made a statement regarding the election of a new Presiding Bishop and her discernment of her future work.  It is a very fine statement. Read it HERE.

The careful reader will note that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori did not say she would not stand for re-election. The title of the ENS posting of her letter says that, but the letter says this:

"At the same time, I recognize that standing for election as Presiding Bishop carries the implicit expectation that one is ready to serve a full term.  I do not at present believe I should serve and lead in this ministry for another nine years."

The Presiding Bishop does not use words carelessly. She has said two things: (i) She "at present" does not believe she should serve and lead in this ministry for another nine years, and (ii) there is the implicit expectation that any candidate should be ready to serve a full term.

She also broadened her comments to say that " I believe I can best serve this Church by opening the door for other bishops to more freely discern their own vocation to this ministry." So she really is making the process more clearly open to bishops who might otherwise stand back if she was willing to serve another nine years.

My sense is that the Presiding Bishop has BOTH closed the door (but not slammed it) on serving another nine years, and opened the door to the possibility of being elected with the understanding (contrary to the implicit expectation) that she would serve for a more limited period of time.

While the canons call for election for nine years, there is nothing to prevent the House of Bishops from making a side agreement with the elected bishop for a shorter term, agreed to by the House itself.  Whether or not the House of Deputies would go along with an election in which there was a codicil agreeing to a shorter term is unclear. But the bishops could elect with such an agreement.

So, the Presiding Bishop has both closed doors and opened them: closed to a discerned willingness to serve for a full nine years and opened to a possibility of a shorter term. 

Other candidates, willing to serve the full nine years, would of course be able to argue for their candidacy precisely on the grounds that it fulfills the expectations of the canons. Those supporting a shorter term for the Presiding Bishop can argue that these are extraordinary times in which an additional time with the same leadership would be very useful to the ongoing life of the Church. 

The Presiding Bishop does state "I also believe that I can offer this Church stronger and clearer leadership in the coming year as we move toward that election and a whole-hearted engagement with necessary structural reforms.  I will continue to engage us in becoming a more fully diverse Church, spreading the gospel among all sorts and conditions of people, and wholeheartedly devoted to God’s vision of a healed and restored Creation."  

She is exactly correct to note that her work is with the present engagement with structural reforms and continued movement into being a diverse and inclusive Church committed to the healing of the Creation.  In doing so, she may also be seen clearly as the best we have to lead us for a few more years while this process plays out a bit.

So lets be clear: The Presiding Bishop has not ruled out reelection. She has changed the context in which she would be willing to be considered.

Can the House of Bishops act in ways related to, but not included in, the canons?  Well, it already does.

I have argued that the process for electing the Presiding Bishop should include the clear nomination from the floor option that the canons assume.  It has been pointed out to me that the House of Bishops, on its own and without any canonical underpinnings, has already made internal agreements that bishops would not vote for any candidate that had not announced candidacy early enough for background checks before the day of election (30 days?). So in the last election all those nominated from the floor were already cleared by declaration of intent and background checks prior to that day.  

Meaning, dear friends, that the canonical assumption of nomination from the floor is unrelated to the realities of election. There is no simple nomination from the floor. I was wrong.

I would hope that in the future development of the canons to reflect the real structure of decision making in the Church that what is extra-canonical might become part of the canons. There is nothing to suggest the necessity of background checks or vetting for the candidates for Presiding Bishop. Further, that vetting can, if carried out as an unwritten addendum to the process, be a way not only of weeding out the crazy and the perverse, but the politically incorrect and ornery.  This is not so good. The process needs to be open and clear.

 

9/07/2014

The Network Paradigm, a la TREC, and real hope.

OK girls and boys, name an Anglican / episcopal "thingy" that has the word Network in it.

Well, there are a pile of networks in the Anglican Communion 10 at the moment, listed HERE.
They are described as "various self-funding networks that help profile various areas of interest in the Anglican world at large." They are networks that have no formal interconnection with one another except that they are networks recognized by the Anglican Consultative Council. They seem to be stand alone collections of like concerned folk from around the Communion.

There are networks already in the Episcopal Church - for public policy, digital communications, Stewardship (perhaps others). They seem to have various connections with specific officers and offices of the DFMS. Some are more networks of people concerned for specific issues, some are networks of particular sorts of ministries in the church. Funding sources seem varied. They do not seem to be part of a "network of networks" scheme.

Then there was the precursor to the Anglican Church in North America, the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, which had as its Moderator Robert Duncan, now the retired Archbishop of ACNA.  That network, while its members were mostly still part of The Episcopal Church, became a network on its way to becoming a new thing - a separate church. 

Well, that was another story, still being played out. ACNA has become just another denomination in the jumble of churches in North America. But it was a network of a different sort - it proposed a paradigm in which dioceses had a high degree of autonomy, were joined together by a set of common values (and dislikes).  When they got together to talk about the form of the emerging new thing, ACNA, they worked hard to maintain a network sort of approach in which member dioceses, churches and other collections of people, could maintain particular ideas (on the ordination of women, for example) and yet belong to the network / church.  The network paradigm in their case was a way of broadening the tent to included various sorts of groups that would otherwise have trouble getting along.  It is still an open question as to whether that is going to work, or if anyone will care.

And now The Task Force on Reimagining the Episcopal Church has proposed a new network paradigm. TREC writes,

"We live in an age of networks, yet our churchwide structure has not fully adapted to this organizational paradigm. The evolution from a bureaucratic / regulatory agency paradigm to a network will profoundly change the role, culture, decision making processes, and leadership paradigms of and within The Episcopal Church's churchwide structures. This would not be unlike other significant evolutions that have occurred historically around our church's governance and structures."

So the network paradigm is on the table for discussion, and TREC believes it is central.

What I want to know is what sort of network are they talking about?  The networks already in existence in TEC and in the Anglican Communion are about specific concerns. Does TREC envision all those CCABs (Commissions, Committees, Agencies and Boards) that it proposes to retire, reemerging as networks of like concerned people on the local level?  Great. As a former member of The Episcopal Society for Ministry in Higher Education (ESMHE) which was a network when nobody talked that way, I though we did a creditable job of keeping Campus Ministry alive. 

But wait, there's more: TREC calls this network thingy a "paradigm" that is to replace the "paradigm" of the bureaucratic / regulatory agency.  "Network" here seems more than a gaggle of networks pushing their own agendas and concerns in church.   TREC suggests that Episcopal Church "churchwide organizations should inspire and provoke all members of the church to live fully into its mission of "restoring all people to unity with God and one another in Christ." (BCP, p 855)  

TREC suggests roles in this network paradigm: Catalyst, Connector, Capacity Builder, Convener. 

Sounds like the thingy that The Network of Anglican Diocese and Parishes put forward.

But wait: What are these "churchwide organizations" that TREC speaks of? Who knows? 

We don't, because that's the last time organizations (plural) is mentioned.  The TREC document turns immediately from speaking of organizations (plural) to organization (singular) as soon as the roles are brought up. The churchwide organization should - inspire and provoke, establish and maintain, support leadership development, assemble the church...

TREC apparently wants the churchwide organization (read the governance of the DFMS and Executive Council) to be the core of the network paradigm. OK, so new organization of all of the above, and then they inspire, provoke, establish, maintain, support, assemble..

Sounds like a central core - spokes of the wheel sort of network, with coordination and all that provoking from the center, based supposedly on mandates from General Convention - or is it now based on mandates from senior staff. Who knows?  

But whatever the network thingy is that is paradigmatic, a network with a core hub and wheels is not it. The great wheel network is just another way to accent the difference between the local (read powerless) and the central (read powerful).  

So lets go back to the TREC beginning:  It is vaguely true, "we live in an age of networks,"  but that means almost nothing at all, since some of those networks are indistinguishable from terrorists cells and others are cartels of big money interests and others seemingly free for think tanks.  "We live in an age of networks."  So what?  

Networking is not an organizational paradigm, or at least not until a lot of work is done spelling out just what is meant.

I'm all for a network paradigm - a neural network paradigm - where the connections throughout the mind of the organization are so interwoven that its hard to know if the president or the janitor clicked in with the right approach, and furthermore it is relatively uninteresting to the organization to know just who was the clever source of the new idea, better way of working, more efficient method, new product,etc.  What if The Episcopal Church" tried to work as an organization that was a MIND, and it wanted as much as possible to have that MIND be the mind of Christ.

What if in that organization roles were determined not by ordination, election or even personal charisma, but moment by moment by need and ability. (I know, I know, it sounds a bit, well, socialist - you know, from each according to their ability, to each according to their need.)  

In a neural network paradigm maybe, just maybe, reorganization would look different from changing the locus of power from Executive Council to the PB, or from General Convention to Staff, or whatever. 

Now there's a network I would love to join. But as for TREC's "new paradigm," no thanks. The great wheel is just another way of having some people be the feet and others the head. Been there. Its OK, but it ain't heaven.  



Here is a list of the various self-funding networks that help profile various areas of interest in the Anglican world at large
- See more at: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/networks/index.cfm#sthash.ht4JCo9n.dhe precursor to the Anglican Church in North America