6/06/2009

"I am Episcopalian" and dropped language of transparency, revised.

When the “front door,” or portal to the Episcopal Church website became “I am Episcopalian” there was widespread interest and delight in the notion that the first thing someone looking at the site would see was a string of videos of real Episcopalians saying whatever it was that made them say, “I am Episcopalian.”

The invitation was there for people to upload videos of less than 90 seconds and make their witness. The whole thing generated a lot of interest for a while. There were several additions of faces and statements (mine included), but I must confess I look less often at any of these videos and now go directly to the opening page of the website, and from there to the information I need.

The thing is, as with anything else in Anglican blogland unless you feed the blog people wander away. Too little attention has been paid to posting new videos and the challenge for some of us to get more people to do videos is fast disappearing. What could have been a collage of hundreds and hundreds of video witnesses has become a strip of fifty-four.

Fred Lockwood, over at BibleBeltBlogger
, has pointed out that the wording on the “I am Episcopalian” page has changed, and with it the comment that “Our governance is transparent” has been dropped. He draws great meaning from all that, given the current controversy over the unwillingness of a committee of this church to say just who is on the sub-committee of the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops that is studying same sex relationships.

I don’t see it. Rather I see the move from a statement accompanying a rather spontaneous and creative beginning project to a more institutionalized statement of a “feature” in place. The first statement has a bit of sparkle and fizz. The second is flat. But, judge for yourself.

Here is the first statement that was on the page (assuming that Fred Lockwood hasn’t mucked with it):

Welcome to I am Episcopalian, launched this Ash Wednesday 2009, the beginning of Lent.

The Episcopal Church is a big, colorful, vibrant church. We hope you will see that in the wide spectrum of its members represented here on this site.

In our Church you may touch ancient traditions and experience intelligent inquiry. It is an expansive Church, a loving Church, with strong ties to our roots as a nation. We are a thoughtful, inquiring, freedom-loving and welcoming body, and we thrive not only in the U.S., but also throughout Latin America, Asia and Europe.

We invite you to see and hear the very personal reasons we choose to be Episcopalians. Our controversies and conversations have been public. Our governance is transparent. You are free to see our imperfections, as well as share our joy in that which unites us - our openness, honesty and faith.

Obviously over time the statement about beginning on Ash Wednesday, etc needed to be changed, but here is what replaces it:


The Episcopal Church welcomes you.

You will hear this recurring theme in the videos by clicking on them above. We welcome you not only in the U.S., but also in parts of Latin America, Asia and Europe.

In the Episcopal Church, we may all serve as preachers, teachers, or worship leaders. Both men and women are welcomed into ordained ministry. Each and everyone of the baptized may experience God's grace at the altar, and the knowledge that God loves you and forgives is always present.

The best way to experience how the Episcopal Church welcomes you is to visit. To find a church, please click "continue" below to the main website. To share a personal story of why you are an Episcopalian, follow the directions for uploading your video here.

Interestingly the second wording picks up on the inclusion theme of “all the sacraments for all the baptized.” Where the first was a statement about our vulnerability the second is about our inclusiveness. The first was personal, the second descriptive.

But neither is part of a plot, at least in my read of it. What saddens me about the change is that it represents the reality: The beginning of the experiment was excited about the idea of a free range of vulnerable statements, but did not actually invite people to offer videos – the buttons were simply there to do so. The ongoing effort is less excited with the idea and back to the business of welcoming people, but the invitation to submit videos is now part of the text.

What I think we have here is not a plot to remove a pledge of transparency. What we have here is a fallback from the creative edge. It’s not a plot, it’s a program. Plots are at least exciting, and sometimes creative, programs get dull unless poked.

In response,
Anne Rudig, who is heading up the Communications work at the Church Center, said...

"We shortened the copy so that there will be room for the Spanish translation (coming soon) below it. It is part of our effort to welcome in many languages. French will be next. We just thought the page needed freshening and perhaps some specificity for seekers. Sorry if you liked the first copy better. Don't worry - it will change again.

People were always invited to submit their videos. They are still invited to do so. We are our shooting now and adding more ourselves soon, and there will be ample opportunity to create your own and post if you come to General Convention."

There you go. So much for the paranoid read, mostly. This is a work in progress. The first was exhuberant and fun, the second was more programattic, the third? who knows. But it don't mean a thing if it don't got that swing....get out and dance, get out and dance, get out and dance.

Thanks Anne.


9 comments:

Anne Rudig said...

Hi -
We shortened the copy so that there will be room for the Spanish translation (coming soon) below it. It is part of our effort to welcome in many languages. French will be next. We just thought the page needed freshening and perhaps some specificity for seekers. Sorry if you liked the first copy better. Don't worry - it will change again.

People were always invited to submit their videos. They are still invited to do so. We are our shooting now and adding more ourselves soon, and there will be ample opportunity to create your own and post if you come to General Convention.

prete cryptique said...

Now, now, padre, what we actually have on the ECUSA homepage is a reaction to Bible Belt Blogger. His comments on "transparency" were getting embarrassing, because the leadership of ECUSA doesn't feel beholden to the proletariat.

Reaction...not response. Dodge...not dialogue.
Evasion...not engagement.

This is no way to hold a radically inclusive indaba ubuntu yabbba-dabba-doo rap session, man.

Got anything to eat, man?

Lisa Fox said...

I've read all the discussions on this revision -- from BibleBeltBlogger to yours and way beyond. I still don't know what to make of it.

Anne Rudig now claims the revision was made to make the text shorter. Bull-hockey! Compare the character counts. It is not shorter. It's just duller. And it avoids that icky promise of "transparency."

Any way I look at this -- as plot, or as a feeble, ill-timed revision -- it is simply embarrassing.

I am reminded of the report from the Standing Committee on Episcopal Communications. Our communications are in shambles. And the blame for that resides squarely at 815 2nd Avenue.

Jim said...

Anne,

If you really think we are that gullible out here you should be a bishop.

FWIW
jimB

Counterlight said...

I second Lisa Fox's comment.

Yawner said...

Look, I don't know what to think either, except:

a) as Lisa Fox noted, the character count is not shorter, so the copy is not shorter, which was the primary reason given;

b) every revision I've ever seen to make room for changes happened when the changes occurred, not to prepare for them... HTML is hardly a printing press, you can get the new site "live" at any point so why change it now...;

c) an Executive Council member saying "there's no fire" when smoke is visible is perhaps not the most... unbiased... source I've ever seen in my life;

d) even the changes ARE totally innocuous, the timing is unfortunate.

Ultimately- that probably matters the most. The timing, coming off the HOBD list discussions, Chicago statement, and Bible Belt Blogger's focus on transparency, just ends up being bad.

And this is NOT in any way to blame Anne Rudig, who I credit for coming out with a statement. If the reason for the change was innocuous, she just ended up to hit it wrong. If the reason for the change was anything else, it's hardly the Communications Office that sets church policy on transparency of committee membership etc. So whether it was an unfortunate coincidence or an intentional edit in response to others, I don't put that on the shoulders of the Communications office.

Leonardo Ricardo said...

Anne Rudig was recently hired to bring NEW appeal, interest and understanding to communications from The Episcopal Church Center...it looks like the ¨hire¨ had more to do with submitting to a prescribed ideal of ¨prudent¨ publishing and propagandizing.

The WHOLE of communications outreach from The Episcopal Church Center reads/views like dental office wallpaper with monochromatic structured figures fashioned into bland words.

If TEC is falling through the cracks of Mainline religions it can certainly be partially attributed to purposedriven, yet empty, communication of GOD and GODS delight in the ¨people of God¨ ALL the people of God.

TEC Communications have been nutured and almost beiged out of existance.

Don´t tell anyone, it´s a secret.

IT said...

What words do you take away? first: vibrant, colorful, exciting...

revised: blah de blah blah

Too bad they took the life out of it. Life is, as you know, rather messy, hard to contain, and difficult to predict. An exciting, real place to be.

Leonardo Ricardo said...

Don't worry - it will change again.¨ Ms. Anne in charge of Transparency (or not)

Don´t you fret for a momento, have no fear, BOLD TRUTH, TRUST and TRANSPARENCY is near.

I KNOW *IT* WILL ¨CHANGE AGAIN¨ because being edited/dismissed or dismembered into oblivion won´t work here or anywhere else in the REAL WORLD (best to sign on at Gafcon)...nor will secret meetings discussing the UNKNOWN, yet innermost character value (or not), of LGBT Episcopalians/Anglicans and *other* incovenient, squirrelish topics at The Body of Christ.

Let´s keep it clean and tidy! That´s OUR motto (saying that in various languages still won´t translate into anything meaningful).