8/18/2011

In Anglican-land the quiet days of August are not so quiet.

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, unlike the land of AnglicansDownUnder, it is hot, and when not hot, languidly reclined to stupor. It is SUMMERTIME. 

But do not be deceived. There are things going on that will curdle the milk and drive us all crazy in the fall.  Of course most bloggers (me included) are goofing off a bit. After all, it is time to do other things. (I for example have just repaired a Sitar, and am now trying to make it do something beside sounds of a cat in pain.) 

So, here is a little catch-up on the storms to come:


We don't have to be a world wide church like other world wide churches.

When I began to blog, indeed before blogging was even an idea, when I used to write for Louie Crew's pages,  it was because I believed that unless a whole lot of Episcopalians thought and talked about it, we would loose churches and people who would follow the pied pipers off to a less Anglican and more Puritan church world. And, in the wider Anglican world unless we raised questions about the use of Lambeth as a legislating body we would find ourselves in a super-church, a world wide patriarchy much like that of say, Rome or the Orthodox.  Over the past years it looks like we have turned the corner on the challenge of a Puritan takeover, but we are not particularly winning the battle for an alternative to patriarchy, namely a community of Churches bound by history and friendship only. A world-wide Anglican Church is still a possibility, as is the possibility that it will be formed and we will not be part of it. We need to be watchful still, for the temptations to be a kingdom like other kingdoms didn't die with the tribes of Israel and Mr. Saul. That way lies taxes and curias, legalistic bombast and a "first among equals" who becomes a bit more than that. The Archbishop of Canterbury as a focus of Unity begins to sound a bit like the focus given the ex-cathedra soundings of an Ecclesiastical Monarch. 
New Century, New Concerns:

Now I am concerned that unless we pay attention to what it means as a Church-wide entity (a Church) to be a Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and a General Convention, we may loose the greater battle. 

The Need to Return to A Vision of the Governance of Mission, not of Church.
 
In a time of economic disorder and renewed interest in a less vertical form of governance, it is less than helpful to have bodies meeting and issuing communiques, reports, etc, that do not impact all of us in ways we can use. It is less than helpful to be loaded down with a church wide governance system that is not streamlined, working as a network, living into new ways of communicating and common life.  It is not helpful to have a church-wide system meant to support governance of the Church rather than governance of the mission of the Church.

Unless we are all willing to ask hard questions, now, there will be increasingly difficult decision to make in the near future, decisions that will seem (because not widely discussed and shared) top down, bureaucratic and irrelevant.


Some examples of governance questions:

Funding Anglican Communion activities.

Various Anglican Communion committees have been meeting: Communion Environment Network: "Creation is in Crisis. Anglicans must act.", That would be ACEN. The Bible in the Life of the Church Project had a meeting of East Africa members,  The East Africa group engages with Fourth Mark of Mission and the Bible,    and the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation had a meeting and issued a  Communiqué.  

About funding, (part I): It is difficult to remind ourselves in the easy flow of August days that someone had to pay for all these meetings. The work done seems very useful and no doubt will serve us all well, or at least the "us" who work in various Anglican and Episcopal church wide bodies that are considering this or that idea and could use some fresh thinking. But for the rest of us, these are just meetings out there with no easy reference "in here." 

So come next year when General Convention meets, it would be very useful to explain again just why the ACEN "Creation is in Crisis" paper has any value to folk in the pew, or even the clergy in a diocese, and we ought either to decide how to use such documents or alternately find some other reason to be underwriting the work of the Anglican Communion office to the extent that we do. Barring that we might consider no funding for Anglican Communion working groups, since they are irrelevant to the horizontal life of the churches.  

I am all for supporting the ACO and the work of the Communion meetings and groups, but would like to know just how those deliberations make it into the life of our Church.

About funding (part II): One of these meetings - the Liturgical Consultation - is of particular interest to me. 

"Praying shapes believing" is something we Anglicans are given to saying. But what shapes Praying?  Well, it turns out that consultations of folk engaged in the liturgical commissions and committees of the various churches do that on our behalf, and often with lots of information from our actual practice "in the field."  So, bravo for their having met.

A careful read of who attended gives a breakdown something like this:

Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia  -3
Australia 5
South America 3
Canada  5
England 12
East Asia 6
Ireland, Scotland, Wales (ISW) 5
Nigeria 1
Tanzania 1
Southern Africa 3
Episcopal Church 11
Europe 1

The breakout is roughly three groups: 10 or more, England and the Episcopal Church, 5-10, Australia, Canada, East Asia, ISW, everyone else less than three.  

I have no idea how people were selected or self-selected to go to this consultation and who gathered people together. Every province was invited to send people to the meeting. Of the 38 Churches, exactly 1/2 sent representatives. Apparently churches had to fund their own representations and we may note that England (home turf) got the most, with The Episcopal Church sending the second largest group.

I have two thoughts:  (i) I wonder if member churches were invited to send no more than say, four, persons and churches who might have sent more might have been asked to help fund persons for the consultation from churches that have had difficulty funding their own representation. (ii) The very large majority of the members of this consultation came from the "haves" and very few from the "have nots." What sort of liturgical work is done where the praying is mostly the prayers of reasonably well off people?

Maybe in our examination of our funding for the Anglican Communion efforts we might direct that our contribution (which is rather large) be used to make sure that consultations include persons who otherwise might not be able to come.


Funding of Mandates from the budget of the mandating body (General Convention).

A though on our own funding of Liturgy Commissions. The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music is hard at work on an important project - collecting materials, practical and theological, on same gender blessings. The "Blessings Project" is a response to a resolution of General Convention that stated, 

"Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 76th General Convention acknowledge the changing circumstances in the United States and in other nations, as legislation authorizing or forbidding marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships for gay and lesbian persons is passed in various civil jurisdictions that call forth a renewed pastoral response from this Church, and for an open process for the consideration of theological and liturgical resources for the blessing of same gender relationships; and be it further
Resolved, That the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops, collect and develop theological and liturgical resources, and report to the 77th General Convention; and be it further
Resolved, That the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, in consultation with the House of Bishops, devise an open process for the conduct of its work inviting participation from provinces, dioceses, congregations, and individuals who are engaged in such theological work, and inviting theological reflection from throughout the Anglican Communion; and be it further
Resolved, That bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church; and be it further
Resolved, That this Convention honor the theological diversity of this Church in regard to matters of human sexuality; and be it further
Resolved, That the members of this Church be encouraged to engage in this effort."

I for one am very happy that this passed and is being acted on. I trust the integrity of the people working on the project and believe they will produce resources precisely as asked and for our consideration at General Convention. Further, I believe the effort to provide an open process will yield good results. So my comments are not about this particular instance.

However, I am deeply concerned that the Standing Commission determined that it could not do this work in a satisfactory way within the limits of the budget provided by General Convention and sought outside funding. The GC, recognizing that the work was so important, ought to have provided sufficient funds. Note that Executive Council approved their applying for and receiving a grant for this work from outside the budget and through a theological institution.

The issue of the "neutrality" of the funding my concern here. Indeed once the Commission had the funding in hand I presumed that it would work completely without constraints or influence from those providing the funding.

My concern is that the Standing Commission did not work within the limits of its funding from the General Convention budget.  In a legislative and deliberative body, the mandate for a Commission and the funding of that Commission are complementary - the General Convention signals the importance of the work of a Commission in part by the funding it provides for its efforts, and should it not fund all or part of an effort the General Convention is signaling its lack of preparedness for or interest in a project. In a legislative context budget and program (even commission program) are tied together.

My sense is that General Convention needs to amend the Canons to include a directive that all Commissions, Committees, Boards and Agencies (CCABs) are limited in the funding of their governance activities to the appropriations provided by General Convention's budget and, in the case of Boards and Agencies, the funds assigned for that purpose provided from within those Boards and Agencies. 

If we don't do something like this then some CCABs will be better at funding mandated projects and others less so, some boards and agencies will have lavish meals and housing for their meetings and other commissions and committees will meet in college dorms and eat carry out.  More, we will loose the sense that General Convention votes its confidence to some extent in the level of funding it provides for its commissions and committees.

Come General Convention some of us will be asking just why we need to fund so many CCABs anyway. Others of us will ask why we are not funding this or that CCAB with more funds.  But none of that will matter if these bodies are free to seek out independent funding.


The basic concern
:


 The Episcopal Church appears to be involved with governance that is focused on the institutional structures of the Church, rather than the mission of the Church. The primary indicator of this is that the budget of the Church continues, without much question, to be relegated to a major division of funding that support structures of the institution and its international cognate structures, the canonical requirements (including CCAB funding) and operational costs. Even the funding for "Mission" is very mixed between institutional operating costs and activities guided by a vision of the vocation of the Church.


For example, in the last General Convention budget gave this division: 




The question for members of The Episcopal Church in the coming General Convention and indeed in the coming years, is whether the Church-wide efforts of The Episcopal Church is best served by a budget that has 38% of its funding committed to canonical and corporate needs of an institution, and 62% devoted to "program," a considerable portion of that being the mechanisms and support needed for meetings, travel, etc.  We have indeed built a kingdom like other corporate kingdoms and we have all the elements of such kingdoms - taxes, standing armies (committees), palace overhead, you know... the whole thing.


The question is, is this what we wanted from a Church-wide effort?  And, in these interesting times are there ways to refocus the vision on the vocation of the Church rather than the institutional structures of the Church?


When the weather is cooler we will rise to find ourselves in the fall- before- general- convention, a time of budget building and reorganization of our efforts. Kind of like the lead up to a national election year budget and program debate, only perhaps (hopefully) not so mean.


If we lose our way, the Church wide effort of Episcopalians will drift off into the land of failed states and corporations. If we gain our way we will be different from our mother's Episcopal Church, and maybe will move beyond the notion of the Church as corporation. 


Meanwhile I am firmly convinced that The Episcopal Church is alive and well and is always local, always a people of prayer, and sometimes a people doing justice and loving mercy, just like it says in Scripture.  We will be OK. I am sure of it, but we will be changed.
 

4 comments:

  1. Mark, the question that occurs to me out of this is just what is/enables "program?" What are the measures of "program?" What fruits do we want our efforts to show, and where do we want them to show? (And, of course, this is also a question at parish and diocesan levels - more differences of scale than of kind.)

    We might say we want them to be visible at the parish/parishioner level - say, in better worship resources. What at each level enables that result? We have had discussions whether things done by appointed commissions/committees might be done just as well by networks, which are largely self-selected. Some things might be done that way; but note that the self-selection process has its limits. Sure, those who commit are those who are interested, but they are also those who are interested who have available resources (say, for example, money for meeting expenses). So, conceivably, some who are interested may not be able to participate. Some centralized resources might well allow for voices that would be important at the parish/parishioner level, but would not be heard if based only on self-selection and individual resources.

    That's only a thought experiment of sorts, and not a specific plan. However, it highlights how defining what we mean by "program" clarifies what we mean by "program resources;" and then helps clarify the options we have in seeking and utilizing resources.

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  2. ....but.... huh.... funding for mission.... but... but who said that liturgy is NOT mission? Where are the beginnings of the presuppositions....

    ...or maybe I read this all wrong.

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  3. Margaret, did I confuse you? Apologies. I think "program" describes the tactics to accomplish mission. So, liturgy is certainly one expression of/tool for mission. My point is that different ways of structuring program to accomplish mission have different implications for mission.

    At least, I thought that was what I was suggesting.

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  4. This is a thought-provoking post. Permit me to offer just a few of the thoughts provoked.

    We do not yet have a worldwide Anglican church. At least one reason for not wanting one is that managing such a beast is difficult and expensive. It is hard enough for TEC CCABs to do their work effectively. It is even more difficult for Anglican Communion bodies to operate, particularly to accomplish non-critical work. Could TEC put resources expended on such work to better use?

    That said, the electronic communication facilities available today make it possible for CCABs to do much of their work very economically if their members really put their minds to it. Such mechanisms could even make Communion-level consultation less costly.

    I have been amazed at what the No Anglican Covenant Coalition has been able to do without face-to-face meetings. TEC, and even the Anglican Communion, could learn a lesson here.

    ReplyDelete

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