9/27/2011

Focus on the Question, not the Messenger... the Proposal, not Bishop Sauls.

It's now been eight days since Bishop Stacy Sauls proposed a model for a resolution that might be made at the 2012 General Convention.  According to ENS, 

"The model resolution would call for a special commission to be charged with "presenting a plan to the church for reforming its structures, governance, administration, and staff to facilitate this church's faithful engagement in Christ's mission…."

Presiding Bishop Katharine
Jefferts Schori and House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson would appoint members to the special commission. The resolution would also call for a special meeting of General Convention before the 78th General Convention in 2015."

In the past eight days the Episcopal Internet world has been alive with comments about his proposal, but the drift has been away from the content of the proposal to the propriety of making the proposal, that is from the message to the messenger.  There are all sorts of criticisms of the proposal - everything from its cost to the possibility of this or that ox being gored - and they become part of the debate over the content of the resolution. Judging the content and value of the Sauls resolution has become for some secondary to judging Sauls, secondary because killing the messenger is easier than dealing with the idea itself and secondary because when the focus is moved from the message to the messenger the content is avoided all together. 

Episcopal Cafe has begun a good series of comments on the Sauls Proposal. In the first of these, Jim Naughton wrote, 

"Church reform in a polity such as ours, in which authority is shared by bishops, clergy and laity, is a politically delicate matter. The bishop has made a substantial and significant proposal on an issue that is critical to our church, and it deserves serious and energetic consideration. However, he has made it in a way that has put many of the lay people and clergy who are most deeply involved in issues of governance and structural reform on their guard. That is unfortunate, because it may make it difficult for the bishop's ideas to receive the consideration they require."

Jim is right. Bishop Sauls is in the deep and murky waters of vested interests (including his own and those of the House of Bishops). My sense is that Bishop Sauls noted that the canons direct that only the bishops can call a special convention, and so took the opportunity to point the bishops in the direction of a way to share the decision for such a matter with the whole of their deputations. Look at the resolution he put forward as a model:
 

A Model Resolution Dioceses to Submit a Resolution for Structural Reform

To the 77th General Convention

Resolved, the [Convention or Council/Executive Council] of the Diocese of [or the Synod of Province _] directs that the following resolution be filed with the Secretary of the General Convention for consideration by the 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church:
 
Resolved, the House of concurring, there shall be a Special Commission on Missional Structure and Strategy, the composition of which shall be at the discretion of the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies and the members of which shall be appointed jointly thereby not later than thirty days following the adjournment of this 77th General Convention. The Special Commission shall be charged with presenting a plan to the Church for reforming its structures, governance, administration, and staff to facilitate this Church's faithful engagement in Christ's mission to proclaim good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, and the acceptable year of the Lord (Lk. 4:18) in a way that maximizes the resources available for that mission at all levels of this Church.

Resolved, the Special Commission shall endeavor to issue its report and recommendations along with resolutions necessary to implement them, including proposed amendments to the Constitution and Canons of this Church, so that they might be considered by a special General Convention prior to the convening of the 78th General Convention in 2015, but in any event, not later than February I, 2015.
 
Resolved, the General Convention requests the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget, and Finance to consider a budget allocation of$100,000 for the implementation of this resolution.

Bishop Sauls proposed resolution contains the direction that the work of a Special Commission be considered by "a special General Convention prior to the convening of the 78th General Convention in 2015, but in any event, not later than February 1, 2015."  His resolution seems to assume that General Convention itself might be the body calling itself to meet in special Convention. If so he is meeting head on the criticism that this is a preemptive act by a bishop in the House of Bishops, etc.  He is proposing that instead of the bishops calling such a meeting, the General Convention itself (including a required majority of the House of Bishops) do so. 

If such a resolution were to go to the House of Deputies first and fail it would not even be considered by the House of Bishops. At that point I could not see how the House of Bishops itself would then push for such a special convention, the waters having been tested and the proposition found wanting.

The criticism of this proposal as somehow preempting the full range of input from all orders in the church fails. The messenger in this case brought us a way of going forward with the concern without relying on the episcopal call for such a convention. 

I believe Bishop Sauls has done us a good deed in presenting this precisely where and when he did. The idea is out there in a form that will require, if the resolution gets to General Convention, the full action of General Convention itself, and envelope the decision of the Bishops within the broader decision of Convention.  Far from being overly suspicious of his proposal, we ought to embrace the notion that it be debated, discussed and acted on at the 2012 Convention.

As to its content, Preludium sits patiently waiting for Episcopal Cafe's continuing analysis of the idea and its merit.

Meanwhile, let's focus on the question, not on the messenger.









34 comments:

  1. Wow, I see that your request, Mark, to focus on the issue and not the person has left us all a bit flummoxed as to what to say at all. I don't know what to say about this because I'm still reeling from the last sackings of 815 staff, some of whom I know personally, and the same in my own diocese, with the expectation the grass roots will pick up the slack and reorganize - at least, that's what I think is expected. Hard to tell in this trying time of major change everywhere. It's all I can do to stay focused on the see change that's occurring right here where I serve, hoping it will leave behind as few people as possible.

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  2. Sounds like Sauls warms to the role of agent provocateur but times may call for that.

    It would be good to know what the assembled at HOB thought of his report? This is the problem of 'provocateur' -- is one taken seriously, or does it look like self-referentiality?

    Clearly there is a problem with funds and budget.

    Those who don't want to discuss this, is it because it is in doubt? A clear reading of the admin/budget statistics seems to require some serious and timely action. If a special convention is not needed -- and here one can honestly ask if this is the way forward -- that does not mean that decisions are going to have to be made about allocation, 815 staff, unworkable dioceses, etc. I'd guess 30 Bishops worry that their operations viable -- and they have made all the cuts they can make, or realize that further cuts would solve the problem.

    I gather one worry is that the next convention needs to bury any covenant idea and move forward with SS marriage rites etc, and this is a distraction.

    For them, I guess the question is: do you not agree there is a crisis re: funding and future health/viability?

    Or: is there any genuine worry that these agenda concerns will not get the resolution you wish? Really? Is TEC going to covenant and resolve to stop the move toward what is called 'full inclusion'? What is the evidence of that? I'd think the only serious question is whether allowance would be made for diocese and parishes that don't want to step into this new territory. And if not, what will be the fallout? This brings us back to the budget issue again.

    I welcome honesty about the challenges that TEC is now facing as an institution. It is one thing to believe in the rightness of one's causes and another thing to deal with the financial and administrative problems that follow in their wake.

    Bart

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  3. Friends, for all the talk of the new TEC inclusivism, reading the comments of the former COO (at The Lead) clearly implies that far more is going on 'behind the scenes.' If her comments are to be placed in a context, it would imply that the new COO wants explicitly to reduce the 815 office and staff.

    I have asked repeatedly about this.

    No one responded. Including Fr Harris, who is on Executive Council.

    Criticisms against the secretive and 'plotting' character of ACNA, AMiA and others have been registered here, and perhaps properly so, So what are we to make of deliberations extending out from 815 into HOB and HOD and Executive Council.

    Just excactly What is Going On?

    Bart

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  4. Bart, are you a member of TEC? You mentioned officiating at a BCP wedding, are you a TEC affiliated priest?

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  5. 1. The Special Commission shall be charged with presenting a plan to the Church for reforming its structures, governance, administration, and staff to facilitate this Church's faithful engagement in Christ's mission

    2. to proclaim good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, and the acceptable year of the Lord (Lk. 4:18)

    3. in a way that maximizes the resources available for that mission at all levels of this Church.


    I don’t have a scorecard, and I don’t keep track of the staffing levels at 815, or anywhere else, with the possible exception of my own diocese where I know some staff personally. In fact, I am far more concerned with the affairs of my parish to the near exclusion of most other matters due to my limited bandwidth for such things. I don’t know who Bp Sauls is apart from what I have learned reading Fr Mark’s blog.

    There are several different ways one could parse the resolution. But here is my go at it.

    I have no doubt that Bp Sauls is proposing something radical, if fact very radical, and at the same time something of a rebuke, though a gentle one. There will be pain simply because of the self-knowledge implied in the resolution which we must confront to move forward. Humans typically run when confronting the truth. But this is no more radical than the commission itself. This should have been done 40 years ago, but we declined.

    The resolution is, among other things, a call to evangelism, although he opted to quote an appropriate scripture and rely on our understanding of the gospel.

    Bp Sauls is in a position to know that fulfilling this resolution will involve the use of resources that are currently illiquid (for whatever reason). He could have quoted some more scripture (Acts comes to mind) about selling what you have for the common good, but chose to fade that issue. Based on reaction to the proposal, it may have seemed like a good idea at the time.

    I both commend and support this proposal. Our Savior, in a bad management move, did not give us success parameters, only a mission and the means. We have to continue to evaluate ourselves to determine whether we are fulfilling the commission with the means we have. I humbly suggest the lack of parameters was purposeful. The Spirit will let us know if we somehow fulfill the mission.

    I have to borrow a “methodology” from the wisest professor I ever studied under. If we reasonably extrapolate our current path based on the way we do things now, do we like where we end up? Probably not. If you have an idea of how things should be, and if it is different from what this extrapolation implies, something MUST change.

    This is not the time to get caught up in the bramble. If we aren’t even willing to have the discussion about this larger matter, we will surely fail in spreading the gospel.

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  6. "If we aren’t even willing to have the discussion about this larger matter, we will surely fail in spreading the gospel."

    This is surely right. TEC is going into a new territory, theologically and financially. The two are in fact linked.

    P.O.O. is properly reminding us that it is time to look squarely at the financial situation and new models for a new TEC.

    Bart

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  7. Bart are you a member of TEC?

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  8. What seems to be clear is that TEC's particular polity was never suited for the kind of struggle it presently finds itself it.

    A voluntary association of dioceses.

    A general convention that meets for ten days every three years.

    In the twentieth century, a PB, who with an Executive Council, as required by NY State Law, administer the DFMS (which alone can receive funds).

    Then a private PB Chancellor, and latterly, legal suits and the funds required for that.

    A PB staff, including a treasurer, who spars with Executive Council's committee on finance.

    A COO, who happens in this instance to remain in the HOB.

    Is the call for a Special Convention a way to sort all this out at the polity level (adjust the Diocesan autonomy as unbefitting a streamlined hierarchy? adjust the PB's role?) or is it a way to face into financial problems?

    The latter needs obvious attention, but it is hard to see why a Special Convention is needed for that. If Dioceses are not viable as they presently exist, that will emerge as a fact and it will need to be attended to. Mergers, etc.

    If the PB and staff cost too much money and the money isn't there (which latterly led to staff cuts at 815 and bitterness about that), a different way of being 'PB + staff' needs to be found. Return to the diocesan PB model? Move the DFMS to a less expensive setting?

    The ELCA shut down centers in Philadelphia (LCA) and Chicago (ELC) and moved to Minneapolis.

    Is a Special Convention the way to address these sorts of issues? Or is it a way to create a new polity? It makes sense to solve the pressing financial matters and it is hard to see how a Special Convention helps with that task.

    Bart

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  9. Bart are you a member of TEC?

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  10. David

    Are you a TEC member control officer?

    Our faithful host has put the matter just right.

    'Focus on the Question, not the Messenger'.

    Amen to that. Stay on topic.

    Bart

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  11. On topic:

    The Lead is now running Bonnie Anderson's response to Sauls' model resolution.

    She does not believe a Special Convention is yet called for.

    I also think one needs to decide what problem one is addressing. Is it financial, entailing shrinking some things, PB's office, etc.

    Or, is it actually about the structures of the church and their order/disorder/overlap/underlap.


    Bart

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  12. I think Bart should answer David's question. Being outside the Episcopal Church certainly doesn't disqualify anyone from criticizing it, but it would be useful to know if he has any stake in this church's success or failure.

    I've been a member since 1982.

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  13. Does the Bishop of SC have a stake in the success of TEC?

    You bet he does.

    It's just that he believes he is defending TEC against efforts to alter its character, mission, and historical identity.

    With that I wholeheartedly agree.

    Now, can we get into a discussion about the topic?

    (By the way, Charles Spurgeon was arguably the most read/listened to preacher of his day if not in all days. Ever read one of his sermons? He almost NEVER refers to himself, only to his topic: the power, majesty and transforming goodness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Here he is just like Chrysostom, Augustine, Aquinas and the great tradition.

    I take the move toward 'let me hear your story' as one of the more degenerative gifts of arminianism and baptist decisionism.

    I'd like to know far less about people here and far more about the Gospel and its mission in our life.

    I applaud Fr Harris on the choice of his name for this thread.

    I have no idea who David is and really don't care. I would rather he stay on topic.)

    Bart

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  14. I am a well known person here. I am a former member of TEC. I am now a member of la Iglesia Anglicana de México. I became a member of la IAdM when the TEC dioceses in Mexico became an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion. I am also one of a handful and as far as I know, the only male, Anglican solitaries in the world.

    Since you have now changed your name to TEC-Bart, can we rely on that to mean that you are a member of TEC? Are you a priest in TEC?

    You see, to me it is part of the topic. I believe that it would give more relevance to what you have to say here, especially when the topic is the possible future restructuring of TEC, if you were actually a member of TEC. Otherwise, yours is just more unnecessary noise from another of the many TEC detractors.

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  15. David--you missed my point entirely. I don't care who you are because it is irrelevant to a discussion of the topic. All this fascination with people's identities gets in the way. Like deciding that a Sauls proposal is intelligible only if we know who he is and what he's up to, etc. Read the work of someone like Charles Taylor. Personal accounts often occlude. People don't always know what they intend or who they are. The story thing is overrated. Tell me your type. Let me know your sign.

    The Gospel alternative is: 'your life is hid with God in Christ.' All this concern with identity and personal story and particularity is doing great damage to the Gospel and the entire promise of putting on Christ, becoming in him a New Creation, dying to self.

    I can tell you I'm a member of TEC. Does it really matter that much? I doubt it seriously.

    I think you just default to the categories that fascinate you.

    It bothers you when someone doesn't get into that comfort zone. This leads you to make intemperate comments like 'another bothersome serial nutcase'. Why? because you want this blog to operate in accordance with your desires.

    I think the topic deserves serious attention and I don't intend to play this game again.

    Bart

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  16. Actually Bart, we are a lot of friends here. And we have serious conversation. And of late their have been a number of serial nutcases who have stopped by, one after the other, to throw a lot of invective and insults at the good folks who participate here. Such that the good blogmaster had to moderate some comments and remove the ones from one particularly insistent nutcase.

    I do not care if you think knowing who we are is important, I think it is, and I will continue to ask who people are.

    BTW, there are lots of stories in scripture, lots of stories involved in the Gospel. I think stories are important. I think that you are seriously wrong on that point.

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  17. I'm sorry, I guess I was confused. I thought a blog was by definition a *public* site, opened to all concerned. I did not realize it was a club of David and his friends.

    On topic.

    Bonnie Anderson has responded as HOD President to the Sauls' model resolution. One might have thought the HOB or the PB might be closer to the front of that queue.

    It would be good to know how the proposal was perceived in the HOB.

    I still wonder whether we have countervailing tendencies here. One wants hierarchy and centralization so as to enforce a set of progressive commitments. But this is costing too much, literally.

    Another alleges to want democracy and process. But to the degree that this is also a call for a new TEC progressivism, it needs hierarchy and a new polity to 'get the job done.'

    How is this going to play out? The polity of TEC has been based in large measure on 'tacit agreement' and comity (contrast the Methodist Book of Order). But to move forward with something novel like
    SSBs and BCP rites for that, when there is resistance, concern for diocesan viability, an budget issues -- this is creating strain.

    It is a time for creative thinking. I tend to agree that a Special Convention is not the best venue for that. The problem also strikes me as more urgent.

    Bart

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  18. Good God.

    Watch now as Title IV cuts its widest swath.

    See The Lead.

    +Warner now in the spotlight. What about others? What about +Nevada before becoming PB? Lots of 'liberal' concern about all that, including from the family here at Preludium, now past its 'sell-by-date'? What happened to outrage about the handling of that case in Nevada, as previously registered here, or has it all now gone away/resolved itself.

    What a moral mess.

    Bart

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  19. I think identity is relevant. The Episcopal Church is not an abstraction. Do you have any stake in this or not? How do we know you're not from the IRD? That organization is not exactly interested in the good health or viability of the Episcopal Church, among others. Your reluctance to come clean on this is getting suspicious.

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  20. Wow, does anyone think that Bart looks cute in his Chicken Little costume?

    There is a process Bart, someone with standing to do so has followed it regarding +Warner. No one with standing to do so has followed the process regarding +KJS in regard to anything.

    It is a little cloudy and rainy here in Monterrey, TBTG, but no, the sky is not falling.

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  21. +KJS has inhibited Warner (retired of Olympia) for infidelity, but it did not involve a minor or somone with whom he had a pastoral relationship.

    The same +KJS has refused even to give a minimal statement about the decision to ordain a known sexual abuser in Nevada.

    There was plenty of outrage over that here at Preludium.

    But I gather now our Bishops must be brought before tribunals before they will give a statement to those they shepherd.

    Bart

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  22. Bart, she inhibited him because that is the process. Someone has begun the canonical process and she is following the canons. The canons do not require her to speak out about something just because some folks get their panties in a wad. Her office referred the matter to the current ordinary in Nevada who investigated the process and reported that he found nothing untoward. For me, I accept that. End of story.

    BTW, she did not ordain the man in Nevada. He was already ordained by a bishop in the Apostolic Succession. She received him. Folks here at Peludium were divided about the issue.

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  23. Divided? I'd say it was 75% against he silence.

    Besides, you miss the point. People asked that she make some comment, any comment. She refused. She is a Bishop of the church and was responsible.

    BTW, the present Bishop of Nevada himself spoke of 'ordination' -- which did not instill great confidence in his grasp of the facts.

    He who wishes to live by a PB-at-the-top-Title IV system will die by that as well.

    +VGR can have sex with men, while married. Isn't this correct? Someone at T19 said it was OK because 'she knew.'

    I suspect the more honest statement is, by definition no 'infidelity' can occur if the person is in the GLBTQ category.

    Thus begins the start of the Title IV tag.

    Bart

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  24. Bart, do you have evidence that +Gene committed infidelity? He did not meet his husband until after his wife and he had divorced. A divorce that she supported BTW. And now a second marriage that she also supports. There has never been any aligations that he was unfaithful to his wife.

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  25. Again you miss my point, David.

    If +VGR had sex when he was married, it wouldn't count as infidelity.

    If his wife declared it 'infidelity' and for some reason it was sent on to Title IV review, it would be tossed out. The conclusion would be that he was Gay.

    Do you contest this?

    And, for the record, I would very surprized to learn that +VGR never had sex with men when he was married. But if wrong, the above points would still be valid.

    Just watch out for the Title IV powers. (Another reason TEC clergy ought to be careful about identifying themselves on blogs...).

    Bart

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  26. If his wife declared it 'infidelity' and for some reason it was sent on to Title IV review, it would be tossed out. The conclusion would be that he was Gay.

    Do you contest this?


    Yes, I contest this. Do you know of just such a case, or is this one of your many libelous assumptions about GLBT Christians? Such as this one;
    I would very surprized to learn that +VGR never had sex with men when he was married.
    One of your most vile, libelous statements to date here on Preludium.

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  27. How very odd!

    You mean to say that if clergyperson X who was married and had same-sex during that time would be chargeable according to Title IV? For infidelity, as with +Warner?

    Are you also saying that the idea that +VGR had same-sex while he was married is some horrible insinuation?

    Why would that be so?

    Bart

    Bart

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  28. Bart, I have purposely slept on my response to you.

    I shall mark up your comments as one who is ignorant to the morality of GLBT Christians and not purposely malicious. But these last comments you make here are highly insulting to many of us who participate here. Please, better educate yourself to the subject and stop spouting the conservative party line about us.

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  29. '...many of us'?

    You alone are responding. (and again, this is not your private blog or a blog of David's confreres; it is public space).

    The point was prefectly clear and not remotely immoral. Do you mean to imply that married homosexuals would be rarely sexually active outside their marriages, with same-sex partners?

    That hardly comports with many such marriages I have known personally (which came to an end).

    The point being made--which you conveniently keep by-passing-- is that Title IV will probably not be used to call such behaviour 'infidelity' or otherwise declare it inappropriate.

    Infidelity will be a heterosexual affliction, and in the case of Bishop Warner, will be grounds for Title IV inhibition. Will Gay clergy be inhibited for 'infidelity'? Under what conditions?

    Bart

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  30. Bart...when people enter marriage or civil unions they become candidates for simple straight forward charges of infidelity. Works for everybody, gay and straight alike.

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  31. If you believe Title IV is going to move forward and handle these matters straightforwardly, and even-handedly, given the wide variety of arrangements the church is now being asked to bless, you go right ahead.

    You are lifting up a big rock here. I agree with respondents at The Lead who see the Warner inhibition as a new and dangerous development. Where is the rule book that allows us to say receiving a sexual abuser for orders requires no public comment? is Warner the first 'unfaithful' married person who divorced and remarried? What are the odds that a process like this will become heavily politicized?

    You assure us that a Gay cleric who was married and had a sexual relationship prior to that marriage ending will be subject to Title IV. We'll have plenty of time to see if that is so.

    I firmly believe dioceses that are refusing to implement Title IV are doing so for very sound reasons.

    Bart

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  32. You alone are responding. (and again, this is not your private blog or a blog of David's confreres; it is public space).

    First, it is a private blog, it is Father Mark's blog and so far it is open for public comments, which he has stated is the way that he would like it to be and not have to moderate comments.

    Nothing stated in my comments appears to me to be statements that claim any kind of personal ownership by me of Father Mark's blog. I am expressing my personally held convictions here, as are you. I believe that because I know many of the folks here that your comments regarding GLBT morality are offensive to them, as they are also to me.

    I also believe that were I out of line in any way with my comments that Father Mark would tell me so. In all the years that I have commented here he has never called me to task, AFAIR, for any of my comments, even when other sisters and brothers disagreed with my beliefs.

    I think that folks are not responding much lately because they are bored with you and your monopolizing just about every thread. But it is good to see in another thread that you at least claim to be a member of TEC.

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  33. That's great David. Thanks for your opinions.

    Bart

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  34. I wonder if this is really Bart's blog, since he is frequently much more verbose than the host.

    I second David's comments.

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OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with comment moderation but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.
Rule: PLEASE DO NOT SIGN OFF AS ANONYMOUS: BEGIN OR END THE MESSAGE WITH A NAME - ANY NAME. ANONYMOUS commentary will be cut.