9/04/2011

Is it time for a Special General Convention?

Is it time for a "Constitutional Convention" in The Episcopal Church.

Of course there is no such option, just like that. 

We can consider changes in the Constitution (it takes two conventions to change the Constitution) and Canons (one will do it) at any time, but there is no option for a "constitutional convention," that is a special meeting for the singular purpose of revising or even radically changing our Constitution and Canons.  

There is the option for the calling of a Special Convention. The Canons state,


"Sec.I.1. 3 (a) The right of calling special meetings of the General Convention shall be vested in the Bishops. The Presiding Bishop shall issue the summons for such meetings, designating the time and place thereof, with the consent, or on the requisition, of a majority of the Bishops, expressed to the Presiding Bishop in writing."

So the question is this:

Is it time for a Special General Convention?


We might suppose then that the bishops could consider such a meeting for the distinct purpose of revisiting the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church to the end that they be changed to better reflect ways of engaging the mission of the Church, supporting church-wide strategies in Christian Education, Mission support and Justice concerns, and organization of essential canonical activities on a church-wide level, as well as revisiting the relation between the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and the management of those activities that pertain to the administration of General Convention and the Office of the Presiding Bishop and related activities.


For all intents and purposes this would become a "Constitutional Convention" for The Episcopal Church. The three previous conventions that arguably could be counted as Constitutional Conventions were the first two, in 1785, 1789, and the Convention of 1919, when the National Council of The Episcopal Church was formed and which led to significant changes in the constitutional structure of The Episcopal Church.


Now, roughly 100 years after the formation of the National Council (now Executive Council) it may be time to revisit the structures and canons that developed from that corporate model of governance.  That structure has in many ways served us well, and there are clearly parts of that model that need to continue in a society that gives to corporations certain legal and social standing. But it may be time to examine once again the way in which we are The Episcopal Church.


There is great resistance to this sort of Convention, just as there is to a "Constitutional Convention" among the states of the union. Matters could get totally out of hand and not very wise heads could lead with new champions with highly charged visions could take the day. But such resistance is a fear response, and we need not be afraid.


In The Episcopal Church, there is a built in reserve in place. (i) The deputies to a special convention are those elected to serve at regular conventions. This mostly means they are likely to be Episcopalians already familiar with what is both good and bad about the system as we have it. (ii) Any changes to the Constitution would require a second vote by the next regular convention, and any changes in the canons could be rescinded at the next regular convention if need be. There would be time to push back.


Such a special convention could be charged to articulate in Constitutional and Canonical terms a vision and vocation for The Episcopal Church in the Twenty-First Century, one that more adequately addressed our vocation as a church that potentially included all its members in the governance and visioning of service by this Church.  


So the question is this: Is it time for such a Special Convention, with the direct charge that it make such changes in its Constitution and Canons as best reflects a vision and vocation for The Episcopal Church in this time and place?

A number of recent Preludium blog posts have taken up the matter of "imaging the future" of The Episcopal Church. Those postings are:

Imaging the future of the Episcopal Church #2

Imaging the future of The Episcopal Church #1

Working towards a budget for church-wide concerns in the Episcopal Church.

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

Looking beyond the Episcopal Church budget for the next three years

Comments from a variety of readers confirm that there is interest in some form of real change in the way we both envision The Episcopal Church as a community of believers and understand its ecclesial structuring. 

Both the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies have challenged both Executive Council and more widely the whole church to examine again the reasons for our current structures, both canonical and programmatic, and to look to more promising models of governance for the near future.  

There are important reasons for such a re-examination, some financial, some regarding the methods of carrying out the will of General Convention, some concerning the way in which we respond to those who feel called to this or that ministry. 

The most important reason, I believe, for such re-examination is that The Episcopal Church has been and done remarkable works of justice and mercy in this past 100 years and is closer to articulating a vision and vocation for the next period than every before. But without such an articulation, the vision and vocation will pass us by, and we will be yet another floundering church in a muddle.


If we call on the bishops at the 2012 General Convention to request a special convention in 2014, with preparations leading up to it so that it can consider vision and vocation, and the implications of that for Constitution and Canons, and for actual practice of ecclesial life, we could come to the electing convention in 2015 with a renewed sense of The Episcopal Church, a challenge for the next Presiding Bishop, and a clarity of common tasks and life that could immensely help us in articulating our common life with other churches in the Anglican Communion.

What do you think?


 

 

37 comments:

Jim said...

I wonder if we can afford this? You are suggesting three meetings in four years. Normally a majority of deputies are repeat offenders. We are talking about a lot of money here to send them somewhere both out of the diocese and their own pockets.

The last time I served my parish as a delegate to a convention, the bishop was pleading for contributions because the diocese of Chicago could not conduct a search for a bishop out of operating funds. Money is short out here. Sending bishops and deputies to three conventions in four years might well be impossible.

Let me offer an alternative suggestion. If it starts this quarter, a new agenda planning team could be ready to offer new structures and concepts to the 2012 convention which could simply make them its whole agenda. Then the 2015 convention could ratify constitutional changes. We would save the wear and tear on our people and budgets a three meeting cycle entails.

FWIW
jimB

Franklin said...

Fr Harris

1. Is there genuine interest in digging into problems by this means, in the circles in which you move (Executive Council)?

2. My impression of HOB is that several groupings can be identified: 1) strong progressives, 2) moderates who go along with progressive agenda but resist the unilateralism of SCLM type proposals (e.g.), 3) moderates concerned about survival pure and simple, in their respective dioceses, 4) conservatives of two types: exhausted and worn down; more concerned simply to keep their dioceses functioning well and apart from 'national church' progressivism (which doesn't sell well).

I mention this because if the HOB needs to be behind a call for such a convention, a) some clearly think all is well and would resent such an 'in extremis' concession, b) others have problems but don't judge a convention as able to address what are local survival issues.

Does the HOD think that a special convention is necessary? My sense is that they are fully behind a progressive agenda, are anti-covenant, and don't want to think about financial and structural problems. Am I wrong about this?

Thank you for your frank thinking. I don't know how au fait others are who otherwise share your progressive views in TEC. Don't they think the prophetic agenda is worth any cost?

Franklin

Tom Sramek, Jr. said...

Rather than calling a special convention, my suggestion is that there be a special joint HOB/HOD committee put together at General Convention 2012 specifically to put together a new vision for the way we "do church", allowing for engagement and discussion in all the dioceses, and with concrete canonical, constitutional, and budget proposals to be brought up at General Convention 2015.

Frankly, one of the proposals I'd like to see advanced is a move to a convention every 4 years (2015, 2019, etc...) with the ability for work to be done via "Provincial Conventions" every four years (2017, 2021, etc...) between General Conventions. I think if you left much of the items to the geographical provinces (including budget) that would streamline things. Canons and Resolutions expressing the "mind of the church" could either then be done at General Convention or by a majority vote at each Provincial Convention.

Mark Harris said...

Jim...The financial issues we face are both short term and long. In terms of short term issues, I think the decision to have a special convention would mean we would have to suspend some of the program and committee work that usually goes on. That might not be so bad, given that one way to tell if a program is worth doing from the center is to see if it is picked up in the wider horizontal net. If it is perhaps it could be dropped as a center program. It would be a tough three year budget, and we might do what was done at the last special convention - meet on a college campus, send only the four deputies in each order, no alternates, and try to do a lot of the work in joint sessions as a "committee of the whole."

In terms of the long term financial issues, shifting focus and funding by next convention would be helpful.

Your idea of doing the work at the next regular convention is a good alternative. I think it would be better to take the time for a conversation / direction by a special convention and have it as a done deal at next regular convention. But, listen, doing it next General Convention would work too. Just differently.

As to the matter of whether there is a will to do this or anything else that would do more than pick at the edges of the problems we face, I don't know. I do know that in the long run we need to hold onto a vision and a vocation that makes straight forward sense, matches the life of prayer we have, and is true to the Gospel. It can be done.

I have not the slightest interest in undoing what we have done. In fact I am very much for what this church has been able to do, but I await the day when we are more informed by what I am calling the horizontal world of the Episcopal Church and of the Anglican Communion.

People in the church are there because they are faithful. Many of those faithful people are people of color, women, gay and lesbian, people of other cultures here no longer a part of a melting pot but a grand stew, and those who find the Episcopal Church and make it their home are horizontally more numerous by the day. If we listen to all of them, as well as to the mostly white and older leadership of the church we might go far down the road to being a church worthy of Our Lord.

Franklin... you worked out of being anonymous. Thank you.

I have no idea if either the HoB or HoD have any sense of the need for a special convention or the sort of convention Jim proposes as an alternative.

The HoB actually meets on a regular basis, so they may be talking of such things. I don't know. The HoD has the list, but we don't meet and we don't talk (the sense is about 30 or so people actually write on the List. Others may listen, but how many? So I have no idea where the HoD is.

More, of course, I have no idea where the Presiding Bishop or the President of the House of Deputies, or (lest we forget) the Secretary of the General Convention are on the matter.

I am raising the idea because the idea needs to be raised, even if it doesn't go anywhere.

We need to keep looking for a way forward. One suggestion on Facebook is that we might simply let the center get smaller by financial squeeze and take up more network "work" and move on, letting canons and constitution change slowly to reflect those changes.

That's another idea. Evolution is for the strong only.

More later.

Lionel Deimel said...

In a word, no. Not, at least, without a lot of ground work first.

Our first order of business is to defeat the Anglican Covenant, lest the Covenant effectively restructure our church—for the worse, of course—for us. (Perhaps I should say against us!)

In any case, a constitutional convention is very tricky business. I can easily see us restructuring the church based on our assumptions about what we cannot do. This can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. We need a clear vision of what we want The Episcopal Church to be like. Then we can ask what structures will help get us there.

That said, one cannot be completely happy with the status quo. Perhaps part of the problem is that a bishop alone heads the church. Perhaps the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies should share power in a more effective way. Recent history has convinced me that bishops, even in The Episcopal Church, have far too much power.

Franklin said...

Mr Deimel

Why the continual covenant 'sturm und drang'?

Can you indicate why you think there is a ghost of a chance TEC would adopt a covenant? It wishes to be avant guard, cutting-edge, prophetic. An independent denomination. You have stressed this and surely your view is widely held.

So why concern about defeating a covenant that is defeated already by TEC's public convictions (SS marriage, communion of non-baptized, special baptismal covenants, etc)? I find this genuinely puzzling. Who do you see as fighting hard to covenant? Bishops? HOD?

A special covention, as you rightly note, *could* come to unsettling conclusions. And I doubt TEC has the will to throw itself into such a vortex, when it prefers to operate according to carefully laid-out schemes (your 'clear vision' idea).

But your comments also fail to grasp that much of the concern for such a covention is predicated on the fact that the status quo ain't working, financially, demographically. You can have your 'clear vision' church, and it can exist in a new container, purpose built for leaner income streams and greatly reduced numbers (as the aging members move to 'larger life'). But I take it Fr Harris's point is, the time has come to think about this new container because the situation demands it now.

The covenant will be defeated without much more massaging or cajoling. I can't see who would push for it inside the present TEC chambers of decision-making.

Franklin

Franklin said...

Fr Harris--

I am aware the HOB meets often. Hence my comment about groups within it.

I am unaware of any move within the HOB to have a special convention. My comment had to do with the growing awareness among a certain segment (e.g., young, newly consecrated Bishops) that the situation in many dioceses is not viable, and that big push from SCLM to do this or that is not acceptable given the fragile character of their respective settings.

I was trying to find out if you are basically on your own in these musings and queries or if you were more broadly representative of a group within Exec Council. Obviously the budget crunch has got you thinking, and the proposal has gone forth to survey people (as opposed to writing a 3-year budget that reflected realities but then raised major concern/ire).

But how far does this go beyond your blogging musing? I'd hate to think you are the only one prepared to accept the reality that a new agenda church is going to be a much smaller and leaner one within just a decade. An independent American denomination with like-minded friends in liberal provinces.

Franklin

Jim said...

I think Lionel has a point. If the Covenant is still on the horizon, then the idea of a convention is a bad one. But let me suggest that we all sort of assume it is DOA in Indianapolis. That is a mistake, like most un-dead we cannot be sure until the stake is in its heart. (Sprinkling it with holy water and salt might be a good idea too.)

I think I fell into the error in my comment -- assuming the covenant has come to its well deserved end.

It may be, indeed it may well be, that if we are now talking about a post Worldwide Anglican Communion world in which we have to contemplate The Episcopal Communion or better yet, The Episcopal Community that a special convention is warranted. But we are not, quite there yet. Close, and ever closer as the blatant arrogance of Lambeth makes ever more clear, but not there yet.

Maybe we need to begin asking ourselves how we will "be church" in the context of our international presence, North American experience, emergent future, and independence. If we start thinking about that now, we may be ready to contemplate a special convention after Indianapolis does drive the stake in the Covenant.

FWIW
jimB

BOB MCCLOSKEY said...

Mark -

Thank you for opening up a very timely and important conversation. I leave it to others discuss the means by which this can involve the whole church at a formal level.

I am particularly interested in the questions regarding TEC's future alignments and relationships within the wider body of communions and denominations. Very significant shifts in the denominational relationships of major churches have occured in the past 2 decades or more. In my experience the ecumenical task has changed radically. I can foresee regional realignments taking priority over international ones - indeed, IMHO that is already taking place.

So the question of TEC's vision and structure need to visit that proposition as well. Increasingly I hear clergy colleagues and many more of the laity placing greater stock in kindred theological beliefs, than in historic denominational deistinctions. [e.g. I have retired clergy friends in some dioceses, opting to participate in ELCA and other local churches, because they are more similar in their beliefs and practices.]

This is a really BIG issue needing to be explored in the context of the convseration you have broached.

Pax, Bob

Mark Harris said...

Franklin... you write,

"But how far does this go beyond your blogging musing? I'd hate to think you are the only one prepared to accept the reality that a new agenda church is going to be a much smaller and leaner one within just a decade. An independent American denomination with like-minded friends in liberal provinces."

I do not talk about a "new agenda church" that is an independent American denomination with like-minded friends in liberal provinces." These are your words and you insist on touting such words as fact. We are an "independent American denomination." That's been the reality since our founding. But we have been in amazingly useful ways interdependent with other churches in the Anglican Communion. And we have been very conscious of our spiritual link to the CofE.

This series of blog postings are being put forward to assist a conversation about how we might look at The Episcopal Church and its life in the 21st Century. If you persist in harping on what you consider the sorry state of affairs and continue to wave your particular flag(s) that is your business, but I will ask you to direct us to your blog where you can run your realignment game all you want.

SCLM has been asked by General Convention to produce resources. They are doing that. What comes of that is dependent on what happens at the next several General Conventions. My concern is whatever the outcomes (and those are much more in the hands of deputies and bishops than any cartel or special interest group) the very existence of standing commissions, boards, agencies, committees, Executive Council as currently configured, General Convention and the number of times it meets, the use of the domestic province structure, etc still remain. These are the things that eat up budget, produce materials, programs and agendas that are distant from and unrelated to the normal life of the parish or diocese. It is changing those structures that concerns me here.

If you want to dump on the SCLM work (which we have not seen yet) or rehash decisions made by General Convention etc in the past, go do it somewhere else.

Here, just for a few moments, I'd like to look to the future of our corporate life.

Franklin said...

A rather unilateral proposal from SCLM was--it is understood--rather sharply set back at a recent HOB meeting.

That was my point in my comment. Nothing more or less.

If I described TEC in a way that would disappoint Mr Deimel and others here, I welcome correction. A cutting-edge, prophetic, independent American denomination. Others here have spoken of a post-Communion anglicanism and indeed of an 'Episcopal Communion.' They mean these to be brand new things, and proudly so, discontinuous with 'TEC in the Anglican Communion' as heretofore.

As for the costs associated with producing new rites for SS marriage, communion of unbaptized, etc -- yes, I can see how in a leaner and smaller denomination these would be concerns. If one could fast-track this, it wouldn't take as much time or money.

Realignment? That must be your own private hope. Many episcoplains look on these days aghast. They are not however leaving. They are staying and praying for a series of reality checks kicking in. Just as Ruth follows Judges.

I thought you were seeking input and horizontalism. Calling for a course correction and indicating the costs of 'independent, innovative, american denominationalism' is certainly how many see the present situation.

Franklin

Franklin said...

And just a further PS.

Isn't it curious how rhetoric can make words mean their opposites?

Those who wish to see TEC remain a constituent member of the Anglican Communion, interdependent, maintaining the faith and order of the BCP, resisting innovations like communion of unbaptized and SS marriage -- surely these cannot be 'realigners.'

Those who want a progressive, cutting-edge, away-with-past-taboos like Communion for the baptized only and other such limiting traditions -- surely these proudly want TEC to 'realign' its faith and order.

Reminds me of the american political anomaly, how almost overnight 'red states' (democratic party) became 'blue states' (remember the blue elephant and the red donkey).

Now those wanting to maintain the faith and order of TEC are called 'realigners.' Progressives are 'preserving' TEC.

Where we now appear to agree is that there is a serious cost for this.

Franklin

Lionel Deimel said...

Franklin,

I am reasonably certain that, philosophically, the 2012 General Convention will be opposed to adoption of the Anglican Covenant. That does not mean that the Convention will reject it, however, although I certainly think it should. Alas, Episcopalians are pathologically nice, and we are therefore unlikely to tell Rowan just where he should shove his Covenant.

We should have taken a stand at the special Primates’ Meeting in October 2003 and on many subsequent occasions. In 2006, when we should have declared the Windsor to be embodying bad history and even worse advice, we passed B033. We missed another opportunity in 2009, although we did begin to move forward.

I will feel safe from the Anglican Covenant when our church has definitively driven a stake through its heart, and not before. My best guess is that the next General Convention will find some way to kick the Covenant can down the road. I sincerely pray that I am wrong.

I want my church to stop playing defense—it has noting to be ashamed of—and to take a stand for what it believes. If the Anglican Communion is standing in the way of that, then the Communion must be knocked out of the way.

I’m sorry if this doesn’t seem like proper “church talk,” but I am simply not from the be-a-wimp-for-Christ school, and I’m tired of being criticized by those who need to look for the log in their own eyes.

Franklin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Mark - In answer to the question of your post: No. I'm not convinced we need one. Is there an urgency you feel that I don't? Does the governing structure of TEC need to change? Perhaps. I think we need a group of deputies and bishops to look at the question and, perhaps, bring recommendations to General Convention. Changing the structure is not going to give us clarity about our identity and mission. Once we do that, we may discover that we do, indeed, need to change our structure to enable us to be more reflective of who we say we are and "lighter" for mission. Until then, I think we are putting the cart before the horse. Hope this is helpful to you.

Mark Harris said...

Franklin...I asked that you work forward. You did not. I am deleting your comments from this blog for the time being. Sorry, but I asked several times.

Please point us to your own blog, where we may go and hear again and again just how messed up you think The Episcopal Church is, etc. I will allow a comment post with a url to your blog - assuming you have one.

Franklin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bob Griffith said...

I agree with Mark that change must come and that it always helps to have a well thought out plan. My concern over a special convention is whether those who have guided and directed the Church into the situation we are now in believe that they have the vision and wherewithal to get us out of our troubles.

This all reminds me of a company that is imploding and going bankrupt because it can no longer make a quality product that gains the attention of the buying public. It isn't that the product is no longer in demand, but that quality and ingenuity have gone by the wayside.

We all know that is why CEOs are fired, a "house cleaning" among managers is conducted, and Boards are dismissed. (Do we believe that Murdock is really the man to bring back integrity to News Corp?)

Are we any different?

Yet, regardless of what our emotions may tell us, we have to face the facts that "progressive Christianity" is not resonating with majorities of people - particularly "minority" constituents. Facts tell us this – the further along the path we go we realize declining attendance, relevance, and decreasing funds to do good works. If we look at the UU and UCC, we see our future. Yet, there are several churches close to me (Brooklyn, NY) that are thriving and full of 20/30-somethings and that actually use the BCP, but they are not our churches.

It is ironic that we want to give voice to everyone, yet when the rubber-hits-the road we only want voices that already agree with us to be heard. This is my experience of twenty years in higher education and within our Church. Here in Brooklyn, the largest Episcopal congregations are West Indian. If we honestly listen to them, they are not going to tell us what our itching ears what to hear – at least not what the current leadership wants to hear!

So, what then do we do? To continually repeat the same actions (or continue along the same direction) expecting different outcomes – well, we all know what that brings.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

"It is ironic that we want to give voice to everyone, yet when the rubber-hits-the road we only want voices that already agree with us to be heard."

You have that correct.

Franklin

Lionel Deimel said...

So the proper path forward is to do market research to see what kind of religion people want and then try to give then that, right?

Franklin said...

No Mr Deimel, that would be the route of 'reason.'

It is why Hooker spoke of scripture as primary, and the teaching of the church as interpreter. 'Reason' was not conducting polls but allowing the scripture's word to be grasped in its proper sense, in the church.

When you start making a religion that responds to perceived needs (equal rights for an alleged class of people) you create the conditions where no authority exists beyond our experience of things, and one person's experience is not another person's. Hence the busy churches Bob refers to that listen to a higher word than one of their own making. They believe their own experience is darkened and that scripture grasped in its ratio speaks a word into that darkness.

You will disagree with all this. But Bob's point underscores the dilemma. The church of 'experience' needs look no further than UU and UCC to see what the cost is.

It requires a very different economic reality check. Fr Harris seemed at least willing to acknowledge that cost. I trust that is not 'wimpy' of him.

Franklin

Mark Harris said...

Franklin quotes an anonymous post that stated, ""It is ironic that we want to give voice to everyone, yet when the rubber-hits-the road we only want voices that already agree with us to be heard." Franklin then said, "
You have that correct."

I have been clear from the outset that the only comments I wanted re this post had to do with the question of a special convention to consider changes in constitution and canons that would signal a different way of organizing to do the work we considered important on a "church wide" basis. I was not interested in hearing more about how awful The Episcopal Church is because of its "progressive agenda" or its captivity to progressive agendas.

Franklin on several occasions has gotten into a rant and he has posted and I have removed the posts when I next visited the site. I will continue to do so.

I consider Anonymous' comment a snotty remark and Franklin's agreement with it myopic. There are lots of voices on this blog that I do not agree with, Franklin and others have been heard to great length,and even Anonymous lives on in a quote that got quoted again.

When the rubber hits the road, bubba, I'll be there. But God willing, I will be looking not for blame but for promise.

The pillar of salt looks back, the pillar of fire looks forward.

Mark Harris said...

OOps... It turns out the quote was from Bob Griffith, whose post was interesting and useful. Sorry. Anonymous Franklin quoted it.

Still the remark stands. Bob may not have been making a snotty remark (sorry Bob) but it was an easy build into irony gone bad.

Franklin said...

That's right, we wouldn't want any ranting going on.

"I will feel safe from the Anglican Covenant when our church has definitively driven a stake through its heart, and not before."

No, let's not rant.

"Working forward" = cliche for "we only want voices that already agree with us to be heard" (Bob G).

Glad you got the author straight. He is spot on in his comments, too.

Franklin

Mark Harris said...

Franklin...right... there are rants from Lionel as well, but his began with a concern that looking at a Special Convention is premature, given the overriding need to get out from under this Anglican Covenant thing.

I am hopeful that GC will not go for the Anglican Covenant. I disagree with Lionel that we can't work on long range issues without first focusing all our attention on getting over the AC.

His rant was one back at you... and I hope if you stop he will stop and perhaps someone will take up the issue again - is it time to rethink how we are organized as a church.

Franklin...you are using up your time here. If you are not happy here there is plenty of other rooms in the great hall.

Marshall Scott said...

Bob, I'm not convinced that ' "progressive Christianity" is not resonating with majorities of people - particularly "minority" constituents.' First, I don't think Christianity of any stripe is resonating with the majority of folks in America period. For a generation the Gallup folks in their polling on religious life have had the same result: that 48% or less of Americans are committed to a specific congregation of any faith community, Christian or otherwise. Second, I think that for the majority of Americans "progressive Christianity" is an oxymoron. A handful of very loud, politically connected folks have been very convincing to so many that Christianity is more about "how can we keep them out" than about "let them come to me."

Yes, the numbers have gotten worse - for all Christian bodies! Even the evangelical bodies are losing members these days, for variety of reasons, not least of which is birthrate. This is true in non-White communities as well.

The Episcopal Church is not, of course, a business or industrial corporation. We are, if you will, a mutual society, "owned" by the members. Leadership is term-limited - the Presiding Bishop at 9 years, and all bishops at age 72, if not sooner. Yes, they are bishops for life; but they do not have jurisdiction for life. And while you have a few wonks who serve long terms in the House of Deputies, there is considerable turnover from one Convention to another. The fact is that leadership does change. Moreover, as one who has followed for a long time, General Conventions tend to have poor memories. Some issues come up again and again; but that means that the arguments have to be made again and again.

Now, the communities within which we minister have changed; and we are accountable for our failure to reach out to them. But many in those communities would be shocked and excited to learn that Christianity can be progressive. All we have to do is tell our story through the clutter and noise around us, noise of a few rejectionists who call themselves Christian who become the excuse for so many to ignore faithful, humble, welcoming Christians, Conservatives and Progressives alike.

Point of Order said...

I have argued strenuously for significant organizational change. But, Elizabeth Keaton asks a threshold question: is there a pressing need? Unless the church is impervious to organic change, it could be argued that the church will be as responsive as its constituent members demand. But, change is hard and almost as hard to consider.

There are other mechanisms for ensuring that resources flow to where they are needed, and for creating communications channels that do not require dramatic constitutional change, let alone constitutional convention.

Let me be clear. I perceive that radical organizational change, undertaken with clear goals and intentions, could be the Balm in Gilead for our church. I could just as easily see further dysfunction and decline if the wrong kind of changes, or changes attempted for inappropriate purposes are implemented.

Let us pray first and then let the Holy Spirit guide us in all things.

Franklin said...

What is causing friction is a series of profound changes.

It is best to keep these clearly in view and not pretend they are part of a congenial diversity. Here the views of Mr Deimel are quite helpful.

A. TEC is an autonomous american denomination with special attributes, in a voluntary relationship with other anglicans worldwide, whose positions on TEC's special attributes are that they are a departure from Christian faith and order

B. TEC is an autonomous province in a relationship of interdependence and mutual submission with other provinces in a Communion

and

A. TEC is a hierarchical church with a PB who enforces the hierarchy by means of an office so designed and canonically so determined

B. TEC is a voluntary association of Dioceses, ruled by canons, agreed to by General Conventions, according to certain public procedures

The problem being felt is that to run TEC along the lines of 'A'
1) requires funds and an organizational structure that is under considerable strain, such that difficulty in constructing a three-year budget is now before us -- so a survey is drawn up to allow people to mark a box that says 'devolve to diocese, get rid of, etc.'
2) the progressive views in 'A' are not universally held, and given that 'askings' are entirely voluntary (so polity 'B'), funds are not being handed over to support 'A'
3) many actually want TEC to remain a constituent member of the Anglican Communion *on the terms of that Communion's own faith and order*; so the 'stake in the heart of the covenant' idea is not shared in Dioceses that think of themselves as Anglican Episcopalians in a Communion
4) such Episcopalians also do not want the BCP altered to include rites for SS marriage, a) because they disagree theologically with such a position, and b) because marriage is already defined in the BCP and that is a constitional document not open to local adaptation; it requires two conventions to change; so to so-called 'open communion' -- this is manifestly against the canons.

At any rate, at least all should agree--no matter what their position--that this kind of state of affairs is a) unsustainable theologically, and b) financially.

So, changes, dramatic ones in some cases, are called for.

Fr Harris, you can call Franklin's comments ranting, and you can entertain the idea that 'one person started it' (playground rules).

I prefer the mindset of Harry Truman who famously responded to an enthusiastic 'give 'em hell' with 'I don't give 'em hell. I tell the truth and it sounds like hell.'

It seems to this sinner that Truman's logic is spot on. We are in a difficult time and to quibble about personal taste in argumentation is not a luxury we can indulge.

Horizontalism needs to hold to its own courage.

Franklin

Bob Griffith said...

Marshall - Sociologically speaking, yes, the general population trends toward less and less involvement in faith communities. This will obviously have an impact on the aggregate attendance and membership of all the denominations and church bodies (accept, it seems, for the Assemblies of God and the Mormons who are actually growing numerically). Yet, there are many groups and congregations that are bucking the trend and attracting growing numbers of people. Why? What is going on within those Christian bodies that seems to resonate well with with interested people? etc...

There are many reasons, but within a broad analysis of demographic trends among emerging generations it seems that those churches that are clear about what they believe, what they expect, and what they teach as long as there remains an allowance for wrestling with it all are growing. One thing we have going for us as Anglican Episcopalians is that all the demographic analysis that i've read over the last few years concerning the Millennials and most of Gen X is that they are attracted to that which is more traditional in liturgy, music, architecture, etc. (See our website for references for resources concerning changing attitudes and expectations among emerging generations and culture: http://imagodeiinitiative.org ). I'm not suggesting right or wrong or better, but this is what the numbers tell us. My antidotal evidence through my own experience as I investigate all this bares out the reality of the numbers.

What is common among those churches that are growing? What is common among those that are not? If we are to figure out, and I mean honestly open to figuring it out, ways forward that enable us to grow without sacrificing our heritage and our unique contribution to world Christianity, then we must stop collectively asserting what we want to be true as true when all the data suggests otherwise.

I find nothing wrong with "progressing." The problem is when we let secular, socio-political ideologies and agendas supplant our theological understanding and our justifications for what we do, assert, or champion. When "conservative" or "progressive" Christianity means little more than conservative or liberal political agendas dressed up in vestments and given a church's imprimatur, then whether conservative or progressive, that dog ain't gonna hunt for long.

These things need to be carefully considered before running into a special convention that may change our faith and order according to understandings and expectations that rest more within the Kingdom of Man rather than the Kingdom of God or that may have worked well during the '60's through perhaps even the '90's, but don't in our current contexts.

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Brother David said...

Wow, for someone who has been asked numerous times by the blogmaster to move on, Franklin does not have the good manners to do so and continues to take advantage of the fact that Father Mark has not instituted comment moderation. Mark has done so in the past and may well have to do it again.

Franklin, why do you behave with such poor manners? Does it mean nothing to you that you have been repeatedly asked by Mark, just in this one thread, to move on and post your verbose comments on your own blog? Do you feel no obligation to concede to his polite requests?

Mark Harris said...

Franklin...I am not going to invoke comment moderation so that people can continue a more or less sane conversation. But every day as I check in on this blog to see what comments have been posted I will remove yours. I regret doing so because you sometimes have interesting things to say. But I am doing so because you are taking over this blog for your own purposes, and that is not "horizontalism" that is hijacking. You can continue to try to hijack this blog conversation, but as soon as you are spotted you are out of here.

Meanwhile I advise other readers to try not to get caught up in Franklin's thread.

I hope that Franklin will reveal his own blog and when he does I will be glad to visit there - I visit the blogs of many people I don't agree with... that is part of the exploration of ideas in the net.

But Franklin, the easy ride here is over.

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