2/18/2013

Task Force on Church Structureal Reform statement. Mixed blessing.

The Task Force for Church structural reform (so labeled by The Episcopal News Service) has issued a statement following their first meeting. We can only hope that in the future their statements will have more, let us say, focused accuracy than the current one.

Here is the statement, with some thoughts concerning the phrasing:

At the 77th General Convention, the Holy Spirit called The Episcopal Church to reimagine itself and how it can more deeply live into its identity in our rapidly changing world. The church responded to this call by unanimously adopting Resolution C095 in both houses, which created and commissioned this task force. On February 14, the appointed task force enthusiastically convened to begin our work. In our three days of discussion, prayer, and worship together, we have been energized by the diversity of talents, cultures, and life experiences present at the table, and we have been inspired by our shared love for the church and our passion for the creative work before us."

The Holy Spirit may well have called The Episcopal Church to reimagine itself, but the General Convention resolution was a bit more theologically cautious. It said,

 " Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That this General Convention believes the Holy Spirit is urging The Episcopal Church to reimagine itself, so that, grounded in our rich heritage and yet open to our creative future, we may more faithfully:
• Proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
• Teach, baptize and nurture new believers
• Respond to human need by loving service
• Seek to transform unjust structures of society
• Strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth; and be it further
Resolved, That this General Convention establish a Task Force under the Joint Rules of Order, whose purpose shall be to present the 78th General Convention with a plan for reforming the Church’s structures, governance, and administration;"  and so forth.


The difference between what General Convention said and the Task Force says is considerable.

"General Convention believes the Holy Spirit is urging TEC..."
"At the 77th General Convention, the Holy Spirit called The Episcopal Church to reimagine itself"

The one states a belief concerning the Holy Spirit's urging, the other reports an action of the Holy Spirit.

It does give the Task Force a certain power, does it not, to claim that the work of the task force is not a product of General Convention action, but a direct call of the Holy Spirit.
 
"We organized ourselves for business, agreeing on a leadership team consisting of two conveners, Dr. Catherine George and the Rev. Canon Craig Loya, and four initial working group leaders, Julia Ayala Harris, Margaret Shannon, the Rev. Leng Lim, and the Rev. Joseph Chambers. A secretary and two chaplains will be appointed prior to our next gathering. At this first meeting, we were also joined by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Jennings, and Executive Officer of General Convention the Rev. Canon Michael Barlowe, who offered us their valuable insights and made us aware of resources that will assist us in our work.

We have started the process of developing an engagement strategy that will enable us to live into our commitment to transparency while preserving the sanctity of holy conversation."

It would be nice to get some idea of what this "transparency, while preserving the sanctity of holy conversation" thingy means.  It seems to mean that all questions are transparently out there, but all answers are not, having some sort of sanctity to them as holy in a specific community. What does this mean?

"We further aim not only to provide a window into our work, but to provoke a parallel process of dialogue around questions of identity, structure, and culture at all levels of the church. To facilitate that discernment, we plan to offer a range of opportunities to obtain input and feedback from all corners of the church, and we urge all members to reflect prayerfully alongside us and to offer their insights and wisdom. These opportunities will be unveiled in the coming weeks.

Ah, what they want is input and feedback for their holy conversational use.  But it is their conversation. Fair enough.
 
"Drawing on language from Resolution C095, we have chosen to call ourselves the Task Force for Re-imagining the Episcopal Church: structures, governance, and administration (TREC). We hope that this conveys a sense of our work’s scope, as well as our desire to take a journey with the whole church as we discover how we are being called to be the body of Christ in the world."

Their parsing of the language of Resolution C095 is one way to do it. But it bends the resolution a bit. The Task Force considers itself to be about "Re-imagining", but the resolution clearly (well almost clearly) says this, 

"Resolved, That this General Convention establish a Task Force under the Joint Rules of Order, whose purpose shall be to present the 78th General Convention with a plan for reforming the Church’s structures, governance, and administration."  

The General Convention (not necessarily the Holy Spirit) asks for a plan for reforming the Church's.. etc.  The Task Force is about "re-imagining The Episcopal Church", and lists the three - structure, governance and administration as, I suppose, general areas of interest.

I think "re-imagining" and "presenting...a plan for reforming" are a tad different, actually, more than a tad. 
 
May the Holy Spirit continue to bless and guide the church through this time of change and new life.

They got that one right on the spot.

Now... TREC is a really bad working abbreviated title. TREC is too close in sound to "The Wreck." Really. Just "The Task Force" will do, or spell it out the way the Resolution named it. 

3 comments:

sharecropper said...

Tee hee. Good analysis, but I think TREC may be a good name if they really do reimagine. Like Trek, the ogre, the church could become a loving entity.

Deacon Charlie Perrin said...

Trec can also sound like dreck. I'm going to wait and see where this ends up.

Lionel Deimel said...

Gatherings such as constitutional conventions always make me nervous, as just about anything can happen. I hope that TREC will consider how we might improve what we have now, rather than how we might start over from scratch. The General Convention is not good at dealing with complex issues, and that would include any changes that might change (or even eliminate) the General Convention. Before we make any big changes, we should improve our ability to make decisions effectively and responsibly.