Canon Neil Michell's reflections on General Convention

One of the joys of General Convention is that people from across the spectrum of opinions in the church find themselves together on legislative committees where much of the hard lifting goes on. Canon Neil Michell and I served together on the World Mission Legislative Committee. While we often found ourselves looking at the same elephant from different angles, we at least identified that we were looking at an elephant. He was a joy to work with.

I gave some of my thinking on the state of things in Episcopal and Anglican land in my essay, "ACAWKI - The end of the Anglican Communion as We Know It.

Neil has written a very fine piece "Reflections on the Future of the Episcopal Church in Light of the Actions of the General Convention." It is very much worth the read. I particularly find his assessment of the cuts in the budget a fine parsing of the problem. He says the cuts may have been fairly distributed, but they were not strategic. Go there and read.


  1. I read Canon Michell's piece with interest, and agreed with a number of points he made, especially about issues of finances and organization. I was, however, struck by the following, and found myself puzzling over just what the statement in parentheses means:

    On the positive side, it is a good thing to be in a church that attracts gay and lesbian persons. TEC is attempting to be more inclusive of people who formerly felt alienated from the church. (The downside of this is that as a whole, TEC churches offer acceptance only and not any sense of healing or deeper wholeness.

    I'm not registered over at Covenant and prefer not to be, so can't post questions and comments there. Maybe the canon will read and respond here. What would it mean for an Episcopal church to offer "healing" or "deeper wholeness" to LGBT folk? I could be wrong, and I beg to be corrected if I am, but I wonder if this isn't another one of those suggestions that LGBT people should be welcomed just so long as they are willing to then have efforts made to change them... either to have them embrace celibacy or to try to alter their sexual orientations. This seems to be where Rowan Williams, for example, has moved.

    My own experience has been that I have been offered more than acceptance at my church; I have been offered a "sense of healing" and "deeper wholeness." But the healing and wholeness haven't involved denying my sexuality or trying to change it. Rather, it has meant letting it be embraced and transformed by the holiness and love of God.

    I'd be pleased if Canon Michell could clarify if he has something else in mind than what I have experienced in the parish where I am a member and in other contexts in the Episcopal Church.

  2. I would have more respect for Canon Michell's take on the budget if his diocese gave even part of the asking to the national church.

  3. I have long thought it outrageous that the General Convention does not require support from its dioceses. Although this situation has not been advanced as supporting the voluntary-association theory of TEC polity promoted by the ACI, it surely could be. My own diocese, under Bob Duncan, paid no money to TEC, but it insisted on assessment payments from parishes. What’s wrong with this picture?

  4. Robert T. Dodd23/7/09 10:08 AM

    Our diocese, Albany, has a policy, "Parish Choice," which allows parishes to stiff the Episcopal Church. A resolution to end that practice failed in our 2008 Convention.

    As one of our conservative-evangelical clergy said to me shortly before the 2008 Convention, "It's God's money. We shouldn't use it to fight each other." (She nonetheless voted against our resolution!)

    Conscientious liberals and moderates who refuse to use money as a weapon face opponents who see nothing wrong with doing so. Is the cost of integrity too high?

  5. I am pleased to see that one of our new Executive Council members is only willing to listen to those who are already in total agreement with her.

    Was that attitude part of the orientation seminar? I mean, here Mark says it's worth reading, and instead of responding at all to the substance, Ms. Sherrod just fires a shot at his diocese.

    I am still digesting GC but there is no doubt it will negatively impact our parish, at least with a small number of families. The question is whether it will be offset by attracting new members. Time will tell.

  6. I found areas of agreement with Canon Michell, but I found one assertion with which I disagree: "The result at the Communion level will be that the rift between TEC and the vast majority of the Anglican Communion (save for Canada and a number of individual dioceses) has now widened even more considerably, and the likelihood of some form of Communion discipline of TEC is increased." To assert that only the Anglican Church of Canada and a number of dioceses are not on the other side of a rift is an oversimplification. I would not place the churches in Scotland, Wales, New Zealand and Brazil on the other side of the supposed rift. And I would be cautious in assuming that all those churches which have been vocal in their criticism of TEC would want TEC expelled from the Communion.

  7. Katie and Lionel are absolutely correct in their posts. As an Episcopalian in Dallas, I am embarrassed that our Diocese does not pay its fair share to the National Church.

    One day that will change. You can count on it. Long after the conservatives abandon the Church that has nurtured them for decades, mainstream Episcopalians will remain and will vote to restore funding to the National Church, hopefully with an apology.

  8. I am confused. The national church eliminates funding for the evangelism department but fully funds the litigation and title IV disciplinary actions (the later being an ominous sign for more theological cleansing on the way). And of course, the projected budgeted expenses for the legal costs have been woefully underestimated in the past.

    If one reads the comments at Father Jake's place regarding Terry Martin's termination, it is not just conservatives that are upset with the spending priorities of 815.

    Mandatory contributions would cause the members of the dioceses to participate unwillingly in sin (see 1 Cor 6). "If anyone causes these little ones to stumble, it would be better for them to have a millstone tied around their necks and to be cast into the sea."

  9. Nancy,

    I hope you realize that per Ms. Sherrod's line of writing, your views do not matter to her.

    That alone ought to show the absurdity of her dismissal of Canon Michell's piece because of where he is from.

    As a new member of EC, I hope she learns that all members of the church matter.

  10. This is fairly straight forward. Katie, Lionel, and Nancy all agree on a simple point. It is hard to listen to someone criticize a budget who proudly contributes nothing to it.

    The bigger question is why do those who refuse to pay anything (much less their fair share) because they literally believe The Episcopal Church to be the Great Satan remain. Assuming they don't have emotional\psycholigical issues, they must perceive they receive some benefit in staying. In which case they are wide open to being called freeloaders (or "welfare queens" as conservative like to say)- those who take benefits but don't pay for them. Very strange group...

  11. ...title IV disciplinary actions (the later being an ominous sign for more theological cleansing on the way).

    There has been NO "theological cleansing" by TEC nor will there be.

    However, "theological cleansing" HAS been carried out by the ACNAites and others who couldn't get their way in TEC and who broke away to create a "pure" church... and doubtless, when they end up breaking up over ordination-of-women and other issues, we'll see more "theological cleansing."

    But, yes, the cutting of the evangelism budget is indeed deeply troubling to many Episcopal Church "progressives," myself included.

  12. Yawner,
    You are doing what so many other "conservatives" do. You are distorting what a "progessive" has said to make it into something to beat them up with. In many cases, it requires a bit of research to clear up the distortion. But here it is quite easy, since Katie Sherrod's brief comment appears just a few ahead of your distortion of what she said.

    She did not say she was only willing to listen to those in total agreement with her. That simply is not in her note. In asserting that this is her belief, you are bearing false witness against your neighbor, a sister in Christ (see Exodus 20:16). You add to the distortion in your follow-up note to Nancy, where you attribute to Katie Sherrod that Nancy's views don't matter to her. You don't know this; so you have no business assering it. Again, Exodus 20:16.

    Here is what Katie ACTUALLY wrote:I would have more respect for Canon Michell's take on the budget if his diocese gave even part of the asking to the national church.

    She doesn't say she won't listen to Canon Mitchell. She says she doesn't have as much respect for his "take on the budget" as she'd like to have. Why? Because his professed concerns about TEC's budgetary problems don't fit with the fact that the diocese in which he is a leader doesn't pay its proper share to the national church. This is a perfectly reasonable criticism, directed very specifically at specific views, for specific reasons. There is no general statement about Canon Michell himself or any of his other views.

    I really doubt you'd have any problem with what Katie wrote unless you were already determined to find something to attack or criticize.

  13. More than once actions of GC '09 celebrated the strength of this church, especially as that strength was indicated by our Canons and Constitution and as that strength is directed toward the mission that we believe is God's gift to us. D025 says clearly that our way of risking discernment for whomever we've already baptized comes as much as anything from an understanding that our C&C are instruments of organization and operation shown by our history as trustworthy. (B033 "forgot" that both in its content and method of adoption)
    Michell reflected that passage of legislation like D025 was merely the result of a liberal vs. conservative demographic shift from 2006 made possible by the exiting of conservatives from the church. I would expect him to be offering a much less simplistic appraisal on this point given his experience in the church.
    Michell also disappointed when he portrayed this church's current interest in mission as mostly just correcting an earlier period of disarray. Faint praise. His appraisal of how this church "attracts gay and lesbian persons" is similarly faint.
    His expressed concern that no strategy has directed our response to the previous budget shortfall as well as the new and smaller budget and employment cuts betray his own bias for strategies and sound more like Schadenfreude than good advice. Maybe we need to ask him what his own diocesan strategy is for funding the church that ordained him.
    This church has done something new by trusting a process and history that isn't nearly as broken as its detractors claim and at GC '09 did it without faint praise, oversimplification or a poorly veiled "I told you so."

  14. William,

    If Ms. Sherrod had provided any evidence that she was willing to respond to the actual essay, I would think differently. But she chose to post on a thread where Fr. Harris had commended the substance of the essay with a brief comment insulting Canon Michell, and ignoring entirely the substance of the essay. So- she chose to weigh in with nothing on the substance, and instead blamed Canon Michell for the entire Diocese's refusal to pay their asking. I don't think I'm doing much distorting.

    And Nancy identifies herself as being from Dallas, and Katie has already shown through her response she will not respond to the substance of arguments from Dallas.

    You can make this about progressive/conservative and impune conservatives for their actions. Go ahead, it's a friendly crowd.

    But the fact is Katie chose to weigh in with a comment about lack of respect, on a thread started by Mark and where your first response had substance.

    So, I suppose I may be as unbiblical as Katie in my comments, but certainly no worse.

  15. Yawner,

    You are completely missing the point here. Canon Michell is one of the leading officials in the Diocese of Dallas who supports in total the Diocese's decision to cut off funding to the National Church. Nancy is a regular communicant (as am I) in a church in Dallas who is embarrassed by our Diocese's petulant refusal to pay its fair share. Your assumption the Katie can make no distinction between an extremist diocesan offical from Dallas versus normal, mainstream Episcopalians makes no sense at all. I know this for a fact because Katie Sherrod has spoken at my church and was very attentive to our questions and comments. But don't let the facts and reality get in your way....

  16. A correction: The diocese of Dallas simply doesn't assume that parishioners want a proportion (which would be 21% of 10%, I assume) to go to 815 where it will fund support for things like the RCRC and and the lawsuits. Any parishioner may designate his funds as subject to the 815 tax. Thus, funds from Dallas do go to 815. Some dioceses do the opposite. They assume that if a parishioner doesn't specify, then they assume that they want their funds going to 815. I had to specify my giving to only go locally (or to our sister parish in Haiti).


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, 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.