What Bishop Martins Said....about the PB and strategies towards a new structure.

Bishop Dan Martins, over at Confessions of a Carioca, wrote an important and well stated opinion regarding the Presiding Bishop's remarks to the House of Bishops and ended with one of his own, to wit, 

"That the 2012 General Convention make issues of structure not only the primary issue, but the only issue. Let us elect to those offices that need electing to, and let us pass a straitened minimalist budget. But aside from those two things, we need to put everything else--everything else--in abeyance until we figure out what we need to morph into in order to be a responsibly faithful church in this post-Christian era."

He asked if there were any takers.  

I have made some suggestions about all this earlier this last year, with few takers. The primary question I raised was, "should we have a special convention."  

In private conversation with several members of Executive Council I also raised the question of effectively doing the same as Bishop Dan suggests - pass a budget that does absolutely nothing more than required by canon, a 'straitened minimalist budget," and then get to the business of restructure. 

I still believe a special convention is the way to go, but immediate suspension of business might be a dramatic way to put the matter before the governance of the church. That would require as well putting on hold many of the resolutions proposed to General Convention (including the Anglican Covenant ones?) and generally not doing business as usual. Many of the tabled or delayed motions might go to Executive Council for their consideration later.

As Elizabeth Kaeton is given to pointing out, the problem with all this is that putting the matter to General Convention is to put it to the people already part of the system, its hierarchies, ways of working, special interests, old-boy (usually) stuff, smoke filled rooms or their Episcopal equivalent, and so forth.  Almost any other way of finding and making use of stakeholder opinions and idea, and drawing new ideas and blood into the system, will require some other sort of church wide and / or regional gatherings and drawing in people who might not otherwise care much one way or another about what we do. 

So, Bishop Martins is on to something, something that is filled, as are all its alternatives, with problems and dangers. 

So, are there any takers for the idea of making THIS convention one devoted to serious structural change?

My sense is that to do so would require that at the very beginning of the session of one of the two houses there would need to be a suspension of other business to debate and then vote on a proposal to direct Program Budget and Finance to produce such a minimalist budget - with very strict parameters- for consideration by the General Convention, and a proposal that the regular schedule of consideration of legislation be suspended in favor of a special order of business to consider such strategic changes in structure of General Convention and its CCABS and the work of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, to the end that church-wide activities directed by Executive Council on behalf of the General Convention and the DFMS better serve the mission of The Episcopal Church in its response to God's mission,  in a post-Christian era.

There are times when Bishop Martins speaks from the front edge of imaginative possibilities for the Church. His posting today is such an occasion. 

Go Bishop Dan!



  1. Quick reply: NO! Because there is a resolution coming from the SCSJPP (Social Justice and Public Policy) that concerns the practice of anonymous donor conception. Donor conceived adults (like adoptees) are being created (!) so that they may not be allowed to know their biological origin as a matter of clinical practice in huge numbers without any discussion or recourse. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) is not their friend.

    This resolution came before the convention in 2009 but should not be postponed. It should be addressed in order that more people begin to take the practice seriously and stop ignoring it.

    What the Church is to become is not decided ONLY by structural resolutions.

  2. YES, because no matter what your issue, no one cares what the Episcopal Church's opinion is anymore, on pretty much any issue you could name. Frankly, I can't name ONE resolution from GC 2009 speaking to a social issue. Not one.

  3. Be serious! We are talking about a reorganization that will affect the entire church. How can one make a proposal this radical with just over two months to prepare for its implementation?

    To make a rational decision about the organization of the church, we have to (1) agree on what the problem is, (2) generate possible solutions, (3) evaluate the proposed solutions, (4) select an approach, and (5) implement it. Widespread buy-in to the process and to the selected path forward must be gained from the church at large, lest we have a revolt on our hands.

    Which of the five steps does Bishop Martins think General Convention 2012 can accomplish? At best, I think, it might be able to agree on a process to begin the redesign at step 1.

    I wonder what are Martins real motives. Is he trying to keep the church from pursuing property litigation? Does he want to delay a vote on the Anglican Covenant in hopes that, when the matter comes up again, the climate might be more favorable.

    In any redesign, there will be groups pursuing their own agendas. What might the Communion Partners be up to here?

    All this sounds to me like putting a patient with a cold into a medically-induced coma while we send her caregivers to medical school. The proposal is ridiculous on its face.

  4. Even were I convinced that your and Bishop Martins' suggestion was the way to go, I would be pessimistic. There are too many oxen to get gored in the process to see too radical a redirection of this Convention this late in the calendar.

    And, I'm not convinced. After years of hearing about the Anglican Communion Covenant that "the sky is falling, the sky is falling," I'm wary of cries of urgency, even when the goal is reasonable. It is reasonable to consider and perhaps restructure the Episcopal Church's governance structures and procedures. It is not reasonable refocus to laser-like intensity those structures only toward that single purpose. Yeah, sometimes you have to jump into the cold water because wading in is really more painful. That does not require either jumping in over your head, nor jumping in without having decided where to swim.

    This is largely a discussion - and the sense of anxiety itself is - largely among insiders. We might be concerned that "insiders" might want to defend the status quo; but in fact you and I and Bishop Martins are also insiders. We're both Deputies, and Bishop Martins is a Bishop, having been a Deputy. Bishop Sauls is an "insider."

    With that in mind, I fear Bishop Martins' suggestion is as myopic as those who want to avoid change (although, to tell you the truth, that's not a voice I'm hearing much of). We don't need to suspend speaking to the folks in the pew and to the larger world while we precipitate our new structures. We need to do both, and I see no reason that we can't.

    "But, we must be nimble! We must respond to the environment!" Well, in the institutional world I've been "tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine" about how management should change, and I've realized a few things. First, it can beget an atmosphere of "change for change's sake," so that eventually everyone gets tired and disinterested from sheer exhaustion. Second, it requires a clear commitment and shared behaviors lived from the top down to convince all participants that this is worth their time. Finally, it is a vision with a long term, pursued diligently but not in haste (much less crisis), that will sustain and shape an institution and lead to not only surviving but thriving (consider, for example, the long term planning of Japanese corporations two generations ago, or Korean one generation ago).

    All this need not take us a century; but it ought to take us at least three years, and six isn't unreasonable. It need not require a special convention. It does take a plan. So, we need to pursue this, but with all deliberate speed - yes, some speed, but certainly with deliberation.

  5. I find myself in agreement with Lionel and Marshall. We have not done any analysis of the problem - much less a power analysis. We've not had any conversation about identity much less clarification about the specifics of our mission.

    Besides which, everything I've heard kicked around or proposed cuts the laity out of the process and centralizes power in the office of the episcopacy.

    It is shocking to me that the hierarchy of the church - who are entrusted with so much responsibility and authority and certainly make more money than most clergy and laity - are so woefully inept at understanding organizations.

    I mean, this is basic, elementary stuff. I'm not schooled in organizational development and theory and I've never worked as an executive in corporate America, but even I know the basics of this stuff. Why don't the "officials" of my church?

    So, when some of the same people who wanted to rush the Covenant (which centralizes power) down our throats begin to pass the budget under our noses and shout "Fire"? And - with all due respect - when someone like Dan Martin gets excited about that? Well, it makes me raise my eyebrow in suspicion.

    Here's where we agree - yes, let's begin the conversations about identity and mission. And then, let's have conversations about how we're going to structure ourselves so we can facilitate our mission. And then, we'll know where to put our money and how to spend it.

  6. I was at the Province V meeting at which Bishop Dan Martins articulated that suggestion. He did so after hearing some hard-hitting realities about TEC. I will confess I was tempted to agree with him.

    At that same meeting, the Presiding Bishop delivered a radical presentation, urging us to consider the role of TEC.

    I can't go so far as to urge that ALL other business be set aside. But I believe Bishop Dan was on the right track ... and I'm fairly close to him.

    Now reading the Blue Book, I believe we as the Episcopal Church need to set some priorities. It is time.

  7. I was at the Province V meeting at which Bishop Dan Martins articulated that suggestion. He did so after hearing some hard-hitting realities about TEC. I will confess I was tempted to agree with him.

    At that same meeting, the Presiding Bishop delivered a radical presentation, urging us to consider the role of TEC.

    I can't go so far as to urge that ALL other business be set aside. But I believe Bishop Dan was on the right track ... and I'm fairly close to him.

    Now reading the Blue Book, I believe we as the Episcopal Church need to set some priorities. It is time.

  8. I could support a more moderate abeyance of resolutions to permit, in addition to elections, amendments to the Constitution and Canons -- which is, I think, the most proper business of the GC.

    However, as a form follows function kind of guy, I'm concerned that the urge to change the structure needs itself to be restrained: the first question really ought to be, What does the church best do at the international/national level? We could spend a lot of time on that, I think...

  9. tom gibson30/4/12 6:29 PM

    Follow the money. Lots of jabber but little backing is my bet.

    Fr. Tom Gibson
    St. Mark's Cocoa, Florida


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.