Network of Episcopal Clergy Associations - new website,

NECA (The Network of Episcopal Clergy Associations) has a new website and is kick-starting its way into the 21st Century, and just in time. 

Events at General Seminary, the state of seminary education elsewhere, the move to contract workers and greater and greater limitations on the safety-net provided by the notion of tenure as rector, the lack employment by some and security of position by others, and the general misuse of the resources provided by retired clergy, all contribute to a time when clergy face considerable challenges.  Support for clergy by clergy is a vital part of the overall health of clergy, and NECA can be a resource for individuals, churches and dioceses as all try to make best use of, and provide best support for, the ordained.

Go visit the site HERE.

And, by the by, join up in any way possible!


The Presiding BIshop: Nine years more? Don't believe so at present.

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has made a statement regarding the election of a new Presiding Bishop and her discernment of her future work.  It is a very fine statement. Read it HERE.

The careful reader will note that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori did not say she would not stand for re-election. The title of the ENS posting of her letter says that, but the letter says this:

"At the same time, I recognize that standing for election as Presiding Bishop carries the implicit expectation that one is ready to serve a full term.  I do not at present believe I should serve and lead in this ministry for another nine years."

The Presiding Bishop does not use words carelessly. She has said two things: (i) She "at present" does not believe she should serve and lead in this ministry for another nine years, and (ii) there is the implicit expectation that any candidate should be ready to serve a full term.

She also broadened her comments to say that " I believe I can best serve this Church by opening the door for other bishops to more freely discern their own vocation to this ministry." So she really is making the process more clearly open to bishops who might otherwise stand back if she was willing to serve another nine years.

My sense is that the Presiding Bishop has BOTH closed the door (but not slammed it) on serving another nine years, and opened the door to the possibility of being elected with the understanding (contrary to the implicit expectation) that she would serve for a more limited period of time.

While the canons call for election for nine years, there is nothing to prevent the House of Bishops from making a side agreement with the elected bishop for a shorter term, agreed to by the House itself.  Whether or not the House of Deputies would go along with an election in which there was a codicil agreeing to a shorter term is unclear. But the bishops could elect with such an agreement.

So, the Presiding Bishop has both closed doors and opened them: closed to a discerned willingness to serve for a full nine years and opened to a possibility of a shorter term. 

Other candidates, willing to serve the full nine years, would of course be able to argue for their candidacy precisely on the grounds that it fulfills the expectations of the canons. Those supporting a shorter term for the Presiding Bishop can argue that these are extraordinary times in which an additional time with the same leadership would be very useful to the ongoing life of the Church. 

The Presiding Bishop does state "I also believe that I can offer this Church stronger and clearer leadership in the coming year as we move toward that election and a whole-hearted engagement with necessary structural reforms.  I will continue to engage us in becoming a more fully diverse Church, spreading the gospel among all sorts and conditions of people, and wholeheartedly devoted to God’s vision of a healed and restored Creation."  

She is exactly correct to note that her work is with the present engagement with structural reforms and continued movement into being a diverse and inclusive Church committed to the healing of the Creation.  In doing so, she may also be seen clearly as the best we have to lead us for a few more years while this process plays out a bit.

So lets be clear: The Presiding Bishop has not ruled out reelection. She has changed the context in which she would be willing to be considered.

Can the House of Bishops act in ways related to, but not included in, the canons?  Well, it already does.

I have argued that the process for electing the Presiding Bishop should include the clear nomination from the floor option that the canons assume.  It has been pointed out to me that the House of Bishops, on its own and without any canonical underpinnings, has already made internal agreements that bishops would not vote for any candidate that had not announced candidacy early enough for background checks before the day of election (30 days?). So in the last election all those nominated from the floor were already cleared by declaration of intent and background checks prior to that day.  

Meaning, dear friends, that the canonical assumption of nomination from the floor is unrelated to the realities of election. There is no simple nomination from the floor. I was wrong.

I would hope that in the future development of the canons to reflect the real structure of decision making in the Church that what is extra-canonical might become part of the canons. There is nothing to suggest the necessity of background checks or vetting for the candidates for Presiding Bishop. Further, that vetting can, if carried out as an unwritten addendum to the process, be a way not only of weeding out the crazy and the perverse, but the politically incorrect and ornery.  This is not so good. The process needs to be open and clear.



The Network Paradigm, a la TREC, and real hope.

OK girls and boys, name an Anglican / episcopal "thingy" that has the word Network in it.

Well, there are a pile of networks in the Anglican Communion 10 at the moment, listed HERE.
They are described as "various self-funding networks that help profile various areas of interest in the Anglican world at large." They are networks that have no formal interconnection with one another except that they are networks recognized by the Anglican Consultative Council. They seem to be stand alone collections of like concerned folk from around the Communion.

There are networks already in the Episcopal Church - for public policy, digital communications, Stewardship (perhaps others). They seem to have various connections with specific officers and offices of the DFMS. Some are more networks of people concerned for specific issues, some are networks of particular sorts of ministries in the church. Funding sources seem varied. They do not seem to be part of a "network of networks" scheme.

Then there was the precursor to the Anglican Church in North America, the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, which had as its Moderator Robert Duncan, now the retired Archbishop of ACNA.  That network, while its members were mostly still part of The Episcopal Church, became a network on its way to becoming a new thing - a separate church. 

Well, that was another story, still being played out. ACNA has become just another denomination in the jumble of churches in North America. But it was a network of a different sort - it proposed a paradigm in which dioceses had a high degree of autonomy, were joined together by a set of common values (and dislikes).  When they got together to talk about the form of the emerging new thing, ACNA, they worked hard to maintain a network sort of approach in which member dioceses, churches and other collections of people, could maintain particular ideas (on the ordination of women, for example) and yet belong to the network / church.  The network paradigm in their case was a way of broadening the tent to included various sorts of groups that would otherwise have trouble getting along.  It is still an open question as to whether that is going to work, or if anyone will care.

And now The Task Force on Reimagining the Episcopal Church has proposed a new network paradigm. TREC writes,

"We live in an age of networks, yet our churchwide structure has not fully adapted to this organizational paradigm. The evolution from a bureaucratic / regulatory agency paradigm to a network will profoundly change the role, culture, decision making processes, and leadership paradigms of and within The Episcopal Church's churchwide structures. This would not be unlike other significant evolutions that have occurred historically around our church's governance and structures."

So the network paradigm is on the table for discussion, and TREC believes it is central.

What I want to know is what sort of network are they talking about?  The networks already in existence in TEC and in the Anglican Communion are about specific concerns. Does TREC envision all those CCABs (Commissions, Committees, Agencies and Boards) that it proposes to retire, reemerging as networks of like concerned people on the local level?  Great. As a former member of The Episcopal Society for Ministry in Higher Education (ESMHE) which was a network when nobody talked that way, I though we did a creditable job of keeping Campus Ministry alive. 

But wait, there's more: TREC calls this network thingy a "paradigm" that is to replace the "paradigm" of the bureaucratic / regulatory agency.  "Network" here seems more than a gaggle of networks pushing their own agendas and concerns in church.   TREC suggests that Episcopal Church "churchwide organizations should inspire and provoke all members of the church to live fully into its mission of "restoring all people to unity with God and one another in Christ." (BCP, p 855)  

TREC suggests roles in this network paradigm: Catalyst, Connector, Capacity Builder, Convener. 

Sounds like the thingy that The Network of Anglican Diocese and Parishes put forward.

But wait: What are these "churchwide organizations" that TREC speaks of? Who knows? 

We don't, because that's the last time organizations (plural) is mentioned.  The TREC document turns immediately from speaking of organizations (plural) to organization (singular) as soon as the roles are brought up. The churchwide organization should - inspire and provoke, establish and maintain, support leadership development, assemble the church...

TREC apparently wants the churchwide organization (read the governance of the DFMS and Executive Council) to be the core of the network paradigm. OK, so new organization of all of the above, and then they inspire, provoke, establish, maintain, support, assemble..

Sounds like a central core - spokes of the wheel sort of network, with coordination and all that provoking from the center, based supposedly on mandates from General Convention - or is it now based on mandates from senior staff. Who knows?  

But whatever the network thingy is that is paradigmatic, a network with a core hub and wheels is not it. The great wheel network is just another way to accent the difference between the local (read powerless) and the central (read powerful).  

So lets go back to the TREC beginning:  It is vaguely true, "we live in an age of networks,"  but that means almost nothing at all, since some of those networks are indistinguishable from terrorists cells and others are cartels of big money interests and others seemingly free for think tanks.  "We live in an age of networks."  So what?  

Networking is not an organizational paradigm, or at least not until a lot of work is done spelling out just what is meant.

I'm all for a network paradigm - a neural network paradigm - where the connections throughout the mind of the organization are so interwoven that its hard to know if the president or the janitor clicked in with the right approach, and furthermore it is relatively uninteresting to the organization to know just who was the clever source of the new idea, better way of working, more efficient method, new product,etc.  What if The Episcopal Church" tried to work as an organization that was a MIND, and it wanted as much as possible to have that MIND be the mind of Christ.

What if in that organization roles were determined not by ordination, election or even personal charisma, but moment by moment by need and ability. (I know, I know, it sounds a bit, well, socialist - you know, from each according to their ability, to each according to their need.)  

In a neural network paradigm maybe, just maybe, reorganization would look different from changing the locus of power from Executive Council to the PB, or from General Convention to Staff, or whatever. 

Now there's a network I would love to join. But as for TREC's "new paradigm," no thanks. The great wheel is just another way of having some people be the feet and others the head. Been there. Its OK, but it ain't heaven.  

Here is a list of the various self-funding networks that help profile various areas of interest in the Anglican world at large
- See more at: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/networks/index.cfm#sthash.ht4JCo9n.dhe precursor to the Anglican Church in North America

TREC and the power of bishops

The Taskforce for Reimaging the Episcopal Church (TREC) has written a letter to the Church. It deserves our careful consideration on a variety of points. Go read it HERE. Really.

A number of comments on the internet begin, "well I haven't read it yet, but ...."  Read the thing.

Most commentators seem to have Crusty Old Dean's (COD) problem. It is a mixture of really good and really not so good stuff, put together by a group of people who are doing their best. And in cleaning house they have inadvertently made room for all sorts of devilment.

Rather than pick through the basket of goodies in this letter, finding the good and chucking the bad, I will refer you to Crusty, whose read is clear in insightful, although one wonders just how cranky Crusty has become in these last days. Go read him HERE. 

And follow that by reading Katie Sherrod's piece, HERE. She speaks with clarity from a context where purple power had free reign.

It will be interesting to see if anyone is left who hasn't already decided how they feel about the effort, or have not simply let it pass by.  I think TREC folk are working hard and deserve our best efforts to respond, but I am afraid they won't like some of the response.

TREC begins with John 11:43-44,  with Jesus calling "Lazarus, come out," and Jesus commanding them to "unbind him, and let him go."  There are all sorts of problems with this as a starting point, not the least of which is COD's observation that resuscitation is not the same as resurrection, and the additional point that unbinding does not necessarily mean freedom to do as the Spirit directs. Sometimes death is simply put off for a while, and sometimes freedom ain't worth nothing, but its free.

TREC proposes to reduce the scope of several entities in The Episcopal Church. If their recommendations are accepted,  the duration and actions of General Convention will be reduced. Full time staff positions will be reduced and supplemented by contracted workers. The Executive Council will be reduced in size and function. The CCAB's (Commissions, Committees, Boards and Agencies) will disappear except for the Joints Nominations Committee and the Joint Committee of Program, Budget and Finance.

Well, there's lots to think about there. What about boards such as the United Thank Offering? The argument has just been made that it is a CCAB... bound by the rules of that part of the church game. If it's not a CCAB thingy, what is it to be?  No wonder the powers that be up yonder in Church Center land wanted to make it totally integral to the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS).  If the future is CCAB free, then UTO is either a program of the DFMS or it is cut free from central control.  Better to make it a funding instrument from within than a missionary structure from without.

TREC is careful to point out that the role of the President of the House of Deputies remains. That's nice.

Then there is this: "The report states, as a recommendation, that "Presiding Bishop (PB) retained as the CEO of the Church, Chair of Executive Council and President of DFMS, with managerial responsibility for all DFMS staff."   It also states, "President of the House of Deputies (PHoD) retained as Vice President of the Church....and so forth."

Well, dear friends, TREC is just plain wrong. There is no CEO of the Church. There is a Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. She or he is the CEO of DFMS and Executive Council. But bubba, there ain't no such thing as a CEO of the Church.

Same goes for the notion of a "Vice President of the Church."

This could be chalked up to sloppy writing, but I think not.

Then there is the matter that the TREC letter makes no mention of the House of Bishops, either in the context of General Convention reform, or in terms of governance.

The shift in focus of General Convention, away from legislative work to engagement as a missionary convocation, and the reduction in appointed staff for DFMS, and the end of CCABs, means that fewer laypersons, deacons and priests have a part in the life of governance and work of the Episcopal Church on a church wide level. That work then becomes focused on the Presiding Bishop and people serving at the will of the PB.

Go read Crusty Old Dean and Katie Sherrod, then think about this.

Perhaps the lack of any mention of the House of Bishops is not an accident. Remember that this union of churches in the General Convention is at the moment governed by a bicameral legislative body and by an Executive Council that continues the work of General Convention between Conventions.  

If we remove all the committees (CCABs), reduce the size and work of Executive Council, and reduce the staffing of work through Executive Council, the one remaining piece of General Convention that is intact is the House of Bishops. At it stands the HoB meets several times a year and on a narrow range of matters acts unilaterally.  But if there is no other means for getting a wider read from the church regarding policies and actions, it will be tempting to expand the executive / governance function of the House of Bishops an give that house separate powers from that held by General Convention itself.  

The drift from governance by the Executive Council / DFMS to bishops will be hard to contain. And if a Presiding Bishop, in his or her hour of need, felt consultation was called for, Executive Council might be less appealing than the House of Bishops (although that's not a sure bet).  

It would not be too difficult a thing to imagine a future Episcopal Church where the governance of matters growing from General Convention reverted more and more to the House of Bishops which might meet even more often, and to the Presiding Bishop, a close staff, with power to contract out work at will.  At that point perhaps TREC's error would prove to be true, that "The PB is the CEO of the Church."  We would also look a lot more like The Anglican Church in North America or little Rome.

The narrow way through which this might be prevented is simple: If the bishops resist the temptation to even think of the Presiding Bishop as the CEO of the Church, and if the whole lot of those exercising governance at the 2015 General Convention make it absolutely clear that The Episcopal Church has a Presiding Bishop, not a CEO, we might have a chance for reform and re-envisioning that made for a better common life.



On electing bishops

A good friend just stood for election and when the day came she was not elected bishop. She joins a quite large company, for the number of people who stand for election is probably 4 to 6 times larger than the number elected. I am a member of this gang of folk, having been on the ballot in two elections and not elected. 

Some observations about this bishop election thing. 

The election of a bishop is unlike the "process" by which one becomes part of the other two orders in ordained ministry. 

Deacons and Priests are ordered in the context of a process, and although various groups have to assent to the ordination, there is no sense of "election" by electors. The whole matter is treated as an exploration into vocation, with all the parties concerned working through what that might mean. When sufficient voice is found for ordination, it happens. Ordination is not usually accompanied by competition with other "candidates."  At the most the competition is with some larger concerns about deployment and particular call to ministry as a deacon or priest.  

With the election (or in other systems appointment)  of a bishop, the sense of exploration of vocation is greatly diminished and the sense of competition for a "seat" greatly increased.  It is not, "are you a good candidate for the office of priest?"  it is "are you the right person to be our bishop?" It gets personal, direct, competitive and ends with one person being "winner," and the rest (at the best) "also rans."

The parallel to the election of a bishop is not ordination as a deacon or priest, but the election of a rector or a dean.  That is, bishops are not so much the product of vocational discernment as they are a product of a search process. They are not in that sense a third vocational order, they are products of institutional search and board election. 

As with the election of a rector, the election of a bishop is confusing because it seems so personal (particularly the rejection) and yet it is couched in such good ecclesiastical language of discernment and vocation. The "no" by the electors gets confused with the "yes" of the discerned call to ministry.

A good friend who stood for rector in perhaps 15 parishes and got elected rector to three, said about rejection, "what I learned is it wasn't personal. The electors could not have known enough about me to reject me, they knew enough about themselves to find someone else to their liking."  I took comfort in that observation, but it didn't help a lot.

The problem of election or appointment as bishop is that it seems to be a conversation about a vocation, as in "are you called to be bishop?" But it happens in the context of search and seizure, of competition for a post.  When we were asked if we were called to the order of priest, it was not this or that particular posting, but to the order. When we are candidates for bishop it is to place.  

This by the way is one of the big problems with the Mark Lawrence types in the land of bishops. They don't get it. They are elected to a specific time and place of ministry, to a "position."

Had I been more willing to see election as bishop as a matter of competition rather than vocational discernment I suppose I might have made appropriate choices both over the years and in the immediate context of election, and might well have been elected.  But I did not choose work on the basis of it getting me to a particular place, nor did I campaign very much. Oh well.

I suspect most of us who have stood for election as bishop, as I do, look occasionally a the work done by the one who was elected and think, "I would have done differently," or even "I would have done better." But that passes quickly, thank God, for aside from its prideful spirit it is also mostly a fiction. 

Thinking about what we might have done in jobs not offered is an unpleasant exercise. In particular the work of the bishop is shaped by many forces and God only knows (really) what any of us might do if we were really in that position. The heat of the kitchen leads to unpredictable situations.

St.Martha, the tired.
Still, I find myself needing to remember that being bishop is sort of like taking the position of running the kitchen, believing that if folks want to eat, that position is one of considerable importance. 

And running the kitchen is a full time affair. But I am of a mind to believe that it is sometimes the better part to be able to sit at the table listening to that strange wonderful friend who tells us all who we really are.

It turns out that the "also rans" have time to play the better part, the Mary part, not having to be busy with many things. At any event the person closest to me in this world believes I should thank God regularly that I don't have to run the kitchen.

Here is to Martha, and all the bishops who have to stand the heat of the kitchen. We Mary types are listening to our friend, and sometime wonder when dinner is coming. We need to remember to thank you for standing for, and being, elected.

And although it is seldom mentioned, Martha is a saint... just a very tired one.