They want us to know that because, obviously, no one knew they were doing this. They never once consulted anyone who was directly affected by their work or proposals.You know, like clergy or lay employees or the churches that employ them.
If you read their presentation, however, you discover that the problems they raise concerning costs of implementation of A177 only involves three people in three churches in the diocese. Every other church in the diocese is already in compliance.
And, for that, the diocese wants ALL clergy to "cost share" 10% of the premiums for a single health insurance policy. Spouses and children? Well, actually, all the canons require is for clergy to have health insurance. Not families. That would be nice but it's not required.
The Newark Episcopal Clergy Association (NECA) has been on the case. You can see the timeline of events in terms of how this has all unfolded. You can see what NECA is asking from the diocese:
At the Special Convention, we seek to: Maintain the current diocesan standards of congregations paying for the necessary level of insurance with following guidelines:You'll also see the most recent letter from NECA to the diocese which reveals some pretty shocking facts. For example, NECA has repeatedly tried to communicate to the folks at BACHR:
- All eligible lay employees and clergy should continue to use good judgement about what type of insurance is needed for their situation and opt for coverage elsewhere when possible (coverage for spouse at his/her work, coverage under their policy, etc. According to BACHR research, this is already happening from clergy when possible and there's no reason to expect differently.
- Allow 5 years to reach parity in the few places where it's not already in place.
- Consider cost sharing within the broader context of the entire HR package and only after a holistic model of clergy compensation related to the present mission and reality. Cost sharing may be encouraged at this time at the parish level but should not be required before more careful study.
We have made these points to the Bishop’s Advisory Committee on Human Resources and Benefits on numerous occasions:
a) At Diocesan Council in November, where we were first invited and then told we were not welcome;
b) At a meeting between NECA and BACHR when we provided input but were not allowed to take part in the critical formation of a policy;
c) In workshops at Diocesan Convention
d) In a petition circulated by NECA in January 2012 and presented to the Bishop and BACHR which included 73 signatories.
e) In District meetings when BACHR members were present.
NECA members asked for time for discussion at clergy conference, at a special clergy day, and then by requesting the rescheduling of two of the for BACHR hearings with the Diocese when the Bishop, Canon to the Ordinary, and 25 clergy were on a Diocesan-sponsored trip to Israel. All of these requests were denied.So, what's going on here? You tell me. I'm yet to figure it all out. It's like the bishop is getting advice from people who have at least been listening to what the Tea Party Republicans have to say.
I'm thinking some of the folks on BACHR are really, really pissed about Obamacare and this is their way at being able to do something - anything - about their anger.
|A Very Simple Strategy for Mission|
But, doesn't it sound familiar? Haven't we all been hearing about how we all have to be more "nimble" and "restructure" in order to do mission?
I think that's absolutely back-asswards. We need to decide on mission and then build structures that will support our mission.
We may not need to cut anything. Indeed, we may find new or renewed energy that makes us so committed to mission we'll find we need to add, not cut.
Here's the thing: talking about cutting clergy compensation packages and downsizing in the midst of a Special Convention which is ostensibly about "mission" is to talk about apples and spaghetti.
It is setting up a self-fulfilling prophecy for failure.
Mission is always about a theology of gratitude and abundance, not regrets and scarcity.
The energy that drives mission is not money but the pulse of a deeply grateful heart. Gratitude is part of the transformative power of Eucharist (it's not called "The Great Thanksgiving" for nothing).
Mission always happens when you say "yes" unless there is a good reason to say "no".
In every situation I know where mission is flourishing, the bishop not only supports but models mission. Perhaps that's because s/he understands that if s/he allows parochial models of ministry to go part time (Oh, woe, what else are we to do?), then, pretty soon, episcopal models of ministry will go part time. It's really the next logical step.
An old bit of wisdom I have learned from shepherds is, "If the shepherd doesn't feed the flock, the flock will eat the shepherd."
The issue is not statistics and demographics. It's certainly not about cutting salaries and compensation packages. The issue is engaging and utilizing and applying religious imagination. That means taking some risks. Daring. Dreaming a new church into being.
We're pretty good at singing about it and talking about it but when it comes to doing it, we retreat behind miserly behavior and politics which betray all of our bravado about the abundance promised in the Gospel.
So, I'm wondering what is really going on when the diocese consistently blocks NECA from a full and equal part in the conversation - especially when clergy and their families are most affected by the proposed resolution.
I'm wondering why the BACHR felt it had to push its agenda through a process in the diocese when the bishop and the canon and many, many clergy and laity were out of the country.
Why hurt many when the diocese could better spend its time working on creative strategies to help a few?
General Convention Resolution A177 does not mandate "cost sharing". Indeed, it simply states that implementation of this resolution will be the responsibility of the diocese.
Besides, we voted at diocesan convention in January - overwhelmingly - to send our deputation to Indianapolis in July to ask clarifying questions about the implementation of A177. Several other dioceses have submitted resolutions which ask to overturn A177, so it may be a moot point after July.
We do not have to pass a policy regarding cost sharing to be in compliance with A177.
So, why is it being rammed through the diocese? At a special convention to talk about "mission"?
This smells like yesterday's fish.
Anyone else having problems in their diocese concerning A177. What have you done? How have you approached it? I'd love to hear from you.