Oh, and meeting and greeting friends I haven't seen in years - well, three, to be exact. Since the last General Convention in LA. And then, I'll meet friends I know only from FaceBook or this blog or the HOB/D (House of Bishops/Deputies Listserv).
Things are reaching the boiling point over the budget. There are now four proposed budgets - no, seriously, four - two from Executive Council, one from the President of the House of Deputies and one from the Presiding Bishop and her staff.
It's embarrassing. Really. As one of my friends said, it's like the schismatics are right that the liberal left can't organize itself to get out of the driveway.
You can read some of the shenanigans over at Katie Sherrod's blog "Desert's Child" and her post "Balancing Act". It's a real eye opener. Katie is a deputy from Fort Worth, TX and a member of Executive Council. She's been "in the trenches" of schism and has gained lots of wisdom.
I’ve experienced what happens when the balance among the ministries of bishops, priests, deacons and the laity gets out of whack. Things get toxic very quickly. And when one-sided unchecked power moves in, trust dies and soon love moves out.Let those who have ears, hear.
Deputy Mike Russell from San Diego blogs over at "The Anglican Minimalist". His comments about the Presiding Bishop's Proposed Budget is here. He's proposed another budget - which you can find here - but his last post is a real barn-burner. In "I'd like the truth, please," he writes:
We now have wildly different versions of events from the Presiding Bishop, the Chief Operating Officer, Katie Sherrod and other members of Executive Council.Is Mike right? Is that what this is? Are we in a "post modern meltdown"?
I expect all politicians to lie, but I do not expect leaders of my church to "spin" events to their own purposes. What we have here is the perfect post-modern meltdown, I suppose, in which multiple perspectives are somehow masked as truth. It is one of the reasons that postmodernism is so unsatisfying, it allows saints and sinners to all cloak themselves in notions of personal truths.
If I had my way I'd fire everyone and start over. I do not want to waste the time it would take to adjudicate the competing claims. To everyone in our leadership I say.... own what you did or get out.
Sometimes, I think I've been around the institutional church too long. I've been a General Convention Geek since Anaheim in 1985. I blame my bishop. He sent me there as a seminarian because he thought it was important for me to understand how the church *really* works.
Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss. Then again, I have learned more about the Holy Spirit from attending General Convention than many other areas of institutional church life.
I was mentioning to a dear friend offline that this time in our institutional life cycle reminds me of dealing with families after the death of a family member who has "fought the good fight" over a number of years against cancer, ALS, MS or AIDS. They've put all their energies into battle and, when it's over, they don't know where to put that energy, so they usually squabble over the will along with the furniture, photo albums, dishes and jewelry.
I think a similar dynamic is going on here.
I have a dear friend - a psychologist - who is convinced that most bishops and many ordained and lay leaders of the church are suffering from "Compassion Fatigue".
I know, I know. It sounds like psychobabble, right? Actually, it's a legitimate clinical term - a form of PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder). Wiki says:
Sufferers can exhibit several symptoms including hopelessness, a decrease in experiences of pleasure, constant stress and anxiety, and a pervasive negative attitude. This can have detrimental effects on individuals, both professionally and personally, including a decrease in productivity, the inability to focus, and the development of new feelings of incompetency and self doubtI think my friend may be right.
We've spent so many years "fighting the good fight" over issues of sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular that I don't think we really know where to put all that energy - especially since we seem to be rounding the corner and closing the circle on that "good fight".
It's not that it's over - by any stretch of the imagination - but we're moving closer to an image of what Dr. King described as the "Beloved Community" of Jesus.
A part of us has died. The way we once saw ourselves is no longer what we see when we look around the church. Our identity has changed. We're not as sure as we once were of who we are. We're unsure of our mission, if we ever really knew.
Bottom line: Whatever once was of our sense of identity or mission, that has now changed. We've lost members. We've suffered schism. We continue to be embroiled in litigation.
We can't seem to let go of the past - to wit: We continue to call the "Report to General Convention" the "Blue Book", even though it hasn't been blue in a number of years (I will personally organize a standing ovation for the deputy who is successful in getting a resolution passed in both houses to stop calling The Triennial Report the Blue Book).
Because we cling to the past, we can't embrace the future, much less envision it. Our leaders call us to "go out" while they remain clutching line items in the budget which will provide them the security of remaining in places of power and authority.
So, we fight over the budget and structure. It's embarrassing and it's awful and we've got to get through it. And, being Episcopalians, we will. We've been in tighter spots than this.
Here's what I know: First, you cry. Then, you dry your tears, wipe your nose, pick up your socks and get on with the life that's in front of you. You make sure the children are warm and dry and have food. You care for the elders and those you are infirm. You tend to the sick and dying, pray for the dead, and, as Mother Jones said, fight like hell for the living.
I personally don't give two figs about how many CCABs (Committees, Commissions Agencies and Boards) of Executive Council there are or how they structure their work. I just want the work to be done.
And, if one person in a purple shirt asks anyone to "stand in a crucified place" without giving evidence that s/he has done - or is planning to do - the same, well, I suspect that person will receive an unexpected lesson about the limits of institutional power and authority they didn't learn at the College of Bishops.
Yes, Jesus is in the boat with us in the middle of the storm, as we heard in Sunday's Gospel. Thing of it is, I don't think there's a storm. I don't think it's Jesus saying, "Peace, be still". I'm pretty sure it's The Purple saying that to The Peeps who are rocking the boat.
You gotta let some stuff go. Focus on what's important. Get with "the vision thing". Somebody, somewhere, please stand up, slap your hand on the table like Peter did in that upper room and say, "Let's go fishing". Others will follow. Or, not.
Don't take it personally if they don't follow you. They are just handling their grief differently, is all. But, make no mistake: It's grief manifesting itself in various stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
And, it's okay. Do what you know. Do what you love. Jesus is coming back, just as He promised. In the meantime, get on with the Gospel.
Me? I'm packing my bags for Indianapolis, God help me, where I plan to do some Gospel work right in the midst of General Convention! Imagine that!
I'm also planning on this being the absolutely, positively final, last time I go to General Convention any time, anywhere.
Some of my friends call that "Denial". I'm calling it "Done".
At least, that's what's getting me through thinking about this General Convention.
If not, and I start making noises about going to General Convention in 2015, somebody put me out of my ministry and shoot me.
Please. Before I fall off the cliff again and wind up in the middle of this mess called "the institutional church".