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Monday, June 25, 2012

Stop me before I.........Oh no!..........eeeeeeeee!!!!!!!

One week from today, I will be in Indianapolis (God help me!), setting up The Caucus booth at General Convention, ordering last minute supplies, organizing all the various resolutions our Legislative Team will be following and making assignments, getting ready to co-host the UBE Legacy Dinner with Bishop Gayle Harris on July 3rd, making sure we have everything we need for The Caucus Breakfast on July 8th, getting my tribute ready for Louie Crew at the Integrity Reception (before their fabulous Eucharist) on July 9th, and otherwise running around in circles, chasing all sort and manner of detail.

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.

Please do take the time to read the whole thing. Here's the "money quote" as they say in the newsroom:
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.  

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.

As a deputy I have am deeply aggrieved that there are multiple versions of the truth of the genesis of the various budgets.  I am sickened to think it possible that one part of our church sabotaged another, presumably with the best interests of The Episcopal Church at heart. 

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.
Is Mike right? Is that what this is? Are we in a "post modern meltdown"?

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 doubt
I 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.

Just don't talk to me about "funding mission at the grass roots" while retaining staff at the top. Don't talk to me about cutting funding for a canonical requirement like the GOEs (General Ordination Exams) while funding the College of Bishops.

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".


Kay & Sarah said...

I hope to meet you there. Sarah is on the Integrity Team and I am volunteering.

Fr. Tom Gibson said...

Be a Brave Heart. I hail from a diocese (Central Florida) in which your brand of Christianity has not been welcomed. I thought when ++Gene was confirmed all this would end and we could move on to more important matters.

Be of Good Cheer. You, at least, have an opportunity to speak your mind. Those who support your mind have been silenced in places like this.

I, for one, am glad you and others will be in Indianapolis to fight the good fight. I just hope that fight extends beyond issues of human sexuality. What a pleasant change that would be for all of us.


tom gibson
st. mark's, cocoa, fl.

Small Farmer in The City said...

Amen, Mother Elizabeth!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Kay&Sarah - This is the part about GC I will miss. Looking forward to seeing you there.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hi, Tom - I think I can say with confidence that sexuality will not be a front burner issue. It's going to be structure and budget. Hands down. I'm going to lobby my little heart out. Trust me on this. And, I'll also be blogging daily. Stay tuned.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Farmer

Mark Harris said...

great posting...question, where is the Pres HoD budget? as for Ex Con's budget, there is one but it is a mess, so it looks like two - as suibmitted and as supposedly corrected.

PB&F has quite a task on its hands. The hearings will be a time of venting, but perhaps there may be some good suggestions as to how to handle the two or three or whatever separate budgets are there. Trying to smush them all together will be even further muddle. (Sigh)

Look to find you as a ship finds port in a storm. See you there.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Mark - I thought the 19% budget was from the EC and the 15% budget was from the POHOD. No? I'm happy to be corrected.

Looking forward to seeing you there - I'll look for your warm glow.

Linda L. Grenz said...

One of the things no one seems to realize is that GC can pass whatever budget they like and it almost isn't relevant. If (probably when, given the declines) the money doesn't come in, 815 and EC will have to figure out where to spend or not spend. So what is decided at Indy, could change next year or the year after. The real challenge will be not just advocating at Indy but being engaged in the ongoing process. Life is changing so fast that a triennial budget is out-of-date almost the day it is passed. We need a way to deal with shifting sands much more effectively than a triennial cycle. We need to learn how to STOP doing some things (something the church is notoriously bad at doing) before we can START doing others. We need to learn how to recognize failure, cut our losses, learn from it and move on. We need to learn how to recognize what's working and quickly shift to doing more of that. And meanwhile, we need to stop fighting over crumbs. We need to almost forget about the money and focus on rebuilding/renewing our church. Focus on that, and much of the rest of this will take care of itself. My campaign is for us to switch our tagline (and behavior) from "TEC welcomes you" to "TEC invites you." Until we staring connecting with people, building relationships with them, meeting them where they are and inviting them into the Christian community (which may or may not be TEC -- I'd like it to be TEC, but what's more important is that we invite them into life in Christ).

See you in Indy....the LeaderResources booth is in the middle of the food court so you can't miss us!

Anonymous said...

I was thinking of Judges 7:16-22 when reading about the chaos. Or a mad scramble toward the lifeboats once the passengers realized that the ocean liner had been holed fatally below the waterline and the crew is abandoning ship. Or the awful scene in Jerusalem AD 70 of internecine warfare among the defenders while the Roman siege closed in.

Let's face it, TEC is going down and there are not enough GLBT and uberliberal Christians with a taste for high liturgy in the US to support the existing superstructure. Lots of people are going to lose in this game of musical chairs. Given this, tensions are naturally high, never mind the prospect of divine intervention to exasperate these conflicts as punishment for TEC's unbiblical moral stances.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Michael, first, it's LGBT (ladies first). Second, you obviously don't know a whole lotta gay men who are ordained. Nosebleed high would describe it well.

Besides which, whatever has high or low liturgy got to do with faithfulness? Are you sure you're not a .... what is it you all call it.... ah, yes.. "latent homosexual"? Or, are you just celibate?

As for "punishment" well, that's not my understanding of how God works. That's the God of the Hebrew Scripture. I happen to follow Jesus who reveals God's nature to us. It takes some spiritual maturity to imagine it, but Jesus is quite clear that the image in Hebrew Scripture got it all wrong.

I prefer to think of it as 'pruning' all the dead wood from the vine that isn't producing good fruit. Or, as my grandmother always said, "Dead wood splinters".

Then again, if that's what floats your boat, have at it, pal. Watching the decline of the RC Church of my youth gives me absolutely no joy - as the decline in TEC obviously delights you - but I suspect there's a whole lot of pruning going on in a whole lotta places.

There are none so blind as those who refuse to see.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Linda - Our PB likes to talk about being "more nimble". It's the one thing with which I can agree with her. Institutions are not designed to be "nimble" so I do not hold much hope for the institutional church to get out of its own way. The best we can do is the best we can do with what's in front of us in Indianapolis in July, 2012.

What IS important is for LEADERS to be nimble, not put all their trust (and treasure) into the institution, and move forward boldly in mission.

MarkBrunson said...

Michael, like most RC ultra-cons, has about as much connection with God and Christ as a donut with the Great Turtle A'Tun, and about as much real nourishment to offer.

Spiritual quackery of the worst kind is what passes for religion in the Roman camp.

Turmoil in full view, like TEC, is healing and room for growth, while turmoil hidden from view, like Rome, is rot and cancer. I prefer ours.

Ann said...

There is only one budget - the one canonically submitted by Executive Council - the others are commentary (and there is no PHoD budget). A budget is designed to show the direction of how we would like to proceed as a church - not ever final until the money is in and spent. There are issues but Program Budget and Finance Committee has it well in hand.

Be at peace - do not eat the bread of anxiety.

Anonymous said...

I see I need to explain my reference to "there are not enough GLBT and uberliberal Christians with a taste for high liturgy in the US to support the existing superstructure."

I wasn't speaking about LGBT and ultraliberals in the sanctuary; God knows, there are plenty of those to keep TEC full of clergy until the Second Coming. What I meant is that TEC is doing its best to antagonize and drive out the people in the pews who aren't LGBT and uberliberals. The collapse in TEC ASA will make it more difficult to support the current number of TEC clergy, the "superstructure."

As a RCC priest and observer of sharply decreased Sunday Mass in my own national Church, I don't take joy in the decline of organized religion in the US. But just as our bishops were blind to the grave scandal of their systematic coverup of child sexual abuse (although the majority of current US bishops have been appointed by Benedict XVI and were not involved in the coverups), so your entire HOB and HOD seems blind to how your casual dismissing of Biblical strictures against homosexuality is leading to TEC's future extinction in large areas of the country.


Anonymous said...


"Spiritual quackery of the worst kind is what passes for religion in the Roman camp."

Let's see, since the foundation of the US the RCC in this nation has provided Elizabeth Ann Seton (ahead of her time in fleeing TEC), John Neumann, Katherine Drexel, and Fulton Sheen. Meanwhile TEC has provided Pike, Spong, and Borg. The heretic Matthew Fox left which church and who took him in? The schlock that fills RCC liturgical music right now, along with much insipid preaching, shouldn't obscure the underlying spritual reality of being God's One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.


MarkBrunson said...

Little defensive, are we, Mr. Michael?

Come now, you wouldn't have gotten so angry if it weren't true! You people are just shamans, rattling away to keep the ignorant peasants paying their dues. Unfortunately, you were never quite able to stop that pesky movable type, and it just went downhill from there.

I will tell you, your list of "achievements" are not the ones Rome should've ever been proud of, and Matthew Fox is one of the few they should have been.

Of such nonsense is Rome made, though. Do keep entertaining us with your increasingly smaller and purer street theatre!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, Mark. Actually, I sometimes find Michael rather tedious and just not worth the effort to respond. This was one of those times